LeBron James agrees to a trading card contract with Fanatics Collectibles, parting ways with Upper Deck


LeBron James agrees to a trading card contract with Fanatics Collectibles, parting ways with Upper Deck

After over two decades with Upper Deck, basketball icon LeBron James is shifting his trading card endorsement to Fanatics Collectibles.

The partnership commences with the release of a special Bowman brand card, showcasing dual signatures of the NBA star and his son, Bronny. This card will hit the retail market on January 19.

This extended agreement ensures a fresh supply of LeBron James’ autographed trading cards, filling a gap as James hasn’t signed official cards in recent years. Moreover, this move significantly impacts the dynamics of the burgeoning sports memorabilia and trading card sector.

“Our goal is to push the envelope of where the hobby can go and are excited about how our collaboration with one of the best athletes in the world will continue to ignite fan and collector passion,” said Fanatics Collectibles CEO Mike Mahan.

The specifics of the contract were not revealed, but specialists estimate its value could exceed $5 million annually.

In conjunction with the launch, James narrated a brief video named “Origin of Greatness,” highlighting the initial breakthroughs and ascents to prominence of various athletes partnered with Fanatics.

“As someone who appreciates all the moments — big and small — along the journey, I’m excited to share more with my fans through this partnership with Fanatics,” James, 39, said in a statement.

Fanatics Collectibles, under Michael Rubin’s $31 billion sports platform company Fanatics, purchased Topps in 2022 for $500 million.

Starting in 2026, Fanatics will take over from Panini as the NBA’s official trading card manufacturer, along with producing cards for the players’ association. This grants Fanatics the exclusive rights to produce trading cards featuring LeBron James, a four-time NBA champion. Historically, even with exclusive deals, other league partners have been able to produce cards.

Presently, Fanatics and Panini are embroiled in a legal dispute, with Panini alleging Fanatics of antitrust breaches.

Fanatics Collectibles has also acquired exclusive long-term rights to create, produce, and distribute trading cards for other major sports organizations, including Major League Baseball, the Major League Baseball Players Association, and the National Football League Players Association.

Securing a deal with the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James is a significant triumph for Fanatics, as James is regarded as the most valuable athlete among current NBA players, as per Ken Goldin, founder and CEO of Goldin Auctions and featured in Netflix’s “King of Collectibles” series.

Goldin mentioned selling a high-grade James card for around $5 million early in James’ career. While prices have since decreased, he notes that James’ cards remain highly valuable and is optimistic about what this deal means for collectors.

“They’re [Fanatics] probably going to utilize LeBron in a way not just to sign autographs, but to help promote trading cards as a whole,” Goldin said.

What Makes a Topps Card Valuable?

For decades, Topps baseball cards have been a cherished collectible among sports enthusiasts, hobbyists, and investors alike. These pieces of cardboard hold immense value, both sentimentally and monetarily, making them a fascinating subject of interest for collectors and investors. But what exactly makes a Topps card valuable? In this article, we’ll explore the key factors that contribute to the worth of a Topps card.


One of the most critical factors influencing a Topps card’s value is its rarity. Cards that are produced in limited quantities are often more sought after by collectors and, consequently, command higher prices in the market. The scarcity of a card can be due to various reasons, such as limited print runs, short-lived player careers, or even printing errors.

For example, rookie cards of legendary players like Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, or Hank Aaron from early Topps sets are highly prized due to their scarcity. These cards were produced during an era when the hobby wasn’t as mainstream, resulting in fewer cards surviving in mint condition.

Player Significance

The significance of the player featured on the card plays a significant role in determining its value. Hall of Fame players and legendary figures in the sport tend to have cards that command higher prices. These players’ cards are often considered iconic and timeless, making them appealing to collectors across generations.

Additionally, a player’s on-field performance, achievements, and cultural impact can greatly affect the card’s desirability. Cards featuring historic moments, milestones, or record-breaking achievements tend to be particularly valuable.


The condition of a Topps card is crucial in determining its value. Cards that are in mint or near-mint condition are highly sought after and can fetch top dollar in the market. Factors that impact a card’s condition include corners, edges, centering, surface quality, and the absence of creases or stains.

Cards that have been well-preserved in protective sleeves, binders, or cases are more likely to maintain their condition over time. Grading services, such as PSA (Professional Sports Authenticator) or BGS (Beckett Grading Services), provide a standardized way to assess a card’s condition and assign it a grade, which can significantly impact its market value.

Age and Historical Significance

Vintage Topps cards from the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s often carry significant value due to their historical significance. These cards represent a bygone era of the sport and hobby, and collectors appreciate them for their nostalgia. The older the card, the more it becomes a piece of sports history, adding to its allure.

Popularity of the Set

The popularity of the specific Topps card set in which a card is included can also influence its value. Some sets have gained cult followings, making cards from those sets more desirable. For example, the 1952 Topps set is famous for its design and includes the iconic Mickey Mantle rookie card, making cards from this set highly sought after.

Authenticity and Provenance

Ensuring the authenticity of a Topps card is essential to its value. Be wary of counterfeit cards, especially when dealing with high-value items. It’s advisable to purchase cards from reputable dealers, auction houses, or authenticated sources to guarantee their authenticity.

Additionally, the card’s provenance, or its documented history of ownership, can add to its value. Cards with a known and illustrious history often command higher prices because collectors appreciate the story behind the card.

Topps cards have captivated collectors and investors for generations, and their value continues to rise. Factors like rarity, player significance, condition, age, popularity of the set, authenticity, and provenance all contribute to what makes a Topps card valuable. Whether you’re a passionate collector or an astute investor, understanding these factors can help you navigate the dynamic and exciting world of Topps card collecting.

Demand and Market Trends

The demand for specific Topps cards can fluctuate over time, influenced by market trends, popular players, and cultural shifts. Cards from current players who are performing exceptionally well in the sport or have a strong fan base may see increased demand and value spikes.

Moreover, external factors like sports documentaries, movies, or media coverage can rekindle interest in certain players or card sets. For example, the release of a sports-related film or a player’s induction into the Hall of Fame can generate renewed interest in their cards.

Limited Editions and Inserts

Topps often produces limited edition or insert cards within their sets to add an element of rarity and excitement for collectors. These special cards can include autographs, pieces of game-worn memorabilia, or unique designs. Limited edition cards are highly sought after, and their scarcity can significantly impact their value.

Cultural and Historical Significance

Some Topps cards gain value due to their cultural or historical significance. For example, cards featuring players who broke barriers in the sport, such as Jackie Robinson’s 1948 Leaf card, hold historical importance beyond the game itself. Collectors often value these cards for their role in documenting the broader history of sports and society.

Pop Culture Crossovers

Topps cards have occasionally featured pop culture icons, characters from movies or TV shows, and crossover promotions. Cards with these elements can become highly collectible for both sports and pop culture enthusiasts. For instance, the 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card, featuring the popular rookie player, is considered a crossover sensation.

What makes a Topps card valuable is a combination of factors that intertwine rarity, player significance, condition, age, popularity of the set, authenticity, provenance, demand, limited editions, cultural significance, and even pop culture crossovers. Understanding these elements and keeping an eye on market trends is essential for collectors and investors looking to navigate the ever-evolving world of Topps card collecting. Whether driven by a passion for the sport or a pursuit of financial gain, Topps cards continue to captivate the imagination of enthusiasts worldwide, making them a fascinating and enduring collectible.

How can you tell if a Topps baseball card is rare?

Topps baseball cards have been a beloved collectible for generations, with some cards becoming highly sought after and valuable due to their rarity. Whether you’re a seasoned collector or just starting your journey, understanding how to identify rare Topps baseball cards is essential. In this article, we’ll explore the key factors that can help you determine if a Topps baseball card is indeed rare.

Check the Print Run

One of the most straightforward ways to determine a card’s rarity is by checking its print run. Topps typically produces a specific number of cards for each set, and cards from sets with lower print runs are generally rarer and more valuable.

You can often find information about a set’s print run on the packaging, in the set’s checklist, or by researching online. Sets with limited print runs might mention that they are “limited edition” or “numbered” to a certain quantity. Cards numbered to 100 or less, for example, are usually considered highly rare.

Look for Serial Numbering

Many modern Topps sets include serial numbering on certain cards to indicate their rarity. Cards with serial numbers are limited to a specific quantity, making them easy to identify as rare. You’ll typically find the serial number on the front or back of the card.

For instance, a card might have a serial number like “12/100,” indicating that it’s the 12th card out of only 100 produced. These serial-numbered cards are highly coveted by collectors and tend to hold significant value.

Check for Autographs and Relics

Topps often includes autographed and relic cards in their sets, which are inherently rare due to the limited number of autographs or pieces of game-used memorabilia available. These cards feature signatures from players or swatches of jerseys, bats, or other sports equipment.

Cards with autographs or relics are usually numbered, indicating their scarcity. Be sure to examine the card for an authentic signature or piece of memorabilia, and check for the serial number to gauge its rarity.

Examine the Set’s Historical Significance

Sometimes, a Topps card’s rarity isn’t immediately apparent from its print run or serial number. Instead, its scarcity is rooted in historical significance. Cards featuring legendary players, rookie cards of future Hall of Famers, or cards tied to historic moments in baseball history are inherently rare and highly sought after by collectors.

For example, the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle rookie card is considered one of the most iconic and valuable baseball cards in existence, primarily due to its historical importance.

Research Online and Consult Price Guides

The internet is a valuable resource for determining the rarity of Topps baseball cards. Numerous online forums, collector communities, and price guides provide information on card values and rarity. Websites like PSA (Professional Sports Authenticator) and Beckett also offer comprehensive databases and pricing guides.

By researching online and consulting reputable sources, you can gain valuable insights into the rarity of specific Topps cards and their market values.

Determining the rarity of a Topps baseball card involves a combination of factors, including print run, serial numbering, the presence of autographs or relics, historical significance, and thorough research. Collectors often relish the thrill of the hunt, seeking out these rare gems to add to their collections. Whether you’re collecting for the joy of the hobby or as an investment, understanding how to identify rare Topps baseball cards will enhance your appreciation of this timeless and cherished collectible.