Fanatics Collectables and Topps have announced comprehensive agreements to produce collegiate football and basketball trading cards — partnerships that span nearly 150 universities and separately more than 200 athlete name, image and likeness agreements.
Beginning this fall, Topps (under its Bowman University brand) will release non-exclusive trading cards featuring current athletes from approximately 100 universities. The deals fall under NIL rights and put money in the pockets of some of collegiate sports’ biggest names. Athletes are not restricted from signing for other trading card companies.
Deals can vary in value from player to player and can be as high as five figures, according to a source familiar with negotiations.
“Both schools and athletes benefit from rights fees and royalties paid when college cards are sold,” Fanatics said in a statement. “Top-tier universities and student athletes are demanding higher rights fees, driven by collector demand.”
Some athletes featured in the fall 2022 soccer offerings include 2021 Heisman Trophy winner and Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, CFP National Championship winner Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett, Oregon quarterback Bo Nix and USC quarterback Caleb Williams. Basketball stars include Duke’s Dereck Lively II, Arkansas’ Nick Smith Jr. and South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston, winner of the 2021 NCAA Division I Women’s National Championship.
Topps has also secured multi-year exclusives with more than 35 colleges, including the majority of Power 5 conference schools. As early as 2023, the list will include Georgia, Kentucky, Miami, Oregon and Wisconsin. Some entering 2025 are Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Kansas, LSU, Michigan, Penn State, Tennessee, and Texas A&M.
These trading card offerings – the largest student-athlete trading card venture ever launched – will feature official university marks with NIL rights from both current athletes and former players.
“We felt that the overall collegiate NIL trading card category was an untapped area of the collectors market,” said Derek Eiler, Executive Vice President of Fanatics College. “Fanatics sells more collegiate merchandise than any other retailer in the country. We have a strong interest in helping our collegiate partners reach more fans; this category is exactly turnkey and perfectly tailored to the NIL market.”
In the trading card arena, consumers have noticed an increasing use of the following language on commemorative cards: “The officially licensed material attached is not affiliated with any specific player, game or event.” Fanatics and Topps say they want to focus on fans closer to the players they follow.
“Imagine your standard high-end tops collection applied to college,” says Eiler. “You will have premium athlete image cards, autograph cards and memorabilia worn by players. There are still some NCAA regulations regarding ‘game used’ memorabilia, but ‘player worn’ is a key area for these collections.”
Fanatics — which has racked up a slew of professional licensing deals over the past year, including the MLBPA, NFLPA, and NBAPA — is calling it a “monumental” coup to bring officially licensed college trading cards into the foray.