Topps wants to do for Major League Baseball (MLB) what Dapper Labs did with NBA Top Shot.
The 83-year-old card company, which announced plans to go public last week, revealed Monday it will issue its flagship baseball cards as non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in partnership with the MLB and the MLB Players Association (MLBPA).
Although a handful of ballplayers have issued their own digital collectibles in recent weeks (albeit without team logos), the new project, set to debut on the Wax blockchain on April 20, marks MLB’s official entrance into the NFT space.
Topps’ baseball NFTs are positioned to capitalize on two booming markets at once. NBA Top Shot has seen hundreds of millions of dollars in transactions in 2021 for its basketball equivalent. Meanwhile, baseball cards, an industry in which Topps is all but synonymous, have rocketed in value during the pandemic as collectors park their stimulus checks in cardboard nostalgia.
Topps’ pivot from cardboard to blockchain was a long time coming, Topps Digital Vice President Tobin Lent told CoinDesk in an interview.
“This was absolutely the plan all along,” he said. “We knew we were going to do [baseball NFTs] at some point, and we just needed to get that experience and wanted to make sure that we did it right.”
(Topps began selling lower-profile NFTs last year in what company executives called a test run for the main event.)
The buy, sell and trade platform will give Topps an easy route to capitalize on the lucrative secondary market for NFTs. If NBA Top Shot is any indication, however, the market for blockchain-based trading cards isn’t as robust as it once was.
According to data site Evaluate.market, the Top Shot market peaked in late February but has still clocked multiple millions in daily sales in subsequent weeks.
Topps hopes its licensed MLB play will also be able to capture collector interest.
“This is the first step with our longest-term partner into this new space, and it’s just the beginning,” Lent said.
And – should Topps’ late-April NFT launch also suffer from the overwhelming demand that intermittently ground NBA Top Shot to halt in March – Lent says his team is poised to deliver.
“We try to learn from our competitors in the space like Dapper,” he said.
Unlike Dapper’s highlight-reel-esque NBA player moments, Topps’ initial offering appears to be just digitized versions of the firm’s physical baseball cards. The border designs move but the players stay put.
WAXP, the native token of the Wax blockchain, is the 165th-largest cryptocurrency by market cap, according to CoinGecko. Wax runs on a fork of EOSIO, the software behind the EOS blockchain.
Topps, which was bought for $385 million and taken private by former Disney CEO Michael Eisner in 2007, is going public in a SPAC deal that values the company at $1.3 billion. Dapper Labs is reportedly valued at $2.6 billion.