Digital Baseball Cards Brighten Future for Topps

Just a few years ago, many thought trading cards were on their death bed. One company found a way to save them, and in turn, the company has made millions.

Apr 16, 2014 at 9:11PM

The digital revolution hasn't just affected the phone in your pocket, it's reshaped everything from toys to sports. And thanks to Topps, even a product as simple as the trading card is now digitized. 

That's quite an accomplishment in an industry many assumed to be in decay. The New York Times, for example, reports annual baseball card sales once flirted with $1 billion in the early '90s. Now they total somewhere near $200 million a year, according to the MLBPA. Although likely smaller, it's assumed sales of football and soccer cards experienced a similar drop off.

Critics often blame market saturation and lower quality control for the decline, but with its new BUNT (baseball), HUDDLE (football), and KICK (soccer) mobile apps, Topps can now avoid these issues. Competitors like Upper Deck and Panini America haven't yet developed alternatives, and speaking from personal experience, Topps' offerings run smoothly on Apple iOS devices.

Across baseball, football, and soccer, the company says it's sold around 35 million packs in the past year. Assuming an average cost of $3 each, that's over $100 million -- a lot of dough for Topps. It doesn't regularly share its financials, but in 2007 -- its last public 10-K -- total non-confectionery sales were a little above $175 million. Given that, it's safe to say going digital has been nothing short of a windfall. So how'd the company do it?

It all starts with baseball
A major growth driver is Topps' MLB trading card app, BUNT.



By allowing users to collect digital cards that appreciate or depreciate based on real-life performance, it intelligently capitalizes on the fantasy sports boom. Like fantasy baseball, players in BUNT can be traded, and the better the real-life counterpart is hitting or pitching at the moment, the more the card is worth. If you own Bryce Harper, for example, any home run he hits adds to his card's value.

Judging by App Annie data, BUNT is the seventh most popular iOS sports app in America, and in terms of revenue, it's No. 2. Given the $100 million figure I estimated above, it's reasonable to think BUNT is responsible for a third of this, or about $33 million. That equates to about $90,000 per day, a nice middle ground between über-popular apps like Clash of Clans and and sports games like R.B.I. Baseball 14.

Screen Shot

Non-Topps estimates via Think Gaming. Estimates for BUNT, HUDDLE, and KICK via author. Graph compiled by author.

What about football and soccer?
The company also has similar iOS offerings for football and soccer fans: HUDDLE and KICK. The latter lets users collect and trade their favorite Barclays Premier League athletes, while HUDDLE is partnered with the NFL. Like BUNT, there's a heavy dose of fantasy sports mixed into the gameplay. 

App Annie reports that in-season, both rank among the top 10 highest-grossing sports apps. Given this, it's reasonable to think each makes a similar amount of money as BUNT.

The bottom line
Topps should continue to make millions from its baseball, football and soccer apps, and I don't expect the company to rest on its laurels. It also has its fingers in the WWE and Star Wars franchises. Both have enormous fan bases who would gladly buy and sell digital trading cards. Remember, Topps has experienced success in what many considered to be a dying industry by innovating -- more is likely to come.

The biggest thing to come out of Silicon Valley in years
If you thought the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad were amazing, just wait until you see this. One hundred of Apple's top engineers are busy building one in a secret lab. And an ABI Research report predicts 485 million of them could be sold over the next decade. But you can invest in it right now... for just a fraction of the price of AAPL stock. Click here to get the full story in this eye-opening new report.

Jake Mann has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

1 Key Step to Get Rich

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better. Whether that’s helping people overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we can help.

Feb 1, 2016 at 4:54PM

To be perfectly clear, this is not a get-rich action that my Foolish colleagues and I came up with. But we wouldn't argue with the approach.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich" rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

"The Motley Fool aims to build a strong investment community, which it does by providing a variety of resources: the website, books, a newspaper column, a radio [show], and [newsletters]," wrote (the clearly insightful and talented) money reporter Kathleen Elkins. "This site has something for every type of investor, from basic lessons for beginners to investing commentary on mutual funds, stock sectors, and value for the more advanced."

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better, so it's nice to receive that kind of recognition. It lets us know we're doing our job.

Whether that's helping the entirely uninitiated overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we want to provide our readers with a boost to the next step on their journey to financial independence.

Articles and beyond

As Business Insider wrote, there are a number of resources available from the Fool for investors of all levels and styles.

In addition to the dozens of free articles we publish every day on our website, I want to highlight two must-see spots in your tour of

For the beginning investor

Investing can seem like a Big Deal to those who have yet to buy their first stock. Many investment professionals try to infuse the conversation with jargon in order to deter individual investors from tackling it on their own (and to justify their often sky-high fees).

But the individual investor can beat the market. The real secret to investing is that it doesn't take tons of money, endless hours, or super-secret formulas that only experts possess.

That's why we created a best-selling guide that walks investors-to-be through everything they need to know to get started. And because we're so dedicated to our mission, we've made that available for free.

If you're just starting out (or want to help out someone who is), go to, drop in your email address, and you'll be able to instantly access the quick-read guide ... for free.

For the listener

Whether it's on the stationary exercise bike or during my daily commute, I spend a lot of time going nowhere. But I've found a way to make that time benefit me.

The Motley Fool offers five podcasts that I refer to as "binge-worthy financial information."

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. It's also featured on several dozen radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable ... and I don't say that simply because the hosts all sit within a Nerf-gun shot of my desk. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers contain timeless advice, so you might want to go back to the beginning with those. The other three take their cues from the market, so you'll want to listen to the most recent first. All are available at

But wait, there's more

The book and the podcasts – both free ... both awesome – also come with an ongoing benefit. If you download the book, or if you enter your email address in the magical box at the podcasts page, you'll get ongoing market coverage sent straight to your inbox.

Investor Insights is valuable and enjoyable coverage of everything from macroeconomic events to investing strategies to our analyst's travels around the world to find the next big thing. Also free.

Get the book. Listen to a podcast. Sign up for Investor Insights. I'm not saying that any of those things will make you rich ... but Business Insider seems to think so.

Compare Brokers