As an avid baseball fan, my entrepreneurial aspirations were first honed during high school, when I ran my own baseball card store. Therefore, I must say in the interest of full disclosure that I still have a soft spot for Topps
Let's take a look at the back of the card for recent statistics: batting average, RBIs, and operating income. After relatively flat top-line growth the previous quarter, first-quarter revenues jumped nearly 16% to $88.1 million ($2.8 million from favorable currency fluctuations). Gross margins expanded 136 basis points to 38.4%, lifting operating income 27% to $5.6 million. Earnings surged 25% to $4.1 million, or $0.10 per fully diluted share, including the impact of a $1.9 million fine levied by the European Commission over an investigation into the distribution of Pokemon products.
Revenues at Topps are essentially split equally between candy and entertainment segments. With only $147 million in candy sales last year, Topps is playing in the minor leagues compared with heavy hitters such as Hershey
The maker of Bazooka bubble gum, ring pops, and juicy drop chews has suffered a slowdown lately in the demand for sweets. Confectionery sales dropped 13.3% in the fourth quarter and slipped another 2.9% to start the new year. Management cited several factors, including continued weakness at wholesale clubs such as Costco
On the other hand, sales in the entertainment division have been robust. Revenues soared 44% to $43.9 million, following up an impressive 25.1% rise in the fourth quarter. Sales benefited from last year's acquisition of WizKids, a maker of roll-playing strategy games. The purchase finally turned "modestly accretive" after WizKids had posted a string of losses in prior quarters. Sales of NBA cards were strong, as were those of Garbage Pail Kids, a product that most children of the 1980s remember well.
You may never know what's inside an unopened pack of Topps baseball cards, but the stock comes with something everyone can appreciate: cash. Over $96 million (and no debt) sits on the balance sheet. The amount may seem modest, but with only 41.4 million shares outstanding, that works out to roughly $2.33 per share, not bad for a stock trading at just $9.70.
Fool contributor Nathan Slaughter owns none of the companies mentioned, but he does have a case of unopened 1987 Topps cards in his closet.