Card shops to face suspensions for violating Topps release dates

Fanatics frustrated by seeing chase cards pulled early

Cover Image for Card shops to face suspensions for violating Topps release dates
When a chase card is pulled early, collectors view the scheduled release as "dead product." (Credit: Getty Images)

Hobby shops and breakers could face a new series of penalties if they violate release dates for Topps and Fanatics Collectibles products, cllct has learned.

Violating shops could have their allocations suspended, according to penalties announced in a Fanatics Collectibles town hall this week.

While Fanatics Collectibles has hinted at disciplinary action previously, the new penalties will hit first-time violators with a 30-day account suspension. A second violation could result in an indefinite suspension.

Businesses with indefinite suspensions can reapply for an account after six months. All suspensions will prevent accounts from ordering hobby, breaker or retail products directly from Topps and Fanatics Collectibles.

“It’s something that we hear from hobby shop owners, breakers, that are like, 'We’ve got to figure this out,’” Fanatics Collectibles chief commercial officer Avery Jessup told cllct. “Release dates are a critical part of the hobby culture. We really have these dates for a reason because it offers an equal playing field across all of our channels, so if a partner sells or releases a product early, it can negatively impact the market — and particularly if a chase card gets pulled early, that excitement of the release kind of gets spoiled.”

While the selling or breaking of products before release date is far from a new issue, seeing key chase cards found early has been a major frustration for Fanatics in recent months.

Box breaks, events where hobbyists purchase individual spots in a sealed box or case — typically for specific teams or individual players — often feature early hits due to the large volume of product being opened.

A Lionel Messi Superfractor Autograph 1/1 pulled during a break before the official release of 2023 Topps Finest MLS in February has been the most impactful card pulled early so far for Fanatics.

When the Lionel Messi Superfractor was pulled early, it hurt the official release of 2023 Topps Finest MLS. (Credit: Goldin)
When the Lionel Messi Superfractor was pulled early, it hurt the official release of 2023 Topps Finest MLS. (Credit: Goldin)

In some instances, major chases such as the Messi Superfractor being pulled early will result in hobbyists calling upcoming releases a “dead product.”

“We’ve seen it happening just recently with the Messi card, this can have a significant impact,” Jessup said. “When a big chase card gets pulled, it takes a lot of wind out of the market for a bit. And then a lot of our hobby shops and breakers have invested a lot in products, and what we don’t want is for people to lose market value as well.”

According to Fanatics, breakers on the Fanatics Live platform who are given explicit permission to open products before the official release dates won’t be impacted, and pre-release promotions will continue.

The Messi Superfractor was pulled a day early on rival streaming platform Whatnot.

Along with internal discussions, Fanatics used feedback from hobby shops and breakers to determine the length and severity of the suspensions.

“We’ve talked about this, we rolled out our hobby shop agreements,” Jessup said. “I think just putting some firm, clear guidelines in place for what you can do, what you cannot do, and then what the implications are was super important.”

Businesses that are reapplying for an account after an indefinite suspension will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, Jessup says, with details of any reevaluation still being determined by Fanatics. The types of issues any business has had in the past will likely be a major factor in any reapplication process.

Ben Burrows is a reporter and editor for cllct.