Josh Gibson estate agrees to long-term deal with Topps

Company could produce Gibson autograph and memorabilia cards in future

Cover Image for Josh Gibson estate agrees to long-term deal with Topps
Topps has been producing Josh Gibson cards for more than 20 years. (Credit: Getty)

The estate of Negro Leagues star Josh Gibson has agreed to a multi-year, long-term deal with Topps and Fanatics Collectibles.

Announced Wednesday, the deal expands on the current relationship while adding the possibility of cards containing autographs and game-worn memorabilia in the future.

Topps has made cards featuring Gibson for more than 20 years, with his first appearance coming in 2001 Topps Series 2’s Negro League Legends insert set.

Major League Baseball announced in May that it would recognize statistics from seven different Negro Leagues and it’s likely no player’s legacy benefited more than Gibson’s. Already a Hall of Fame catcher, Gibson can now officially be called one of the greatest hitters ever while taking over as the game’s all-time leader in batting average (.372), slugging percentage (.718) and OPS (1.177).

Sean Gibson, Josh Gibson’s great-grandson and the executive director of the Josh Gibson Foundation, says it was the right time to expand the relationship after MLB’s recognition of Negro Leagues statistics.

“This is just a continuation of the relationship on a grander and bigger scale,” Sean Gibson told cllct. “With the stats coming out and with Josh Gibson on top of the leaderboard in several categories, it makes sense to continue the relationship. The Gibson family, the Gibson estate is happy to continue that relationship with Topps.”

Topps, which currently has deals with the estates for Negro Leagues stars such as Satchel Paige, Buck Leonard, Monte Irvin and Cool Papa Bell, began working with the Gibson estate in 2015 and has since produced 33 different cards across a variety of products.

Topps has already included Gibson on cards 16 times so far in 2024, including in sets like 2024 Allen and Ginter, 2024 Stadium Club and 2024 Triple Threads.

Gibson is also part of the six-card 2024 Rickwood Negro Leagues Collection, which has slowly released individual cards leading up to Juneteenth. The Rickwood set has been released alongside a ballpark tour that ends at the famed ballpark in Birmingham, Alabama, on Thursday.

Details weren’t immediately available for upcoming sets, but the extended access with the Gibson estate could result in cut signatures or unique images that haven’t been used on cards before.

Gibson, who died of a stroke at just 35 in 1947, has some of the rarest autographs in the hobby.

Omar Wilkes, head of athlete partnerships at Fanatics Collectibles, says Topps has an obligation to continue telling Gibson’s story.

“Our goal is to, in essence, amplify and highlight Josh’s wonderful legacy,” Wilkes said. “Obviously, the fact that MLB now recognizes the stats, it feels like it’s our duty to kind of also echo that and support that. And I think we have a unique position, being the preeminent brand in trading cards and baseball, to do that.”

For Sean Gibson, the inclusion of his great-grandfather’s statistics with the MLB record books has been an opportunity to help tell the stories of other Negro Leagues players too. The estate plans to propose MLB host a national Negro Leagues Day to celebrate the first game that was played on May 2, 1920, with teams wearing Negro Leagues uniforms.

Topps adding more cards of Josh Gibson only help elevate those stories.

“There’s still a lot of people that don’t know anything about the Negro Leagues even though the stats just came out,” Sean Gibson said. “People are still uneducated about these great men. I think what Topps is doing to get these cards out there — not just Josh Gibson, but the Negro League, the Rickwood Collection — is going to educate the public about these great baseball players.”

Ben Burrows is a reporter and editor for cllct.