Major League Baseball and the Players Association struck a deal yesterday giving retail giant Fanatics the exclusive right to produce MLB cards beginning in 2023.
It's a tough draw for Topps, who's been printing baseball cards for the league since 1951, when the cardboard collectibles were primarily a method of increasing chewing gum sales.
While the bubble may have burst for the 70-year industry leader, MLB's new contract could pay off handsomely for one Padre's superstar, or at least for fans with his card in their deck.
How handsomely, you ask? Well, another shortstop's likeness went to auction earlier this month and sold for a cool $6.6 million. That's an awful lot of Hubba Bubba.
Obviously, card value depends on a lot more than where a player stands on defense, but Honus Wagner and Tatis Jr. have more in common than just their position. Both are known for their offensive prowess at a traditionally defensive position and have an affinity for taking second base without permission.
More important than any far-fetched likening of the Friars' young star to one of the best players to ever set foot on the diamond is the circumstances surrounding the card now worth well more than its weight in gold.
At the risk of sounding like a first year economics major, the T206 Wagner card is so valuable due to its limited supply. First issued by the American Tobacco Company in 1909, Wagner halted production just two years later due to either an aversion to filling kids' lungs with smoke or--more likely given the fact that young Honus was in the coal mines at age 12 himself--a financial disagreement with the ATC. As a result, only between 50 and 200 copies were ever distributed to the public.
With two years remaining in the current agreement, there's more than enough time for Topps to roll out a limited edition El Nino card before focusing their efforts on Major League Soccer, the WWE, and Garbage Pail Kids (I think I'd rather see my kid reach for a pack of cowboy killers.) If that were to happen, those Tatis cards could age like fine wine.
I know: with the Pads floundering in August, it's little consolation to think about hypothetical appreciation of collectibles, but hey-it's something. And for what it's worth, in 1909, when the T206 was first released, Honus Wagner and his Pittsburgh Pirates went on to win the World Series. I'm looking at you, Topps.