As collectible prices boomed in recent years, multiple tennis stars’ trading cards sold for over $10,000 each. Yet, the biggest manufacturers have not made a robust product for the sport. That could change as soon as this year.
Fanatics Collectibles and Winners Alliance—the for-profit affiliate of the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA)—announced a new partnership Thursday to create an annual series of cards for the next two decades. Men’s and women’s players will be represented in the sets, which will be made through the Fanatics-owned Topps brand.
“With Fanatics Collectibles’ focus on reaching new audiences and enhancing the collector experience, we’re thrilled to be bringing the trading card hobby to tennis fans around the world for the first time,” Kelvin Smith, Fanatics Collectibles VP of global licensing and partner development, said in a statement.
While the PTPA has not announced how many players have already signed up for its group licensing program, the organization’s goal is to represent the top 250 men’s and women’s competitors. Its not clear how many players would be represented in each year’s set of cards, though it would likely include a mix of new entrants as well as established champions. Individuals could also sign their own autograph or memorabilia deals with Fanatics. Star players from Novak Djokovic to Serena Williams have popped up in previous trading card sets made by smaller companies such as NetPro and Ace Authentic.
In 2020, Djokovic announced the formation of the PTPA, a players association separate from the ATP or WTA. Last year, the organization raised $26 million to launch Winners Alliance, an entity to help players monetize their fame. The group hired OneTeam Partners CEO Ahmad Nassar to be the PTPA executive director and Winners Alliance CEO.
“We’ve been spending a lot of time the last few months talking about the theoretical,” Nassar said in an interview. “‘Hey, players in tennis should have a Players Association. Players in tennis should have an independent voice. Players in tennis should have more commercial deals.’ And this is really the first time we’ve been able to say, ‘And here it is.’”
Fanatics Collectibles has emerged as a power player in the cards business since acquiring baseball, football and basketball-related licensing rights in 2021, followed by the Topps acquisition for roughly $500 million early in 2022. With tennis, they’ll look to chart largely unexplored ground.