Big news hit the hobby world this week with the announcement that Topps will be going public this year. Topps will merge with Mudrick Capital, a special purpose acquistion company, and values Topps at $1.3 billion. This is not the first time Topps will be a publicly traded company. Topps first went public in 1972 before going private in 1984. Going private was short-lived, as Topps went public again in 1987 and was traded until 2007. Topps goes public, here’s a look at the history of Topps stock.
History of Topps Company
Topps was founded in 1938 by brothers Abram, Ira, Joseph, and Phillip Shorin. The initial focus of the company was chewing gum. The company’s first foray into trading cards came along in 1950 when Topps wanted to boost gum sales by packaging picture cards of early television star William Boyd as Hopalong Cassidy.
The first baseball cards came along one year later in 1951. Known as red backs and blue backs, the two sets contained 52 yards like a standard deck of playing cards. Fast forward another year and the first Topps baseball card set came along with the 407-card 1952 Topps set. It was full steam ahead with trading cards.
Topps Goes Public for the First Time (1972)
By 1972, Topps goes public for the first time. The initial offering of 435,000 shares of common stock went live in June. The issue price was set at $17.50 per share and quickly investors bid that price up to $22.37. Quoted in the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader on June 17, 1972, White, Weld, and Company attributed the success due to “the company’s steady earnings record.”
Topps earnings for fiscal year 1971 was reported as $33.8 million. During fiscal year 1972, the company reported net sales at $36.4 million. Throughout the 1970’s the trading card market cooled from initially going public. Topps posted a $9 million loss in 1979 that hampered stock prices. The stock traded as low as $2.50 per share in early 1980, but bounced back to $4.50 on September 29, 1980.
Beginning of a Baseball Card Boom
Fleer and Donruss entered the baseball card market in 1981. There were court proceedings regarding antitrust laws, but Topps came out victorious. A federal appeals court ruled Topps did not violate antitrust laws by signing players to exclusive contracts. The victory marked another rise in stock prices on August 26, 1981 to $5.75 a share.
In 1982, Topps stock surged. The stock closed on January 4, 1982 at $5.00 per share. Nearly six months later, it traded at $8.88 per share at the close of business on June 29, 1982. At the end of August, Topps shares had doubled since the beginning of the year closing at $10.00 per share on August 26, 1982. As the year closed out, Topps was trading above $21 per share.
In an acquisition that would lead to Topps being privately held for the first time in 12 years, the company was being purchased by an investor group led by Forstmann Little for $94.5 million. According to an article in the Scranton Times-Tribune on November 18, 1983, it would be business as usual for employees at Topps. This will close the first chapter on the history of Topps stock.
Topps Goes Public…Again (1987)
Just a few short years later Topps would go public again in May 1987. This time around, Topps would issue 4.5 million shares of stock with an expected initial price between $15 and $18 per share. Topps showed revenues of $147 million in 1986 mainly attributed to baseball cards along with an increasing demand in non-sports trading cards such as E.T. and Rambo cards.
The first of two stock splits occurred in 1989. Topps declared a 3-for-2 common stock split that gave shareholders one additional share for each two shares held. At this time, Topps was also issuing a 10 cents per share quarterly dividend.
Baseball Card Boom is About to Burst
Junk wax era is a term coined for this era in trading cards. This graphic from 1991 shows the massive increase in sales for the company during this time.
Even though the trading card bubble did not burst until the early-to-mid 1990’s, some within the hobby expected to see a crash. Angelo Cataldi, a sports talk radio host and former newspaper reporter in Philadelphia, told the Detroit Free Press in 1990: “The market is glutted with product. People think that if they hold on for a long time these cards will have enormous value. But tens of millions of these cards are on the market right now. It’s just not a good investment.”
During the fiscal year that ended in March 1991, Topps reported net sales of $290 million. That would be the height and hard times were coming just like Angelo Cataldi had predicted. Shares traded at $8 in January 1993, down from almost $16 during the fourth quarter of 1992. The company stopped issuing dividends in 1993 after a dismal earnings report. Moving further into the 1990’s, the Major League Baseball and National Hockey League lockouts plagued the industry even more.
The Late 1990’s Resurgence
At the end of the decade there would be a bounce. Interest in trading cards could have shown growth from the resurgence in baseball during the summer of 1998, but moreso the popularity in Pokemon as reported in the October 26, 1999 edition of the Baltimore Sun.
Topps would continue to be traded publicly until 2007, when Michael Eisner’s Torante Company partnered with Madison Dearborn Partners to acquire the company, and it went private. Topps generated $326.7 million in sales during its 2006 fiscal year. By comparison, Beckett reports Topps had sales of $567 million in 2020.
What are your thoughts on Topps going public? What will the next History of Topps Stock look like?