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KPMG did an independent audit of Topps randomization following accusations of ‘loaded boxes’

Written by on April 29, 2024

Scarcity of sports cards used to be a parent’s job — their spring cleaning, especially when you were at college, took care of that. But in the modern era of sports cards, scarcity is manufactured into the product. Certain cards within any given set are made with purposefully short print runs, some are stamped with serial numbers (to 5 or 25 or 199, etc.) and the odds of finding each type of card in a pack are published by the manufacturer. But the idea always was that anyone anywhere could open up a pack of cards and have a chance to hit that product’s most valuable cards.

A recent spate of “breakers” — live streamers who open boxes of cards and sell spots to consumers (for instance, a breaker opening a Topps Chrome case would sell all the star-laden Yankees cards that come out of the box to one person for $150; the less-sought-after Nationals spot may only cost $40) — getting high-value cards caused an online fervor. There have been widespread accusations within the hobby community that Topps, which is owned by Fanatics, was feeding predetermined (or “loaded”) boxes to breakers who stream on their in-house network, Fanatics Live. Some critics went a step further and accused Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin of supplying celebrities and athletes with loaded boxes filled with hits as clever marketing ploys.

That led to a growing number of collectors wondering if the insertion of highly valuable cards was truly random. Do card manufacturers identify which boxes have the hottest cards and set them aside for celebrities and breakers? Or does every box and pack have the exact same stated odds of containing a collecting jackpot?

On Monday at the Topps Industry Conference in Atlanta, attended by about 500 industry leaders and store owners, Fanatics announced that the placement of these cards has been independently certified as random. The examination by accounting firm KPMG LLP is the first of its kind in the trading card industry, according to Fanatics — and it won’t be the last. Fanatics says it’s committed to doing this examination annually.

The report is available online and reaches the conclusion that “high-value cards are inserted randomly within the Company’s packaged finished goods and distributed by the Company to its customers in a random manner.”

Speaking to conference attendees, Fanatics Collectibles CEO Mike Mahan said, “It is important to confirm for collectors that the process of packaging and distributing our cards is truly random and our employees are unable to direct high-value cards to specific customers.”

According to Mahan, Fanatics Collectibles, “detailed the key areas of the packaging and distribution process, which include controls over governance, physical security, job configuration and review, packing line operation and quality control audits.”

Chief Financial Officer of Fanatics Collectibles Greg Abovsky added, “This is part and parcel of our desire to service the industry and the consumer. We are listening to their concerns — addressing them and generally elevating the hobby.”

Abvosky provided details of the KPMG audit process to The Athletic, which, he says, began with an announcement last summer. He said the accounting firm, “examined all of our flow charts, our risks and control matrices, our documentation of previous jobs, their professionals visited the factory, interviewed employees and gave us a clean bill of health.

“That means that high-value cards are inserted into products in a random manner. No one gets any preferential treatment because it’s not possible for anyone to know where the most valuable cards are. It’s genuinely random.”

Which leads back to Occam’s Razor — if it seems like breakers are getting a lot of hits, it’s because they’re opening so much more product than anyone else. While an average consumer may only open a few packs or a box or two of a single product, breakers can go through hundreds — if not thousands — of packs and dozens of boxes. Remember Rupert Salt?

What this KPMG audit verified was each box and every pack has the exact stated odds of containing the most sought-after cards. So you can rest easy with your purchases knowing loaded boxes aren’t being handed out to annoying breakers and theres as good a chance as ever before that you can pull a Superfractor from a blaster at your local card shop or retailer.

(Top photo: Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images and Topps/Fanatics)

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