Fanatics has cornered the market on the major sports in the United States for the foreseeable future. However, they do not appear satisfied with this significant victory. Now they are poised to launch their first notable non-sports release. As the first Fanatics non-sports trading card release drops, we have the full zerocool trading cards review.
It is a release Fanatics is touting as “the first trading card brand for the world’s most important people, IP and brands across pop culture, art, and entertainment.” While there have been no cards of “influencers” in the modern sense, I would note that this is not a new idea. The classic Topps release, Look ‘n See, also focused on the most influential people in the world. But in 1952, that looked very different from today.
The Fanatics Collectibles, Co-Founder and Chief Vision Officer (yup, you read that right) Josh Luber, said “Musicians, designers, artists, entrepreneurs, politicians, philanthropists, educators and more (including the brands, companies, organizations, and IP they’ve created) have as much cultural power and importance as the world’s greatest athletes. Trading cards are a historical record, the immortalization of accomplishment, and a way to turn one’s support and fandom into investment and partnership. zerocool was created to believe that ‘fans’ are fans for life and that life is more than what happens on the playing field. It’s also what made Fanatics Collectibles the perfect company to birth the brand.”
VeeFriends is an NFT line launched by entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk better known as Gary Vee. The Belarusian-American entrepreneur rose to prominence as one of the founders of Resy; an app used to make reservations for hairdressers and the like.
He has since become a prime influencer, at least partially through his work in the NFT space. Collectors in the sports card world are now familiar with Vee, as one of the owners of Candy, the prime Major League Baseball NFT.
Each card in this series represents a specific character.
The website for the NFT line describes the line as one Vee created: “to bring to life his ambitions of building a community around his creative and business passions using NFT technology and their smart contract capabilities. By owning a VeeFriend NFT, you immediately become part of the VeeFriends community and get access to VeeCon.”
In other words, Gary Vee’s NFTs are focused on building a community. So it makes sense to launch the inaugural zerocool release with a large following using his name and brand.
If you are anything like me (and for your sake, I hope you are not), your next question is, what is VeeCon? We have you covered. “VeeCon is a multi-day event exclusively for NFT holders. Your NFT will give you a three-year access pass. The conference will be focused around business, marketing, ideas, creativity, entrepreneurship, innovation, competition, and of course, fun. Gary’s focus is to curate the best experience for his community, bringing enormous access and informational value to all the VeeFriends token holders in attendance. If you own two VeeFriends tokens, this means you have two tickets to VeeCon.”
The first VeeCon will be held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, from May 19-22, 2022.
How do you buy zerocool trading cards? In their press release, Fanatics touts the sale platform on their website as “a transformative direct-to-consumer platform that utilizes market-based pricing to ensure fair and transparent access to the product for all collectors.”
I have a Ph.D., but that doesn’t mean I have any idea what that means. So how does the platform work in practice?
The company brand their pricing and selling process based on transparency, equal access, and a fair process.
Here is how the zerocool blind Dutch auction works in practice:
Mathematically speaking, this system guarantees that most consumers will pay significantly less than their bids.
The current pricing system used by Topps and Panini is inefficient. Some products, like flagship baseball, are released for less than they are worth. Meanwhile, others are far too expensive (most basketball cards, for example).
This pricing system will reflect the market far better than existing systems. In addition, it will allow Fanatics to get rid of all the products when demand is low and avoid being fleeced when value peaks.
Meanwhile, customers will usually pay less than they bid. Happy customers, build brand loyalty. So, I think this is an excellent price structure for them. However, it will probably inflate box prices overall, especially for baseball, which is relatively low right now. So keep an eye out for whether Fanatics use this structure for their sports releases because it will impact our bank balances.
As we have seen, the first release was a set of collectible trading cards based on Gary Vaynerchuk’s NFT Project, VeeFriends. Though Vee is best known for his NFTs, the first zerocool product is a physical set of trading cards on a thick stock that includes foil stamping.
The VeeFriends release from zerocool includes 235 base cards. It also contains autographs and other inserts. Keep in mind that even the base is very low-numbered. There are no more than 22 releases of each card. The Gary Vee signed sketch cards are probably the most sought after in the release.
The cards were sold through a blind Dutch auction format. The bidding ended on Thursday, March 10, at 9 pm EST.
The release did very well. The number of bids was 22,644 overall. The clearing price (the lowest winning bid) was $2,150.
The faithful at Blowout Forums reported that it was hard to get on the site for the launch. I can confirm that the Fanatics site was clearly overburdened.
Nonetheless, there is plenty of backlash among the more traditional sports card collecting crowd. One poster on Blowout Forums described the release in the following manner: “Imagine a 5th grader drawing animals. Next, imagine those crayon drawings on trading cards. Boom.”
But while the cards may not be all that attractive to traditional sports card collectors, they seem to be attracting a new breed of collectors.
Let’s look at the latest sales of the first zerocool release on eBay:
While the prices are all over the place, they show a clear upward trend. Most boxes of the inaugural zerocool release sell for about three times the clearing price. It is anyone’s guess if this trend lasts. However, so far, the line is a clear and resounding success.
It is also very notable that people do not seem to be ripping these boxes very often. I could not find any singles on eBay, although that will change at some point. People are buying these cards to invest rather than collect. Is that sustainable? Part of what makes trading cards iconic is their cultural significance and use. However, this is a new world and the business model seems to be changing. Would you have imagined a box of (let’s face it) primitively rendered cards would for $10,000 until very recently? The landscape is very different from just a year ago.
Fanatics is keeping their next moves under wraps. Their press release claims, “Although the company is keeping future releases confidential for now, zerocool has signed partnerships with other culture-defining entertainment franchises and creatives and has upcoming collaborations with several of the biggest production houses and streaming services.” We will find out soon enough whether this is wishful thinking or fact. The first release was from an individual already associated with Fanatics. Can they land big external names for their products? And if so how big? Those questions will be answered in the near future.
This particular release is of limited interest to most sports card collectors. However, as the first major release by Fanatics, it gives us an important glimpse at how they do business in the hobby. The release showed us a robust model. They preceded the release with a timely and informative press release distributed well. The blind Dutch auction system seems to be a success. In addition, Fanatics has shown that they are willing to think outside the box with their releases. No matter what you think of the first zerocool cards, the new card giant has flexed its muscles, and the sight is an impressive one.
Done with gunmetal.
Each is a 1/1.