What In The Game patriarch Dr. Brian Price lacks in big-time league licensing, he more than makes up for by continuing to push the creative envelope when it comes to high-end multisport, multi-generational products.
For the latest case in point, look no further than Famous Fabrics Second Edition, a simply majestic memorabilia-card marvel from Price’s Creative Cardboard Concepts label due to drop next week at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Baltimore.
Devoid of player photography and the always-welcomed stamp of approval that player and league licensing affords, the product manages to sparkle anyway thanks to the historic nature of its content and the innovative high points of its development.
The checklist alone is arguably the most comprehensive ever assembled in terms of sports and eras touched. No less than 20 sports or disciplines are represented (the big four plus mixed martial arts, golf, boxing, soccer, horse racing, poker, professional wrestling, auto racing, bicycling, gymnastics, tennis, volleyball, swimming, ice skating, coaching, announcing and even dare-deviling). The fact that Price and his people even managed to acquire memorabilia for such a far-reaching roster is a commendable feat in and of itself.
What they did with that memorabilia is more impressive still.
At a time in their 15-year existence when all but the most Technicolored memorabilia cards seem to have run their course, Famous Fabrics Second Edition reinvigorates the genre. The product’s inordinate amount of prime memorabilia pieces helps, sure. But the creative themes and clever insert names contribute immensely to the cause, too.
Sets like The Year (honoring one member each from a given year’s Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals and Stanley Cup champion), Rookie of the Year (trumpeting a given year’s ROY in three different sports), Pitch and Catch (baseball battery mates), Pass and Catch (popular QB-WR pairings), MVP (honoring a given year’s MVP in three different sports) and CityScapes (multiple stars from multiple teams in the same city) add an air of importance that’s often missing in the mem-card arena these days.
And there’s just something refreshing — and a little irreverent — about seven- and eight-piece memorabilia cards hailing from sets called “Septomem” and “Octomem.”
Although the stigma attached to a barrier-bending product like this one no doubt hurts more than it helps, driving without a license on the sports card highway also gives Price certain freedoms. Like crafting a set that includes no less than 20 different sports and producing any multisport pairing he darn well pleases — such as Michael Jordan, Lawrence Taylor, Kirby Puckett and Mario Lemieux, for example. It also allows him the license-less leeway to produce an insert set like Notorious, a memorabilia tribute to sports’ most notable bad boys (including Michael Vick, Pete Rose, Mike Tyson and Dennis Rodman, among others) that would never see the light of day in a traditional league- or union-approved release.
Every memorabilia card — or “Authentic Memorabilia Card,” according to company literature — in Famous Fabrics is limited to either nine, four or one. Every cut signature in the product — 85 in the Enshrined insert, 27 in Yankees Dynasty — is a 1/1.
Clearly, Franchise Fabrics is an extremely limited, big-ticket release that’s not intended for those who become squeamish at the thought of a high-stakes game of pack poker. It’s also a product that will understandably turn off collectors who favor the sense of authenticity and comfort that comes with fully licensed products.
Ultimately, it’s the latter point that will likely always keep a product like this from true mainstream acceptance. But that doesn’t stop Price from putting his best foot forward seemingly each and every time.
And if card galleries are eye candy for the collector, the following images will most certainly cause retinal cavities. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Tracy Hackler is the editorial director for Beckett Media. Have a comment or question? Send an e-mail to him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.