Hobby Musings: Leaf brings back Pro Set in a big way – Leaf and Brian Gray have made a big mark in the hobby in a number of ways. The latest mark has come from their revitalization of the Pro Set brand. Featuring some nostalgia along with an impressive autograph checklist, Pro Set has already made an impression on the collecting world. I had a chance to catch up with Mr. Gray at the 2021 National Sports Collectors Convention to discuss why he revived Pro Set.
KS: Brian, how were you able to be able to start producing Pro Set products?
BG: I mean it was exciting. We had a chance to buy the Pro Set brand. I worked there in 1990, it was my first job in the industry. For me, frankly, I see that the brand’s out, it had been owned for 20 years by the same person who wasn’t doing anything with it. For the last few years, I tried to buy it, but couldn’t get it at a fair price. During Covid, I called him and said this would be the last time I’d try to buy. So I made the offer and two days later, I had it. I was excited, because I always wanted it. It was then a natural thing to bring it back, so what is old is new again. Topps is doing it with Archives and collectors love feeling the old stuff again. We unveiled the current iteration of Leaf at the National in 2010, so we brought back Pro Set for this year’s show. It’s been very well-received. It may even be stronger than Leaf brand.
KS: What similarities have you tried to keep with the nostalgia of the brand?
BG: I think we’ve used a lot of the retro designs, because collectors remember them, especially that 1989 set. It was revolutionary for the time, and we made sure to keep errors and variations in the new product. That’s part of the culture of the brand we tried to maintain. We’ve tried to contain some unique fun in the product. There’s one card with variation that has me in the background of the photo. Some of the variations are obvious, but some are more subtle. I think that coupled with the old classic designs has made it popular off the bat. Player selection and the card photograph has been good so far.
KS: Who have been some of the highlights of the checklist so far?
BG: For Pro Set Sports, we had names like Hideki Matsuyama, it was the first card of him in packs ever. We had Bryson DeChambeau for exclusive autographs. Steph, Giannis, Pele, Ronaldo, all these great names. Even the mid-range names are guys like Joe Montana and Kevin Garnett. It really is a fun product overall with great names from top to bottom.
KS: What has collector reception been to it so far?
BG: It’s been a lovefest. More people have thanked me for bringing it back more than anything else I’ve ever done. It vindicates my desire and hard work to try and bring it back. People have been asking me to make gear with Pro Set in addition to the cards. Pro Set is the origin of the hobby for a lot of us since it came out late 80s and early 90s.
KS: What are you hoping to do with Pro Set products in the future?
BG: Pro Set was one of the first companies to venture into entertainment. A lot of Disney, rap cards, that kind of stuff. To me, it’s a vehicle to look into more card categories that we haven’t explored yet. I think it gives us some more variety to work with. We’re looking into more licenses for it. For golf and soccer, if we do again, it’ll be branded as Pro Set. We’re also looking into music products and seeing we if we can produce cards of some great subjects there.
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