Hobby Musings: Pop Century Packs a Star-powered Punch – Continuing their line of non-sports releases, Leaf Trading Cards recently released, the always popular, 2016 Pop Century. With four hits per box, the product focuses on autographs and memorabilia from some of the best and brightest in pop culture.
Starting in 2010, Leaf founder Brian Gray said he developed the product due to his own love of pop culture. Elaborating on this, he said that while the sports world provides plenty of big names and awesome material, there tends to be a finite amount of people you can use to build products year after year. As such, he turned to pop culture as it’s a market that has been relatively untapped for trading cards, especially autographs.
Citing collector’s desire for something different and out of the box, it led to him and his company reaching out to try and establish the relationships needed to build a product like Pop Century.
Reflecting on Pop Century’s history, Gray stated that he felt it’s come a long way since its initial release. This has been especially true in the increasing quality of star names in each progressive checklist as well as the increased quality of the cards themselves. Speaking about it, Gray said, “We’ve had some phenomenal names, including Harrison Ford and Britney Spears, that are a testament to our creativity in putting together the product year after year.”
For this year’s Pop Century release, Gray said Leaf used a reduced checklist of about 70-80 signers. While it did raise the product price, the smaller checklist also gave Leaf a chance to improve the overall quality of the signers. As Gray put it, the aim for this year’s release was to provide collectors with an experience where they’re struck by the names and autographs pulled.
This year’s checklist provided some good punch with the ink. Leaf dropped the big announcement a while back that they had landed Star Wars actress Daisy Ridley as one of the signers for 2016 Pop Century. While Gray spoke of his excitement in getting Ridley to sign for the release, he did acknowledge that she was one of the trickier names to land for the autograph checklist, in part because of the price needed for the agreement. In fact, he said he paid more for Ridley to sign than for Brittany Spears a few years ago. Overall, Gray revealed the price for Ridley to sign is the most paid for a female celebrity for trading card autographs, and it’s the second most he’s paid for a celebrity autograph, trailing only fellow Star Wars alum Harrison Ford.
The impressive ink doesn’t end with Ridley. In addition to her, Leaf also landed the likes of Kevin Costner, Al Pacino and even Boy George for the autograph checklist. While someone like Boy George may raise an eyebrow or two, Gray said the rarity of some of the autographs likes his makes them popular targets among collectors.
Also adding some beef to Pop Century was the sketch card signatures. According to Gray, “That checklist had a nice bit of power behind it.” Considering that checklist included 50 Cent, Anna Kendrick, Hugh Jackman, Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon and Mark Ruffalo, it’s an assessment that’s fairly easy to agree with.
When talking about how Leaf goes about securing these names, Gray acknowledged that it can often be a challenge, but it’s a labor of love. Expanding on this, he said, “We’re out there calling agents all day and every day trying to track down people to sign.” Part of the trick for landing celebrities, especially when compared to athletes, is that the concept of signing autographs for trading cards is a relatively foreign concept. Whereas an athlete is indoctrinated into the practice from an early point in their career, a pop culture celebrity may go several years without doing similar, if ever.
Another challenge is that the money some of these celebrities make doesn’t lend itself to providing them much incentive to signing cards for a fee. According to Gray though, “Once we engage a celebrity to participate, we’ve had great experiences. We’ve never really had issues and have been blessed to work with some talented people.”
When asked if there was a dream card he could make for Pop Century, Gray said he’s already made it. When asked further, he said that designation goes to the 2011 Pop Century booklet 1/1 card with cut signatures of John F. Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald and piece of the seat from the car JFK was assassinated in. Speaking of the card’s significance, Gray explained, “To me, that is a drop-the-mic card. I think it personifies the craziest card ever made. When I made that card, that’s the most excitement I’ve ever had about creating something truly unique.”
Speaking about the Pop Century’s future, Gray said he is constantly on the lookout for new names to add to the checklist. Asking for collector input on who to add in the future, he said a lot of the same desired names often come up, including Jennifer Aniston and Sarah Michelle Gellar. Also listing Charlie Theron and Brad Pitt as people he’s trying to land for a release, Gray said he is, “Fighting to find those names, but it’s very hard. It’s a function of how do we find them and convince them that signing autographs accessible to fans is worth it.”
Once thing is for sure though in that Leaf will keep finding ways to expand the line and make each successive Pop Century release more impressive than its predecessor. Even though the price points have been fairly consistent on the product over the years, Gray did say he could see making a much higher-priced version of the product, akin to something like Panini’s Flawless brand, if he can ever land some of the celebrity names needed to increase the scope of the product and escalate it to that level.
For more information about 2016 Leaf Pop Century, please visit the product page, including a complete checklist.
Kelsey’s ability to bring hobby coverage to the mainstream sports fan has been a true asset. GTS is happy to feature his thoughts on collecting in Hobby Musings. The opinions expressed are his and do not necessarily reflect those of GTS Distribution.
Hobby Musings: Pop Century Packs a Star-powered Punch
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