Your Very Own Card

Posted: May 31, 2012 by Crackin' Wax in Varsity Trading Cards

What is it, exactly, that I do, anyway? Other than critiquing new baseball card releases (anyone pick up any Pro Debut this week? No? Me neither), destroying old junk wax, trading for Twins RC AUs and giving cards away, I design trading cards.

Yep, that’s right. I’m a trading card designer.

No, I don’t work for Topps. I do not work for Upper Deck. In fact, I work for no one other than myself. For those that aren’t already aware, I am the sole-proprietor of Varsity Trading Cards, a company that provides trading cards of and to high school student athletes.

Worry yourself not. I’ve heard it all before. “You’re not a REAL trading card company.” “Who would collect these things?” “I don’t understand what the point of your cards is.” With such criticism, one would wonder why I would even bother. Let me be the first to say that those who cannot withstand criticism is fit only to fail.

That raises a very unique question. On what scale would a guy like me running a company like mine measure success and/or failure? Am I a millionaire? Not at the moment. Does my company have the reach that a company like, say, Topps does? Not at the moment. Do I even enjoy what I’m doing? Oh, hell yeah. I think I’ve just found my scale.

Okay, so doing something that I enjoy could be interpreted as a reason for being an independent trading card designer. I say “independent” because, although I’ve dispensed my share of constructive criticism toward them, I would not necessarily place myself on the same level as those making pro player cards for a living. Yeah, I have a degree in graphic design. Yeah, I’ve been doing design work since 2000. Do I have a passion for graphic design? Ehh… yes and no. I’m often drawn to the computer to do nothing more than play around with my assortment of design software. It’s fun but very time consuming. On the other hand, though, after putting myself through a few years of freelance design, I am not a big fan of being subcontracted. It sucks all of the joy out of tooling around on the computer and coming up with designs that I like. Nothing was worse in those years than coming up with a design that not only did I like but I also knew worked only to have the client point me in the opposite direction. Just like anyone in any other trade or profession, it’s very frustrating being told how to do your job by someone who doesn’t understand the first thing about your job. It’s much easier being told those sorts of things by your peers.

Working for myself isn’t the reason I do what I do, although it does sound like a nice perk. And it is. It’s also nice having a wife that loves tagging along on jobs and not have to pay her! It’s fun hanging out with the kids before the games while I’m getting prepped and seeing the looks on their faces when they realize that I’m there to put them on a trading card. It’s fun hearing back from the kids and their families and friends about the cards I’ve made for them. It’s nice knowing that I was able to give them a little joy and something to show their own kids when they get older.

While all of that has a lot to do with why I do what I do, it’s not what got me started.

You see, much like many of you (I assume), not only did I collect baseball cards, I wanted to BE on a baseball card. I’m sure, much like myself, many of you would still like to be on a baseball card (I assume). Playing high school baseball offered me an opportunity to do just that. What I didn’t realize was that I would not be on a baseball card at all. Instead, along with all of my teammates and many other kids across the country, I was stuck on one of these…

Yep. That’s nothing more than a bad photograph on poorly hand cut plain photo paper complete with Kodak watermarking on the back. To make things even cheaper, there’s a sticker on the back with which I had to fill out my own bio (I would have scanned the back side, but I’m not ready to reveal ALL of my secrets just yet). To that point in 1992 as a 14-year-old, I had never been more disappointed in my life. Now, I wasn’t expecting to be on a Topps or Upper Deck card, but I also wasn’t expecting something I could have had done at a mall photo booth.

It took from 1992 to 2011, nearly 20 years of my life, to finally figure out what I wanted to do with at least a small portion of my life. I wanted to take that disappointing feeling from way back when and turn it into something fun and, above all else, professional. I use my skill set as well as my knowledge and love of trading cards and apply it to something that’s fun and unique. I use high quality photography and real card stock. I even take the time to put actual statistics and biographical information on the back of every card.

I do what I do because I have the ability to make student athletes and their friends and families feel special. I am able to give them memories of moments they enjoyed in their youth. I am able to provide them with something real and professional, not just some sticker slapped on the back of a piece of photo paper. It’s fun doing what I do, and although I’m sorry my mom had to pay for such an atrocity, I’m glad that my own trading card is hideous in every way possible. If it wasn’t, I may have never considered the idea.

The reason this topic sprung to mind today is because Season 1 of Varsity Trading Cards is just about over and I’m in the midst of producing mock-ups of the Season 2 design. (Pssst… only my Facebook friends will get to see the designs first! So, like… look at the left side bar and like my Facebook page so you can see the designs first!) Looking at the new design models made me think back to that old card of mine. It eventually lead to me digging it up to take a better look at it… which then lead to me posting it here because I just LOVE to embarrass myself publicly! I’m glad I found that crappy old card. It will continue to serve as a reminder to me that THIS is why I do what I do… and it will also remind me that things could be a LOT worse.

I mean… could you imagine if trading cards ACTUALLY looked that way? Man. And I thought ’07 Artifacts looked bad.

If you would like to see yourself or your student athlete on a Varsity Trading Card Season 2 design, follow me on Facebook and contact me via e-mail (crackinwax at varsitytradingcards dot com). Be sure to include your Facebook name in the Subject line of your e-mail. You will receive a digital image of the front of the card and, if you provide sufficient information to be included on the back of the card, you will also receive 1 hand-made physical copy of your card. Show it off to your friends, your family and your kids’ coaches! Hope to hear from you soon!


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