In tough economic times, people are to learning to do more with less, and even charities are turning to new and unique ways of finding donations. To this end, the March of Dimes will issue officially licensed trading cards to bring in donations and help children. This is the first time ever a national charity has issued comic character trading cards. The idea came from comic fan and March of Dimes fundraiser, Steven L. Frank, and he spoke with First Comics News about the idea.
First Comics News: Steven, last year your March of Dimes promotion “Be a Super Hero for Babies” was the first time the March of Dimes entered the sketch card business. How did “Be a Super Hero for Babies” come about?
Steven L. Frank: Individuals such as myself have to come up with unique ways to raise money for March of Dimes. My interest in comic art was a great jumping off point. I asked a bunch of comic artists to do sketches on 5×5 March of Dimes placards that I auctioned off to raise money. One of the annual March of Dimes campaigns is “Be a Hero for Babies”, so I just added the “Super” and tied it all together.
1st: How much money did “Be a Super Hero for Babies” raise for March of Dimes?
Steven: Last year was my first year doing this campaign and it raised over $4,000. A modest amount, but now that I have things dialed in we should do a lot more this year.
1st: All the sketch cards were sold at auction?
Steven: Yes, they were offered for auction on eBay.
1st: 100% of the proceeds went to March of Dimes?
Steven: All of the proceeds went to March of Dimes and a lot of the costs associated with doing the auction came out of my pocket. Usually I donate cash, so instead I paid for the postage, shipping materials, listing fees, and so on.
1st: This year you have gone from on-line auctions to fully licensed trading cards with Archie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Greatest American Hero. Did you pay for these licenses or were they donations?
Steven: I am still doing the second annual “Be a Super Hero for Babies” sketch card auction on eBay this year with standard sketch cards and the special March of Dimes placards, but the licensed trading cards is a concept that became an extension of it. The licensors all were kind enough to waive their licensing fees to allow us to raise money for this great charity. Mirage Studios allowed me to use the Turtles as a special subset of the Archie Comics series. I thought it was a great idea due to their association in the past. I have been working closely with William Katt and Catastrophic Comics on the Greatest American Hero product.
1st: Are these sets, standard trading card size?
Steven: The cards are the standard 2.5×3.5 size.
1st: This is a series of sketch cards. Sketch Cards are usually the chase cards in a card set. Will there be any rare chase cards in this set?
Steven: The main concept of the Archie Comics and Greatest American Hero March of Dimes products is the fact that every card is a sketch card. This is not how it is normally done. You have to bust open an entire box to guarantee one sketch card in most products. Well, I figure that if your money is going to charity you should get something extra special. So, each pack has a singular card and it is a sketch card. The chase is discovering what artist and what character(s). There will be rare cards, such as celebrity autograph sketch cards in both products. There will also be redemption cards randomly inserted in the Archie packs and they will be for pages of original Archie Comics art. If you find one you mail it in for an original page of artwork by Jeff Shultz from a Betty & Veronica comic. There will also be Hot Packs containing more than one sketch card. The TMNT cards in the Archie series will amount to be about 1% of the sketch cards, so those will be a hard find.
1st: Is the redemption coupon in addition to the sketch card or instead of the card?
Steven: I believe in great content for the collector, so the Archie original art redemption cards will be in addition to the sketch card, so both and not one or the other.
1st: A lot of times customers will feel the thickness of card packs to find the chase cards. How will you combat this?
Steven: We are randomly placing dummy cards in the packs. This is a standard practice the trading card companies employ.
1st: This will mask the triple card pack as well?
1st: Which artists do you have lined up for the card sets?
Steven: The list is fairly long on both [he’s not joking – see below]. The great thing is this is the first officially licensed trading card set for Archie Comics in over a decade and the first sketch cards ever for that property. We will have many of the Archie artists doing sketch cards as well as artists who might have never done an Archie character professionally. So, along with Jeff Shultz, Dan Parent, Bill Galvin, and Stan Goldberg you have Dean Yeagle, Guy Davis, Al Rio, and Billy Tan, for example. There are over 80 artists working on the Archie series and around 40 on Greatest American Hero. This is the first licensed trading card and sketch card product for the Greatest American Hero property, so Greatest American Hero fans have reason to be thrilled.
1st: How many cards are in the series?
Steven: There will be 2,199 individually numbered packs for Archie and 899 for Greatest American Hero. There will be a few more cards for each series than the pack numbers due to the inclusion of Hot Pack sketch cards for Archie, as well as Artist Exclusives and Dealer Exclusives for both series. After everything is said and done there will be about 2,450 Archie sketch cards and 1,000 Greatest American Hero sketch cards.
1st: That isn’t enough for every retailer to get one for their shop, why such low numbers?
Steven: These are limited numbers, yes, but we have to make sure these get into the hands of collectors. Money can only get to March of Dimes if retailers and fans buy these packs, not if they are sitting boxed up in my garage. If it turns out the numbers were too low, that will be a lesson learned.
1st: Will these be for retailers only, or will fans and collectors clubs be able to order them as well?
Steven: They will be available from retailers across the country, but also directly from me via various means such as websites and postings on blogs and fan forums.
1st: Will they be available in the Previews Catalog?
Steven: No, we are not using a distributor since the numbers are low.
1st: Without Previews how will you be distributing the cards to retailers?
Steven: I have been contacting them directly and through word of mouth. If anyone has any questions or if they want to pre-order some cards, they should visit http://5finity.blogspot.com.
1st: What is the retail price for a pack?
Steven: The suggested retail price for both series is $24.95 per pack. That is a great value considering you are getting an original, one of a kind sketch card by fantastic artists with the possibility of pulling more goodies. Most importantly, the money goes to March of Dimes to help save babies.
1st: How much will all of these cards generate in donations this year?
Steven: We are hoping for $5,000 for the “Be a Super Hero for Babies” sketch card auction on eBay and another $25,000 for the Archie and Greatest American Hero sketch cards. That would be much more than what I did last year, for sure.
1st: With the Greatest American Hero card set, series star William Katt will be making public appearances at retail locations selling the cards. Is this handled through the March of Dimes or William Katt’s Agent?
Steven: All appearances will be coordinated by William and I. We cannot take requests due to his schedule, so they will mostly be in the LA area. Any appearances by William will be posted on the blog. It should be noted that March of Dimes gives their fundraisers a lot of autonomy to do various projects as long as everything is done using due diligence, common sense and with their acceptance.
1st: Finally, Steve, what are the release dates for each of these cards sets?
Steven: The Archie series will be released June 15 and the Greatest American Hero series will be available July 15.
Below is the list of artists working on each card set.
Super Heroes for Babies…
Bob Adauto III
Cadence Comic Art
Evan T Shaner
Scott Christian Sava
Trevor von Eeden
Greatest American Hero…
Frankie B Washington
Evan T Shaner
Frankie B Washington