Josh Luber(Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)
TRADING CARDS & COLLECTIBLES

Boardroom Q&A: Josh Luber Introduces Cultural Collectibles Through zerocool

Fanatics Collectibles has announced zerocool, the first trading card brand focused on culture. Boardroom caught up with Josh Luber to learn more.

Josh Luber, Co-Founder and Chief Vision Officer of Fanatics Collectibles, announced on Tuesday the launch of zerocool, the first trading card brand focused on influential global icons across pop culture, art, and entertainment. zerocool’s premium culture-focused products will be available for auction on zerocool.com, where the brand is creating the first direct-to-consumer platform dedicated to the concept of market-based pricing to ensure fair access to product for all collectors.

“Trading cards have historically been centered around sports, yet athletes are a tiny fraction of society,” Luber said. “Musicians, designers, artists, entrepreneurs, politicians, philanthropists, educators and more — including the brands, companies, organizations and IP they’ve created — have as much cultural power and importance as the world’s greatest athletes. Trading cards are a historical record, the immortalization of accomplishment, and a way to turn one’s support and fandom into investment and partnership. zerocool was created on the belief that ‘fans’ are fans for life, and that life is more than what happens on the playing field. It’s also what made Fanatics Collectibles the perfect company to birth the brand.”

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zerocool’s first collaboration is a highly limited set based on Gary Vaynerchuk’s NFT Project, VeeFriends. Consumers will be able place bids via Blind Dutch Auction, starting Tuesday on zerocool.com through Thursday, March 10 at 9 p.m. EST. Additionally, the company will have partnerships with other iconic entertainment franchises and creatives, including collaborations with three of the biggest production houses and one of the largest streaming services.  

The zerocool x VeeFriends trading card set brings the VeeFriends NFT collection to a physical medium. All characters used in the zerocool collection are original art from the VeeFriends NFTs, with the color parallel structure mimicking the NFT’s parallel structure. For NFT holders, this collaboration brings a new level and dimension of collectability to the VeeFriends characters.

The zerocool x VeeFriends cards are printed on premium, 36-point paper embellished with a full border and metallic etched foil stamp, with specialty holographic foils throughout the set.

The cards feature a soft-touch coating with a Spot Glass UV on the characters, creating depth that makes the VeeFriends characters the hero of the design. The zerocool x VeeFriends collection is packaged in a displayable, white wooden cigar-style box.

“Anyone who knows me in any shape or form knows that this is an absolute dream come true,” Vaynerchuk said. “My own intellectual property and my own cards are something that 15-year-old me could have never imagined. So, I am very excited for zerocool, a new super-premium card brand for culture, and I’m incredibly humbled that VeeFriends gets to be the first one.” 

Boardroom caught up with Luber to speak about zerocool, the collaboration with VeeFriends, the transformative direct-to-consumer technology platform, and what’s in store for the future of zerocool.

Brett Pickert: Take us through your journey to Fanatics Collectibles from StockX?

Josh Luber: I met with Michael Rubin Thanksgiving 2020. I told him I had a goal of two things: creating a trading cards brand for culture in the primary market. Two, to acquire or work with Topps and Panini or acquire licenses to transform the industry.

Fanatics Collectibles has the same exact vision as StockX did in the beginning. There are some products that are the mixture of consumer goods and financial assets. Such as sneakers and trading cards. They are high-demand products that are supply-constrained, and should be treated differently than typical CPG products.

BP: Why is zerocool’s first release with Gary Vee’s VeeFriends?

JL: We’re building the first trading card focused on all of culture and Gary is actually perfect for us. zerocool encompasses all of the most important people, brands and IP in our lives outside of sports. At this point, NFTs are probably the fastest growing market in culture today and VeeFriends is one of the most important NFT projects we’ve seen so far. Gary is also a huge trading card collector and we wanted to go slightly outside of the box. We didn’t want to do cards for a TV show or something like that for our first release. NFTs are truly engulfed in the culture at this moment.

BP: Will the cards have an additional tie-in with the NFTs?

JL: Over the past year, while working on a bunch of trading card collaborations, almost every single person has asked “are we making NFTs with the cards”. In some cases NFTs make sense, but in others they don’t. Since the VeeFriends NFTs already exist, we aren’t building that utliity into this product. This set is a highly limited, premium physical trading card set of the characters that are featured in the VeeFriends NFTs. It’s focused on the collectability of the characters in physical form.

BP: Can you speak more on the zerocool buying platform?

JL: The buying process is more transformative than the brand itself. We’re launching cards utilizing a Blind Dutch auction. I spent years studying the model and talking to economists about it. I arrived at the conclusion that this model is the fairest way to sell high-demand, scarce products. The way it works is that you tell the market exactly what you’re selling and interested buyers will place a bid for the most they are willing to pay for a product over a period of three days. The top bids matched to the quantity of product available will win. For example, if we have 100 boxes, then the top 100 bids will win. The 100th highest bid is the clearing price. So, if the 100th bid is $500, then the “winning” bids will all pay $500. It creates a fair true market price, because everyone is buying this at the same exact same time. You end up with most winning bidders paying less what they originally bid. The only other time a Blind Dutch auction took place in trading cards was when Topps released a set with StockX in 2019.

There are 1000 boxes in the VeeFriends project. 1 pack, 10 cards. 800 boxes are being sold on the platform. 200 are for promotional purposes and hold back for any potential damaged products.

BP: Are there more collaborations in the pipeline?

JL: There are. Unfortunately, we’re not going to mention any of those partnerships yet. Shortly after we launch VeeFriends, we’ll announce others. We’re working with some of the biggest brands in the world while also working with interesting brands and people in niche areas of the culture.

BP: What’s the mission of Fanatics Collectibles?

JL: I left StockX for the purpose of building a trading card company around this vision. That vision is the idea that trading cards are true financial assets. They are truly items of cultures. Opening of trading cards is a form of gaming/gambling. There’s an opportunity to leverage all four of those parts of those markets. Consumer goods, financial assets, and gambling are all involved in this market. That’s how the industry has evolved. Then, add technology and marketing and grow the industry.

BP: How do you plan on avoiding a Junk Wax 2.0 era?

JL: We have the paradoxical situation where we need to grow the industry, where trading cards are so valuable. You run the risk of making more cards, resulting in less value. The number one way to do that is to increase the demand side. Bring in more people into the cards. Starts by becoming a marketing and technology company. You can bring more people in with marketing and make it a better experience with technology. We want more people to learn about the cards and to stay in the industry. As the primary manufacturers we have an obligation to set the table to make it easier for consumers to be a part of the hobby. Bringing in more people is what drives the industry, not making more cards.

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