The marketing of trading cards has come a long way since the days of cheap cardboard and stale bubble gum.
You can still go to a store and buy baseball cards in foil-wrapped packets just like kids and grown-ups have been doing for decades. But the cards themselves are slicker. The photography and design are more sophisticated, the card stock is sturdier, and sometimes, if you’re lucky, the packages contain delightful surprises like a swatch of game jersey or a real (not machine produced) autograph of someone famous.
Which brings us to the strange case of the Donruss Americana trading card series. In 2008, Donruss launched a new trading card series that would feature a “stunning lineup of celebrity icons” like James Dean and Marlon Brando, according to a company press release. “Collectors have been anxiously awaiting the release of this one-of-a-kind program” crowed Donruss, which touted its own “unrivaled entertainment trading card portfolio built over 40 years.”
Heady words indeed.
While shopping at Target recently, I came across one such card package, decorated with a rugged, all American image of John Wayne, who looked like he was going to kick my butt if I passed him by without making a purchase.
Well, who could resist? I’m a celebrity junkie of the worst kind. Perez Hilton, TMZ, and The Superficial: I read them all (not even to be ironic), and I’m a trading card buff to boot. So I plunked down three dollars plus change and eagerly opened my silver-foil package, wondering which celebrities made the cut. Humphery Bogart, perhaps, or maybe Steve McQueen?
The first image to greet me at the top of the stack of cards was a somewhat bemused looking Goldie Hawn in an ill fitting dress.
I keep flipping through the set, and more names and faces appeared: Ed Asner. Helen Slater. Regis Philbin. And the immortal Wink Martindale.
Yes, those are among the names Donruss has enshrined in its elite list of “heavy hitter names” from Hollywoods, the music industry, sports, and television.
Nothing against these esteemed professionals, but may I suggest that if you were running Donruss, your list might differ ever so slightly?