As a collector of cards, I spend a great deal of time thinking and determining in my own opinion what may make cards great. How do some decks gain massive amounts of buzz and why are some decks more desirable than others? What are the things that brands do right?
I am proud to present our third guest blog presented by my good friend and SoCal Playing Cards supporter Aron Pinto . Aron can be found on Instagram as @apcardman (https://www.instagram.com/apcardman/). Aron provides his perspective on what some recent releases may have done right. Thank you Aron for taking the time to provide this writing!
Thoughts on Cardistry Con Releases
It has been about a year since I started collecting playing cards and keeping an eye on card rumours and releases has become a habit and second nature. From not even knowing of the existence of this space, I have quickly developed a passion for watching this space develop at what seems to be an exponential rate. It has been growing so rapidly and steadily that one really has to define their taste and proceed with caution in order to save their bank account from being overwhelmed. I have had the pleasure of developing my own taste and knowing which cards speak to me, which I enjoy, which I enjoy from afar and which simply are not for me. I try to share the releases and decks that I find interesting and engaging to fellow card enthusiasts via my Instagram and Reddit accounts.
I recently enjoyed watching Cardistry Con 2019 from a distance and via Instagram stories, posts and chatting with friends. The biggest highlight of the week turned out to be the much-anticipated releases from Zach Mueller. Not only did Zach early confess to the card world that this was the project to which he had invested the most time and energy but Fontaine as a brand was also approaching a point at which they were running out of colours (come on, chocolate brown?) which until now was the main key to their success and new releases. They were also at a point in time where one could argue that failing to innovate could have represented a big blow to the “future”, continuity and exclusivity of the brand.
The recent Futures release exceeded the expectations of everyone that I know, but Zach also taught us all a great lesson: you don’t have to only be original in order to succeed; you have to strive to be the best to succeed and being the best requires innovation and keeping up with the times. You have to invest time, patience and talent in order to succeed and succeeding once or twice doesn’t guarantee you any more achievements going forward. If you fail to innovate and impresses your audience, you will soon be replaced by the next great brand (look at Palm before BlackBerry and BlackBerry before Apple and Android). History always tends to repeat itself so if one wants to be in for the long game you must stay ahead of the curve.
Did you ever see a concept in cards or elsewhere that you liked the idea but overall, it just didn’t do it for you? Perhaps you liked the concept but there were aspects that you wished would have been done better or differently? These situations open up the opportunity to catapult from the initial idea and to make good into great! Add in your own creativity and touch not seen before and you can take it out of this world and make your fans loyal for life!
Here are a few takeaways from my perspective:
- Floral – This was a definite improvement in my opinion to the Sepal by Dealersgrip. Sepal was for me too flowery and a great deck but for those into flowers and the limited audience in this style of art. The audience as far as I saw it here was quite limited. Zach and his team adapted this concept to the Fontaine brand consistent to their own branding and did so with style! Even people that aren’t into flowers are going to have trouble saying that they don’t love this deck and find it difficult to stay away!
- Glitch – Another idea touched upon by the Dealersgrip Error deck. Error was a brilliant and original concept and I jumped on it and embraced it immediately. It is a piece of my collection that I enjoy and won’t part with. Glitch to me improves on this concept of Error and leverages the iconic and exclusive Red Fontaine colours and look (a deck that every Fontaine lover would ever want and that costs in the multiple $100s). This new concept, the first to not have f's on the back brings Fontaine’s red anew to collector’s hands. Simply amazing!
- Mystery Packs – Resellers on eBay and in private reseller stores have brilliantly been taking some of the rarest decks and putting them into mystery packs. Zach took this to the next level, leveraging not only the prestige of his brand, but with some impressive and high end futuristic branding making an experience out of opening each and every mystery pack! Releasing this at Cardistry Con was brilliant since fans of this passionate art were able to trade on the spot to complete their release of 6 new decks! It is amazing to realize that he successfully dropped 6 decks all in one shot (after releasing chocolate earlier in the week) and that they all are and will continue to be in extremely high demand!! Not an easy feat in any industry and pulled off in style by Fontaine!
- Limited Edition – Having this tiered system from 1/500 all the way up to 1/3,000 is insanely brilliant for Fontaine as a brand. Anyone can limit the number in a release. I can release a deck tomorrow and have only 20 decks in the release but if I don’t have a following and if people don’t want my decks it means nothing! The is no brand in cards currently hotter than Fontaine. Having these different decks that are in such high demand in mystery packs with collectors knowing how rare some of these decks like 500 and Glitch are is really exciting!! And excitement is what creates continuity for the best brands in the business.
- Future Concept - FORT NOC and Alex Pandrea played on this concept of a future film and having a deck from the end of times or in the future. FORT NOC was supposed to be exclusive but the NOC brand is quite the contrary in terms of exclusivity (largely due to the fact that they rerelease decks that are supposed to be limited such as FORT NOC for really low prices and quite often, making them more accessible but at the same time infuriating collectors across the board). Fontaine has always maintained the prestige and exclusivity of the hands down best brand in the business and they propelled from this Pandrea concept definitely taking it to the next level. Well done Fontaine team!
- Innovation – All of this alone may have been sufficient to take Fontaine to the next level but they made sure to introduce their highest level ever seen of FMF – Fontaine Magic Factor (or those of us at the deadstock sale and those at CC in line for mystery decks prefer to call it F#$% My Finances). By doing this they brought in cool new colours like we see in Parrot with so much elegance and finesse. For the first time introducing f’s that aren’t only not white but not even a solid colour and look amazing!! The Windows are brilliant and bring some more fresh taste to the until now only white f's. Lastly, my all- time favourite, 500 – with the innovative background text reminding the owner of just how rare the deck really is!!
I must mention that Anyone did a great job taking a deck quite similar to the Super NOC red and blue 1st edition by Alex Pandrea and released a similar Cap Logo deck. To me, this was also an improvement on a cool concept now brought to a more hungry, positioned and exclusive brand and I look forward to getting mine! They also managed to innovate on simple and brought in this new series of cap logo decks, where the black cap logo deck is somewhat similar to their black logo deck but still refreshing and the card world that are fans of Anyone are excited. Well done!
It will be fun to see what the leading brands and other new players bring to the card collecting, cardistry and magic world. I will definitely be keeping an eye and will try to keep all of you posted of what I see but this is surely just the beginning of great things yet to come.