Inside the Pack: Fanatics-Backed zerocool Debuts First Trading Cards with VeeFriends

Since announcing its entry into the trading card space last year, people have wondered how Fanatics might shake up the industry. The first peek into what may be to come happened last week, as Fanatics launched zerocool, a pop culture-focused brand available only online. The brand’s first set featured Gary Vaynerchuk’s VeeFriends, cartoons drawn by “Gary V” that are used in his NFT projects.

The zerocool release has multiple layers of exciting and noteworthy tidbits. The most obvious is the integration of pop culture into the Fanatics Collectibles world. Non-sports cards have typically been a small fraction of trading card sales, and have usually centered on musicians and actors along with things like superheroes and movie and television franchises. In launching zerocool, however, Fanatics plans to elevate other celebrities to trading card status.

Fanatics Collectibles CEO Josh Luber, in a release about the launch of zerocool, 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.” The quote leaves nothing to the imagination: Luber sees Fanatics partnering with just about everyone to create trading cards.

Zerocool also brought about a much-anticipated introduction in the way cards are sold. In his introductory interview a few months ago, Luber mentioned the successes of blind Dutch auctions in other spaces, and noted that he intended on introducing the concept to the trading card world. The zerocool launch did just that.

A blind Dutch auction, Luber has long argued, represents true market value for a new release. Traditionally, a company like Topps determines a price based on preorders, thereby leaving money on the table for flippers to make a profit if there is stronger-than-anticipated demand for the product. But zerocool takes the demand straight to the consumer.

The blind Dutch auction works like this: consumers bid anonymously on how much they’d like to pay for the product. The company states how many bids will win the bidding (so, for this particular release, 800 boxes were sold). At the end of the bidding window, the top bids matching the number of units to be sold are accepted, but the twist is that the lowest bid in that group is considered the clearing price, and everyone pays that price. The VeeFriends boxes sold for $2,158 a box, and 800 boxes were sold, meaning that the 800th highest bid was $2,158. The top bidder could have bid $500,000 for a box, but since the lowest high bid was $2,158, he or she would pay $2,158, too.

It’s a very interesting concept that is certain to be applied to special release sports cards in the future as Fanatics rolls out its platform. In the meantime, it’s fun to see the company start to bring some of its innovations to life.