Viceroy Card Co is a brand new card company and their first release ships today. We thought it was a good time to check in with the company and see how they came to the hobby, what Cryptids are, and what exactly is a cryptozoologist, anyway? Viceroy’s Ryan Fields graciously gave us answers to these questions and a whole lot more. Our interview follows:
Who is behind Viceroy Card Co.?
Viceroy Card Co. was founded in the Fall of 2010 in Las Vegas, NV by owner Ryan Fields and artist Ashleigh Popplewell, who joined the team as Art Director. We also have several other artists and collectors who serve as consultants in various key areas of research and production.
What was the impetus to start the new company?
The idea of a new trading card company had been building for a few years among myself and several other collectors. It was around this same time that my friend Ashleigh began working in the sketch card side of the industry. We immediately recognized that this was an up and coming niche of the market, and thought it would be an excellent place to begin. We spent the next year speaking with both artists and collectors to get a feel of what was working in the sketch card market, and what wasn’t. We modeled our new company in a way that would put an emphasis on artist relations, while still delivering great value per pack for sketch and non-sport collectors.
While researching potential set themes, it did not take long to realize that obtaining a licensed property for our debut set would be a great challenge. Most properties were unwilling to even reply to our inquiries, let alone take meetings. Those that did were hesitant to allow a new company to produce trading cards with their properties, especially when sketch cards and character likenesses were involved. Of the meetings we were able to get, many offered to meet with us again once we had a few releases under our belt. We completely understood why this was the case, and moved towards a non-licensed set theme. We will be attempting to acquire various property licenses in 2013 for future releases.
Can you tell us about Cryptids Sketch Set, your first release?
When considering themes for this set, we wanted to do something that was somewhat new and different from what was currently on the market. One thing we noticed right away was many sketch sets focus on scantily clad women, no matter what the designated set theme may be. We made a conscious decision to not produce sketch sets with this subject matter. It’s not that we’re morally opposed to it or anything like that, we simply felt that the market had its share of those sets, and we would attempt to bring something new to collectors.
After going through about two dozen potential set themes, we settled on cryptozoological creatures, or Cryptids [see Wikipedia's entry on Cryptozoology]. We felt this subject matter was fun, visually appealing and a nice change for the artists involved.
We researched these creatures, and created a master list of potential cryptids the artists could use in the set. Some are very common, such as Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster and Chupacabra. Others such as the Squonk, a melancholy wart-covered creature that collapses into a puddle of tears when gazed upon, are less well known but just as interesting! The artists had a great time discussing which ones to draw, discovering new and obscure cryptids on their own, and finding various descriptions and reported sightings of these elusive creatures.
The set will be limited to 500 packs priced at $21.99 each, with 34 sketch artists included in the set. No artist has more than 25 sketches total, so each one will be quite rare compared to most sketch sets.
From what I have read, in addition to the sketch card, you are including cryptozoologist autograph cards and relic cards in each pack. What are those?
When researching Cryptids, we were lucky to have the help of Craig Woolheater, Loren Coleman, and the team at Cryptomundo.com, the leading cryptozoology blog online. Originally the Cryptids set was going to be a sketch-only set, with no base cards or inserts at the $21.99 price point. We came up with the idea of adding autographs of leading cryptozoologists and cryptid hunters as a little bonus in each pack. We were able to get autographs from Craig, Loren, Lyle Blackburn, Ken Gerhard, and Nick Redfern. Each one has numerous credits to their name in the field of cryptozoology, including top selling books, television appearances and consulting jobs. Each cryptozoologist will have 100 hand numbered autographs in the set, spread across the 500 packs. These will be included one per pack.
Around this same time, we thought it would be fun to add another bonus card to the set. We came up with the idea of a stamp relic card, something that is currently popular in many sport and mixed product releases. We came across an interesting set of 1966 stamps from Bhutan, that depict a ‘Snowman’, or Yeti. The stamps had really interesting colors and imagery, along with having a funky triangle shape. Since we were doing a stamp card, we decided to design the card to give the impressive of a vintage postcard that might have been sent in 1966 from Bhutan with these stamps affixed.
The design of the stamp relic cards was one of the most fun projects we had for this set! We took inspiration from vintage “Greetings from Los Angeles” post cards, and added a twist. Bhutan is near the base of the Himalayan Mountains, so we took this concept and came up with a design that invoked the feel of the Los Angeles post cards, but depicted the harsh conditions of the snowy Himalayas. The end result is a fun post card from the fabulous Himalayas showing you the stark, cold landscape that awaits your arrival.
On the back of the cards, we decided to continue the theme and add dialog from a nephew to his uncle about his hunt for the elusive Yeti. In the top right corner is 1 of 15 different 1966 Bhutan Snowman stamps, each with a different color and image. The stamps have been affixed to the cards in the same position they would with a normal post card. We considered placing the stamps in a recessed area on a double thick card, but came to the conclusion that by simply placing the stamp on the card it kept the vintage post card feel we were going for.
The stamp relic cards will be be hand numbered to 35 for each of the 15 different stamps across the set. These will also be included one per pack.
I notice that you are asking your artists to sketch on really high end card stock. Why not just use the stock everyone else is using? Do you have a background in printing?
While researching the sketch card market, artists kept giving us two major complaints about the current industry–Not being paid for the work in a timely manner and the quality of card stock used on many sketch sets. For the first issue, we took care of that immediately by adopting a policy of paying artists as soon as their cards are completed and returned to us, even if that is months before a set releases.
As for the card stock, we collected as many samples as we could and had artists test them individually. The overall winner was a product made by Strathmore, their 500 series illustration board. It worked well with any medium the artists wished to work with, and had an excellent texture and finish. However, this presented a problem. The 500 series stock from Strathmore was incredibly thick, at a 72pt thickness versus the normal 14 or 16pt. used across most sets. We would not be able to use digital printing as the card stock did not bend and would not go through the machines.
Looking back on it, this was actually a very fortunate problem to have. When looking in to other options, I found many references to this Strathmore stock being a popular choice for letterpress printing. We immediately began researching the possibility of using vintage letterpress machinery to produce our sketch cards, and what that would involve. What we found was that while it was possible, it would cost about 10 times more than standard digital sketch cards. After a short debate, we all decided it was worth the cost and began designing a sketch card for 100 year old letterpress printing machines.
The cards ended up being beautiful in their own right. The front has what is known as a blind impression, where the cards are printed with no ink. We decided to put our Viceroy ‘V’ logo on the front as a blind impression as to not distract from the artists work. The card backs were printed with a vintage style design in a gunmetal gray ink that has a very nice texturized feel. We’re very proud of the cards, and we hope collectors enjoy all the hard work that went in to producing them.
Another issue that came up when using these cards was their thickness in respect to sketch cards collectors. On the sports card side of the industry, collectors are use to extra thick cards for both relic/patch cards and even extra thick base cards in ultra premium sets. We realized that while we could package the cards safely in packs, many sketch collectors might not know how to best protect them once they open the packs. The solution was to use thick plastic magnetic holders, something common in the sports card market. Instead of suggesting the collectors purchase these magnetic holders to protect the letterpress sketches, we decided package each card in a think holder before inserting it in the pack. This gave the cards protection in the packs, along with allowing the collectors to simply enjoy the cards without worrying about how best to keep them safe.
Can you provide an artists roster for Cryptids Sketch Set?
We had 34 excellent artists work with us on our debut set:
- Adam Geyer
- Amber Shelton
- Autumn Frederickson
- Beck Seashols
- Bruce Gerlach
- Charles Hall
- Chris Manuel
- Chris Thorne
- Daniel Gorman
- Dimitris Moore
- Eric White
- François Chartier
- Fredd Gorham
- Gary Kezele
- Grant Gould
- J Linares
- James Bukauskas
- Jason Keith Phillips
- Jay Durden
- Joseph Miller
- Joshua Werner
- Juan ‘Tonio’ Fontanez Jr.
- Katie Cook
- Lynne Anderson
- Michael Munshaw
- Mike Vasquez
- Mikey Babinski
- Rhiannon Owens
- Rusty Gilligan
- Scott Smith
- Scott Zambelli
- Stephanie Swanger
- Tim Proctor
- Vanessa ‘Banky’ Farano
Do you have future series or other products planned?
We are planning to do a Cryptids Series 2, which may release next October. We may partner with Cryptomundo for future Cryptids sets and debut them at their annual cryptozoology convention, Cryptopalooza.
Aside from that, we have two more sets planned for 2013, which we will be announcing very soon!
What is the best way for collectors to find out more information on your products?
Collectors and interested sketch artists can visit ViceroyCards.com to find information on current and future sets, and purchase packs directly from us via the secure website. You may also find us at facebook.com/ViceroyCardCo and at twitter.com/viceroycards.
NSU thanks Ryan for his generous time in helping us prepare this interview. And we hope you’ll enjoy the gallery of sketch card images below.