By Bert Lehman
The baseball card and fantasy baseball worlds have collided with the release of the first series of Honus Bonus Partners Fantasy Baseball Game cards.
Steve Charendoff, president of Honus Bonus Partners, LLC, who has been a baseball card collector all his life and has participated in fantasy baseball since college, said the Honus Bonus product is “something of a labor of love” for him.
“Having worked in this industry as long as I have, and that goes back to 1991, I’ve been a collector all my life,” Charendoff said. “The idea of producing a baseball card product has always interested me because I collected baseball cards as a kid.”
Charendoff has spent most of his professional career working in the entertainment card industry with Rittenhouse Archives.
He said the Honus Bonus Fantasy Baseball Game cards idea is an attempt to stray from what Charendoff calls a “follow the leader mentality in the sports cards industry.”
“Somebody comes up with a good idea and everybody follows it, but it’s rare where we have these breakout moments in this hobby where there is something new and industry changing in any way,” Charendoff said.
He added that too many products look alike, which confuses collectors. And checklists for sets have gotten smaller over the years.
“I wanted to create a product that was different,” he said.
That’s how the idea for the Honus Bonus Fantasy Baseball Game cards set, which is licensed by the Major League Players Association, was spawned.
The product was officially released on March 29, but Charendoff said because of the fantasy game aspect of the product, the release date isn’t as significant as regular sports cards releases. That’s because a new fantasy baseball contest is held each month, starting in May.
“The cards renew themselves every month because you have to set a new lineup in order to play, if you want to keep playing every month,” Charendoff said.
Each card in the set has a scratch off code on the back of the card. The code is used to enter that player into a starting lineup for the fantasy baseball portion of the release. Codes can be used only once and line-ups do not carry over from month to month.
Starting lineups consist of 30 players, including: 13 pitchers, six outfielders, two players at each infield position including catcher, and one DH/utility player. Also, only one player from each city can be used in the same starting lineup.
“Most teams have multiple players that you really have to think long and hard about who you want to have [in your lineup],” Charendoff said.
Statistical categories that will be used for batters include: batting average, OPS, runs scored, home runs, RBI and stolen bases. Statistical categories that will be used for pitchers include: wins, saves, holds, ERA, WHIP and strikeouts.
The only cost to play the fantasy baseball portion of the release is the cost of the trading cards, which have a suggested retail price of $3.99 per pack. Cash prizes are awarded. Because of legal reasons, those who want to play the fantasy baseball portion need to be 21 years old or older.
To register for the fantasy baseball portion of the release, participants need to visit www.honusbonus.com. Upon registration, the registrant will receive a line-up worth of digital versions of the cards for free.
“What we’re trying to do is create a fantasy game that doesn’t cost anything and is fun to play, gives people an opportunity to win money, but you don’t have to pay to enter the game,” Charendoff said.
For this initial release, Charendoff said he tried to keep it as simple as possible.
“It’s challenging enough just getting them to understand that we’re making a baseball card product that plays a fantasy game and is not built around autographs and relic cards,” he said.
The initial reaction of dealers and collectors has been positive, Charendoff said.
“They like the fact we’re offering something different,” he said. “We’ve had a really strong, positive response to the fact we have a 500 card base set.”
There are a couple of reasons for the number of cards in the base set.
First, a large number of players were needed in order to assemble lineups for the fantasy game. The more players available to choose from creates a greater diversity in the lineups that will be submitted for the fantasy baseball game.
Second, holds for pitchers is one of the categories for the fantasy baseball game. This category was included to give significance to relievers who are not closers, such as Andrew Miller.
“I didn’t want to create a baseball card set that excludes those types of players because there are some really good players there,” Charendoff said.
Honus Bonus Partners Fantasy Baseball Game Cards will also include silver foil-etch parallel cards, Career Milestone insert cards, plus hand-drawn Sketch cards. All these bonus cards will have scratch-off codes for playing the fantasy baseball game.
“It’s not that we’ve totally run away from some of the modern features of baseball cards, but we’re not going heavy in that direction,” Charendoff said. “We really want people to embrace the game.”
Bert Lehman is the editor of Sports Collectors Digest. He can be reached at Bert.Lehman@fwmedia.com.