By Jeffrey S. Copeland
Another National has come and gone, but the memories of this one will not fade any time soon thanks to the folks at Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) and their “Custom Card” photo booth.
For the past several years, PSA has set up a special booth where people can have their pictures taken while wearing the uniforms of or holding the equipment of professional sports teams. For instance, in previous years those visiting the booth have had pictures taken wearing a New York Yankees uniform (Atlantic City National), a Chicago Bulls or Cubs uniform (Chicago, two years ago), or a Cleveland Indians or Cavaliers jersey (last year in Cleveland). After the photos are taken, the images are encapsulated in one of PSA’s special card holders.
The end result is a special, personalized addition to card collections. And the cost for these cards? Nothing. They are free. “First and foremost, we’d like everyone to have a special keepsake from the National,” said Terry Melia, PSA’s public relations specialist who coordinates the activities at the booth. “And for us, the smiles on the faces of the people when they pick up their cards are priceless. That alone makes it all worthwhile.”
This year, PSA went a notch higher in the design of the custom cards, utilizing the truly iconic and easily recognizable T206 set issued from 1909-11. With the T206 basic design as the backdrop, collectors were able to design cards that looked just like T206’s—only their own faces were on the cards, and their names and team affiliation were placed at the bottom. This year, collectors could choose which team uniform they’d like on their cards, and they had many choices: Philadelphia A’s, Detroit Tigers, two Cubs variations (two different jersey colors, white and gray, and two background colors, green and red) and Pittsburgh. If they chose Pittsburgh, the background and uniform looked just like the most famous card in the hobby: the Honus Wagner T206.
Having these custom cards made has become a tradition for both collectors and dealers alike. “We produced nearly a thousand custom, encapsulated T206 cards for showgoers, averaging better than 300 per day during the three days we offered the promotion,” Melia said. “Every year the response rate from collectors grows, which only confirms our belief that these cards are becoming one of the show’s most popular attractions. This year people loved the T206 theme, and the positive response could not have been better.”
The process is fairly quick. Customers only had to wait about 10 minutes for a completed card once their picture was taken.
The experience turned into a family affair. That is, whole families—dads, moms, small children—flocked to the photo booth so that each could create a card. One girl about 6 or 7 yelled to her father after seeing her card, the excitement spilling out in her words, “Look, Dad—just like the cards you have at home!” A fifth-grade boy said, “This is way cool! Wait ‘till my friends see this!” It also wasn’t uncommon for the families to ask someone in line to take their pictures while all proudly held up their cards.
Everyone seemed to have a comment when handed their cards. Everything from “Wow—this is great!” and “This is going to be the centerpiece of my collection!” to “This is just flat-out beautiful.” Person after person could be heard saying, “I still can’t believe it’s free. This is just awesome!”
So, how will PSA top the “T206 look” at next year’s National in Atlantic City? That’s a carefully guarded secret, but you can bet PSA will come up with another winner.
Jeffrey S. Copeland is an author and frequent contributor to Sports Collectors Digest. He can be reached at email@example.com