For the first time since 2019, the Mecca for SciFi and Fantasy enthusiasts returns to San Diego for its first in-person convention since before the coronavirus pandemic - and in anticipation of the highly-anticipated four-day event beginning July 21, the famed global sports/entertainment trading card and collectibles company Upper Deck announced its newest initiative on Comic-Con Preview Night: the launch of ‘Collect Forever.’
"Our goal is to service collectors and help them collect the way they want to collect," Upper Deck President Jason Masherah told Fox News Digital in an exclusive interview of the revolutionary expansion - which he said moves to bridge NFTs with tangible collectibles and includes a "very natural extension" into comic books given its established partnership with staples like Marvel.
"We wanted to create a space where people could essentially bring any collectible into this ecosystem and allow them to trade — and what's really cool as a collector is, you could now trade a Wayne Gretzky trading card for a Spider-Man comic book," the Upper Deck president said, noting the company's desire to extend to other collectibles outside the trading card realm.
Masherah introduced the world to Collect Forever at the multi-genre entertainment event Wednesday, adding that initial products to be available for purchase will include pre-ordered collectibles from Marvel, DC Comics, and Funko POP.
WONDER WOMAN COMIC DEBUT SOLD FOR $1.6M AT AUCTION
"We're much more than people realize," Masherah noted. "We're typically known as a trading card company, but we have three distinct divisions of the company here. We have trading cards - which not only include sports trading cards but entertainment trading cards, which a lot of people don't realize; we have the autographed memorabilia, and then we have games. We make tabletop games, board games, and trading card games."
As of Wednesday, the company will now add comic books to its repertoire.
Comic book collectors will rejoice over Collect Forever's variant cover options, which Masherah likened to opening a trading card pack.
"There's this phenomenon in the comic book world called variant covers; typically they're incentives for the comic book shops; if you buy 20 copies of a comic, you get a limited edition variant cover - and typically, the shop either has them designated for other customers, or they use them to try and make a profit in the shop," Masherah explained.
"We're actually randomly distributing those when people buy comics; so if you buy a $5 comic book, you have the opportunity to get a variant cover that might be worth $50 or $100. It's kind of like opening a trading card pack," Masherah said of the new offering.
GET FOX BUSINESS ON THE GO BY CLICKING HERE
"We're giving people access to things they might not have had access to before," Jason Masherah told Fox News Digital of Upper Deck's new launch, ‘Collect Forever’
Collect Forever, in addition to Upper Deck's e-Pack, will serve as a one-stop shop for collectors, bridging the benefits of an NFT with a true, tangible collectible and allowing consumers an opportunity to store their collectibles on an e-Pack account.
Masherah explained the setup allows collectors who may not have the physical space to store their entire collection of comic books, toys, figurines, etc., at home the ability to, instead, store them virtually (in physical vault-like storage facilities owned by Upper Deck).
He added that the expansion's objective targets not only those who lack the room to house their collectibles, but collectors who don't live in proximity to a brick and mortar:
"We also want to provide an online experience for people who maybe don't have a trading card or a comic book store close. The reality is, most cities don't have a trading card or comic book store; they [collectors] can't easily get figurines, and we want to be able to provide that solution - not only for our own products, but for all collectibles."
The Upper Deck president assured customers that every virtual purchase is still very much tangible: "Everything is still a physical, tangible collectible that you can have sent home at any time."
"If I'm a comic book collector, I want my comic books. If I'm a trading card collector, I want my trading cards."
Masherah also assured customers of the company's efforts in ensuring a safe and secure purchase.
"Everything that you buy on the site came directly from a manufacturer. We're launching with comic books; all the comic books are obtained directly from Marvel and DC – we're not touching anything in a secondary market. So customers can be assured that it's coming directly from the manufacturers," he told Fox News Digital.
"On top of that, we're encapsulating everything as well and marking them uncirculated so you know this was fresh out of the box. We're going to bar code and QR code all the items, and then you can essentially scan those bar codes and it will take you to an authentication site and give you the information on each particular collectible that you buy through the website."
BATMAN NO. 1 COPY TO SELL FOR $1.8 MILLION – BUT ONLY IN FRACTIONAL OWNERSHIP
Though Upper Deck's e-Pack site has been up and running for some time, Masherah said the new authentication process is debuting with Collect Forever.
"As a long-term collector, I'm very excited about this whole process. Being able to give people access to things they haven't had access to before, to provide people who live in small towns access to all the same products virtually 24/7, and allow people to store and interact with collectors all over the world, any time of day," he said.
"It's an exciting thing, as someone who collects themselves."
Masherah, who himself ran a comic book shop prior to joining Upper Deck, noted that many of the company's initiatives are rooted in his own personal experiences as a collector and long-time industry expert:
"A lot of the inspiration for these platforms came from my experience," Masherah told Fox News Digital. "We're giving people access to things they might not have had access to before."
CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ON FOX BUSINESS
To learn more about the announcement and how Upper Deck plans to continue revolutionizing the collectible world, visit the Upper Deck Blog.