Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Unremarkably Remarkable Moments

You may have suspected this, but I have the entire history of the trading-card business from about 1985-2005 in filing cabinets and storage boxes in my basement.

You may have suspected this because I look the part – i.e., old. Also because I’m not always lying. And also because there is no other reason why I would have the press kit for America’s Most Wanted trading cards somewhere other than under the refrigerator, soaking up a leak.
We cleaned out the basement the other day and I threw nothing away. I have almost the entire run of Sports Collectors Digest’s Trade Fax printed on slinky paper, and I keep hanging onto it even though I have never referred to it for anything, not even the correct spelling of Tony Loiacono’s name.[1]
I have the packout and insertion ratios for hundreds of Pinnacle products, including winners like 1998 Pinnacle Performers Football. You want to know how often Pursuit of Paydirt Point Cards show up in a box of Performers Football? I can tell you, though if you’re the sort of person who asks for information like this I’m not sure I want to talk to you.
We got sent everything from everyone in those days, and our erstwhile secretary Sue dutifully filed it all away, in neatly labeled folders. When the business went blooey I got the filing cabinets. I hung onto them at first because I was clinging to the hope that the band would get back together. Then I hung onto them because I thought I might write the definitive book on the trading-card business from about 1985-2005 for the seven people who might be interested. And now I’m holding onto them because I’m waiting for reality-TV producers to work their way down to me. I’m thinking of a mashup of Hoarders and American Pickers, with a dash of Say Yes to the Dress: Bridesmaids.
Anyway, I thought it might be fun to reach into one of the file boxes, pull out a file folder and write about its contents. And I struck gold.
The first line of the first document in the folder, a press release, reads, “Don Nomura, Hideo Nomo’s agent, calls the Japanese pitcher, ‘the Michael Jordan of our country.’ That pretty much says it all.”
It does. Yes indeed, that pretty much says it all. Hideo Nomo throws fastballs with his tongue hanging out, lays 50 on the Nippon Ham Fighters while running a 105-degree fever, jab-steps Yutaka Enatsu out of his Mizunos, smokes cigars the size of smoked hams, has his commercials produced by the Japanese Spike Lee[2], and bets on anything that moves, including freight trains and scarab beetles.
Okay, maybe he didn’t mean that. Maybe he meant that Nomo was really, really popular in Japan at the time of the press release – Sept. 21, 1995. That I can buy.
But do you know the name of the product responsible for this epochal statement? I’m guessing your answer is not “Remarkable Moments.” Yet that’s what it is.
There is definitely something oriental going on here. The press release does not suggest a product name, and the product name does not suggest a product. In the collectibles field alone, Remarkable Moments could be a series of commemorative coins, greeting cards, lithographs, stuffed animals, paintings on velvet, or sculptures. Or condoms.
Of course, I know the answer, because I have the entire history of the trading-card business from about 1985-2005 in my basement. Remarkable Moments is a series of talking picture frames.
If you’re thinking of talking picture frames in the context of Billy the Big-Mouth Bass, you’re about 20 years ahead of the curve. This talking frame does not sense your presence, does not flop back and forth, and doesn’t play cleverly repurposed quasi-popular songs. Instead, you press a button and listen to a sound chip play squawky, scratchy, nearly inaudible audio over the 30-second life of the battery.
This talking picture frame also requires a dedicated picture. You couldn’t slip a photo of Aunt Edna into Hideo Nomo’s space without having an answer prepared for Aunt Edna when she asks, “Why is that man with the funny voice calling me ‘The Japanese Tornado?’”
So if you’re keeping score, the entire Remarkable Moments package consists of:

1) A semi-removable picture of Hideo Nomo;
2) A high-quality stone-like base with a sound chip and a one-nanowatt (RMS) speaker; and
3) A battery with a 30-second lifespan that requires a fist-sized piece of gelignite to change.

And what would you charge for this bundle of goodness? Not $29.95. Not $19.95. Not even $9.95. But $79.95.
It is serially numbered and strictly limited to 1,995 pieces[3], so that makes it better. So too does the knowledge that other Remarkable Moments pieces can be yours for the incredibly low price of $129.95.
If that doesn’t sell you on the spot, remember that, “In the past, this type of time-capsule memento has only been available in museums and halls of fame.” Never you mind that in another 10 years the list would expand to include hunting shacks and doublewides.
Lest you think he was trading in hyperbole, Remarkable Moments chief Jeff Schwartz hastened to remind us that, “This new multi-media memorabilia certainly qualifies as a collectible, but Remarkable Moments are not just for collectors … They’re also for anyone who simply treasures a remarkable historical moment. They’re time machines which can transport us back to experience those inspirational moments, again and again.”
Okay. Make that, “trading in succinct hyperbole.”
After paragraphs and paragraphs of such unexpected delight comes the all-too-predictable denouement: “In addition to Schwartz, the Remarkable Moments team also includes former Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres great Steve Garvey and U.S. Olympic gold medalist Bruce Jenner.”
Well, of course it does. Joe Montana was a northern-California rhymes-with-bore.

In the end, Remarkable Moments were true to their description. They were pictures of moments that to someone were in some way remarkable.
I’m not sure that’s enough to hang a business on, though. After all, I have a picture of me where I’m wearing a Cub Scout uniform and I'm made up like Mae West. That’s a moment for sure, and pretty remarkable, but I’m not sure it merits a sound chip.
And I definitely want it kept the hell away from Steve Garvey.

[1] Not that Trade Fax would have that.
[2] I don’t know – Spike Ree, maybe?
[3] All of which most assuredly found nice, new homes.


  1. Dear God. I remember those things. Now that you've reminded me, thanks you very little.

  2. Hideo Nomo was the Japanese Bobo Holloman.