Marvel Masterpieces, a trade name established in 1992 by Skybox, established in the consumer’s mind that a fully painted trading card set could be considered “Collectable Fine Art Cards.” To top all previous Marvel Masterpieces releases, the team at Fleer announced and created a masterpiece set drawn and painted entirely by world famous fantasy artists Greg and Tim Hildebrandt.
The Hildebrandts were a major announcement, immediately adding to the collecting frenzy already underway. Best known for their popular “The Lord of the Rings” illustrations, and painting the first “Star Wars” movie posters, naming the Hildebrandt brothers the official artists of the 1994 Marvel Masterpieces Collection established the Marvel Masterpieces name as synonymous with fine art. Never before had such famous fine artists, with such large and loyal fan followings signed on for a project of this profile and caliber. The bar were raised on trading card artwork forever.
The Design Process
The Marvel characters were highly established by Stan Lee in the 60’s. It was not unusual for highly talented commercial artists to be unfamiliar with the personalities and depictions of certain characters within Marvel’s Library. To educate the artists we created extensive Style Guides on thousands of Marvel’s most popular characters. These images were shared with our art teams. The art teams then provided, “Concept Sketches” for approval prior to painting. The process ensured that fans received the characters that they love depicted in a manner that a lifetime fan would relate with.
Increase Perceived Value by Treating Trading Cards as Fine Art
A constant theme in the marketing and promotion of this product was “Valuable Fine Art.” The press, marketing and promotional materials were all designed to stress this concept.
One of the challenges was to get the retailer and consumer to associate “Fine Art” with trading cards. Promotional materials, targeted press releases and concept focused interviews helped the market understand the high value of the product. This promo piece, distributed in the tens of thousands utilized fine art design concepts, product examples, and the Hildebrandts teaching potential buyers concepts on art.
- World Renowned Fantasy Artists fresh from their highly acclaimed Fleer Ultra X-Men chase cards describe their experience painting marvel masterpieces.
- Marvel’s Costume Designs are Terrific. They’re Fun to Paint, Especially the Robotic Elements.
- “We Use a Low Perspective to Enhance the Character’s Size, and Give Them a Sense of Majesty.”
- “The More Light Sources You Have the More Dramatic the Piece.”
Specialty Cards, Sales Promotions and Chase Series
Marvel Masterpieces contained three subsets:
10 “Holo Foil” cards featuring holographic foil stamping and depicting Marvel’s most popular heroes and villains were available in three metallic colors, exclusively in respective sales outlets – i.e. Silver specifically for hobby stores, Bronze for Mass Merchant outlets etc. The “Market Exclusive” cards were a factor in gaining access to markets which had previously been unavailable to trading card manufacturers.
9 Power Blast cards.
Gold Signature Set
Hildebrandt Brothers Marvel Masterpieces was the first trading card set to introduce a”Parallel Set” to the entire series. All 140 base cards came with a parallel Gold-foil stamped “Signature” card, featuring a gold foil stamped autograph of the Hildebrandt Brothers. The gold signature cards were shipped one per pack. This concept proved so popular, high sales incentive that the technique was used in numerous other other Fleer trading card sets.
Holo Foil Cards
1: Captain America
5: Iron Man
7: Scarlet Witch
10: War Machine
Power Blast Cards