By Michael E. Miller
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Playground banter about Hank Aaron's batting average and Joe Namath's pass-completion stats could soon be a thing of the past, replaced by talk of Claudia Schiffer's bust size and the career implications of an appearance on the cover of Vogue. At least it could if Penelope Friedland has her way.
This month Friedland's Miami Beach-based company, Super Model Collector Card Co., launched its first series of trading cards featuring -- no joke -- supermodels. With no small amount of scorn, the former fashion model says the idea for the cards came about this way: "It was commented upon how ludicrous it was that famous chefs were being put on trading cards. It really grew from there."
This first set consists of 30 glossy cards, each depicting a female model posing alluringly in a bathing suit or some other form-fitting outfit. The reverse of each card is packed with vital information: hometown, body measurements, hair and eye color, career highlights, favorite foods and places to visit, and astrological sign. (Among the noticeably absent stats: age, weight, academic degrees.)
On her card, supermodel Estelle Hallyday (5'9"; 36-24-38; a Taurus from Rouen, France) is bedecked in a low-cut red dress and appears to be trying to free a coin that has dropped into her cleavage. Cosmopolitan-Elle-Mirabella-Vogue cover girl Yasmeen Ghauri loves cotton candy and "has made a promise to herself that after modeling she will return to college." Czechoslovakian Daniela Pestova (5'11"; 34-23-35; Libra) of Victoria's Secret catalogue fame prefers to visit "anywhere with her husband!"
Friedland's explanation of the scintillating selection of factoids: "They are gossipy tidbits of information about the girls. I see the attraction when people pick a card up and they say, 'Oh, this girl's a Taurus just like me!'"
So far only models represented by the Next Management Company are pictured on the cards, but Friedland says she believes all the major modeling agencies eventually will be onboard. (Friedland and Sheli Jeffry, a spokeswoman for Next, are vague about the terms of the business arrangement between the card company and the modeling agency, and Friedland will only say she has "the license to use the images.")
Friedland claims her market surveys have "confirmed" there is a teeming, panting mass of adult males -- along with teenage boys and girls -- who will snap up these cards. "The market that isn't so concerned about it is the females age twenty and older," Friedland asserts. However, Super Model Collector Card Co. plans to introduce male models in future series, a savvy bi-gender marketing strategy. "We get tons of requests every day for pictures of models," notes Next's Jeffry in regard to her company's decision to authorize the cards. "Models seem to be a real hot topic."
The cards are sold in shiny eight-card foil packs for a couple of bucks each (no gum included) or in a so-called "factory set" ($18.95) that includes the entire 30-card series plus a custom-designed bandanna decorated with the models' names. The company also has entered the prepaid phone-card market, all the rage in Europe, where they have become collector's items. (Phone cards can be used from any touch-tone phone and operate like credit cards but with limited value, either ten or twenty dollars.) Each phone card, of course, is emblazoned with a Next superbabe. Friedland has begun peddling the phone and trading cards at modeling conventions and to trading-card stores and upper-end cafes and newsstands around the nation and overseas.
But it appears the cards have been slow getting to shops in South Florida. For example, Linda Kennedy, owner of ABC Comics & Cards in Kendall, says she recalls seeing a set of model cards but doesn't yet have any on her shelves. Will they sell? "If they advertise nationally, they might do well," Kennedy predicts. Pausing for a moment, she considers the best marketing strategy for the cards. "They're like the other men's cards," she muses. "Hustler cards, Playboy cards, the ones with lingerie and stuff. They'll sell in the X-rated places. That's what I believe.