Trading Cards Immortalize Regular People

If 15 minutes of fame isn't enough, there's a new way to preserve your celebrity for posterity.

A company called PeopleCards is featuring pictures of regular folks — their faces and stats immortalized forever — on shiny, sleek trading cards.

So forget handing over your extra Derek Jeter to get a Randy Johnson. Instead, how about swapping "lover of life" Jenna Brager for outdoorsy Santa Cruz, Calif., native Justin Wyckoff?

"We like to say we democratized celebrity," said PeopleCards President Brant Herman, who with his two partners created the cards in response to what they saw as the public's superficial obsession over the sexual habits, wardrobe choices and career highs and lows of various celebrities.

"We wanted to take the strength of our celebrity-focused culture and translate that to the masses," Herman said in a telephone interview from his company's San Francisco headquarters. "It's a novelty product that also makes people stop and think."

Herman and his partners solicited submissions for the first set of PeopleCards over their Web site, Applicants were asked to fill out a form and send in a photo — regardless of how cute, funny, silly, or unusual.

The first batch of cards brought some 1,500 applications, which were whittled down to 120 earlier last year. For the second group, which comes out in April, the site has already received 9,000 submissions.

"Everyone has an equal chance," Herman said. "You don't need to be totally zany or quite plain. We don't want it to be all 20-something hipsters or all 75-year-old British gentlemen — not that we get a lot of those."

In fact, the cards feature an eclectic bunch. There's Shaquita Keyona Cain, a 20-year-old from Petersburg, Va., whose idea of happiness is "being alone in her room, in total darkness with the radio on," according to her card; Don Hall, a 68-year-old Texan with a handlebar moustache and a white cowboy hat, likes to eat ice cream every afternoon.

Listed on the back of each card are potentially telling details that at times can seem like too much information: Along with basic info like hometown and occupation are entries on everything from favorite movie and hobbies to most often used expression.

But for Mellissa Altman, who has her own card, that's the beauty of the PeopleCards.

"I think we're involved in such a celebrity culture, I thought this was a funny, quirky way to celebrate everybody," she said. "The picture is the least difficult part. Putting your favorites and stats and opinions and ideas is a lot more revealing."

Altman's card reveals these personal details: "Nobody puts baby in a corner," is her most used expression (from the movie Dirty Dancing). Little monkeys are her favorite animals, and being a pirate is her hobby.

Though his cards poke fun at celebrity, Herman said the desire to be recognized motivates many to send in their photos.

"In our culture, if you haven't been written about, filmed or if you haven't produced something, you're seen as not being as valuable as someone who has," he said. "The people on the cards like to know that in 50 years or 100 years, there will be a box of PeopleCards that someone will open up and learn about them."

But for the people who buy and sell the cards, it's mostly just about having fun.

"Personally, I was like, what the hell is this? PeopleCards?" said David Alexander, manager of the Manhattan comic book store Jim Hanley's Universe. "But it was something we talked about in the store. We joked about who in the store would be on them. It's a very fun type of thing."

Alexander said the campy nature of the cards have attracted a lot of clients — and even some collectors.

"There are some people who try to collect the whole set," he said. "There are a couple of clients who have been fascinated that these people are nobody in particular."

Herman conceded the cards take some getting used to, but said their fan base has steadily grown.

"PeopleCards has been a trend that's taken some time," said Herman. "Our fans have become more fervent. You have to sit and read a few. Then you really get into it, and you want to buy another pack to see who's in there."