Collector score: *** (3 Stars)
Ars Longa cards usually sell on eBay in the $8 and up range.
The cards are created and sold by Jesse Loving of San Jose, California.
Of all of the “home made” cards, these are the most artistic. The players are all from the deadball era, and they are beautifully illustrated. There are no write-ups on the backs, because they didn’t do that back then.
Ars Longa are the class act among home made cards. But, no matter how attractive they appear, they have no collectible value as a card. The reason is that they are produced on an inkjet, thus there is an unlimited print run, and anyone can reproduce them cheaply.
The other and more important reason is that digital inks are water-soluble, and the air is filled with tiny molecules of water. Light also breaks down the inks, as does ozone – two things which are omnipresent, even in the most controlled environment. These factors will eventually dissolve the ink. This will occur within somewhere between 10 and 100 years in a museum setting, much sooner at home. The cards will never survive long enough to acquire any age-related value.
(NOTE: Although manufacturers of digital inks and papers claim their prints will last as long as 120 years, these claims have been refuted by Wilhelm Imaging Research – a research lab which is regularly hired by printer vendors to test longevity of various papers, printers, and inks. For example, Kodak claims a life of 120 years for prints using their best archival papers. Wilhelm’s research found such prints will last only 11 years.)
Ars Longa Art Cards are, according to their web site, printed with the highest quality pigment inks on the finest 24 mil, acid-free archival card stock. They further state that “all materials are chosen for their quality and ability to withstand the tests of time, storage, handling, and display.” According to Wilhelm Imaging Research, pigment ink on acid-free card stock will last 6-8 years under normal conditions before noticeable fading begins. The upper range, under museum conditions, is going to be 28-55 years, according to Wilhelm. That’s just not good enough.
However, I would bet these cards are still going to outlast all other home made cards, because they are made better. They are also sprayed with an art spray which provides more protection. In spite of all of this fine workmanship, they still won’t be around in 100 years.
The card stock used is of a perfect thickness and feel. There is no laminating. The cards often have rounded corners, and are slightly “distressed” by the maker. Because the cards are so nicely made and actually feel and look old, a novice could easily buy one, thinking he is buying something that is over 100 years old. However, a close examination of the card backs will reveal the printing date in Roman numerals.
At least Ars Longa isn’t using some old cardmaker’s name (like Helmar and Sporting Life), and they aren’t copying old Topps and Bowman designs (like Lemke). They are doing their own thing, and doing it well.
I find myself awarding three stars to cards which have no collectible value, only because these cards are probably valuable as folk art, and because they are original works and beautiful to look at – and because the subjects are mostly players you can find nowhere else.
PRICING: If you own one or more of these cards, and wish to sell it, how much should it go for? Assuming you’re going to be honest about it, you can’t really sell it as a collectible, because it is new, and because it is only temporary. So it becomes a modern reproduction, an “objet d’art” if you will. As with all art, it should be priced based on aesthetics and whatever similar items are selling for. There are people who buy these cards all the time, apparently knowing exactly what they are getting. In describing the item, I would advise that you avoid two terms: “rare” and “collectible” because inkjet-created cards are not rare, since they have a print run which is open-ended and can be easily reproduced by anyone. And, as mentioned above, they will not last long enough to be collectible.