Tom here from Spellbound Games with a big announcement.
Today, I am proud to introduce Reliq., a grading and encapsulation service with the purpose of assisting Aotearoa New Zealand trading card collectors to grade and preserve your most treasured cards.
I have a strong, personal connection to the world of Trading Card Games. In 1995, I played Magic: The Gathering for the first time and discovered a passion for the TCG hobby. This passion, coupled with a desire to serve my local community, led me to open Spellbound Games, a hobby store in East Auckland, in 2015. I’m proud that Spellbound Games is a place where the community can connect and share their love for collecting and gaming.
When I started collecting 20 years ago, like most people, I used binders, sleeves, top loaders, and hard cases to store my cards; however, I realised this wasn’t enough for me. I wanted something different, something special. I wanted something that would protect my treasured cards, display them elegantly, and serve as a reminder of the memories and experiences of collecting.
Living in Aotearoa New Zealand can make it a bit tough to grade and encapsulate cards; until recently, there were no local providers offering this service. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a person who likes to send my cards away, especially to overseas companies with long lead times. I have never used any of these services, and I believe there are plenty of collectors in Aotearoa New Zealand who feel the same way. I wanted to find a solution, thus the idea of Reliq. was born.
In the second half of 2020, I began working seriously on developing my idea of a grading and encapsulation service for Aotearoa New Zealand, and I am now very excited to share the culmination of these efforts with you.
Why grade trading cards?
Encapsulation and grading achieve two key objectives:
- To preserve the card and enable the owner to display the card with the confidence it won’t be damaged.
- To enable other collectors to trade or buy cards secure in the knowledge of the card's authenticity and condition relative to accepted standards.
If a card means a lot to you, getting it either graded or encapsulated is a great idea.
Everyone has a treasured relic
Reliq.’s goals are very simple:
Provide a grading service that delivers assurance about the card’s condition for card owners and buyers.
Provide a beautiful case that collectors will be proud to display.
In terms of case design and the overall direction of our services, I am taking a completely different approach which I will explain below.
At Reliq., we will not be using the common numerical number system utilised by other grading companies. Instead, Reliq. utilises the traditional grading system: A, B, C in order to provide a refreshing visual and conceptual experience.
Reliq. will utilise subgrades, and we’re taking another innovative approach here. While the four subgrade categories will be relatively familiar for collectors, Reliq. will employ a Five Star System to report the subgrade scores.
Our grading system will look at the four categories, and using our custom, proprietary formula for assessment, each category will be given a rating between one and five stars. Once the four categories scores are complete, the final Class Grade will be determined and assigned. We have designed our unique case and labels to highlight our grades and subgrades while keeping the card itself as the showpiece.
Dual Label System
One of the main differences setting Reliq.’s cases apart from traditional grading companies’ cases, is our two label system. We elected to use a two label system in order to keep the card and its artwork as the visual focal point.
The grade and subgrade scores are intended to be visually minimal. Viewers can still take a quick glance to review the card condition and information, but most of the time their eyes will be on the card.
With this design, it's also quite easy to display any landscape oriented cards in an elegant, visually appealing fashion.
Card Holding Frame
While the internal design of the case has indents to ensure the card stays securely in place, we have also designed custom frames to act as additional support to maintain the card’s placement.
Many TCG games now offer borderless cards to showcase the full artwork. With a monotone frame around the card offering visual contrast, the artwork of the card will be more fully appreciated. The visual contrast with the dark frame will also make it easier to determine if there is any edge wear.
Reliq. also offers different label colourways to our collectors. This empowers you to choose the type of colour contrast you want with the card you are encapsulating.
Initially, we are offering two different colours - Blue and Red. Other label colourways options will be added in the near future.
The card should be in the spotlight, not the labels
In my experience, many other graders emphasise their label designs in order to give the case a sense of personality. While I understand this reasoning, I believe the card is the most important thing, and it’s the card which should be in spotlight. The labels are a means to provide the information of the card, of course, but they should not visually compete with the card itself.
This emphasis on the card, rather than the labels, is why Reliq. has applied a more traditional label design. Our labels are custom cardboard slips with a gloss finish and gentle colour gradient designed to complement the card.
Reliq. also utilises a custom method to create our labels. Card data, grading score and subgrading stars are all printed and embossed on the label itself to give it a unique look as well as ensure our labels are almost impossible to counterfeit. The process of printing and embossing on the label results in some softening of the edges of the printed text; this is intentional and serves as an added security feature.
The case itself is designed with a dedicated inset window to showcase the card. With this, the finish on the card is clearly visible compared to when in a binder or sleeve.
Here, you can beautifully see the texture of the card!
With these design concepts in mind, when you hold a card encapsulated by Reliq., your eyes will fall on the card itself – realised in its full glory.
The card should be the center of attention, and Reliq. has achieved that.
Just wanting to protect the card?
There are many collectors who are more concerned about protecting treasured cards and less concerned about grading. You may also want to ensure that the card you have is authentic so if you do want to part with it in the future, the buyer can be assured of the authenticity of the item.
Reliq. also offers an Authentic Encapsulation service. This service uses the same case, so if you’re grading or encapsulating multiple cards with Reliq., you can be assured all of your cases and labels will have a consistent look and feel.
Differences between the two services are:
1. Grading displays a final Grade, whereas Authentic Encapsulation solely displays the R symbol.
2. Grading displays subgrades on the bottom label, whereas Authentic Encapsulation does not.
Both services utilise their own unique QR code and online Report. For Authentic Encapsulation, the online report acts as a Proof of Authentication of the card.
The QR code is printed on the case – a modern security feature to help identify genuine Reliq. slabs.
The Authentic Encapsulation service is also less expensive and has a faster turnaround time.
When can I submit cards?
Short answer, next week.
While our online system is in its final stages of development and should be completed shortly, I have been doing some test grading / encapsulating for some Spellbound Games customers. It’s my intention that some of them will have their Reliq. slabs in-hand by the end of the first week of August 2021.
For now, please place your orders through our Reliq. webstore here:
At the moment, we are doing quite a bit of manual work in terms of order handling. My recommendation is to set up an account with our webstore and purchase a 'ticket' from the store. This makes it easier for us to manage all orders efficiently and effectively.
Please be assured that every single card will have its own QR Code and online report number assigned, which, for now, will be kept in our internal system until the database on the Reliq. website is fully operational.
Why Spellbound Games Website?
For now, Reliq. will be using Spellbound Game's Store Platform as a soft launch as we work on our database and our official site:
If you head there now, you will see little Milda guarding the fort until the site is ready.
Once the site is up and running, our plan is to utilise a phased approach as follows:
Phase 1: Operational functionality of the online database where users will be able to scan the QR code on their phones to access their card’s Reliq. Report.
Phase 2: Operational functionality of card submission on the Reliq. site so users can submit directly through Reliq.
Phase 3: ??? Will be revealed when we are ready. Watch this space for exciting news!
If you have gotten this far, I thank you.
A lot of time and effort has been put into developing Reliq. as a card grading and encapsulating service for collectors in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Importantly, pictures shown in this post are all final production samples.
(ie. The cards displayed are using the final product, but the grades are not on the database and never will be as these were test products. And yes, I did use real cards for the samples. These are on display at Spellbound Games, so feel free to come and check them out!!)
I have learned lots of things over the time I have spent developing Reliq. and determining its direction. Many of the tools and equipment I used to achieve the final product are out of the norm and different to the traditional approach.
As with everything else in life, there have been some challenges that have required a bit of troubleshooting; these will be fixed on an ongoing basis. As a responsible business owner, it’s important to me that I share one of these challenges with you.
It is normal when designing a custom product, such as Reliq.’s unique cases, to experience some challenges in the manufacturing process. I wanted to design a case that is fully transparent in order to showcase the beauty of the cards. As a result, there are visible weld lines that may be seen in some of the cases. Unfortunately, this is a manufacturing flaw which is out of my control, and I hope you will understand that these “first generation” Reliq. cases may have this small flaw in their design. I can assure you, the cases are welded securely, and I am already working on minor revisions for future slabs. I’m happy to discuss this further with you should you wish.
Thank you for reading, and I look forward to assisting you protect your treasured relics.
Reliq. and Spellbound Games