Pulse Trading Cards aims to challenge crowded market with premium product

Company launched 2024 Pulse Baseball on Friday, featuring top minor-leaguers

Cover Image for Pulse Trading Cards aims to challenge crowded market with premium product
Pulse Trading Cards hopes its premium cards with on-card autographs can win over collectors. (Credit: Pulse)

In a market littered with dozens of brands and products, Pulse Trading Cards believes it can carve out its own space.

After years of working in event ticketing, Pulse founder and CEO Nathan Zalta got into trading cards during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ripping packs turned into breaking, and breaking turned into owning a number of retail trading card shops.

Fueled by his experience with athlete signings from his series of Monmouth Cards shops, Zalta felt he had the connections and the knowledge to go even further into the hobby.

The vision for Pulse Trading Cards arrived soon after.

“Why isn’t somebody coming out with an unlicensed product that is, in my opinion, of better quality than some of the other ones out there,” Zalta told cllct. “I felt as though there was a real space in the industry for someone to come in with a really good brand, quality checklist and the attention to detail to put out a really good value product.”

Pulse released its first trading card set Friday with 2024 Pulse Baseball, featuring 60 of baseball’s top minor-league prospects. The flagship set dropped with a 60-card base checklist, on-card autographs, inserts and a variety of parallels.

Of the first 10 players in the Pulse checklist, nine are currently among MLB.com’s top 100 prospects.

Wanting to create a premium set that can compete with the major flagship releases from Topps and Panini America, Zalta hired a former employee from the latter.

Cory Hollingsworth joined Pulse last August as director of trading cards and brought with him years of experience working with Panini and its NBA, NFL and Premier League licenses. While Zalta could get access to top prospects for autographs, Hollingsworth had to deliver the industry knowledge.

The overwhelming majority of trading cards are printed in the Dallas area, and Pulse is no different. Hollingsworth’s previous relationships with the printers used by the major manufacturers helped secure the right partners, and from there, Pulse simply needed to create the right designs, configurations and deliver the autographs.

Things came together quickly after Hollingsworth joined — the company had photos and a designer by September, proofs by December and the first cards by January.

Each box of 2024 Pulse Baseball has a one-pack, seven-card configuration. On average, every box aims for two base cards, three on-card autographs numbered to 99 or less and two parallels numbered to 99 or less.

Without a direct license with Major League Baseball, Pulse has to create superior quality cards to compete. According to Hollingsworth, collectors will be able to tell the difference between Pulse and similar products from Topps or Panini when they have them in their hands.

“These are all thicker cards,” Hollingsworth said. “All of the autographs are on either 72- or 80-point cardstock, so everything is thicker. They feel more substantial in your hands. The cards themselves look and feel really, really nice.”

Filled with low-numbered, on-card autographs and parallels, Pulse hopes to be a good value proposition for collectors. Priced at $81.99 per Hobby Box and $819.99 per 10-box case, there are also low-numbered inserts and case hits to chase.

Zalta and Hollingsworth know unlicensed products are already at a disadvantage, but they believe a niche can be carved out. Leaf has long been a popular brand in the unlicensed space, and Onyx has recently developed a following with on-card autographs and strong designs.

“There is space when it comes to building out an unlicensed product,” Hollingsworth said. “I think that the collector really just cares about good quality cards with a recipe that they understand, and they can see a product has X amount of hits and X amount of players, and they know exactly what they’re getting. Being able to build that and build the brand recognition and brand identity is a challenge that we’re really excited about.”

Ben Burrows is a reporter and editor for cllct.