In 1996, Futera introduced the “Heritage” Collection to the market, strengthening its focus on rare, high-end, quality cards.
The intention for the collection was to have the cards signed by every living Australian Cricketer who had played Test Cricket, and which would be unlike anything ever produced for any sport in the world.
Futera aspired to create a set which had the best of everything - concept, design, card stock, presentation. The collection was regarded as a “quantum shift” not only for the company, but for trading cards in Australia.
The collection boasts autographs from every player featured, with the exception of Keith Miller - the legendary all-rounder who only signed 100 of these sets. Whilst it’s unclear why he was unable to sign all of the cards bearing his likeness, it's believed it could have been due to some ill-feeling between Miller and Bradman from as far back as the 1948 “Invincibles” tour with on- and off-the-field tension between them. Miller died in October 2004. Leo O’Brien was also due to be involved but he passed away before he could autograph the cards; his likeness was replaced with the collection’s Header card, meaning there were 59 players in this set in total.
Many other players have also since passed away, and given the fondness for historical memorabilia in Australian cricket, it is likely that the value of this set will continue to increase in the coming decades. All the cricketers who signed their cards were gifted a signed-set.
Names like Sir Donald Bradman, Ray Lindwall, Sam Loxton, Arthur Morris, Neil Harvey, Richie Benaud, Bob Simpson, Bill Lawry and Keith Stackpole are just some of the players in this collection of Australian cricketing royalty.
Surprisingly, the collection didn’t set out to be ‘profit-making’, rather an exciting and challenging venture to create a card collection of significance and historical value for cricket fans and card collectors alike, and Futera donated a significant amount of money to the Bradman Cricket Museum in appreciation of the help given to Futera in the realising of their vision. The relationship between Sir Donald Bradman and Futera actually dated back several years before the ‘Heritage’ Collection, as he had previously signed Futera cards on a limited edition basis.
Such was its impact on the market that the Futera "Heritage" Collection became an iconic ‘must have’ release amongst Australian card collectors, being considered one of the most significant pieces of sporting memorabilia ever produced in Australia, and with resale values maintaining an upwards trend in the subsequent two decades.
The focus for trading cards was changing at the time. The peak of the card boom from the early 1990s was maturing, and collector knowledge was becoming more particular and demanding so that card publishers had to lift their game as the industry was beginning to be looked at in a different way.
Although Futera had produced premium cards from its earliest days, the "Heritage" collection paved the way for releases which would be in demand for generations to come because of its quality, rarity and design.
Only 500 numbered sets were released. 200 un-numbered sets were produced for issue to the players with the word ‘Player’ stamped in silver foil (not for public release). The cards were produced in Melbourne by Henderson McPherson Printers on 480 gsm board, double-mounted, effectively making them 960 gsm, a testament to the collection’s quality.
The Sets were available as a framed collection, album collection and with Sets 1-50 presented in a solid Kauri wooden box.
The photography of the cards was carefully sourced to ensure the highest quality images were included. They are in in sepia tone, with the Heritage logo at the base and the autograph immediately above it.
The range of images used makes this an endlessly fascinating collection to look at. Some players are captured in full flight during matches, others are in training and some are simply relaxing.
One fascinating card features Ian Meckiff, who was infamously called for “throwing” in the latter stages of his career. His card shows the Victorian mid-action, with his arm in a bent position. While a bent arm is not illegal, straightening at the point of release is, which was the accusation directed at Meckiff.
A 60-card promotional set was also released ('of 100', but only 48 finalised sets have been documented), with Bradman himself featured in seven gold-foil autographed promotional cards that he signed and which were given away at the project’s Adelaide launch in 1996.
Additional 4-up uncut sheet Promo cards were also released, also produced with 960gsm board. The company records don’t indicate how many but there were only a few, and six in total of these uncut sheets were signed by Sir Donald Bradman. The official authentic signed uncut sheet are identified by a gold seal ‘Limited Edition Authentic Autograph’. It would be extremely rare to see these signed versions in the market.