The history of the career of John Costaco is really quite amazing. It’s certainly full of great stories about working with the top athletes of the 1980s and ’90s when his sports culture posters made waves.
The iconic, award-winning sports-pop culture artist has unveiled a new blockchain-based digital collectibles company called Costacos Collection.
John Costacos joined Sports Jam with Doug Doyle to talk about how he reinterpreted his famous poster series and created new digital art in collaboration with legendary athletes and their foundations. The impressive list of athletes includes Dan Marino, Warren Moon, Troy Aikman, Jim McMahon, Kenny Easley, Lester Hayes, as well as baseball stars Roger Clemens, Pudge Rodriguez and Will Clark.
John admits that digital art has opened up so many new possibilities.
“It’s a whole new world. We’re moving into a time where alongside hard assets or hard art or real art, a painting or a print, there will always be something tangible like that, but the digital stuff has a lot of amazing parts to it. One of them is that there is no storage problem. You know, if you want to put art on your wall, you only have so much space in your house, in your room, or whatever stuff you like. If you want to hang and frame a print there, you have to get the print, you have to frame it, and you can only have a limited number of them. With the digital stuff, you can buy a lot of them you want and have them roll on your big screen or on a computer monitor. That’s a really cool thing about it. From my point of view there is no distribution problem. It’s just going to be released digitally, instantly, and it’s great. That’s nice. The best part for me is because I don’t really care about other stuff, I don’t want to do anything other than create. I can create things that were impossible. I could imagine things back then. We didn’t have the technology to do it, nor did we have a huge budget to do it. Now we can create pretty much anything I can think of in my head.”
John and his brother Tok, the “Costacos Brothers”, sold more than 30 million sports posters from 1986 to 1996. These posters featured images, slogans, and nicknames that would stick in players’ minds for the rest of their careers. John’s first poster featured the Seattle Seahawks‘ Kenny Easley as “The Enforcer.” Easley’s poster sparked an art series spanning more than a decade and huge demand from fans and athletes themselves.
Now, not only is John reinventing his adored poster art in the Costacos collection, he’s creating new digital art as NFTs. Costacos explains why NFTs are so interesting and valuable.
“NFT, it’s a really bad title, a non-fungible token. Couldn’t they come up with something better for it? Maybe we will. It’s a piece of code embedded in the digital artwork that authenticates it. And then the blockchain, it follows it. The blockchain is like CarFax for that.
So if you buy something over time, there is a record of it. If you sell it to me I can see when you bought it and how much you bought it for. In 200 years someone will own this digital work of art somewhere and they will be able to look back on all the people who bought it and how much it cost each time. It’s like you buy a print and you have 1 in 250 or 1 in 25 and it has the artist’s signature and you have a certificate with it or some degree of authenticity so if you ever want to sell it there is that value. It’s all digital. This is a digital version of it.”
Costacos is hoping this Sunday’s Super Bowl will produce some magical moments between the Cincinnati Bengals and the LA Rams that he can use as inspiration for new digital plays. You will soon be able to view the Costacos Collection here but you can follow the collector company on twitter here.
A Seattle native, Costacos was attending the University of Washington in 1984 when he heard a popular song on the radio. It was “Purple Rain” by the late singer-songwriter-musician Prince. That song and the Huskies football team’s win over Michigan prompted the Costacos to call a designer friend in LA to create t-shirts with the slogan “Purple Reign.”
“It was this cartoon soccer player falling from the sky under a cloud of rain and he’s about to crush this little, tiny player beneath him. And off we went. I sold 23,000 jerseys before I knew what I was doing. I realized when you hit a hot market, you stand a chance of doing pretty well.”
Next, the Costacos brothers would design a “Real Men Wear Black” t-shirt for Oakland Raiders fans. It wasn’t long before they turned to poster art and… the rest is art history.
During this episode of SportsJamCostacos shares some funny stories about some of his favorite athletes he works with, including Jim McMahon and Charles Barkley.
You can watch the entire interview with John Costacos here.