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I'm a complete wannabe — I even put that as my occupation in my profile — so go easy.
A while back I inherited the tedious upkeep on a minor project that has forever used a LOT of Helvetica fake small caps. It's just as awful as you think, and I can't stand it anymore. But I don't have the authority to completely overhaul the card.
I've tried some other sans-serifs with true small caps, but most of them are humanist and thus all wrong. I've found that you can get an SC font of Akzidenz Grotesk, but it leaves me feeling "Ennh."
Are there any realist sanses out there with nice-looking small caps?