The Good Word: A Well Designed Mail Day

By James Good

For the last three plus years at COMC I’ve seen every single tweet, Instagram picture, and Facebook post that we’ve been  tagged in. My absolute favorite posts that we get repeatedly see are our customer’s Mailday pictures, where they show their followers all of the items that they recently received in their latest COMC shipment. We routinely reshare these on our instagram page and twitter accounts, so be sure to keep tagging us in your #Maildays!

Seeing all of our customer’s incoming items for their personal collection inspired me to share some of the contents of an incoming COMC package of my own. While there are plenty of not so exciting items in that package that simply fill the gaps of my Mitch Haniger player collection, there are bunch of other items that have been inspired by my latest inspiration for collecting: buying cards based on unique card design.

I think that card design is a very low priority for a lot of collectors, as we’ve grown accustom to cards designed around sticker autos and recycled designs, among other visually unappealing decisions. Most prospectors don’t even consider card design when stashing away players in hopes of a later payday. The truth is that the card design for the majority of modern cards is very underwhelming. I’m not going to publicly shame any manufacturers, because with so many sets being printed these days, poor design choices were bound to happen. Just like without the bad moments in life we wouldn’t appreciate the good ones, without bad card design, we couldn’t appreciate good card design.

The 2008 Topps Factory Set Mickey Mantle Chrome Refractor Reprints set is the perfect example of the modernization of a reprint done right. There isn’t an overload of numbered parallels, and the design is simply a clean replica of the original on a modern chrome cardstock. The 1952 Mantle RC has been reprinted time-and-time again over the years, most having some sort of poor design choice shoehorned in. Topps got it right in 2008, and in the 2006 Topps ’52 set where they swapped the background color of this iconic card in a creative re-imagining. I’ll probably never own the real thing, so these reprints fill the void in my collection.

One rookie card that I am fortunate enough to own is a PSA 9 2007 Bowman Chrome – Prospects Tim Lincecum Gold Autograph #’d 31/50. As I talked about in one of the earlier installments of The Good Word , I love manufactured patch cards. These three are among my latest pick ups that fit the qualifications of well designed cards. Lincecum’s unconventional pitching delivery might have shortened his career, but it did produce a wealth of great trading cards along the way. I’m a sucker for the stars and stripes, so the 2010 Topps – Jumbo Packs Manufactured Hat Logo Relic on the right ranks highly on my well-designed sets list.

 

Which leads me to this 1912 Player’s Countries Arms & Flags Tobacco Card #4. I am not much of a vintage collector, much to the chagrin of my colleague Rich Klein, who two years ago at a National Sports Collector’s Convention took my 1960’s football card knowledge to task. I think that anytime you can buy something that’s over 100 years old for $0.50, you probably should, and this card was no exception. Even being 107 years old with a bit of paper loss, it still checks all the boxes for a well designed card.

As a kid growing up in the 90’s, nothing stuck with me more than the roller coast ride that was the 1995 ‘Refuse to Lose‘ Seattle Mariners. During that period of time, I opened so many packs of 1995 Score in search of the Gold Rush parallel of my favorite Mariners and 1996 Upper Deck Collector’s Choice looking for Gold Facsimile Signatures and You Crash the Game cards. I was never able to pull these two, but thanks to COMC, my hundreds of dollars of summer jobs and allowance money was not wasted in vein.

By comparison, the 1995 Score Gold Rush Parallel is inferior to the Platinum Team Set version. I really love the design on the Hitters Inc. subset, and not just because Albert Belle’s mean mug is a hidden gem. There were many iterations of Collector’s Choice ‘You Crash the Game’ contest across multiple sports, but the 1996 baseball version did it best with a bright orange and red foiled explosion design. Not only was it a great design, but it was a great concept that has stood the test of time. I know a certain 2019 Topps insert set with an awfully similar promotion.

If I were to rank Topps flagship designs, 1968 Topps would likely fall in the middle of the list. It’s not a bad design per say, it’s just not my style. I do love the rounded corners of the black border and white space between the player photo and border, but the textured brown outer border doesn’t work for me. That being said, this card jumps off the page to me because it features one of the best photos of any Mariner ever featured on a trading card.

Vogey looks larger-than-life in this pose, and the Safeco Field logo in the background is a nice finishing touch. It almost makes you forget that he has a career MLB batting average of .197, or that Safeco Field is now T-Mobile Park.This card screams “In Vogey We Trust” , that he’s our guy of the future, and that I’m willing to put in writing that he’ll hit 30 bombs whenever he’s given his first full year in the Bigs.

Last but not least, there hasn’t been a better non-sports set idea since the Map Relic Insert Sets from Upper Deck’s last two Goodwin Champions sets. These sets have checked all of the boxes I’m looking for when determining good card design:

  1. Make it unique
  2. Keep it simple
  3. Feature Great Photography

These cards do an perfect job encapsulating the points of interest they feature. The embedded map relic is a unique element that I don’t recall ever seeing on a card prior to these sets. My goal is to eventually collect all of the map relics of places that I’ve visited. Right now that list is at eight:

Niagara Falls, Statue of Liberty, Washington Monument, Capital HillGolden Gate Bridge, Freedom Tower, Mount Rainier, and Ruby Beach .

Ruby Beach holds a special place in my heart because it was one of the destinations along the first road trip that my fiancé and I went on almost four years ago. Traveling to the coast of Washington to be close to the water has been a recurring trend in our relationship. Later this year, we’ll get married near the beaches of Moclips, Washington, about 65 miles south of where the photo of this card was snapped.

Now it’s your turn! In the comments below, let us know some of your favorite cards from your most recent mailday!

Rich Reminisces: The 1967 ‘Impossible Dream’ Boston Red Sox

By Rich Klein
I have been a life-long New York Yankees fan for all but one summer when I just starting to discover baseball. You see myself, like many other baseball fans, were enthralled by the 1967 “Impossible Dream” Boston Red Sox.  As an impressionable very young person whose family had a place in far Northeastern corner of Maine where the sun arrives during the summer at 4:00 AM, the Red Sox were the local team, so how could you not love following them?
I was not aware of the past 15 years of so prior for the Red Sox, but they had barely been competitive since about 1950, and even had to deal with the tragedy of the death of local hero Harry Agganis, who died shortly after turning 26 in 1955. We know when Agannis passed, but there are still some third party authenticated autographed cards of his out there. The card is pretty difficult to find, and the autograph on the card is even scarcer:
But the 1967 Red Sox had a new manager and some new players. Their best player was 27 years old and had just done intense off-season training for the first time.  Those new and improved players, as well as a little luck, turned out to be the key to the Red Sox success.
To begin, 1967 was the summer of Yaz. Carl Yastrzemski would win the triple crown that season and be the last player to lead the league in all three categories until Miguel Cabrera accomplished that feat a few seasons ago. This card pictured was issued a few years ago but gives us the 1967 flavor:
Some of the young players on that team included George Scott and Joe Foy, who had been rookies in 1966. Mike Andrews and Reggie Smith were the rookies in 1967, and a player turning just 22 during the season would finish the season season with over 100 career homers. That player was Tony Conigliaro:
Conigliaro would sadly almost lose the sight in his eye after being struck by a Jack Hamilton fast ball, and never was the same player again. Along with Yaz and Rico Petrocelli, they were the three Red Sox who also played for their 1975 team, which would be the next time the Red Sox won the Pennant.
Anytime I can mention Rico Petrocelli, it helps the hobby. You see, Rico and Tom Zappala host a weekly hobby radio show which feature many leading dealers and hobbyists. Their show can be found here if you’d like to give it a listen:
Rico is a beloved figure in Boston and does many appearances around the area. He has also co-authored many books with the Zappalas, and you can usually see him at the National Sports Collectors Convention each year. I heartily recommend meeting both Tom and Ellen Zappala along with Rico during the National. I promise you will enjoy chatting with them.
The other cool thing was both Mike Andrews and Reggie Smith shared a 1967 Topps rookie card:
One of the oldest known color television broadcasts of a baseball game feature the 1967 Red Sox!  The fact that this is a crucial game in September makes it an even more memorable game. If you have time, I do recommend watching this or having this as background during a game

The 1967 American League pennant race was legendary as four teams actually all lead the league in one confusing September day. As a young fan, I thought every season would be like 1967 season. Well not so much, but if you like to read about a very different time with one team going to the World Series and no one else in the post-season, than 1967 is for you. Just two seasons later there would be the first year of divisional play.
And if you wanted to know if the New York Yankees were doing something that year, they moved the great Elston Howard to Boston, which helped shore up the Red Sox catching situation. Howard solidified the catching position and had his last good season in 1967. I still wish there was a 1969 Topps card of him, but this 1968 serves well:
Oh, and even in the next year these Red Sox would continue to affect baseball history. Jim Lonborg,who had been 22-9 and the 1967 Cy Young award winner, hurt himself in a skiing accident and was never quite the same pitcher again. He was good, but never great. After his accident, many contracts were updated to not let the players do off-season activities which could hurt them. Note the text on his 1968 Topps card:

And lastly, the player mentioned in the quiz is Sparky Lyle, would become a superstar Yankees receiver after being traded for Danny Cater just before the 1972 season. This trade would torment the Red Sox for many years following. Unrelated to Lyle, Cater actually lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and his son-in-law and I attend the same Torah (Bible) Study class.  Hey, anytime you can name drop a major league play is worth a shot!

This card is the 1967 Red Sox team card and a scarce high number. Yes, you can use this card to talk about the stories of the famed “Impossible Dream” team. They were called the Impossible Dream because of the then recent popular song from the Man of La Macha musical. This powerful version by Jack Jones was #1 on the Adult Contemporary charts of the time and the best known of the versions.  But everything coalesced in 1967, and I will still not forgive the St. Louis Cardinals, who were a better team, for winning the World Series that year.

We Survived the Great 2019 Snowpocalypse!

If you weren’t aware, much of the Pacific Northwest was largely caught off guard with record amounts of snowfall over the last two weeks. Several storm systems rolled through our area, dumping snow, causing power outages, and making roads impassable with snow as deep as two feet near our Redmond and Auburn locations. Three days after the snow stopped falling in our area, there were still many neighborhoods that could only be reached by high clearance truck and SUV’s with four-by-four capabilities.

The bad weather wreaked havoc for our team members, many whom were unable to safely make their way to work for several days during the last two weeks. As a result, we’ve fallen a little bit behind in a few of our core areas. Our Shipping, Processing, and Customer Service Teams are doing their best to get caught up, with minimal impact felt by our customers as a result of the downtime. Thank you to all our customers for your continued patience as we get back up and running at full speed!

We would also like to thank the members of our team who were able to brave the elements and poor road conditions to make their way to our offices. Those members of our team who did make it in really went the extra distance by putting in long hours, and/or assisting in weather-related tasks such as shoveling snow off sidewalks, plowing parking lots, and even helping our local couriers get unstuck during the height of the storms. It took a team effort to literally ‘dig us out’ of all of the snow, and our team came together like never before during the worst storm system in COMC’s existence!

Below are a few pictures that were captured by members of our team who were able to make their way into the office earlier last week:

Hat Trick! Three Stuck vehicles all needing to be dug out of our parking lot.

Our team helping shovel compacted snow and ice to help a USPS truck out of our parking lot.

Even SUV’s weren’t immune to the harsh conditions of our parking lot during the height of the storm system.

Tires spinning and going nowhere!

Snowpacolypse 2k19 in a nutshell.

This photo shows the amount of accumulation our area received over the weekend.

This photo was taken a few miles from our Redmond Headquarters.

The History of the Adat Chaverim Plano Card Show & 2019 Schedule

By Rich Klein
Sometimes we’re lucky in life to be able to work in our chosen field. The other day I was talking to my wife and mentioned that I had spent 28 out of the last 35 years working in a sports or sports card related field. That truly makes me feel blessed.

A few years ago we were in an Adat Chaverim Brotherhood (Men’s Club) meeting and having our typical discussion about how to raise money. I mentioned, as I had a few times in the past, that I would run a card show and raise $500 for the brotherhood. My instincts said that if I could not sell 20 tables at $25 then I needed to get into a new field.

Within an hour, I had permission to use our social hall and we were off and running. At the time I was writing for Sports Collectors Daily, and through the genesis of how a show comes together, we were off and running for show promotion. We were blessed that we received help from many people, and the first show was such a success that we immediately decided to do two shows a year.

The first show is always the first Sunday of the Plano (Texas) Independent School District’s spring break, and the second show is now Sunday/Monday of Labor Day weekend. These dates were selected so we could use the social hall and not interfere with Adat business.
Image may contain: 2 people, people sitting and table

Ever since the first show, we’ve always met the goal of $500 per show, and usually exceed that figure. One of the great joys was how we turned what could have been lemons into lemonade. For the first few shows, we were running 10-12 door prizes a show, which was fairly easy for me to manage. We were informed that Texas state law prohibits non-profits from running more than two lotteries per year. Yes, each door prizes counted as a lottery. So, the Brotherhood President remembered a former card dealer named Myron who would wheel in a TV to all the big shows and then sell grab bags with that as his big prize. Luckily,. giving away bags with a prize slip inside is legal since collectors are already receiving an item of value for their money. Of course that meant that were were always in need of cards. This led to having to move in nearly 200k cards to my office the Monday after Thanksgiving 2017.

But as I mentioned, we have several wonderful advantages at this show, including  the great cooperation of the Brotherhood members. This is an “in-action” photo of Brotherhood members stuffing bags for a recent show. That was one of three tables we used that day for stuffing purposes:
Image may contain: 8 people, including Ben Silver, Rich Klein and Jerry Retsky, people smiling, people sitting and table

I always stress that although I sometimes tend to use the “I” word for this show, there is no way I could run this show without Brotherhood members and some hobby friends.  We’ve been very lucky as we approach our sixth year of this year to have raised over $15,000 for our charitable causes. We also have no administrative costs, so whatever we take in goes right back to the community. In addition, we’ve probably given out more than a half-million cards as well as countless prizes. One of our most popular prizes are from the “Island of Misfit Toys”. When I thought of that name it must have come from my subconscious mind with Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  We always seed the “Island” with some surprises, so collectors who enjoy digging can find items they really enjoy.

But no matter how much work we do, we can always use more cards and prizes! We can provide all needed documentation, so that you can write off not only the donation, but also the postage to ship it our way.  While hard work, it’s been a blessing to run this show, and the best part is running this show such is a perfect adjunct to my COMC work. You can always reach me at RichKlein@comc.com if you are interested in donating cards or prizes to our cause which helps the Dallas-Fort Worth Community,.

Our 2019 shows at Adat Chaverim, which is located at 6300 Independence Parkway in Plano, TX (Northeast Corner of Spring Creek and Independence In the shopping center) are scheduled for:

Sunday; March 10 from 10 AM to 4 PM
Sunday; September 1 from 10AM to 4PM
Monday September 2 from 11AM to 3 PM

Retail Therapy – 2019 Topps Series 1 Baseball

Welcome to our first ever ‘Snowed In’ edition of Retail Therapy! With snow blanketing much of the Pacific Northwest and expected to continue for some time, we’re ripping away from the office this time around. While some people might prefer to stay inside under a blanket and watch their favorite series on Netflix, not us! We picked up a couple of blaster boxes of this year’s flagship Topps set before #Snowmaggedon hit the PNW, so we could bring this blog to you regardless of the conditions outside!

2019 Topps Series 1 was released on January 30th and features the standard 350 card base set and plenty of parallels, short prints, super short prints, inserts, autographs and memorabilia! While you might have to rely on Cardboard Connection’s short print variation guide for regular short prints, super short prints are a bit easier to spot as they all feature Hall of Fame players. Topps also celebrates their 1984 set with plenty of insert sets stylized after the 84′ design.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, it’s time for the big reveal! How does the flagship Topps design look this year?

Pretty good, actually!  Topps opted for a half-bordered design this year, with the player’s first name found within the color that wraps from the left edge of the card to the upper right. Our one complaint is that the gray last name on top of the color is prominent in the design, and does occasionally get lost in the mix between the white space and player’s photograph. The cards actually look much more sharp in person than they do in photographs or scans. On the other hand, the 1984 inserts are extremely sharp on the modern card stock. This is not the first time Topps has brought this design back. It was most recently included as part of the 2012 Topps Archives base set cards #151-200, and has been used many times over in Topps On-Demand products as well.

In addition to the 1984 inserts, the Grapefruit League Greats set really stands out for it’s absolutely gorgeous set design. Home Run Challenge cards return as well, and we were fortunate enough to hit two: Juan Soto and Gary Sanchez. We’ve polled our twitter followers to choose a date, and even though the odds are astronomical, if we’re lucky to win the trip to the 2020 Home Run Derby, we’ll be sure to take plenty of photographs and share!

Ballpark Evolution is another really fun insert set this year, which shows how far some of the game’s most legendary cathedrals have come over time:

For $19.99, Topps flagship series blasters almost never disappoint. The Topps flagship series are sets that appeals to a wide array of collectors. Sure, the amazing hits and chase cards can be found in hobby and Jumbo HTA boxes, but Series 1, 2 & Update are products that should be opened and collected to celebrate a time when the hobby was simple, and the rookie card was king.

With that being said, our only gripe with our two blasters was the inadequate collation of base cards, as each blaster yielded 6 RC’s and 3 future stars featuring all of the same players!

As always, we’ve saved the best for last! If you read our blog last month, you’ll know that a certain COMC employee (who may or may not also be ghostwriting this blog) enjoys manufactured patch cards. In commemoration of 150 years of professional baseball, this year’s retail manufactured patch cards feature a vinyl logo. The top card is numbered to /50 :

But if manufactured patch cards aren’t your thing, don’t worry! While there are a bevy of different ‘fake’ patches, there are several real ones to be found in the nosebleed of the stated odds section. Our resident Mitch Haniger collection was able to pick up this spectacular one-of-one Letter Patch card shortly after the product release:

RECAP:

All-in-all, in our 14 total packs (2 blasters) we hit two gold /2019 parallels, one foil parallel, and two unnumbered 150th anniversary stamped base cards. For inserts we hit four 1984 throwbacks, two home run challenges, six Grapefruit League Greats, two Greatest Moments, and one Ballpark Evolution. We also received both of our guaranteed patch cards. If you’ve been following along with this series, you’ll remember we’ve been snubbed on guarantees more than once!

That’s going to do it for this installment of Retail Therapy. We expect to start seeing 2019 Topps Series 1 cards find their way onto the COMC marketplace in mid-February, and in a few weeks, we’ll have plenty of base and insert cards in stock to help you complete your sets!

As always, any cards featured in our Retail Therapy series will be available for sale on the COMC_Breakhits account shortly! How much Topps Series 1 will you be breaking? Leave us a message in the comments below letting us know what you’ve hit so far, or what you think of the set this year!

Rich Reminisces – The 1959 ‘Go Go’ White Sox

By Rich Klein
I’ve been a life-long Yankees fan, but despite what I like to write, am not enough to actually remember the real glory days of the post -war Yankees dynasty. Between 1947 and 1964 the Yankees won 16 pennants in 18 seasons, which is just astounding. Heck, the only player from the 1947 team who was still active in 1964 was Yogi Berra. Yogi actually missed the 1964 season as he managed the Yankees, but did return for a cameo with the cross-town Mets in 1965. That cameo was for all of nine at-bats before Yogi finally retired.

But just think about that, only three teams won pennants between 1947 and 1966, which is a number that would be surpassed in the 1965-68 time frame. To me, One of those two teams is a perfect case of one team coming, one team going and one team remaining. That team was the 1959 Chicago White Sox, who were known at the time as the “Go Go Sox” because they had the best base stealer in Luis Aparicio, and a bunch of other fast guys playing for them.

Topps got a photo right from the 1959 World Series of Luis Aparicio doing what he did best in those days on his way to a Hall of Fame career.  If you look carefully at the photo you will see Maury Wills awaiting the ball so he can place a tag on Aparicio. That is important because Wills was actually in a long-running feud with Topps, and would not have an official Topps card until the last series in 1967:

The other Hall of Famer on the team was his double play partner Nellie Fox, who would win the 1959 MVP award. Fox was a consistently great player and also deserved his enshrinement into Cooperstown.

There were, of course, other good players on the team, but the real interesting part was that the team was a mix of yesterday’s legends, today’s stars and tomorrow’s heroes

There were ten players on the team who were age 34 or older. While some of them were very important to the team, others were just role players for a cameo appearance. Many of the older pitchers were important to the team, which was led by Early Wynn, who won the 1959 Cy Young award. In those days the Cy Young was only given to one pitcher for the majors and not one per league as has been done since 1967. Other good players for that team in the older brigade included Turk Lown and Gerry Staley, who were a dominant bullpen pair.

But here were some of the players who made cameo appearances for the 1959 White Sox:

Ray Boone, Del Ennis, Don Mueller (he was only 32, but nearing the end of his career) and Hall of Famer Larry Doby. Yes, they were the best players that the White Sox tried and failed to get one last memorable season from.

But the real fun for this team and the players who created the “what might have been” sequence (if Bill Veeck had not realized he needed to win now because his ownership time would be limited) included several players with interesting future stories.

Before the 1960 season even began, Norm Cash would be traded twice, and his 1960 Topps card would depict the Detroit Tigers Cap on the side photo, but a Cleveland Indians cap as the main photo. Cash would win the 1961 Batting title, hitting .361 and stayed in the majors long enough to play in the 1972 post-season.  He is one of only three players who participated in post-season play in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. (The other two were Don McMahon and Willie Mays).

As the White Sox were going for a repeat and loading up on veteran players such as Minnie Minoso and Roy Sievers, the young prospects were being sent away. Among the prospects leaving included Claude Raymond. Not that Raymond was one of the better players who left the White Sox, but he has one of the best card stories as his zipper is undone on both his 1966 and 1967 Topps cards. Thankfully nothing was showing, but how did Topps miss that two straight years?

Other players who left included Joe Stanka, who went to Japan and became a legend there. Our local SABR chapter had breakfast with him about 13 years ago and the stories he told were quite fascinating. He never had a Topps card and all his cards on COMC are currently sold out but I wanted to mention him.

And some of the other future players the White Sox disposed of after 1960 included Earl Battey and Johnny Callison. There were others as wel,l but if all the players the White Sox traded away were allowed to develop, they might have been the backbone of another pennant winner around 1963 or so.

Now I suppose you could say this is true of any team, but if you happened to get all their players to have their best season at the same time you would usually win a pennant. But if you had gotten the 1959 White Sox players to all have their career best seasons that year they might have been a team which won 100 or more games.

After this brief interlude, the Yankees would win their next five pennants and they were smart enough to keep their younger players during that period. I’m showing Jim Bouton as an example because I’ll be talking about him and his famous Ball Four tome in a future article

If Bill Veeck did not feel the need to panic, and let his young players develop, would the White Sox have won more than just that one pennant between 1919 and 2005?

Rich Klein can be reached at RichKlein@Comc.com

The Good Word: It’s in the Game!

One of the best parts about my job at COMC is the amount of collectors I get to talk with about the hobby on the weekly basis. Whether it’s at The National talking to our members in person, or retweeting personal collection pick ups on twitter, it’s fascinating to see what collectors enjoy collecting and how they build their personal collections. I was recently talking with one of the members of our Developmental Team who didn’t collect cards prior to joining the COMC Team, but is slowly carving out his niche in the hobby – collecting trading cards featuring dogs!

That conversation led me to the discovery of a set that I had never seen or heard of before – The 2006 Enterplay Nintendo Nintendogs set. Nintendogs is a real-time pet simulation video game that was released on the handheld Nintendo DS console almost 15 years ago. This would fall somewhere in the timeline after the rise-and-fall of Tamagotchi toys, but before social media and mobile games such as Farmville gained massive popularity. The game spurned a whole slew of spin-offs and imitation games that can be had for a buck or two at any used gaming store.

Furthering down that rabbit hole, I wondering what other video game themed trading card sets were out there that I didn’t know about. To my surprise, the answer is shockingly not that many. Before we go any further, for the sake of this blog post, I’m removing all Pokemon related cards from the discussion, as that is a video game that has transcended beyond gaming to pop culture status. My Grandmother can name far more Pokemon than just Pikachu, and she hasn’t played a single video game since the days of Atari in the early 1980’s.

The origin of video game related trading cards can be traced to the 1980 Fleer Pac-Man Stickers set. Each $0.30 pack contained 3 stickers, 3 trading cards, and 1 piece of gum, with each box consisting of 36 packs. The cards themselves even feature a cleverly designed rub-off game that is essentially the Pac-Man game built into a card. The price point is interesting at $0.30, considering a game of Pac-Man at the arcade would cost you $0.25 (or your whole pocket of quarters, because who only plays one game of Pac-Man?)

Nintendo appears to have initially been hot on trading cards as they began to make a name for themselves in the United States. In the late 1980’s, they released stickers and several trading cards sets that featured similar scratch-off games themed after popular video games such as Double Dragon, Punch Out!!!, Super Mario Bros, and the Legend of Zelda.

Perhaps the lack of retail success of these sets could be the attributed to the reason why Nintendo branded trading cards all but dropped off the face of the earth in the 1990’s. While there were a handful of food issue cards and promo cards included with video games, there are very few Nintendo trading cards from the 90’s. In fact, the only real video game set with any hobby relevance appears to be the 1993 Topps Sonic the Hedgehog set, a Sega-brand character, and even that is a set that COMC has seen very few cards from over our existence.

It strikes me as odd that the 16-bit and 64-bit eras of gaming in the 90’s are incredibly underrepresented in the trading card world. The Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64 produced so many great series that would have translated well into  trading card sets, such as Kirby, Yoshi’s Island, Donkey Kong Country, Mortal Kombat, and Street Fighter just to name a few. Even Sony didn’t venture too far into the world of trading cards, with only a couple of sets released highlighting Final Fantasy, one of their flagship series at the time.

It wasn’t until Enterplay acquired the licensing rights to several of Nintendo’s most popular franchises in the late 2000’s that video game related trading cards would see any sort of consistency with products and releases. Along with the aforementioned Nintendogs set, they also released sets for Nintendo Wii games such as Mario Kart , Super Mario Galaxy, and the Legend of Zelda. While it appears that Enterplay still has a partnership in place with Nintendo, they’ve since shifted their focus almost entirely to the My Little Pony Collectible Card Game, which now has over a dozen different sets since it’s debut in 2012.

My biggest issue with the Enterplay cards is that they’re emotionless, featuring very uninspired designs and characters ripped straight out the video games. These cards do a very poor job celebrating these beloved franchises, which have been well represented elsewhere through time by big named artists and fan-created artwork that put the Enterplay cards to shame. I understand that Enterplay is a relatively small player in the trading world, and probably needed to keep production costs down on these products, but even fan submitted artwork om these sets would have drastically increased the overall production quality. Give me an insert featuring painted landscapes of all of the locations in a Zelda game, or the tracks in Mario Kart. But don’t expect me to get excited over cards that come across as second-rate marketing material.

Arthur Morgan from Red Dead Redemption. An incredibly complex character who struggles with morality and social stature of the life of turn of the century cowboy.

So where do we go from here? Video game sales topped $43 billion dollars in 2018, an 18% increase of 2017. We’ve come along way from the days of 8-bit side-scrollers and top-down racers. Gaming franchises are only becoming more beloved as their creators tell deeper and more complex stories, with characters displaying stunningly human-like ranges of emotions, motivations, desires, flaws and traits. I would argue that most story-driven video games do a better job with their narratives than even the very best Hollywood movies can accomplish. So why do we have so many non-sports card sets for  movies such as Doctor Strange, Aliens, and James Bond, but none of Final Fantasy 10-15, Red Dead Redemption, or Assassin’s Creed?  Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a knock on movie cards , but rather a call to action for the gaming industry

Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins made nearly $10 million dollars in 2018 as Fortnite’s most popular streamer and gaming personality. He appeared on the cover ESPN Magazine, sparking a transition into full blown celebrity status.

Fortnite is the biggest video game on the planet right now. Children, teenagers, and even (or, especially) adults spend literally hundreds of dollars on a game that is free to play by purchasing cosmetic items that allow them to customize their character. These items have zero effect on competitive game play. With Fortnite’s publisher Epic Games making money hand over fist with their product (the company has an estimated value of $8 billion dollars), why aren’t card companies like Topps, Upper Deck, and Panini eagerly trying to acquire the licensing rights? There HAS to be a multi-million dollar market for these products just waiting to be capitalized on.

Imagine if a card manufacturer was able to sign some of Fornite’s top competitive players and popular streamers, offering chase cards that granted those who pulled a card the opportunity to play with some of these players? It doesn’t even matter what the quality of the product was at that point, that concept alone would sell insane amounts of product. Those unfamiliar with the concept of eSports and video game streaming culture may not understand why this would be a big deal. So imagine if you busted a pack of trading cards, and inside you won a trip that involved taking batting practice with Kris Bryant, or running routes and receiving passes from Patrick Mahomes II, or learning how to shoot threes with Steph Curry. For those ingrained in the video game world, who watch these players on a daily basis the same way we watch sports athletes, it’s the exact same concept.

Perhaps I’m just angling too hard for the cross-over potential of two things that I love and am passionate about. The history of video game related trading cards over the years paints a picture of repeatedly missed opportunities. There have been a lot of clever innovations over the years in the video game industry. Nintendo is among the those at the forefront of that effort, from utilizing NFC-technology in their Amiibo figurines to creating Nintendo Labo DIY kits that are functional robotics with just the technology of a Nintendo Switch controller. But aside from Pokemon cards, they don’t seem to have a desire or clue how to take their franchises, their most powerful asset, and capitalize on the beloved characters and stories they’ve created over the last 40 years. Maybe it’s time to pause and hit the reset button, because they’ve been playing the trading card game wrong for a really long time.