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:
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 Klein can be reached at RichKlein@Comc.com
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.
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
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.
(Editors Note: Please welcome Johnny Martyr to the COMC Blog! Being a Night of the Living Dead Enthusiast with the world’s largest NotLD trading card collection, Johnny wanted to share his collecting story and deep knowledge of the subject through the following guest blog. Johnny is a photojournalist has been collecting for 20 years, and has compiled a full checklist of all NotLD cards that can be found here.)
By Johnny Martyr
When did you first see George Romero’s classic horror film, Night of the Living Dead? I was about five years old when I watched it through my fingers on a rented VHS tape in the early 1980’s.
Article after article has been written on why this unassuming little production, released 50 years ago, continues to have such a massive impact on the horror genre and independent movie making. Trading card after trading card has been released for the last 25 years distilling all those reasons into a fun and enduring collectible.
In 1998, at age 17, I discovered the horror convention scene and began journeying to meet cast/crew members from Night of the Living Dead, or NotLD as they called it. That is when I met Bob Michelucci, designer at Imagine Inc who designed the first official NotLD trading card set in 1988 and produced sets through 1993.
The Imagine cards, today, are the bedrock of any respectable NotLD card collection and include some of the most expensive/desirable NotLD autograph cards like the Keith Wayne autographed green border and On Location cards. Keith Wayne played the character Tom, who tried to make peace between lead Duane Jones (as Ben) and Karl Hardman (as universally despised, Harry Cooper.) Mr. Wayne, regretfully, took his own life in 1995, before NotLD card collecting really took off or many cons took place, making these two cards very special to fans.
Complete, 79-card master sets of green border, 71 red border, alternative border silver foil cards and eight On Location Imagine cards, with all potential cast/crew signatures can sell for hundreds today. Not bad for a a little movie out of Pittsburgh!
I bought my Keith Wayne and other rare autograph cards from Michelucci years ago but continued to fill out my sets with impossible-to-find Imagine cards until very recently. Uncut sheets, unopened packs and original test wrappers are also popular among collectors.
If the Imagine cards are the bedrock to any NotLD card collection, Jim Cironella’s Living Dead Festival cards are the pièce de résistance. While even entry level NotLD fans have at least a few Imagine cards, only die-hard fans are packing Living Dead Festival cards.
These cares were printed in limited quantities in 2009 and 2013 and consist of just two and three base cards (respectively.) But they were only distributed at the Living Dead Festival shows of those years, not sold by retailers anywhere. The other catch is that the cards were created to be autographed by cast/crew who appeared at these shows. So collecting all 36 or 63 (respectively) variations of card and autograph is an ambitious goal indeed, and often strictly the domain of friends of Image Ten (the production company behind Night of the Living Dead.)
Because most signatures on LDF cards are by extras and crew, they appeal to collectors who’ve already collected all the more common principal cast signatures. It’s extremely rare to see a complete set on the market and its unclear just how many actually exist. I own a complete set of 2009’s (all possible signatures on both card styles) and a third of a complete set of 2013’s (all possible signatures on one style card as well as some of the other two cards). Lighting designer Joe Unitas, was still passing out 2013’s as of the last Living Dead Weekend show in 2018.
Speaking of Joe Unitas, a little sidetrack, if I may. Joe is related to the famous Baltimore Colts quarterback, Johnny Unitas. And Joe played some ball himself. He actually appears in jersey #73 on the 1958 Baltimore Colts team photo Topps trading card!
But back to the NotLD card sets…
In 2012, Steve Kirkham of Unstoppable designed what is probably the most definitive NotLD trading card set. The 36 base cards are easy and cheap to come by but some of the six promo and nine autograph cards are quite difficult to locate. The rarest are the Tom Breygent variant promo card, the sketch promo card, Judith O’Dea single autograph card and the Marilyn Eastman and Karl Hardman cut autograph cards. Unstoppable sketch cards are of course one of one and many great artists participated. I’m always looking for more Ashleigh Poppelwell and Elfie Lebouleux. Artist, Ted Dastick mixed dirt from the Evans City Cemetary where NotLD was shot, into the pigments for his sketch cards!
Fantasm Media is currently releasing a very rare, very attractive nine card set designed by Brian Steward. The cards can only be found as random inserts with purchase of their commemorative magazine, 50 Years of Night. These Fantasm cards are sure to become a hit among fans because they feature images that haven’t appeared on any other trading cards and require some serious legwork to obtain a complete set.
Full sets aside, Night of the Living Dead and its famous director, George Romero have appeared in numerous other non-sports sets.
A favorite of mine is the mega rare Bill Hinzman autograph card by Necroscope for their Terror Cards series. Hinzman played that first zombie, or “ghoul” we see in the cemetery opening of Night of the Living Dead. Hinzman passed away in 2012 but was a warm and encouraging actor who was a favorite at conventions. I believe that only 50 of these cards were printed and all are hard signed. It’s an attractively designed and desirable card, given Mr. Hinzman’s role in history as cinema’s first contemporary zombie!
Breygent’s Classic Vintage Sci-Fi & Horror Movie Poster Series II of 2010 featured a number of fun NotLD cards including a promo, many nice sketch cards and two autograph cards. What I like about these is that they measure 3.5″x5″ which make the larger sketches and signatures look fantastic!
And, if you would really like to subject yourself to torture and drop some good money, there are the Donruss and Panini 2008, 2009 and 2011 George Romero Americana cards with their numerous parallels. Some of the parallels are numbered a mere one of five and feature foil printing, an autograph and even a swatch of Romero’s clothing.
eThe 2008 Donruss Americana II is #248, and I have five of the seven parallels, including the autographed card, silver proof (one of 25) and silver proof foil (one of 25.) In 2009, Panini took over the Americana line with Romero as card #52. I have eight of twelve of these parallels and am looking very hard for a signature-only card. I have the relic-only card and relic plus signature card. For 2011, Panini released both a “regular” George Romero Americana, #57 and same lineup of parallels from 2009, but also a special Americana Celebrity Cuts autograph card. This card is pretty desirable because it is in horizontal orientation and built around a hard autograph of just 75 copies, whereas the rest of the Americanas are sticker autographs with up to 99 copies.
You might have noticed, perhaps more so than most classic film trading cards, that NotLD trading cards seem to go hand-in-hand with autographs. This, to me, is an important reason I’ve enjoyed collecting NotLD cards. As I’ve counted, there have been no less than 28 different cast/crew members to sign trading cards. In most cases, if they didn’t sign a card, they didn’t sign anything for the public at all. So regardless of if your focus is on trading cards, autographs, or horror collectibles, Night of the Living Dead trading cards bring a lot to the table for everyone.
Thanks so much for reading! Happy collecting and as George Romero said “STAY SCARED!”