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.

Fresh Out of the Pack #6 – New Sets Found on the COMC Marketplace

Fresh out of the Pack #6

Check out what’s new on the COMC Marketplace….

In our ongoing series ‘Fresh out of the Pack’ , we shine the spotlight on the latest sets that have emerged on the COMC Marketplace. It’s been a little while since our last installment of ‘Fresh out of the Pack’, so a lot of products have

Fresh new inventory of these sets will be added for many months to come, so be sure to check back often!

2018 Baseball

2018-19 Basketball

2018 Football

2018-19 Hockey

2018 Misc. Sports & Non-Sports

Rich Reminisces: What’s in a Name?

Happy New Year! If you happen to follow my Facebook page, you have seen over the past year I tend to post some funny names which pop up while doing COMC Identification work.
Those names range from the Unfortunate…
….to the sublime (Alexa Bliss, yes I’m referring to you).
This John Hillerman look-alike had the name of F.T. Mann. I just call him Fatty Man nowadays:
But another part of names, and we all have one, is how people are named after one another in sports history. We begin with Grover Cleveland Alexander who was, of course, named after the only U.S. President to regain the presidency after losing an election:
Grover Cleveland was interesting because in his first year in office (1885) he married the then 21-year old Frances Folsom, who would go one to live past the conclusion of World War II. He might not have looked the part, but he was considered quite the ladies man before he became President. He was part of the incredibly cruel 1884 election, which featured these two memorable slogans, the first being: “Ma Ma, Where’s My Pa, Gone to the White House, Ha Ha Ha”.
Cleveland assumed paternity of a child born out of wedlock.Through DNA testing of present day, we would have actually known who the father of the child was. Cleveland’s party used this slogan in response: “Blaine Blaine, James G. Blaine, The Continental Liar from the State of Maine.”  And you thought today’s politics were rough?
As stated above, the most famous person named after him is Grover Cleveland Alexander, who won well over 300 games in his fine career. He may best be known for saving Gave 7 for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1926 World Series. Contrary to legend. the famed strikeout of Tony Lazzeri was in the seventh inning, because the series ended with Babe Ruth being tagged out at 2nd on a steal attempt.
Another Hall of Famer named after a famous player who became even more famous than his predecessor was Mickey Cochrane. Cochrane was a Hall of Fame catcher and won a World Series as a manager before Bump Hadley‘s beaning ended his career.
A few years before Cochrane’s career concluded, a young man named Mickey Charles Mantle was born in Oklahoma. Now, I would have preferred Cochrane as the middle name, but the legend of being named after Cochrane was sufficient at the time.
And in a couple of other cases, we revert back to the 1st and 2nd name matching. This one is close to my heart, because well, the reason will be obvious. Chuck Klein had a nice career buttressed by playing in Baker Bowl.  Well this a nice photo of Mr. Kline:
Imagine my surprise while doing COMC Identification work to see a Charles Klein Stobbs as a name on a card:
And what is Chuck Stobbs best known for? While he was a competent major league pitcher, he is best known for surrendering a 565 foot homer to one Mickey Mantle:
And while the names of many athlete are getting stranger, sometimes we still see names we recognize…
Or whom we think is named after someone famous…
Part of me hopes Mr. Downs makes a mark in the majors because the original Jeter (Derek) is another one with a great name…..
You see, Derek Jeter’s full name is Derek Sanderson Jeter. Yes that is the same name of the 1960’s-70’s hockey wild man Derek Sanderson. Jeter is as controlled in his life as Sanderson could be out of control.
One of things I remember about Sanderson came from reading his autobiography where he claimed that his favorite song was “Poor Side of Town” by Johnny Rivers. Well, he did pick a great single for that purpose:

And since it seemed that between 1964 and 1968 Rivers recorded every song ever written, here are a couple of more I especially like by him:
And to conclude this “What’s in a Name” blog, while this is not related to people being named after others but sharing a same name, I have no other place to put this. In the 1960’s Paul Simon put this line into the lyrics of a song:
“”Be careful his bowtie is really a camera”
Which is a line from the song “America”. Well, did you think that two decades later a man named Paul Simon would have a brief run for the presidency and be best known for, you guessed it. wearing a bow tie?
Rich Klein can be reached at RichKlein@Comc.com

The Good Word: Manufactured Blog Post

(Note: COMC Communications Manager James Good wears many hats at COMC, including Social Media Manager and Blog Editor. While he does a wealth of the writing and curating of other blog posts found on our Blog, ‘The Good Word’ is a new regular Editorial style blog series where he will more openly share his opinions and thoughts on sports and trading cards.)

It is rumored that P.T. Barnum once said, “There’s a sucker born every minute”. I’d like to think that there are no such thing as suckers when it comes to collecting, but that every single one of us has a guilty pleasure or two that other collectors might see as silly or downright foolish. Whatever you want to call it, I have no shame in admitting that I love manufactured patch cards. Manufactured patches are hit-or-miss among most collectors, and I like how polarizing they are. There is very little gray area when it comes to them, collectors either love them or hate them.

My fascination with them began in 2008 when I was getting reacquainted with the landscape of the card industry following a hiatus from collecting. Among the first Felix Hernandez cards that I bought for my personal collection were his 2008 UD Premier Stitchings manufactured patches. The logo inside these cards was very well designed, and in Mariners colors as well.

The first Seattle Mariners card I ever fell in love with was obviously the 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr.. The second was Alex Rodriguez’s 1994 Flair RC. The third card in that list is one from a set that most collectors are probably much less familiar with. When I first saw the 2007 Upper Deck Black Pride of a Nation set, I thought it was one of the most unique sets I had ever seen.  I was 22 years old at the time and didn’t have a lot of money, but I was able to strike a deal with a collector via a forum and in four $25 weekly paypal payments I was the owner of this beautiful piece of cardboard:

I think that when done right, a well-designed manufactured patch or logo card is better than most authentic game used swatch jersey cards. Don’t get me wrong, there is no substitute for a sick patch, laundry tag, or logoman. But take a look at the below series of cards and tell me which one appeals to you more:

Ok fine, maybe don’t answer that last one, because as far as I’m concerned the Babe Ruth Jumbo from Tools of the Trade is the pinnacle of jersey cards. It goes without saying that most of the time we would much rather have a historical piece of the game over a manufactured patch, so my theory doesn’t exactly apply to legends and Hall of Fame players. Which creates an interesting question. I prefer the manufactured patches of Tim Lincecum and Peyton Manning shown above now, but what about fifty years from now? Will the overproduced jersey and patch cards of today’s greats be coveted or as remotely desirable as some of present day in-demand Hall of Fame memorabilia cards such as 1/1 bat knobs and the  Babe Ruth that I shared above?

Card manufacturers will need to continually innovate as they roll out new products, parallels and cards that are intended to draw the interest of new collectors. For some lifelong collectors, flagship Topps Series 1 or the Young Guns RC’s in Upper Deck Series 1 hockey is more than enough to keep them ripping wax on a yearly basis. But as long as the demand remains for unique cards, the rat race of latest and greatest goes on. I think that manufactured patches, rings, and relics offer a solid creative outlet for them to continue to produce some unique additions to the hobby.

To wrap up the first installment of ‘The Good Word’, I felt compelled to share some of my personal favorite cards featuring manufactured materials. Enjoy!

Best of 2018: The First 100: Ranking Our Favorite Cards from Topps Living Set

As we enter 2019, we wanted to take the month of December to highlight some of our favorite blog posts of 2018. In this blog post, our two resident Topps Living Set experts weigh in on their favorite 10 cards from the first 100 in the set. This blog was originally published on 11/05/2018 and is presented in it’s entirety in this blog as well

This year Topps released a very unique and welcomed product named ‘The Living Set‘. Each week, three new cards are released into the set, which should theoretically never end. Each particular week’s cards are only available for that week and then never reprinted again. Current players can only have one card in the set unless they change teams. All cards are stylized after 1953 Topps, can feature current or retired players, and are created around the artwork of legendary sports card artist Mayumi Seto. Card #100-102 (week 34) were released last week, with #100 reserved for Babe Ruth. 

From the moment this set was unveiled, two of COMC’s employees were hooked on the concept, design, and the execution. Our Communications Manager James Good and Senior Business Analyst Grant Wescott each own a complete set up to this point in time and plan to continue to collecting the set as new cards are released each week. We asked them to choose their favorite 10 of the first 100 cards released in the set and give a reason why those cards resonated with them.

Grant Wescott:

“I’d wished for years Topps would produce an on-demand baseball set with the same, consistent design year after year, featuring only one player to a card, no parallels, and a checklist to eternity. The day Topps Living Set was announced was probably the best of my collecting life. Not only did they check all the boxes – that consistent design? None other than the most beautiful Topps set of all time: 1953. All meticulously hand painted by the talented Mayumi Seto. “

James Good

“In an industry that tries to consistently innovate by making cards flashier and more complex, the basic card stock and classic design of Living Set, as well as the focus on artwork, is a welcomed breath of fresh air. While I would prefer that Topps would let me pay for Living Set as yearly subscription service, as opposed to buying each week individually, there is a certain charm to the current format that plays well to my nostalgia for simpler times in the hobby. Just like opening a pack as a kid, there is that rush of excitement that comes with heading to Topps website each Wednesday to see who this week’s subjects are. I thought that sense of satisfaction was long gone in our day and age. Bravo Topps.”

What are some of your favorite cards in Topps Living Set so far? Who would you like to see featured in the next 100 cards? Do you have a set of your own? Let us know what you think about The Living Set in the comments below!

Rich Reminisces: Everything Old is New Again

How about that old axiom, everything old is new again? A few months a good friend of mine and head of the local SABR chapter here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area was giving a talk on his favorite childhood team, the 1950 Philadelphia Phillies and the Whiz Kids. During the conversation, he mentioned how Jim Konstanty, who pitched in 74 games that season, nearly half the team’s games, had an undertaker he knew back home working on ensuring the baseball spun enough.

Today we talk about spin rate for pitchers, but did you know that even back in 1950 they understood that how a ball spun was important? While there are no cards created of that hometown friend of his, we do have plenty of Konstanty cards. So yes, they were aware of spin rate way back when.

Recently, one of my friends posted on Facebook about Babe Ruth facing a shift back in 1919. We all may have thought the shift was created by Lou Boudreau to neutralize Ted Williams power, but instead they had tried shifts nearly 30 years prior.

In the same theme, I was reading in USA Today about how the 1963 Army-Navy game featured the birth of Instant Replay. Well, not so much because it might not have been called instant replay, but when Roger Maris hit this then record-breaking 61st homer in the 1961 season, the play was supposedly repeated almost immediately. While we’ll never know the true first time instant replay was used, the most famous usage of the term came in 1967 when Bart Starr scored on a quarterback sneak behind Ken Bowman and Jerry Kramer. Kramer kept a diary of his 1967 season and because that play was so famous, his tome would be titled Instant Replay. Kramer took his fame, and although his Hall of Fame induction was delayed way longer than it should have been, he is finally enshrined in Canton

Of course, it’s a shame that there is no card of this play, or any card at the time of the Hail Mary pass from Roger Staubach to Drew Pearson, or so many other great plays. Those seem like truly missed opportunities. My one suggestion to card companies is to be more alert for future great plays and get those saved on cards. Not just on sets such as Topps Now or Panini Instant, but in the base sets as well so we can always relive our memories. I’m still upset to this day that after the 1975 World Series Topps no longer did their game-by-game reviews, but instead gave the greatest series of my lifetime up to that point such short shrift.

Although it is nice to have the shot of Fisk coming to the dugout as part of this card, but geez, I was upset then and today about how little that Game 6 was honored.

And yes, even in the card world. everything old is new again and still not keeping up with history.

Rich Klein can be reached at Richklein@Comc.com

Best of 2018: 5 Great “It Sold for WHAT?!?” Cards in COMC History

As we wrap up 2018, we wanted to take the month of December to highlight some of our favorite blog posts of the year. This was one of our most popular new blog series this year, and generated buzz on social media. This story was originally published on 05/21/2018 and is presented in it’s entirety in this blog as well

Over the course of our 11 plus year existence, we’ve seen A LOT of cards. When we say a lot of cards, we mean somewhere in the neighborhood of 52 million and climbing at the time of writing. As you can imagine, we’ve seen our fair share of iconic cards, especially cards that didn’t gain notoriety until many years after we first saw them. This can lend itself to some pretty hilarious historical pricing data when some of these cards sell years or even a decade before they peak in value.

That being said, we’ve scoured some historical sales to find some of the best “It Sold for WHAT?!” examples in COMC’s history:

2009 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects – Prospects Chrome – Refractor Autograph #BDPP89 – Mike Trout /500

As the legend of Mike Trout continues to grow, so do the value of his 2009 Bowman cards. This particular card was listed for sale on February 19th, 2010 and sold almost two weeks later for a fraction of what it’s worth today. These cards are so desirable that we’ve never seen a copy of this card consigned since. BGS 9 versions of this same card have recently sold for $7000.00.

2000 Playoff Contenders – [Base] Rookie Autograph #144 – Tom Brady [BGS MINT 9]

We have seen our fair share of this coveted Tom Brady rookie card over the years. This BGS 9 version was sold back in June of 2013 for a paltry $1254.00. Recent sales of this card with an equal grade have recently sold in excess of $10,000.

2013-14 Panini Prizm – Autographs – Target Red Prizms #33 – Giannis Antetokounmpo /49 [BGS 9.5 GEM MINT] 

Before earning his nickname ‘The Greek Freak’ and becoming the NBA mega star that he is today, Giannis  Antetokounmpo’s rookie cards could be had for a fraction of what they’re worth now. This beautiful Red Prizm RC autograph sold for just $256 back in October of 2016. A Non-graded version of this card recently sold for over $1,700.

1986-87 Fleer – [Base] #57 – Michael Jordan [BGS 9.5 GEM MINT] 

We’ve seen just two BGS 9.5 graded copies of perhaps the most iconic basketball card ever printed sold on the COMC Marketplace. The most recent took place in 2016 and sold for over $11,000, but it is the first sale that makes this card earn a spot on our list.  In the summer of 2013, a BGS 9.5 Michael Jordan RC was had by a buyer for just over $4,000.00. Talk about a good return-on-investment!

2013 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects – Draft Picks Chrome – Gold Refractor #BDPP19 – Aaron Judge /50

In hindsight, a 6’7″ power-hitting Yankees prospect flying under the radar just seems silly, but it’s safe to say that Aaron Judge cards sold at pedestrian prices until #AllRise took baseball by storm last year.  Not one, but TWO of these gorgeous gold refractors sold for right around $30 in 2014. This card can’t be had for under $1,000 just four years later.

If you happen to have sold one of these cards, just remember time heals all wounds. It also increased the value of your card exponentially. If you’ve sold a card on COMC that you’ve regretted years later when a player’s stock rose significantly, we want to hear about it! Share your best “What was I thinking?” stories with us!