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.

Story Behind the Cards: Night of the Living Dead

Photo Credit: Johnny Martyr

(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.

Photo Credit: Johnny Martyr

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.

Photo Credit: Johnny Martyr

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.

Photo Credit: Johnny Martyr

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!

Photo Credit: Johnny Martyr

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.

Photo Credit: Johnny Martyr

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.

Photo Credit: Johnny Martyr

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!”

Super Bowl LIII: Signature Showdown

After two thrilling overtime Conference Championship Games, Super Bowl LIII is set to feature a clash between the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots. While the finish of the Los Angeles Rams vs New Orleans Saints game will be discussed for years to come, it was business as usual for the Bill Belicheck led Patriots, who unrelentingly punished a tired Kansas City Chiefs defense in overtime en route to their third straight Super Bowl appearance.

A lot has happened in the seventeen years since these two teams last met in Super Bowl 36. That Super Bowl would be the starting point for the dynasty New England Patriots, who have gone on to win four more Super Bowl’s since. Tom Brady is still going strong at 41 years old, and with five rings and four Super Bowl MVP’s, it could be argued that he’s hungrier than ever to add to his legend before time runs out.

On the other side of the ball, the Rams have transitioned from the Greatest Show on Turf to a team that struggled to find it’s identity for many years. It wasn’t until they drafted Running Back Todd Gurley in 2015, Jared Goff in 2016, and returned to Los Angeles later that year that the team found their direction. The team made waves when they signed Head Coach Sean McVay at just 30 years old in 2017, and that may very well have been the final piece of the puzzle. The Rams went on to finish with a 13-3 record in 2018, the same record they finished with in 1999, a season that just so happened to end with a Super Bowl victory.

Last year we chose our Super Bowl winner by rating the respective team’s rookie cards. Our method of picking a winner did not go so well, as our pick of the Patriots did not come to fruition. This year around, we’ll be rating the team’s offensive skill position and one defensive position by the quality of their signatures found on trading cards. We’ll be using cards featuring highly visible and clean autographs for the sake of a fair review process.

Quarterbacks

If this were a contest based on autograph value,  Tom Brady would have Jared Goff by a Hail Mary and then some. But we’re judging based on penmanship, and neither of these players earn high marks from us (and the puns began….). While iconic and somewhat legible, Brady opts for the lazy approach of three letters and squiggles to fill up the rest of his autograph. Goff take a different route, but unfortunately that route teeters somewhere between fifth grade cursive class and “Hey, that kind of looks like my last name, right?”. We’re going to give the win to Goff because while neither auto is particularly great, Goff’s does not come across as dismissive, and it’s apparent he puts at least a little effort into trying to produce a quality signature. Touchdown Rams.  Rams 7 Patriots 0 

Running Backs

On the field, there are very few players who come close to the caliber of Todd Gurley. In just four years, Gurley has established himself among a very elite group of running backs, and is poised to set records if he can stay healthy. On the other hand, Sony Michel is a young upstart who was able to take over the starting role halfway through his rookie campaign. But when it comes to the pen, we have to give the nod to Sony, who’s autograph possesses a coolness with it’s sailboat S and lone M representing his last name. Gurley’s overlapping TG just doesn’t cut it, and there is strong evidence to support that you’re more likely to get a streaky autograph out of a Gurley than a clean one. Patriots 7 Rams 7

Wide Receivers

For the Wide Receivers group, we’ll be awarding 3 points to each receiver who’s autograph receives our stamp of approval.

James White – While technically a running back, James White led the Patriots in receptions in 2018. White’s intentionally smaller autograph shows time and care. We’re awarding a field goal here.

Julian EdelmanJulian Edelman has beautiful penmanship, but the glaring problem is that his ‘J’ looks more like a ‘D’, and his last name is marred with issues. The effort is there, and if his name were let’s say, David Iverson, this would absolutely be a points-worthy auto.

Chris Hogan – Now here’s a guy who’s doing the best with what he’s got. We appreciate the effort, even if that effort is in the same vein as Billy Madison writing ‘Rizzuto’ on a chalkboard. Kick is up and it’s good!

Brandin Cooks – No, the Pats are not cheating, at least not yet. While he caught passes from Brady last season, Brandin Cooks is now catching passes from Goff. He’s also catching points in our contest for the beautiful loops found in his initialized signature.

Robert Woods – We really like the route that Robert Woods takes with his auto, with consistent lines, a looping R, and a clever little w that transitions into an S that brings it all together. Three points on the board without question.

Cooper Kupp – He can catch passes with the best of them, but Cooper Kupp is a bust with the pen. He’s probably pretty good at drawing up offensive plays on a white board though!

So James White and Chris Hogan both earn the Pats three points a piece, while Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods keep the Rams lockstep with the Patriots. Patriots 13 Rams 13

Tight Ends

Rob Gronkowski has over five hundred receptions in his brilliant career, while Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett barely have over 100 receptions combined. Gronk has a track record to haul down touchdowns in bunches, which is why we’re awarding him TWO touchdowns for his shining example of excellent penmanship, legibility, care and consideration for signing. We’re also awarding a touchdown to Tyler Higbee for a quality H and overall legible auto as well. Although we appreciate the uniqueness, Gerald Everett’s signature just doesn’t do enough for us to get all seven point, so we’ll give him three points for getting close to pay dirt. Patriots 27 Rams 23

Defensive Players

Aaron Donald gave offensives nightmares all season long, racking up 20.5 sacks along the way. Devin McCourty has been the model of consistency on an otherwise inconsistent Patriots defense. Both players have vastly contrasting signatures, making this final match up particularly difficult to decide. Devin opts to go full name, but gets lazy on his first name and trails off in areas of his last name. On the other hand, Aaron Donald not only opts for the ‘AD’ approach, but his ‘A’ is far more of a star than it is the first letter of the alphabet. Intentional or not, the swagger is overbearing, because Aaron Donald delivers every bit of what his signature seemingly represents: Star D(efense). Rams 30, Patriots 27.

Our painstakingly researched and 100% scientific method of picking a winner has led us to choose the Los Angeles Rams as our favorite to win the Big Game. Regardless of the outcome, we expect Super Bowl LIII to be a match up for the ages as many story lines play out. Speaking of which, we want you to play along at home with us. Be sure to follow our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages where later this week we’ll be giving you three different opportunities to win prizes in our Super Bowl Contests!

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

COMC Says Farewell to Two Standout Members of Our Team

The winds of change are blowing through the hallways of the COMC headquarters in Redmond, Washington. Over the next few weeks we’ll say farewell to two vital and standout members of our team as they move forward in their journey and pursuit of their passions.

Brandon LeCompte joined COMC in the Summer of 2016 as a member of our Identification Team. Having used COMC for many years prior, he quickly became acclimated to not only our ID Team’s internal tools and workflow, but also the company culture.

“My favorite memories at COMC were the sports related contests and season long fantasy leagues we played. They were a healthy crossroads between competition & trash talk, building comradery with people across departments over the course of many weeks.”

Brandon made such an impact that he was asked to represent COMC and the work our booth at the 2017 & 2018 National Sports Collectors Conventions. Perhaps no one can attest to the impact he made better than our ID Team Manager Charles Hodder:

“Brandon is one of the most amiable people I have ever had the pleasure to work with, much less manage. His knowledge, passion for the hobby and his unparalleled work ethic made him an indispensable part of the ID team. He also stood out from the crowd when interacting with the collecting public at large at several National Conventions on behalf of COMC. I have never heard anything but praise from anyone who has had any interaction with him.

We are better for having had him for the time we did. He has great things ahead of him and he will be sorely missed.”

You may remember Brandon from our ‘Who is COMC?‘ video where he told the story of packing all of his things into his car and moving from Texas to Washington to join COMC. So where is Brandon heading now?

“My relentless entrepreneurial spirit has led me to move in with my significant other in Florida and pursue a career in the fashion industry. I have enjoyed my two and a half years in Seattle exploring, hiking, and appreciating the Pacific Northwest. I even got to meet Gary Payton last month!”

For over a decade, Heather Hollander has been an integral part of our evolution from a tiny garage startup to the four-location company we are today. Heather was featured in our ‘COMC Origins’ video released last year, where the first four members of our team took a stroll down memory lane back at the original birthplace of COMC.

Her Manager Jim Osborn spoke highly to what Heather has meant for to our team:

“Over the 11 years Heather has been part of the COMC family, she’s processed literally millions of cards.   Starting as a 17 year-old high school student working part time, she joined the company full time after graduation. Since then, she’s become an indispensable member of the Processing Department and worked her way into a Lead role within the department. 

She truly wrote the book on her area of processing and with her personal standards being very high, she’s raised the bar for all who follow. Her attention to detail as well as the accuracy and efficiency with which she handles cards is second to none.

She’s resigning her full-time roll at COMC in order to pursue a lifelong dream to work with animals (no snide remarks about the employees of COMC).  We know she’ll embrace this new opportunity with the passion and commitment she brought to her position here.  Bon chance, Heather!”

While she’s certainly put in the time, effort and tenure, she confesses that some of her fondest moments at COMC are participating in holiday activities and company picnics with the rest of the team. One of Heather’s final contributions to COMC was the idea of having a ‘snowball fight’ (dodge ball) during our annual White Elephant Gift Exchange get together. Going forward, the snowball fight will be a yearly tradition appropriately named the “Heather Hollander Winter Invitational Snowball Fight” .

The COMC Team certainly has an abundance of pet owners, perhaps no one is more passionate about animals than Heather. Several times over the years she’s cared for small birds that flew into our office windows until they were able to fly on their own again. That’s why we know she is going to be amazing in her new role as a Assistant Groomer and Dog Bather at a local PetSmart Salon.

“I’d like to thank Tim and Julia for hiring me, and also my dad (Steve Hollander) for recommending me to them in the first placeI want to thank my manager Jim Osborn for all of his trust and encouragement. Whenever I was having a bad day, Steve Walker always had my back and would go out of his way to make my day better. I am so grateful to COMC for all of the opportunity and support you’ve given me over the past 11 years. While I am eager to pursue this new opportunity, I think I will always consider myself as part of the COMC family.”

On behalf of all of us here at COMC, we want to offer our very best to Heather and Brandon as they move forward on their journeys. For their hard work, persistence and contributions over the years, they will forever be a part of COMC. Thank you so very much for making us better. .

20 Rookies to Watch in 2018-19 Panini Prizm Basketball

Arguably the most anticipated basketball release of each calendar year over the last several years has been Panini Prizm Basketball. Panini’s stranglehold over the NBA trading card landscape over the last ten years thanks to an exclusive agreement with the NBA has resulted in the disappearance of once established key rookie sets like the Topps Chrome Refractor and Ultimate Collection Rookie Materials Autographs. In their place rose the new heirs to the throne such as the National Treasures Rookie Patch Auto and the Panini Prizm Silver Prizm.

Silver Prizms and their respective lower numbered parallels are the beck and call of NBA basketball collectors and speculators. We’ve seen meteoric rises of Silver Prizms of some of the game’s newest established stars in recent years. Jayson Tatum silvers were all the rage in 2017-18, while Ben Simmons set new heights in 2016-17. Kristaps Porzingis won collector’s hearts in 2015-16 Prizm, while others waited on Joel Embiid in 2014-15 Prizm. While Giannis Antetokounmpo proved everyone wrong when his 2013-14 Prizm skyrocketed, we can’t forget that the 2012-13 inaugural Prizm set featured a strong crop of rookies including Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, and Kyrie Irving among others.

So now here we are in 2019 and the 2018-19 Panini Prizm market is truly starting to take form. There’s no doubt you’ve probably heard the names of the top rookies all making waves in the NBA this season. But what about the rest? That’s why we’ve got you covered with our list of 20 rookies to watch in 2018-19 Panini Prizm Basketball

Head of the Class

 

  1. Luka Doncic – Doncic established himself internationally before making the leap to the NBA and has not disappointed. Averaging nearly 20 points a game this season, his meteoric rise can be attributed not only to his stellar on-court performance, but also his charisma and personality. He has all the makings of an NBA Superstar and is easily the Rookie of the Year up to this point.
  2. Deandre Ayton –  The first overall pick of the 2018 NBA Draft has lived up to the hype, with the big man posting over 16 points and 10 rebounds per game. The Phoenix Suns might be having a rough go at it this season, but a strong young core will eventually tip the scales the other direction.
  3. Trae Young –  The Atlanta Hawks Point Guard came out of the gate strong before cooling down, but still owns an impressive 15+ points and seven assists per game stat line.
  4. Kevin Knox – Thrust into the scrutiny of the Madison Square Garden faithful, Knox has delivered, posting over 12 points per game with a 35% 3-point percentage. A big market only means big potential for the 19 year old.
  5. Jaren Jackson Jr. – The fourth overall pick rose his stock tremendously with a 36 point performance back in November, and has elevated his game ever since.
  6. Marvin Bagley III – Prior to sustaining an injury, we loved the direction the Kings PF was headed in. That brief scope of work was enough to nudge him ahead of our #7

Rounding out the Top 12…

 

7. Michael Porter Jr. – Speculation is building on Porter, who missed the majority of the 2017-18 season at Missouri and has yet to play in an NBA game. With no timetable for his return, the five star recruit out of high school doesn’t have the stat lines to back it up, but that hasn’t stopped his Silver Prizm from reaching the $50+ mark.
8. Collin Sexton – Sexton suffers the misfortune of playing for a post-Lebron Cleveland Cavaliers team, but he has performed impressively so far, posting almost 15 points per game.
9. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – The Canadian Point Guard from ‘The 6’ has wasted no time getting acclimated to the west coast. Strong defense and the ability to score earns him a well deserved spot in our top 10.
10. Rodions Kurucs – The Latvian small forward has come on strong as of late, and has played well in limited time this season. He’s posted 24 points twice this season, earning him recognition among collectors and speculators.
11. Lonnie Walker IV – Suffering a torn meniscus in preseason was a setback, but the Spurs love what they see in the shooting guard from the University of Miami. Recently posted a 34 point performance in G-League action.
12. Mo Bamba – The Orlando Magic big man has posted decent numbers in his rookie campaign, logging 1.4 blocks per game so far. It also doesn’t hurt that a friendship with a popular rapper has resulted in off-court attention for Mo.

Don’t Sleep on These Guys..

 

13. Wendell Carter Jr. – Carter has shown flashes of brilliance mixed with inconsistency under center for the Chicago Bulls. Still, a 28 point performance is noteworthy enough to find his way into our favorite sleeper pick.
14. Miles Bridges – The 12th overall pick of the draft finds his way into #14 on our list as a strong sleeper pick. The versatile small forward has all the athleticism to either erupt into a play maker or carve our a niche as a solid role player.
15. Allonzo Trier – The Knicks shooting guard has garnered attention coming off of the bench, warranting play time as the Knicks look to get young. Suffered a small set back with a hamstring injury a few weeks back.
15.  Robert Williams III – Drew attention with two blocks on Anthony Davis in a game back in December.  Strong flashes of defense and playing for a large market earns him considerations for our list.
17. Mikal Bridges – Playing along side Deandre Ayton, the small forward from Villanova has performed commendably, posting nearly eight points per game.
18. Anfernee Simons – He has displayed phenomenal talent at the preps, and has the athleticism to boot, but has yet do anything of importance at the NBA level during his rookie campaign. Still, we have the optimism and Pacific Northwest bias to land Simons a spot on this list.
19. Kostas Antetokounmpo – The last name alone is going to draw him attention and speculation. The younger brother of Giannis was the 60th overall pick of the 2018 draft by the Philadelphia 76ers and then traded to the Dallas Mavericks. Let’s be honest, we all know what Giannis did, emerging from the ashes of mediocre stat lines to become a mega star.
20. Josh Okogie – Quickly becoming a T’Wolves fan favorite, Okogie has split time between starting and coming off the bench. We like the shooting guard’s potential.

One of the things we enjoy about these lists involving sleepers is that no one seems to want to tell us if they disagree for the sake of not drawing attention to the prospect they’re stashing! There are 53 rookies total in the 2018-19 Prizm base set, meaning 33 did not make the cut here. Who else deserves consideration? Let us know in the comments below!