Sunday, November 21, 2010

Artist Danielle Soloud

As I've mentioned before, about a year and a half ago I was introduced to the hobby of collecting sketch cards. That introduction and subsequent increase in interest on my part in the hobby led me to coming across a wide array of artists I otherwise would never have learned about. One of the first artists I came across was Danielle Soloud.

Upon visiting her website (, I was hooked. Danielle has this adorable style but is not shy about drawing the pinup. As a matter of fact, I believe the pinups she does are actually some of the better examples of her work.

Once I noticed on her website that she had a Twitter account, I began following her. She doesn't post a lot, but often she will update her followers on what she is working on. Lately, she's been talking about old video games she found in a closet after not seeing them for quite some time. And she posts most often in late night or early morning. Seems she is a nightowl.

But I love her art. And I once I told her so. We communicated some via Twitter. She was very nice and I decided instead of just admiring her work, I should own some. On her website she had a few larger pieces (much larger than sketch cards), one of which was a nice color sketch of Catwoman. I am a huge fan of Batman and his rogue's gallery, and Catwoman is at the top of that list. She was offering the piece at what I considered a considerably inexpensive rate, so I snatched it up.

Catwoman - by Danielle Soloud
Catwoman by Danielle Soloud

When I received the package in the mail, I was pleasantly surprised to see this on the back of the mailing envelope:

Catwoman envelope sketch - by Danielle Soloud
Catwoman envelope sketch by Danielle Soloud

Over the course of 2010, I've collected a few more Danielle Soloud pieces.

5finity Mixtape Hula Girl sketch card - by Danielle Soloud
5finity Mixtape Hula Girl by Danielle Soloud

This piece was pulled from a pack of 5finity's Mixtape sketch card series. I had ordered one pack and was very fortunate to pull this. Even better was that I had seen Danielle ink and color the sketch on her ustream artcast. I was fortunate enough to snag another Mixtape sketch Danielle did. This time it was a female vampire that she had received back as an Artist Exclusive sketch, so I made the purchase from Danielle directly.

5finity Mixtape Vampire Artist Exclusive sketch card - by Danielle Soloud
5finity Mixtape Artist Exclusive Vampire by Danielle Soloud

And again, there was a nice surprise on the mailing envelope.

Vampire envelope sketch - by Danielle Soloud
Vampire envelope sketch by Danielle Soloud

I had purchased this card during the summer around the time that Danielle was set to release her first sketchbook called Va Va Boom volume one. Included in this package was copy #2 of 200 that included another catwoman sketch on the inside front cover:

Catwoman sketchbook - by Danielle Soloud
Catwoman sketchbook sketch by Danielle Soloud

Having purchased a few sketches that had already been done, I decided that I wanted to commission Danielle to draw something of my choosing. I debated some of the Batman characters I loved so much, including Harley Quinn, Huntress, Batgirl, etc. But I decided to go a different route. One night during one of Danielle's artcasts, she was listening to 80s music and a Joan Jett tune had come on. We briefly talked about Joan, and it was from this conversation that I decided to ask Danielle to sketch her. And I have to say, when I received the final sketch, I was blown away. She had exceeded any expectation I had held. Look for yourself:

Joan Jett - by Danielle Soloud
Joan Jett by Danielle Soloud

And, as I had become accustomed to, I received another sketch on the envelope:

Joan Jett envelope sketch - by Danielle Soloud
Joan Jett envelope sketch by Danielle Soloud

Lastly, but not leastly, Danielle also is the writer/artist on her own webcomic, Life with Death. It's the story of a the daughter of the Grim Reaper who has reached the age where she must begin to learn the family trade. It's a definite must read.

In preparation for this post, I decided to ask Danielle some questions to get a better idea who she is and what she's like. Here is what I learned:

1.) What got you into drawing?
I've been drawing as long as I can remember. I'm very lucky to have parents who are supportive of the arts.

2.) You mentioned that at one point in your life you moved from drawing to become a DJ. Why did you do that, and what brought you back to art?
Drawing just fell by the wayside as I spent all my time focusing on music. Although I did learn Photoshop in that time and a bit of graphic design for flyers and such. I decided to pursue art as a career only a couple years ago when I was unhappy with my life and decided to change it.

3.) How were you trained - school, self-taught, mentor, some divine gift? :-)
Ha! Although artists do have to have some degree of talent, it definitely needs to be nurtured. I'm mostly self-taught. When I was in elementary school I would try to draw like the cartoons I watched and video games I played. In middle school I got into anime and comic books and began to study them. About two years ago I did enroll into community college with the intent of transferring to an art school. I took all of my foundation courses and one day while sitting in math class thought to myself, "I should be drawing right now." Ultimately I decided against art school because I didn't think it was for me.

4.) Who do you look to for inspiration - in art? In life?
I try to be open to let anything and everything inspire me. A big inspiration for me though are movies.

5.) What was the first piece you were paid for?
I believe the first professional project I worked on was for Breygent. I wish I could say it was when I was in middle school and a kid asked me to draw a naked woman for him and he would pay me. I think I missed out on a huge financial opportunity there.

6.) Besides art, what are your interests? What do you like to do for fun? Favorite movie? Favorite TV show? Favorite musician/music? Favorite book? Favorite food?
My interests are movies, art, animation, comics, and video games pretty much. I adore movies so much that giving a favorite is a horribly tough question to answer! But I'd probably say Beetlejuice is if I had to absolutely pin down one. My current top favorite TV shows are It's Always Sunny in PhiladelphiaTrue Blood. Favorite band is AC/DC and my favorite music I listen to most would be surf rock, rockabilly, classic rock, electro and 80's, which is also what I listen to when I'm drawing. Music is definitely a huge inspiration. My favorite books are American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. And finally, the one thing I don't have to think twice about when it comes to favorites is my favorite food... BUFFALO WINGS!

7.) I think I also remember you saying that you are able to make a living solely on your art - at what point in your life were you able to do that and how did it feel to know that you could?
It's still a struggle and that's the risk you take when you decide to pursue art. I don't have a lot of overhead so it's not that hard for me right now. I'm also lucky to be blessed with a supportive and helpful family.

8.) I know you've done some work for Breygent and 5finity. How did you get involved with them? Have you been part of any other sketch card sets? Are there any you'd really like to be a part of or other companies you'd like to work with?
I found out about Breygent and 5finity from the Scoundrel forums, both of which I sent samples to and they liked them enough to give me work. I've also recently started work with Versicolor on their Bettie Page set, which I'm really looking forward to!

9.) Like many other artists, you've started a ustream video channel for live artcasts - do you think this affects your process at all? Does it help? It's great for fans and fellow artists to be able to talk to you during the process, is the benefit mutual?
It does affect my process in a few ways that is both positive and negative. It's positive because you can get instant feed back and you're bringing people into your process which can be interesting. It forces me to sit there and finish a piece from start to finish since I'm broadcasting I can't just get up and start watching TV or something. Also, it's fun to have people to hang out with and chat while working. Although the downside is I take longer to do what I'm doing with the looking up at the screen and chatting (I work slower when I'm talking). Also with the camera set up I have it's sometimes awkward. Overall I think it's a great thing to do!

10.) What were you like as a child? Are you originally from orlando?
I think I was a lot like I am now. I was very chatty and always drawing and coming up with stories. I got in trouble often for disturbing other students as I would finish my work fast so I could chat with them. Yes, I am from Orlando - born and raised.

11.) What is your favorite thing in the whole world?
This was probably the most difficult question you've asked... I guess I would say my computer for now!

12.) What was the worst job you ever had?
Telemarketer for time-shares by far.

13.) What advice would you give a person wanting to become an artist?
Draw constantly and then draw some more. Be determined, don't give up, have thick-skin and accept criticism - don't take it personally. Be willing to show your art to others and post it on the internet for others to see and provide feedback. Also, I can't recommend the book Art & Fear by David Bayles & Ted Orlando enough. I'd say it's just about absolutely necessary to read.

14.) What is your favorite thing to draw? You previously told me "girls!", but do you have something more specific? :-)
It IS girls! I love drawing curves. (note: if you view her portfolio on her website, you'll see that she does, indeed, love drawing girls. And she is very, VERY good at it.)

15.) What's the story behind your last name? I mean, it's not your given name, right?
No, "Soloud" is not actually my last name. It comes from when I was a DJ. Originally I spun under the name 'DJ Sunny D" but came to find out there were about three other people who also used that name. So I changed it to 'Danielle Soloud', which makes a lot more sense when you're a DJ! Many people got used to that and already knew me as that name so when I started drawing again I just kept using it!

So, check out Danielle's website and commission her for some work. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Hack/Slash (5finity) - Pack Breaks

I've said before how much I really like the products 5finity produces, and when I had heard they would be producing a set based on the comic book Hack/Slash, I was very excited. And that was a set I was really looking forward to.

The series promised at least one sketch per pack with 1,750 packs produced.


Last week, I received 10 packs and the results did NOT let me down. This is by far the best I've done with any product purchased for the sketch cards. The number by each artist's name is the number of sketches that particular artist did for the set.

Brent Schoonover - 20
Unknown Artist
Unknown Artist
Scott D.M. Simmons - 40
Nathan Stockman - 25
Luis Diaz - 40
Lak Lim - 40
Kelly Everaert - 4 (Rare)
Jon Riggle - 40
Amber Shelton - 16

The best part of my pulls was that I received art from 10 artists whose art I did not already own. And while my favorite is the Jon Riggle sketch, I was very excited to get a Kelly Everaert because of its scarcity.

Along with the Everaert Rare card, I also received a double-sketch pack. Included on one pack with the Hack/Slash sketch was a sketch from the Honey West set, a set that I had missed out on upon its release. And it is a very beautiful card.

Paul Allen Ballard

Next up for 5finity is Lady Death...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Dexter Season 3 Preview (Breygent Marketing)

I previously talked about how I got back into the hobby of non-sport trading cards (part 1 | part 2), but what I have to talk about is my one true regret in my return to the hobby.

Last summer, after the joys of the Veronica Mars, Dexter Season 1 & 2, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince sets, I was convinced by my nephew to return to Mid-Ohio Con for a second-consecutive year. We had not been planning to go again; I had been spending money on the cards. But he talked me into it by convincing me that we could drive up and back in one day. Mid-Ohio Con is not a huge show and one day is enough time to see everything, although the opportunity for commissioning art was reduced. So, I agreed. But I needed cash. And because I had just gotten back into the hobby, I wasn't fully committed to it yet (and certainly not as much as I am now). As a result, I thought I knew where I could get some capital for the trip: sell those cards.

And that's what I did. I sold all the cards I had from those three sets. That was my biggest regret in the hobby by far, especially since I had pulled a Michael C. Hall autograph from the first box of Dexter cards I had purchased. But that money went to me having a great weekend with my nephew, and I found some crazy deals on trade paperbacks and graphic novels.

I still wish I had those cards, though.

So, I was very, very excited to hear that Breygent Marketing would be producing a set for Dexter Season 3. Then the images started to appear of cards that would be included in the SDCC Mystery Packs sold at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con. I was impressed. With a small sample of cards produced for those packs, I thought Breygent had exceeded what they had done with the previous set. I purchased a few of these packs and pulled a number of Dexter cards. Not all of the ones available, mind you, but a nice share of them, including a Jimmy Smits autograph.

Then I saw the cards that would be inserted in the Season 3 set. And my interest went beyond excitement.

Once one of my favorite dealers made them available, I ordered a case. I couldn't help it. I knew if I didn't, I would regret it. And I was done with regrets concerning Dexter cards. According to Tom at Breygent, there will be 3 hits per box, which could be sketch, prop, costume and/or autograph cards. The details:

72 Card Base Set

Trivia Chase Set
Quotes Chase Set
Puzzle Chase Set

29 Costume cards

  • 27 Dual Costume cards
  • 1 Quad Costume card
  • 1 Eight Piece costume card

11 prop cards
9 Autograph cards

  • Michael C. Hall
  • Jennifer Carpenter
  • James Remar
  • Jimmy Smits
  • And others TBA

2 Metallogloss case cards
1 Sketch card per case

Sketch artists

  • Tim Shay
  • Brian Kong
  • Len Bellinger
  • Jason Carrier
  • David Desbois
  • Steven Miller
  • Trev Murphy

1 2-Case Incentive 7-Swatch Costume Card

Case is 12 boxes at 24 packs per box
3 hits per box ONLY 250 CASES BEING MADE

So, there will be 36 hits per case. Tom posted images of the cards over on the Non-Sport Update Magazine Card Talk Forum. There are 29 costume cards: 23 are dual costumes of the same character, 4 are dual costumes of different characters, 1 is an 8-swatch costume card of 8 different characters and 1 is a quad costume of 4 different characters. There are 11 prop cards and 9 autograph cards. There are 3 autograph-only cards (Michael C. Hall, Jimmy Smits and James Remar). There is 1 dual autograph-only card (Michael C. Hall and Jimmy Smits). And there are 5 autographed costume cards (Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, Lauren Velez, C.S. Lee and Desmond Harrington).

With 36 hits per case, it is not unreasonable to think that (barring doubles) one could be well on their way to a master set in one case. But it is not possible to get one in a single case. As a result, I'm tempted to order a second case to increase my chances, but I may have to just wait and pick them up through purchases and trades. However, no matter how, I am determined for this to be my first master set.

These cards are beautiful and Breygent is raising the bar with the multiple-swatch costume cards. I am sure there is no way I'm going to be disappointed in this set, but I can't deny that I am extremely anxious to get my case. With teases that it would be coming throughout the year, it finally is set to release on October 28. My plea to Tom at Breygent: please don't delay it again...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Rippin' and Flippin' / Packs vs. Boxes

There is an interesting conversation happening in the non-sport trading card community concerning a new trend toward companies selling trading card packs with guaranteed hits (inclusion of premium insert cards) versus selling boxes with the same guarantees. For more in this, check out the forum over at Non-Sport Update Magazine's message board CardTalk.

While I definitely want to touch on this topic, I think I should spend a few moments on the practice of "ripping and flipping," a phrase I only learned recently. "Ripping and flipping" refers to the practice of opening lots and lots of product and then turning around and selling the individual cards, preferably for a premium over what was paid for the original product. It's comparable to buying an old house, fixing it up and then selling it for more than you paid. And any search on e-Bay for non-sport cards (and sport cards, I'm sure) issued in the past few years or so will give evidence that this is done a lot. Frankly, I have to admit I sort of did this last summer when I opened a lot of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Dexter boxes before selling them all off a month or so later, but the difference there was that I was raising funds to attend Mid-Ohio Con. And now I regret getting rid of those cards.

After that convention, my interest in non-sport cards increased and since then I have opened quite a bit of different products. I need to digress a bit to say, when I was a kid, I collected lots of different cards (all of which I unfortunately don't have any more) from Pac-Man to Star Wars. But back then (late '70s, early 80s) there were not many (if any) incentives to purchase these cards other than for the sake of collecting the base sets. And it was a lot of fun to meet with friends so I could get rid of my doubles in exchange for the cards I didn't have. Of course, there was no Internet then, either, so I relied on this group of friends for filling out sets.

However, it seems the non-sport products have moved well beyond focusing on base sets. Now it's as if a set must almost guarantee autographs, sketch cards, costume and prop cards, and other incentives to drum up interest. I have no doubt this is why many, many collectors are buying these products - for the premiums. I'd be lying if I said that wasn't mostly true for me. I really dig autos, but I love costumes/props and sketches more than the base cards. And while many companies are doing this, a few are doing it much better than others.

Ripping and Flipping

Because the premium inserts are what collectors seem to be going after the most and certain inserts are in greater quantity than others, dealers and collectors alike learned they could open a lot of product, pluck out the best inserts, resell them on e-Bay and make a higher profit than what they would have made had they simply sold the product unopened.

When I got into the hobby in 2009, it didn't take me long to see how this was working. Again, search e-Bay, and you'll see what I'm talking about. But I get it. I do. There are, however, a couple of reasons I have a problem with it.
  1. It takes some of the fun out of collecting. I like the gamble of opening a product not knowing what I'm going to get. Say that I know there is a chance, however small, that in the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince product I can get a card autographed by Harry himself, Daniel Radcliffe. If I really, really want that card, I can definitely find one on e-Bay, but I better be prepared to pay top dollar, sometimes almost as much as a whole case. If that's the only card I want out of the set, then paying that price for it may not be a problem. For me, though, I have enough interest in the other premium inserts that I'd rather buy multiple boxes with the probability of getting a couple of autographs, costumes and props, and a base set, than throwing all my money into a single card. And the gamble might pay off with pulling a top auto myself, though that chance is diminished because some of those cards have already been pulled and immediately placed on e-Bay. By "ripping and flipping," these folks are reducing my chances thus reducing some of my fun.
  2. It reduces the amount of unopened product available for me to purchase. Yes, I know, there are usually more than enough dealers selling more than enough product for everyone interested. The manufacturer may sell out, but you can normally find someone with some of it for sale. Sometimes, though, the product is so limited that no unopened product is available. An example of this phenomenon is 5finity. This company began selling packs with at least one sketch card per pack guaranteed. It contained no base cards, just the sketch. For those of us who like sketch cards, this was great, especially because packs were priced far below the cost of what a box of cards runs. When they were released, 5finity's packs for The Pro were nearly impossible to find (luckily, I had preordered a few packs from a dealer), but not a week later, a large number of the sketches found their way onto e-Bay, mostly priced above the pack price and often priced much, much higher. As of today (August 11, 2010), there are more than 150 listings for The Pro sketch cards, out of an original run of just 800 packs. Instead of sitting on all of these sketches that they may never sell or may sit on for a long time, these folks could have made money by selling me and others some of the packs unopened for suggested retail.
Obviously, it also provides benefits for the collector.
  1. It helps fill out hard to complete insert sets. When I was a kid, I often could get the cards I needed from friends. Nowadays, most of my friends don't collect, so I have to seek out other opportunities for securing the cards I need/want. The Internet has been a great help in this. The Non-Sport Update Magazine's forum Card Talk offers a trading area where non-sport collectors can seek out others to help fill holes in a set. I recently used it for the first time with fabulous success. And of course, folks who are "ripping and flipping" to sell on e-Bay are providing a service. Say I need a particular prop card to complete my master set or I just think it is so cool that I want it for my collection. Thanks to card company information or other collectors, I know there were only 200 made of this particular card. If the product is limited to 3000 boxes (300 10-box cases), I don't have a great chance of getting that card simply by purchasing unopened product. However, Non-Sport Dealer pulled one (thanks to him/her opening multiple cases) and has put it on e-Bay. If I really, really want it, I might be willing to pay the price he/she is asking, and thus able to complete my set.
  2. If you're just a base set collector, there's no cheaper way to collect. When folks "rip and flip" boxes/cases of cards for the premiums, they are left with the excess base cards. Depending on the size of the base set, you often can get around 2 base sets from a box. Say a base set is 60 cards. If there are 24 packs per box with 7 cards per pack, a box will roughly yield about 140 base cards. If a case has 10 boxes (some companies provide 12 per case, some provide only 8), the yield will be about 1,400 cards which could feasibly produce 23 base sets. If a dealer opens more than one case, well... you see what I'm getting at - tons of base sets. Since they are "ripping and flipping" to make profit off the premium card, they can offer those base sets for bargain-basement prices. I have seen many a set for less than $5 each. If that's all you, as the collector, want, then there is really no cheaper way to get it. Much better than buying a box for $60 just to get a set of 60 cards.

Packs vs. Boxes

The first pack I recall that guaranteed a premium card was Razor's Ink autograph line. When Inkworks folded, Razor scooped up much of their inventory of leftover autographed cards from their many television and movie product lines. Razor then packaged many of these autographed in sturdy card holders, with one per pack and 5 packs per box. That's it. By buying a box, you were guaranteed 5 authentic autographed cards, and at around $80 a box, that put the purchase price per auto at $16 each. Not bad for a guaranteed autographed card, especially if you are an autograph collector. However, Razor glutted the market with two more subsequent products that included autographs and now many (most?) of these autos do not sell for that original $16 price. Of course, that a different story for another day.

As mentioned, 5finity helped get the sketch pack concept rolling. By buying a sketch pack, a collector is guaranteed one sketch card, typically ranging in price from $20-$30 retail. There are no other cards. None. And you aren't paying for bunches of extra cards, like you would by purchasing a box of say, Marvel 70th from Rittenhouse. (I dug these cards, by the way. This is not a knock on Rittenhouse.) From that box or multiple boxes, you would have lots and lots of base cards, maybe a complete set of the 1 or 2 insert sets and a sketch from each box, which you paid $50-$70 per box.

Other companies have gotten into the sketch-per pack game (Sadlittles and Breygent, to name a couple), but it is Breygent who is taking it a step further and becoming a game-changer in the world of non-sport trading cards, all the while creating some interesting conversation within the non-sport community. As mentioned above, there is a thread devoted to the topic on the Non-Sport Update forum CardTalk, and trading card blogger Ryan Cracknell (aka @tradercracks on Twitter) posted about this very topic a few days ago.

Earlier this year, Breygent entered the sketch-pack fold with two sets: Golden Age of Comics and Cartoon Sketch. Each pack, available around the $20-$30 price-point, guaranteed one sketch card. But what Breygent did that 5finity did not was provide a little extra. Each pack of both sets included one promo card for the set. The Cartoon Sketch packs included a "metallogloss" card, a thick card with a glossy coating. The card itself is a reproduction of one of the sketch cards found in the set. There were 13 "metallogloss" cards and 9 different promos to collect. The Golden Age of Comics packs included a regular base card instead of a "metallogloss" card, but it, too, was a reproduction of a sketch card in the set. This base set was made up of 40 cards.

So, what we are seeing here (besides the fact that you receive a premium card in every pack) is that in order to make a base set, a collector must do one of three things:
  1. buy at least 40 packs
  2. buy a smaller number of packs and trade for the handful of base cards needed to complete the set
  3. buy a couple of packs and try to find a complete base set on e-Bay (or some other site)
More importantly, the base set becomes more collectible and worth something, which, in my opinion (though I'm not necessarily a base-set collector) is good for the hobby. I'm sure others disagree.

Breygent also isn't settling for just sketch cards as premiums. They have announced two future sets that will include other premiums like autographs, costumes/props and film cells. Now available is a pack-only product based on the film Paranormal Activity. Each pack will contain 9 cards:
  • 2 autograph, costume or film cell cards
  • 5 base cards (from a set of 50)
  • 1 Portents of Evil chase card (set of 9)
  • 1 David Desbois Puzzle card (set of 9)
Also appearing in a pack format will be a set based on the television show The Tudors

Again, base sets are going to be difficult to come by (one of which is listed on e-Bay today for $22.50, much more than what base sets from box products go for). But doesn't that bring the trading back into trading cards?

I have to admit, I really love this concept. I don't need nor necessarily desire base sets. For some properties they interest me (Dexter, Harry Potter) and for some they don't (Batman Archives, Paranormal Activity). While I wouldn't buy a box of Paranormal Activity cards, I just might plunk down some change for a couple packs of them. Yet, while I will most definitely invest in multiple boxes of Dexter and Harry Potter, I certainly wouldn't be adverse to buying those in the pack format as well. And as a collector, I would be open to buying multiple packs of those.

It has been discussed that by going to pack-only product, manufacturers could save money in production costs by printing significantly fewer base cards (which also, some say, would be a greener way to go, as well). This money could be funneled back in to making the premium cards better somehow (surely the sky's the limit in that regard). But what does it really mean financially for the collector?

Let's take the latest product from Artbox Entertainment, Harry Potter: Heroes and Villains. On average, a box contains 2 premium hits (there are 19 per case) which could be autographs, costume cards (some dual costumes) or props. Also included in a box is 1 box topper card and each case includes one case topper card. In the past, the box and case toppers have been metal cards, widevision lenticular cards, wooden cards and crystal engraved cards. So, let's count the case topper as another premium card, since with only 3000 boxes produced there are only 300 cases (10 boxes per case) and thus only 300 case toppers divided by 3 different case toppers, so probably just 100 of each different one. That makes 20 premiums per case.

If I buy a case, I will spend between $500 and $600 (depending on the vendor), so let's say $550. Looking at just the premium cards I should receive from this box, I will pay around $27.50 per card. If I factor in say 1 base set per box at a value of $5 per set for $50 and two box topper sets at $10 per set for $20, then I will be paying $24 for each premium card.

This is about what I will pay for any of the pack-only products now available, and the Paranormal Activity product is giving me 2 hits per pack, which means I'm only paying about $12-$15 per premium card. It is apparent that these pack-only products have exceptional value without all the excess.

For the dealer, it provides exceptional value, too. One dealer posted on CardTalk that it would benefit him because with the lower price point he can have more volume.

Another issue being brought up is packaging. Often a prop card can be thicker/heavier than an autograph or costume card and thus unscrupulous folks can search through packs this way before selling if the packaging is just a simple envelope or normal pack wrap. Of course this is still a young development, so things could change, but I think that there could be some type of packaging like a small box not much larger than a normal pack that would not allow anyone the ability to gauge the thickness of the enclosed card(s) and handpick. That doesn't really solve the problem of weight differences, but maybe it would just come down to buying from a reputable dealer, which we all should be doing anyway. I believe packaging will be something we see change over time.

Now What?

So what does this all mean for the hobby? I think it means great, great things. It's just another innovative way to get the cards that collector's want into their hands while making base sets more collectible. I think it enhances the fun for the collector to know that when s/he opens that pack it will contain a premium card and it will cost him/her no more than or less than the same cards obtained through the purchase of boxes or cases. I also think it allows manufacturers to focus on the cards collectors really want and thus provide them with better quality premium cards.

In my mind, it's a win-win situation. And I like it.

Monday, August 2, 2010

San Diego Comic-Con Mystery (Breygent Marketing) - Pack Breaks

When I first learned of the special Mystery Packs being planned for San Diego Comic-Con by Breygent Marketing, I knew I had to get my hand on these packs. At first it was unclear how available these would be, but before SDCC, Tom at Breygent assured collectors that the packs also would be made available after SDCC.

Breygent had already seen some success with their Cartoon and Golden Age of Comics Sketch Packs, and now they were moving into the television and movie arena with pack-only sales. (Please check back to this blog for a future post about pack-only versus box trading card sales.)

My interest mainly lay in the inclusion of Dexter Season 3 trading cards into the set. So, in the hopes I would be lucky enough to snag one or more, I purchased three of the regular 3.5"x2.5"-sized packs. But as you are probably aware if you have been reading this blog, I also am an art fan and love the sketch cards. So, I decided to take a shot on one 5"x7" sketch pack.

Collectors were told that the sketch packs would include one sketch from the following possible sets: Cartoon Sketch, Golden Age of Comics, Sci-fi Horror Posters and Woodstock Generation Rock Poster cards. Truth-be-told, I was really hoping for a Sci-fi Horror Poster sketch. I'm a movie buff, have taken some screenwriting/film production classes, write scripts as often as I can and work part-time in a movie theatre so I can see as many films as possible for free. I even have an ever-growing collection of movie posters. So, you can see my interest in that particular set.

When I received the packs, I could tell right away that I had one metallo-gloss card in the Mystery Packs, as these are noticably thicker and heavier than the other cards. Because the Mystery Packs held the greatest possible reward (in my opinion), I decided to open the 5"x7" sketch pack first.

Breygent Marketing 5"x7" Mystery Sketch Pack

Truthfully, I've yet to be disappointed by a sketch from a Breygent product (unlike other companies). And this card left me feeling no different. In the pack was one sketch card in a sturdy top-loader and one promo card for an upcoming set. I received this beauty by Tim Shay, who has done a number of cards for other Breygent products. I have never heard of the film The Green Slime, but the image looks so crazy, I might have to check it out. Also included was a promo card, showing the movie poster for Night of the Living Dead.

Sci-fi Poster Series sketch by Tim Shay
Sci-fi/Horror Poster Series Promo Card

Next up were the Comic-Con Mystery Packs.

Breygent Marketing San Diego Comic-Con Mystery Pack
I knew that the metallo-gloss card was probably a costume card from one of the television series or movies included in the product, I decided to open the thicker/heavier pack first. When I pulled it out of the pack, I saw the promo for Dexter Season 3 first, so I knew the card was one of the Dexter ones. So far, two out of two. The card itself was #D3, a piece of wardrobe worn by Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan. Because these cards are much thicker and heavier, I thought the square through which the cloth is visible would be covered in the same covering of the remainder of the card; however, Breygent did the best thing by having that square uncovered so the fabric is open to the touch.

Dexter Season 3 Promo Card
Dexter Season 3 SDCC Metallo-gloss Costume Card

With two packs left, there were no noticeable differences so I just opened one at random. For the past few months I have begun collecting art that I commission from artists I talk to on Twitter and others whose work I admire. Beck Kramer has become one of my favorite artists, but I have yet to commission her for whatever reasons. However, I can't wait to own a piece of art she does especially for me. Because of this I was mightily surprised when, after pulling the card out of the pack and setting the below promo card to the side, I saw her name written on the back of a sketch card from the Cartoon series. On the other side was an adorable sketch of Casper the Friendly Ghost.

Cartoon Sketch Series Promo Card
Cartoon Sketch Series Casper the Friendly Ghost Sketch
by Beck Kramer

Three packs in and I had received a great Sci-fi poster sketch, a Dexter costume card and a Cartoon sketch from one of my favorite artists. I figured the fourth and final pack, another regular-sized Mystery pack, would probably be a dud (although, seeing what is being pulled from these packs makes it difficult to think there are any duds). So, I opened it up and pulled out the cards, seeing first another promo for Dexter. At this point, it didn't matter what the card was, I was four-for-four since the Dexter cards were the ones I was truly interested in. When I flipped it over, this is what I saw:

Dexter Season 3 SDCC Jimmy Smits Autograph Card
Really, there is only one Dexter card in this set better than the Jimmy Smits autograph card, and that is the Michael C. Hall autograph card. I was very excited with this pull; well, I was very excited about all the pulls.

Another thing worth noting is the identification of the packs and cards as being SDCC cards. The Mystery Packs have the SDCC logo on the front, while the 5"x7" sketch pack does not. The Jimmy Smits autograph card has the SDCC logo printed on the back of the card, but the metallo-gloss, the Cartoon sketch and the Sci-fi sketch do not. I believe that the metallo-gloss Dexter cards are going to be limited to the SDCC packs, so there should be no confusion there; however, the two sketch cards may not be limited to the SDCC packs. Because the sketch cards are possibly ones that were to be included in their respective sets, they did not have the SDCC printed on them. But they did have a small logo sticker applied to the back. Here is a scan of the one that was on the back of the Cartoon sketch card and is just like the one on the back of the Sci-fi sketch card:

SDCC logo sticker
I had really, really hoped that I would get my hands on some of these packs, and once I did, Breygent did not let me down. I am so pleased with these cards, I have ordered some more that should get here this week. Breygent is doing right by the collecter with these new pack-only sets and are coming up with some very innovative cards, as well.

Can't wait to get the next batch of packs.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Pro (5finity) - Pack Breaks

I first came across 5finity's sketch card-only packs last year when they issued the March of Dimes Archie series. I purchased a couple of those packs and liked what I saw. Now a year later, 5finity's sets continue to get better and better. And The Pro series is not any different. This set is based on the comic series by Garth Ennis, Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti and Paul Mounts. The comic tells the story of a prostitute who is given superpowers and is recruited by a superhero group called the League of Honor. I had read the comic not long before these cards came out. It was vulgar, outrageous and over-the-top, but hilarious. And certainly not for everyone.

I originally ordered two packs from an online dealer I found, one of only a couple I know of who will sell the packs unopened. It seems most dealers who purchase these cards like to "rip and flip" (I will blog on this technique in a future post): buy a bunch of packs and then post them on eBay to sell at a much higher profit than by selling the packs themselves unopened. I really like the gamble and surprise of opening the pack and seeing what I get.

The packs contain at least one sketch card with the chance to get special packs that could contain rare artist sketches, hot packs with more than one sketch, and sketches by creators Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti. There were 800 individually serial-numbered packs in the set. Each sketch card also comes in an Ultra-Pro toploader sleeve.


The first pack I opened contained a sketch by C.H. Miles of the character The Saint. It is a recreation of a panel in the comic in which The Saint is flying next to an airplane on the verge of crashing. And yes, his pants are down in the image.


The other pack included a fabulous sketch of the character The Lady by Scott Rorie.


I was pleased with both of these sketches, and they were two of the best I had received from 5finity products. But I have to admit that I wanted a sketch of The Pro herself. Like I said, I'm a bit of a gambler and like the surprise of opening the pack, so I went back to the same dealer and purchased a third pack.

This time is was the second card of a two-card puzzle sketch that included the villains The Adverb and The Adjective. (I also have some thoughts on puzzle cards that I will address in the future.) Again, a very nice card, this time by Remy "Eisu" Moktar. I've looked for the companion sketch of The Noun and The Verb on eBay, but no luck. Either no one has pulled it yet, or someone has but doesn't want to sell it.


However, I still didn't have a sketch of The Pro. So, I decided this collection wouldn't be complete without one, and I went to eBay and found this wonderful sketch by Kristin Allen (who I had received a commission from not long before receiving these). It was a good price, so I was able to add it to the set.


These are all wonderful pieces and I don't think I could have asked for better pulls from these packs. I certainly can't wait for future 5finity releases.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Harry Potter: Heroes and Villains - Box Break

Last week I decided to go ahead and take the plunge, so I purchased one box of Harry Potter: Heroes and Villains by Artbox. As I said in a previous post, I purchased a case of the previous issue that came out last summer, and I was very impressed with the quality and variety of cards offered in that set. And this set is no different.

The box, as most do nowadays, came shrink-wrapped and on the bottom of the box was the number of the box. This particular box was #265 of 3000 and included 24 packs.



This set has a 54-card base set, an 18-card clear acetate set (numbered 55-72) and a 9-card foil set. Other cards randomly inserted are boxtoppers (1 per box), costume cards (1 per box), prop cards (1 per 2.5 boxes) and autograph cards (1 per 2 boxes).

Like previous Harry Potter sets, the base cards have the name of the set stamped in foil on the front of each card, and the fronts and backs are a glossy finish. As the title suggests, the base cards highlight the heroes and the villains of the Potter Universe. Cards 1-19 have portraits of the "Heroes" with blue in the background and the 20-36 have portraits of the "Villains" with red in the background. Cards 37-53 highlights key scenes from the first 6 films. Card 54 is a checklist. This box contained 3 complete 54-card base sets with just 10 leftover base cards.

The clear acetate cards are really nice. They highlight key players in the films and some include image reproductions of the theatrical posters from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The only problem I have with these cards is that they look a little scratched up. But I guess that's the price to pay with plastic. This box had 12 of the 18 acetate cards, with no duplicates.


The foil inserts are made up of three cards each of Harry, Ron and Hermione, with each card showing a different stage in their progression through the stories. When placed in a 9-card binder page, the backs make a puzzle. This box had four of the 9 cards, with no duplicates.


Each box comes with one random costume card (see previous post for list of possible cards). In this box was DC1, a dual costume card that included pieces of wardrobe worn by Gary Oldman and Sirius Black and Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter in the film Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. One of the things I like about what Artbox does with their costume cards is that they number them. I mostly like this because it lets collectors know exactly how many of each card are available. In this instance, I received #11 of 140.



Each box also comes with 1 of 4 possible boxtopper cards. In last years Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince set, these cards were metal. This time around, they are cardboard. In this box was BT3, an image of Dumbledore.


Lastly, there is a possibility of a prop and/or autograph card, as well. In this case, there was no prop card, but I was fortunate enough to find an autograph card. While I was hoping to pull a Rupert Grint (Ron Weasely), Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) or Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley), I actually pulled one of the more popular autographs in this set: Toby Jones (voice of Dobby, the house elf). Turns out most of the autos in this set are redemptions, including this one, which means the card I received must be sent in to Artbox in order to get the actually autographed card. I would certainly prefer the autos all be pack-inserted, but it's really no problem.


I posted this box break on the Non-Sport Update Magazine Forums and interestingly enough got in touch with a fellow board member who was looking for a Dobby auto and was willing to trade his Ginny Weasley for it. So, in the end, it turned out really well.

I really dug this set. While I stated previously that I probably wouldn't be getting a case of this product, with the top notch props, costumes and autographs, I think I'm going to pull my pennies together and spring for one. But this time, I'll plan to keep all the good stuff in my personal collection.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Breygent Marketing Does It Again

Okay, so I've mentioned here briefly that I like Breygent Marketing's cards, and I like what they did with their Cartoon and Golden Age of Comics sketch card packs. Well, they are about to do it again.

In a forum on the Non-Sport Update Magazine's Card Talk message board, collectors have been going on and on about these new packs that Breygent is about to unveil at San Diego Comic-Con next week.



According to Harris Toser, production manager at Non-Sport Update Magazine:

"Breygent Marketing has announced some nifty plans for Comic-Con. They will be selling three different sized packs -- 2.5 x 3.5, 3.5 x 5, and 5 x 7. The packs will have the following products inside Cartoon Sketch, Golden Age of Comics, Sci-fi Horror Posters, and Woodstock Generation Rock Poster cards.

"There will be a fourth variety which Breygent is calling "Comic-Con Mystery Packs". These contain autographs, costume cards, prop cards, metallogloss costume cards, and sketch cards from the following products: Dexter, Ghost Whisperer, Paranormal Activity, The Tudors, Cartoon Sketch, and Golden Age of Comics.

"This is all subject to change depending upon availability but this is the plan according to Tom [of Breygent Marketing] as of now."

Tom also has been posting on the forum and supplying images of cards that will be made available in the packs. The sketches look great, but what I am finding most interesting are the autograph and costume cards that will be included. According to posts on the forum, the "Comic-Con Mystery Packs" could include the following: a Michael C. Hall Dexter Season 3 autograph card, a Jennifer Love Hewitt Ghost Whisperer Seasons 3 & 4 autograph card, a Jennifer Love Hewitt and Hillary Duff Ghost Whisperer Seasons 3 & 4 dual-autograph card, Paranormal Activity combo costume/autograph cards, and for those who really like costume cards a nine-piece Ghost Whisperer Seasons 3 & 4 costume card. Of course there will be a wide range of other cards from these and other sets.

Messages from Tom on the forum have indicated that these packs will be made available at SDCC, but for those who can't make it to the show, they also will be made available to non-attendees after the show.

I hope these wonderful packs are not priced out of my range. I'd love to grab that Michael C. Hall auto and others. If any dealers read this blog and are going to have these for sale, please let me know.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Harry Potter: Heroes and Villains

Wow, this one snuck up on me. Not sure how I didn't know this set was coming out, but it hit stores this week: Harry Potter: Heroes and Villains.

Last summer when the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince set came out, I made my first case purchase. And I have to say, I was very, very impressed with the quality of the Artbox product. In the 10 boxes I had, I received a few really nice autographs and some great costume and prop cards. Each box also came with a metal box-topper card, and the case came with a nice laser-etched case topper. The only problem I had with the set was that some of the prop clothing cards were really thick, which resulted in two concerns: it reduced the number of cards in the pack and it made it very easy for someone in a store to pick out the prop/clothing packs if they were selling open boxes. But since I didn't buy mine in a store, it didn't matter to me too much, because I received plenty of them and they were all very nice. Now, a year later, I regret what I ended up doing: I sold them all to raise money for my trip to Mid-Ohio Con. Now, after seeing these, I wish I had those back and really would like to get these, as well.

Anybody got a good price on a case they want to get rid of? :-)

So, now, with the first volume of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows set to hit theatres in November, Artbox has issued this new set (Does this mean they won't do a HP-DH set? I think they will, but maybe they'll wait until the second volume comes out next summer.)

Artbox Entertainment introduces an all new set of Harry Potter Heroes and Villains trading cards which will feature characters & scenes from all six Harry Potter movies: 
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone™ (2001)
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets™ (2002)
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban™ (2004)
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire™ (2005)
  • Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix™ (2007)
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince™ (2009)
Look for new card materials, and autograph cards signed by TOBY JONES (DOBBY)™ randomly inserted in packs. Like previous Harry Potter sets from Artbox Entertainment, this card set has plenty of special cards that are sure to be cherished by Hogwarts™ Students and Muggles alike!
Also available is a special collector’s binder featuring "Snake Skin Material" to store your newest collection.

Autograph Cards: (approx. 1 in 48 packs)
  • Rupert Grint
  • Emma Watson
  • Toby Jones
  • Natalia Tena / George Harris
  • Evanna Lynch
  • David Thewlis
  • Matthew Lewis
  • Jamie Yeates
  • Bonnie Wright
  • Ian Hart
  • Jim Tavare
Costume Cards: (approx. 1 in 24 packs)
  • C1 Fred Weasley - HP2
  • C2 Hermione Granger - HP5
  • C3 Kingsley Shacklebolt - HP5
  • C4 Narcissa Malfoy - HP6
  • C5 Tom Riddle - HP6
  • C6 Alecto Carrow - HP6
  • C7 Hermione Granger - HP2
  • C8 Dumbledore - HP6
  • C9 Slytherin Quidditch - HP6
  • C10 Bellatrix Lestrange - HP6
  • C11 Robert Pattinson - HP4
  • DC1 Double - Sirius Black and Harry Potter - HP3
  • DC2 Double - Barty Crouch Jr. and Igor Karkoroff - HP4
  •  DC3 Double - Death Eater and Azkaban Prisoner - HP5
Prop Cards: (approx. 1 in 60 packs)
  • P1 Harry's Test Tube - HP6
  • P2 Candle's from Hagrid's Hut - HP6
  • P3 Defence Against the Dark Arts Second Year Essential Knowledge Test - HP2
  • P4 Papers from the Weasley House - HP6
  • P5 Framed Picture from The Burrow - HP6
  • P6 Mortar and Pestle - HP6
  • P7 Hedwig's Cage - HP1
  • P8 Pixie Case Base - HP2
  • P9 Bottle from Hagrid's Hut - HP6
  • P10 Ministry Munchies Coffee Cups - HP5
  • P11 Slughorn's Cup from Hagrid's Hut - HP6
  • DP1 Double - Quidditch Quaffle and Bludgers/ Broom Bristles - HP1
  • PC1 Double - Death Eater Mask and Costume - HP5
Multi-Case Dealer Incentive Cards:
  • Ci1 (2 cs) Costume - Hermione Granger Skirt - HP2
  • Ci2 (5 cs) Double Costume - Harry and Ginny - HP2
  • Ci3 (10 cs) Double Prop/Costume - Lucius Malfoy Death Eater - HP5
  • Ci4 (25 cs) Prop - Slughorn's Christmas Party Chicken Foot Goblet Base - HP6
Set Break Down:
  • 54 Base Cards
  • 18 Special Clear Cards
  • 9 Rare Cards
  • 4 Box Toppers
  • 3 Case Toppers
  • 4 Case Incentives
  • 11 Autograph Cards
  • 14 Costume Cards
  • 13 Prop Cards
Unfortunately, I don't think I'll be able to buy a case of these this time around since I used most of my card/art budget this month on the art part (more on that soon). But I will grab a box and see what this set is all about. Come back soon for that breakdown.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Cartoon Sketch Card Packs (Breygent Marketing) - Pack Break

As it turns out, Breygent Marketing has been producing high-quality non-sport trading card sets for some time. As I've mentioned, I was late to the current non-sport party, so my first Breygent product was the Dexter Seasons 1 and 2 series. This was a really nice set, with sketch cards, autographs and clothing/prop cards. Now they have entered the realm of companies like 5finity who are producing just sketch cards for popular properties (more on 5finity in another post).

breygent-cartoon-packOne of the first sets Breygent did this year that is sketch only was their Cartoon Sketch Card series. Actually, the package tells a bit of a fib: "Collect the All New Cartoon Sketch Art Card Series from Breygent Marketing Featuring Original Sketch Cards, and Nothing But Sketch Cards!" The fib is that while, yes, every pack includes one original sketch card, it also includes a promo card for the set a Metallogloss card.

But I'll forgive the fib, because these other cards are a nice addition to the pack. What is the best thing about these packs (and 5finity's for that matter) is that collectors are paying for what they really want, the original sketch card. By cutting out a set of base cards, collectors can pay significantly less than what a hobby box of 24-36 packs of cards promising only one sketch card would cost, actually about 2/3 less. So there is certainly more bang for your buck.

The nice thing about this cartoon sketch series, for me anyway, is the subjects of the cartoons. They don't include those characters that we all think of like Bugs Bunny, Yogi Bear, etc. Yet, they are characters that I remember seeing as a child, like Casper the Friendly Ghost, Betty Boop and Heckle and Jeckle.

breygent-cartoon-sketchI purchased one pack which gave me this really nice Heckle and Jeckle sketch from Gilbert YoungRoland. Using this card and other sketches I've seen on eBay as examples, the artists on this set did not hold back on the quality of the art. This card is significantly more detailed and nicer than many I have seen come out of other products, like many Topps properties. Don't get me wrong, those products include a large number of top-quality sketches from top-quality artists, but they also have included far too many simple pencil sketches that don't seem worth the investment. But I digress...

The Metallogloss cards are like a base card but are imprinted on a thick metallic backing, much like a thick magnet, but of course, not magnetic. The one I received is #9 of the set and features an image of Felix the Cat as drawn by Sean Pence, a regular artist on Breygent sets. The Promo Card features Betty Boop and Heckle and Jeckle by Trev Murphy.

I have to admit I'm very pleased with this product. I wasn't sure what to think when it first came out, but my curiosity and desire to have a wide range of art in my collection pushed me to make the purchase. I'm glad I did, and I will do so again with these types of products from Breygent in the future.

breygent-cartoon-metallogloss breygent-cartoon-promo

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Heroes Archives Autograph Checklist

Rittenhouse released the official checklist for its Heroes Archives trading card set due out in August. Here are the 40 actors/actresses who will be providing autographs:

  1. Jamie Hector as Benjamin Knox Washington
  2. Madeline Zima as Gretchen
  3. Kavi Ladnier as Mira Shenoy
  4. Katie Carr as Caitlin
  5. Katherine Boecher as Alena
  6. Blake Shields as Flint Gordon
  7. Sally Champlin as Lynette
  8. Gabriel Olds as Agent Taub/Sylar
  9. Francis Capra as Jesse Murphy
  10. Akihiro Kitamura as Tadashi
  11. Matthew John Armstrong as Ted Sprague
  12. Rick Worthy as Mike
  13. Shalim Ortiz as Alejandro Herrera
  14. Swoosie Kurtz as Millie Houston
  15. Tamlyn Tomita as Ishi Nakamura
  16. Tessa Thompson as Rebecca Taylor
  17. Todd Stashwick as Eli
  18. Ernie Hudson as Captain Lubbock
  19. James Kyson Lee as Ando
  20. Nicholas D'Agosto as West Rosen
  21. Richard Roundtree as Charles Deveaux
  22. Hayden Panettiere as Clarie Bennett
  23. Jack Coleman as Noah Bennet
  24. Kristen Bell as Elle Bishop
  25. Malcolm McDowell as Daniel Linderman
  26. Greg Grunberg as Matt Parkman
  27. Sendhil Ramamurthy as Mohinder Suresh
  28. Adrian Pasdar as Nathan Petrelli
  29. Deanne Bray as Emma Coolidge
  30. Zeljko Ivanek as Emile Danko
  31. David H. Lawrence as Eric Doyle (Puppet Master)
  32. Dawn Olivieri as Lydia
  33. Ashley Crow as Sandra Bennet
  34. David Anders as Takezo Kensei
  35. Alan Blumenfeld as Maury Parkman
  36. Cristine Rose as Angela Petrelli
  37. Danielle Savre as Jackie Wilcox
  38. Jimmy Jean-Louis as The Haitian
  39. Jessalyn Gilsig as Meredith Gordon
  40. Lisa Lackey as Janice Parkman

If I were a fan of this show, I think I'd be pretty pleased with this list, even with Zachary Quinto and Masi Oka missing from the set; however, as I explained briefly previously, I just wasn't. As a result, this list of autographs just doesn't include enough to garner much more than a passing interest for me. The only ones I'd really be interested in having in my personal collection are the ones in bold. I was really hoping for some others (see previous post) that would have made this more interesting to me.

Could I try to make a master set by buying a case and then attempt to make a profit off it? Possibly, but the numbers of each autographer are still unknown, and while a case will yield 72 autos, there could be the possibility of getting 2-3 duplicates of some of them. I have a feeling the more popular autos will be less frequent.

At this point, chances of me buying a case have diminished significantly, with the chances of me simply trying to find a Kristen Bell online having increased dramatically. I will admit though, that if the numbers of each autograph that will be made available in the set are released and they are all equal, a case could still be in my future.

We'll see what happens.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

To buy Heroes or to not buy Heroes...

I have a love/hate relationship with the television show Heroes. When it first came out, I thought the concept was a bit interesting and decided to give it a shot. I enjoyed season one.

Now, I must admit that I usually enjoy most everything I watch, TV or movies. At least, I'm not normally very critical. I go in with a completely open mind, and because of that I'm able to enjoy it. That is unless, in my opinion, it's just really awful, but that is rare.

So, I enjoyed season one. Season two suffered if for no other reason than the writer's strike. Cut down to just 11 episodes, I think it suffered from trying to fit too much story into too few episodes. Of course, a number of shows on cable adequately tell a story in 12-13 episodes, but in this case, I feel like there might have been a story they originally wanted to tell that ultimately was hindered by the shortened season. Of course, I could be wrong.

Because of that, I decided to move on to season three and give it a chance. Honestly, I don't know why, but the writing continued to suffer, in my opinion. But I kept watching, hoping it would improve. It didn't. Then season four rolled around. I watched every episode, hoping upon hope that it would get better and I would enjoy it again. Season four was a mess. Midway through it became a mission to keep watching just so I could see how bad it could get.

Two things that bothered me the most about the show - In general, I think it is difficult to maintain a time-traveling storyline without screwing up the rest of the story. So many things could change because of the time-traveling scenario. And specifically, one instance in particular in season four bothered me. The scene had Peter Petrelli (played by Milo Ventimiglia), his mother Angela (played by Christine Rose) and Emma Coolidge (played by Deanne Bray) in Peter's apartment. I believe there was an argument between Peter and his mother and Emma was exiting the apartment. The character Emma was deaf. Her power was that she could actually "see" sound, the vibrations of the sound became colorful waves in the air. As she exits the apartment, she's looking away from Peter, and Peter says, "I'll call you later."

Oh, and don't get me started on how they misused the characters of Daphne Millbrook (played by Brea Grant) and Elle Bishop (played by Kristin Bell).

So, why am I reviewing a TV show I didn't really like? Well, because Rittenhouse is issuing a trading card set based on the now-canceled show, Heroes Archives. Here's what I like about Rittenhouse, while the subject matter of their comic-related cards hasn't been super, the inclusion of high-quality sketches has been a great addition to the hobby of non-sport trading card collecting. The sketches in Batman Archives helped get me hooked. Also, in their TV/movie issues, they like to include autographs. I'm not a huge autograph collector, but I like to get things autographed when I have the opportunity. And having a chance to find a nice autograph from one of my favorite actors in a pack of cards has an attraction to it. And Rittenhouse has been doing a good job of getting many autographs, including the top names, in their card sets.

However, when this set was initially announced, the sell information indicated that each box would contain two autographs and two relic cards. Now, relic cards are kind of cool, too. The best set I've seen of this so far was Artbox's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince set. Yet, having a piece of the shirt that Matt Parkman (played by Greg Grunberg) wore in an episode of Heroes, wasn't really inviting. And having two autographs per box didn't present enough opportunity to get the autographs I would want. So, my initial reaction was that I'd probably just wait and try to find the autos I was interested in on eBay.

Then it was announced that the allocation would be different: four autographs and one relic card. So, now my chances had doubled and there was confirmation that some of the autos I would be interested in would definitely find their way into the set.

Then Rittenhouse blew me away last week.

According to an e-mail to dealers and now posted on their Website, in every box of Heroes Archives trading cards, there would be SIX autographs and one relic. This is seven hits for every box. I'd say pretty decent odds of getting a decent auto. The information also indicated that there would be more than 40 signers. Okay, so the odds go down a little bit. But having more than 40 signers opens the door to a lot of interesting actors and actresses.

According to Rittenhouse's Website:

6 Autograph Cards and
1 Relic Card Per Box!

Only 4,500 Sequentially-Numbered Boxes!

Partial list of the more than 40 different autograph signers include:
  • Hayden Panettiere (Claire Bennet)
  • Kristin Bell (Elle Bishop)
  • Jack Coleman (Noah Bennet)
  • Adrian Pasdar (Nathan Petrelli)
  • Greg Grunberg (Matt Parkman)
  • Sendhil Ramamurthy (Mohinder Suresh)
  • Malcolm McDowell (Linderman)
  • Jessalyn Gilsig (Meredith)
  • Richard Roundtree (Charles Deveaux)
  • James Kyson Lee (Ando)
  • Zeljko Ivanek (Emile Danko)
  • David H. Lawrence (Doyle)
  • Jimmy Jean-Louis (The Haitian)
  • Madeline Zima (Gretchen)
  • Cristine Rose (Angela Petrelli)
  • And Many More to be announced soon!
Chase sets include:
  • 9 The "Quotable" Heroes Cards (1:8 packs)
  • 8 Heroes Generations Cards (1:12 packs)
  • 15 Heroes Relic Cards (1:24 packs)
Each case will come with a Bruce Boxleitner (Governor Malden) Autograph Card!
1st Tier Multi-Case Incentive Card: (1 for every 3 cases ordered):
Autograph card signed by George Takei (Kaito Nakamura)
2nd Tier Multi-Case Incentive Card: (1 for every 6 cases ordered):
Autograph card signed by Eric Roberts (Thompson)
3rd Tier Multi-Case Incentive Card: (1 for every 12 cases ordered):
HEROES Archives archive box
Set Configuration:
72 Base Cards
5 Cards Per Pack
24 Packs Per Box
12 Boxes Per Case
SRP: $3.50 per pack

So, other sites and commenters have done the math, but what it comes down to is a total of 27,000 total autographs, which is a lot. However, if you divide that by 40 signers, that's 675 autos from each signer. Of course, some might sign more than others, so that number might be skewed a bit. Say, Hayden Panettiere might only sign 400, while Jimmy Jean-Louis signs 750, thus making some less available than others. And the list above includes a couple I'd definitely want, namely Kristin Bell (I'm still looking for her Veronica Mars autos) and Malcolm McDowell. In addition, if the final list of signers includes Milo Ventimiglia, Zachary Quinto, Ali Larter, Brea Grant, Ray Park, Elisabeth Röhm, Jayma Mays, Seth Green and Breckin Meyer then I might not be able to resist buying a box of the stuff.

Now, over the past year as I've gotten back into the non-sport hobby, I've developed a bit of a gambling streak in that I often will take my chances with a box purchase rather than just trying to find what I'm most interested in on eBay. This trait of mine will be discussed in more detail in another post, but with the current allocation of autos for this set, another gamble might be in order. Who knows, maybe I'll make a couple of big pulls and if it's a card I don't want, I can sell it. But maybe a box will include a Kristin Bell, which would make it more than worth it. Then again, maybe I buy a box and get six autos of actors/actresses who are unrecognizable and may have only appeared in one or two episodes.

Of course, that's the gamble. And with this set it's got a hold on me.

Initially my dilemma was - do I buy a box or just get the auto(s) I want on e-bay? Now with the quantity of autos in each box and the possible signers list, my dilemma is - do I buy a couple of boxes or splurge on a case?