Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Adventures in Bootleg Lego Mini-Figures

There's something inside of me that makes me very interested in knock-off and bootleg merchandise.  All ethical issues aside, I think it's fascinating that people will even take the time to knock-off other people's IP and items, and to that end, I'm endlessly intrigued with the results.

Many many years ago there was a knock-off action figure column in one of the toy magazines I'd peruse at the newsstands on a monthly basis (remember those?)  Some blogs and toy sites also used to write about them as well.

 I happen to love going on shopping trips, especially to swap meets and well, let's just say gray market goods marketplaces.  There are several of them here in the city of Angels, Santee Alley comes to mind.  It's those types of places where you find these bootleg Lego mini figures.  The quality is usually all over the place, sometimes great but most of the time not.

Enter the internet.

Through Aliexpress, every day shoppers like myself can order all sorts of goods from China, quite a good portion of them are bootleg items.  I recently made a foray into bootleg Lego mini-figs, and here's the first results.

I ordered all of these on September 14.  They started to arrive about three weeks later, and finished arriving about 10 days after that.  See you might place one order but you're aggregating a number of individual vendors into that order.  This one order of how-ever many figures it is came from 6 different vendors.

I'm not sure exactly which brands these actually are, as they don't come with packaging.  I believe they're at least KOPF or another major knock off brand.

Char's Zaku-II and a grunt Zaku-II.  These both come with a
bazooka and a rifle, which will come in handy later.

Thanos was the most expensive single piece at $2.40.  Came with the
Infinity Gauntlet and all the stones.  LEGO doesn't even make a chromed version of the glove.

I really like this Voltron mini-fig, though I wish it had the earlier version's lion hands.

I would like Mazinger Z more if they had included both sides of the chest piece

These are just fun.  80 cents for both.

That's a Minecraft Wolf for my daughter

I was fairly excited about He-Man and Skeletor, and they could be better, but they're not bad to begin with. 
The faces are a little off.

Jack Skellington, The 4th Doctor and Hulk Hogan. 
None of these have ever been made by Lego

RX-178 Gundam Mk II and RX-78-2 Mobile Suit Gundam.
Love these.  Didn't come with guns though, thankfully the Zaku guns worked.

All told I spent about $17 on these pieces.  I enjoyed the experience so much I made a larger order just a couple of weeks ago, most of which just came in, so look for Part 2 of this entry shortly.

Monday, October 22, 2018

On Roman Reigns

Whenever the 'real world' invades my fiction wrestling universe it's usually because something bad has happened. Tonight Joseph Anoi'a who is better known to the world as WWE's Roman Reigns announced that he has to relinquish the WWE Universal Championship because his Leukemia has returned. While on the surface this might appear to be part of the storyline or "a work" as it's known in the industry, it's pretty clear that it's not a work. Anoi'a comes from a very long and proud lineage of Samoa wrestlers, his father was Sika, of the Wild Samoans, he's cousins with virtually every wrestler of Samoan descent in the industry, and he is, from all reports, one of the good guys. His CHARACTER of Roman Reigns is not universally loved by wrestling fans who have tired of him main eventing not one, not two, not three but FOUR Wrestlemanias in a row. Up until tonight the perception had been that Vince McMahon and the WWE Braintrust had been "shoving Roman down our throats" for the last several years despite the fact that a vocal segment of the fanbase can't stand him.

He seems like a pretty private guy behind the scenes, there aren't that many out of character interviews with him, he's not pictured with his family much, and he seems to put it all out there as the character not the man. Perhaps maybe Vince et al knew his time was limited so they pushed him as much as they could to get what they could while he still had time. Maybe not. Who knows.

In any case, I'm sad. I'm sad because while I'm not a huge fan of the character, I didn't mind his title victories and actually got to see him perform live the night before Money in the Bank 2016, which was a cool event where all three of the members of his faction, The Shield, held the WWE Heavyweight Title - Roman entered as the title holder, lost the strap to Seth Rollins in the main event, who then lost it to Dean Ambrose who won Money in the Bank (the winner gets a guaranteed contract shot whenever they desire) earlier in the night.

Watching those three men embrace at the end of Roman's speech tonight brought tears to my eyes. Yes, wrestling is scripted, but that doesn't mean it's not real.

Look at Seth Rollins' face, that's not acting there. Dean Ambrose on the left is BARELY holding it together. These guys are brothers in the ring, and they left it all out there tonight. If that doesn't get you, you have no heart.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

2016-2017 Topps WWE Slam - Elite Performers FINAL RESULTS

Last year I ran a survey on who the player community considered the "Elite" performers that appear in the Topps WWE Slam App.  Since I don't have a paid Survey Monkey account it capped at 100 people, but I think we got a pretty darn good indication of who the community considered to be the elite performers during the first year of the app.  I'm currently working on a new version of the survey which should be up later today, because let's face it who was elite in 2016-2017 may not still be elite and people who were lower on the rankings will definitely be higher this year.

So here's the link to the new survey and here's the results from the last one.

Also I'm going to do a giveaway once we hit 100 responses, so if you want to participate leave your in-game-name

Main Roster Men:

1AJ Styles92.86%
2Seth Rollins80.61%
3Finn Balor76.53%
4Kevin Owens74.49%
5Brock Lesnar70.41%
6John Cena67.35%
8Dean Ambrose63.27%
9Randy Orton61.22%
10Triple H60.20%
11Roman Reigns58.16%

Very little surprise here, AJ Seth and Finn are all extremely popular in the game.  Kevin Owens had a great year and thus he's probably a lot higher than he will be this year.  These are the only performers who appeared on over 50% of the ballots cast.

Main Roster Women:

1Becky Lynch85.26%
2Sasha Banks82.11%
6Nikki Bella63.16%
7Alexa Bliss49.47%

The big surprise here is that Alexa Bliss isn't higher on the list and that's super-easy to explain, she didn't get called up until the draft in 2016 and didn't do a whole lot until TLC late in December of 2016 when she beat Becky Lynch for her first title.  I would expect her to be #1 in the new poll.  Also several NXT call-ups aren't featured here and they will undoubtedly be showing up in 2018.  Once again these are the only performers who hit 50% (or almost 50% in Alexa's case).

NXT Men & Women
1Shinsuke Nakamura87.78%
3Samoa Joe65.56%

All three of these folks were called up and made major impacts since the survey ended, so the entire poll will be new in 2018.  

1The Rock83.52%
2Stone Cold Steve Austin81.32%
3Shawn Michaels74.73%
4Daniel Bryan65.93%
5Eddie Guerrero65.93%
6Macho Man Randy Savage62.64%
8Ric Flair61.54%
9Bret the Hitman Hart57.14%

Once again, no surprises here, The Rock and SCSA are always going to be the most popular "legends" so long as Hulk Hogan isn't in the game.  What's surprising is who ISN'T as popular as you might think.  Once again these are the only performers who ended up on more than 50% of ballots, so you're missing Ultimate Warrior (came in at #12), Trish Stratus (#13), Brie Bella (#14) and a host of others.  Despite being incredibly polarizing, HBK came in third and is still more popular than his biggest rival Bret Hart.  There have been a few additions to the Legends roster, notably Goldberg and Batista, so you might see them in the new poll.

New Additions
2Bobby Roode28.57%
4Brian Kendrick9.52%

These were late additions to the original base set.  Clearly Bobby Roode will most likely end up in the top 10 of current performers going forward.  Goldberg and Batista might end up on the Legends top 10, though unless Batista starts wrestling again his chances are marginal.  This won't be a category in the 2018 poll.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Digital Dabblings - My Columns on PWTorch.com

So earlier this year the call went out from my favorite Professional Wrestling website, Pro Westling Torch (pwtorch.com) that they were looking for new columnists and content, and with my insane knowledge of this Topps digital trading card game I decided to go ahead and offer up my services, and for some ungodly reason they accepted! 

Here's the link to my archive:

My next column will be my 20th!  Yes I know the most recent is numbered #18 but that's only because I wrote a special that I didn't number.  A special that I'm actually pretty proud of, as it's actual advice on how to value your collection and made wiser traders

Today is also my daughter Kaylee's 11th birthday so I wanted to give her a huge shout out too.  I love you Kaylee!!!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Shameless Plug - Back my Buddy's Kickstarter - Space Adventure Board Game Spaceship Awesome 3000

Come on, it's called Starship Awesome 3000!  It's a space themed board game that my buddy Matt Chapman, whom I used to work with at Card.com created and has put on Kickstarter.  I was backer #1!  It's only $45 for a full game, which these days is a bargain.

Come on you know you want to join me.


Friday, August 12, 2016

Adventures in WWE SLAM Digital Trading Cards

Topps seems to have cornered the market on Digital Trading Card Apps.  First with Baseball and Bunt, then Football with Huddle, onto Major League Soccer with Kick, moving into the entertainment world with Star Wars and The Walking Dead, moving to the octagon with UFC Kick, and finally most recently the WWE and SLAM!

All the apps function basically the same, you get free coins each day you log in, you can spend those coins on digital card packs containing at least 5 cards usually.  There are inserts and hits including highly sought after digital Signatures and Relic pieces.  These cards can sell for big bucks on eBay.  Yes, digital cards.

In Bunt, the baseball game, Signature cards have sold for hundreds of dollars.  In Star Wars the first "insert" card ever released, so called "Vintage Han Solo in the Cockpit" went for a couple hundred at it's peak.  Yes, digital cards.

Now I have gone on and off with virtually all of the apps, and at this time I'm in all of them except Soccer.  I really only care about Star Wars and WWE Slam.  I was into Star Wars on Day 1, but took off a several months, only recently coming back.  I've got a decent collection, but I missed a ton of releases.

In Bunt I'm only collecting Angels, and Mike Trout specifically.  I'm not collecting anything specific in other apps.  This allows me to cross trade, which can be a bit tricky some times, you always run into the possibility of being scammed or burned.  But if you're smart you can mitigate that risk.

So there's an app for The Walking Dead.  I started playing it a couple months ago, before I had even watched a single episode of the show.  I have read all the comics, but only started binge watching the show in mid June.  I got up to the beginning of Season 5 before I had to take a break.  I'm not collecting a lot, besides the Fan Choice set and the free daily teal singles.  I have completed a base White, Blue and Red set (your standard Common, Uncommon and Rare base).  Since I don't really care about collecting, I can and usually do stash my coins for when the Fan Choice hits once a week.  the last couple of weeks I've managed to get more than one of the Fan Choice weekly card within a few packs, so by yesterday I had over 200K coins stashed.  I decided to blow a few on some packs and went for the 10K Base expansions.  I pulled an Aqua Variant of Daryl Dixon, with a card count of 31.  Yup thats a big hit.  Ebay has it going for $15.

Over on WWE SLAM I've been watching the insert releases and noticed something awfully interesting.  Most of the insert sets have had a similar pattern, they're releasing 6 or 7 card sets with three different variants.  The "easy" variant is a 1:10 pack pull, but once a card is released it's available for the run of the set.  The mid-range variant is usually a 1:15 or 1:20 and available for only 24 hours, then sold out.  The "hard" variant is either 1:25 or 1:50, and capped at 750 or more commonly 1500 cards.

As the releases went on, a pattern began to emerge: the "easy" variant of the last couple days' releases were actually the lowest number card count.  The final trading day before the award is released there's a frenzy in the fan feed looking for the final card for the "easy" set, and there just aren't enough to go around.

Here's an example:

The first Insert card set was "Charisma" - a 7 card set with 3 variants, Blue (1:10), Purple (1:15), Pink (1:25/1500 CC).  Day 1's Sasha Banks has over 6400 cards, the purple has 2391 and the Pink has 1500.  By Day 6, Booker T there's between 1012 and 1124 of the Blue, 2083 of the Purple and 1500 of the Pink.  Wait a sec, why don't I know the true card count?  AHA, the "easy" tier has the card count hidden from view.  You can still estimate by sorting the ALL CARDS listing by Card Count and guestimating from the cards with a count on either side.  The final days' release, Enzo Amore has only between 525 and 542 Blues, 2368 Purples and 1500 pinks.  So while there are several thousand of Day 1s there's only a few hundred of Day 7.  Anyone trying to complete a set that doesn't pull the day 7 1:10 has to trade, and there aren't very many to trade.  In fact, once the award was released, there were 290 Blue awards, 374 Purples and 484 Pinks.

Same thing happened with the Speed Set and it's final card Finn Balor, same thing happened with the Power set and it's final card Braun Strowman.  Same thing happened with the earlier Aerialist set (which only had 2 colors) and the Warrior Tribute (which had FOUR colors).

See by the final day, there are multiple releases available for that 1:10 pull.  So your 1:10 is a 10% chance to pull ANY of that set's releases.  Obvious math indicates that it's a 1:60 or 1:70 pull (depending on how many cards are in the set) for the final day's cards.

THIS week we had two insert sets ending on the same day, FLIGHT and "Family Ties".  Both with 3 variants, and both with 6 cards.  They both ended on Thursday August 11, and coincidentally (or not maybe) Topps chose that day to release a brand new huge set, HERITAGE WAVE 1, which funneled off a ton of pack purchases.  By the end of the day, there were a total of 769 White Charlotte Flights and 533 Black Uso Family Ties.

Now I did buy a couple of Heritage packs early in the day for 10K coins (the Insert sets are only 5K) but as soon as I realized I needed to finish my Family Ties set, I stopped and started going for Family ties packs, and actually managed to pull the rare Black Usos.  At that time I still needed the day 5 card, the Rhodes Family, but I was able to make a trade for that.

Remember what I said about The Walking Dead cards earlier and cross trading?  Well watching the fan feed I found someone who wanted Walking Dead for their Slam, and had a White Charlotte Flight for trade.  I made him an offer he couldn't refuse.

I gave up the Aqua I got the previous day, plus a couple of other rare base expansions and he traded me the Charlotte Flight.

So once I got it, I immediately advertised it on the WWE Fan Feed and on reddit in R/TOPPSWWE.  My minimum trade was for a signature card, which at that time were selling for at least $5.00 and more like $8 to $15.   After a couple of hours of truly awful offers, I decided to put it on eBay with a fixed price at $14.99 or best offer.  The first offers came in and they were pathetic, less than 1/3rd of asking price.  BY that time I already had trade offers of at least 3 mat relics from Heritage (which are selling for between $1.50 and $4.00 depending on who they are, the ones I was offered totaled about $10).

I finally accepted a great offer, $8.00 cash via Paypal and a Dean Ambrose Signature (worth about $8.00 right now) through eBay.

So here's a spreadsheet with all the current insert cards and their population.

My Topps user name is Grendelsen unless noted

Remember I'm cross trading:
Walking Dead (mattiasgrendels)
Bunt (wildwill) 
Huddle (wildwill)

Star Wars 

WWE Slam

Friday, May 27, 2016

NeonMob - A New Way to Collect Art Based Digital Trading Cards

"Honeymoon Phase" Very Rare from the Fractal Emotions Set

I love trading cards, have since I was introduced to Baseball Cards by my dad in the 70’s.  I remember for a time he worked as a LA Times deliverer in the early morning, and he would often stop for coffee and a donut at this place that used to be on Barrington and Santa Monica (it’s a Starbucks now don’t you know), and I guess they sold baseball cards, because he started to bring them home to me.  We started a collection, and I was hooked. 

"Chewbacca" - a Rare from the Star Warhols set
Of course when Star Wars cards hit a year or so later I was hooked again, I even remember I bought my first packs at the market that would become the Trader Joe’s on Westwood and National Boulevard. 

Nowadays I don’t have room to keep a lot of trading cards and I’m trying to liquidate a bunch of my collection.  This is where the digital apps come into play, I can have a huge collection online and it takes up zero room.  Plus I can trade to my heart’s content.  I’ve been a member of the Topps digital apps for quite some time, though I’m not always active.  I recently got into the Upper Deck E-Hockey cards because I love Hockey and I want my Kings, plus it’s kind of hard to get packs of Hockey cards in So-Cal.

Yesterday I found another digital trading card app, this one is all based on art, which also interests me to no end.  It’s actually quite cool because if you’re so inclined you can create your own trading card set and put it up.  It’s call NEONMOB, here’s my unique link to sign up, if you do we both get free cards:

Minion Galaxy - a "Chase" from the Galaxies Set
Some of the sets are quite striking, there’s plenty of space art and surrealism to go around.  Dark characters and themes are abundant as well.   There’s quite a few different sets available, at least two dozen at last count, some are already retired too.  Each set has at least 5 cards available and most count 20 and above.  There’s also the common, uncommon, rare, ultra rate, etc. paradigm going.  Sets are limited also, when they’re sold out they’re retired. 
It’s all free, unless you want to pay for more.  You can even get posters of some of the cards.  I highly recommend it.  So sign up and make me a friend, let’s trade!

"Monk's Mirror" - a common from the Alien Creatures Set