Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Comics and the President

Today seems appropriate to comment on the latest wave of President Obama collectibles that are available for purchase, especially since the second printing of the Amazing Spider-Man #583 comic with Obama inside (and on the cover now) was available for purchase this morning at comic stores.

Except that it really wasn't available for purchase this morning, unless you pre-ordered the darn thing last week. I managed to snag a first printing last week, albeit the "regular" cover with the outrageous "cougars" reference. This morning I dutifully trudged down to not one but TWO different Comics retailers in the city of Angels (Golden Apple and Meltdown) only to discover the pre-order situation was well in hand. I didn't have nearly that problem last week when I went down to Hi Dee Ho in Santa Monica and walked out with the standard edition of the first printing, which now doesn't seem to be that bad of an after-thought.

Yes, that's the actual REGULAR issue cover, not too interesting is it? I can't even say I read the book to be honest. Over the years I've collected Amazing a couple of times - the first was from #270 to #330, though I sold off most of the key issues in there (Venom's first apperance, McFarlane's first Spider-Man) a couple years ago. The second and most recent run started with, err...darn, I'm not too sure, they messed up the numbering, but it was JMS (that's J. Michael Stracynski to non Babylon 5 fans) first issue. That run includes the special 9/11 issue, and I still have it. So even though I'm sort-of a fan of the wall-crawler, I'm not really interested in his comics anymore, ESPECIALLY after Marvel nullified his marriage to Mary Jane in the comics last year.

But I digress.

Here's the variant cover of the first printing, which is now selling for fairly big bucks:

You'll notice that the comic in this picture is graded, I'm not sure how they managed to get a comic that's only a WEEK old graded, but since I'm not planning on blowing big bucks on this "collectible" I don't really care. However, it is a pointed question that could be dealt with in a different article on the back-allies of comic books, and believe me there's a ton of bad dealers out there. You'll find them on eBay selling multiples of all the covers with Obama, these are the scalpers you want to stay away from. They took these books out of the hands of genuine comic readers and are scalping them for as much money as possible. Is there a surprising number of multiple copy lots on eBay right now? No, it's not surprising, disheartening to say the least, but not surprising.

This is the second printing that hit stores this morning. Or rather, it hit the scalpers this morning, because again, you couldn't just walk into a comic store and get a copy, unless you were very lucky and had a good dealer.

Next week Marvel will be bringing out a THIRD printing, here's that cover (supposedly):

Lots of 100 copies are already "pre-sold".

All of this for a FIVE PAGE back-up story. Yup, that's all there is in this issue, five pages. Written and drawn by two guys no one outside of the comic industry has ever heard of. Great.

There are other Obama related comics out there. One of the best, if not THE best comic was the IDW Biography comic that was released during the campaign season. They actually produced two books, one for McCain as well, and a third book was a combo flip book containing both comics. I bought a single copy of the Obama book back when it was issued, and I actually enjoyed reading it. In fact, that comic could be used in schools as a basic primer on the President's life. It was well-researched and even-handed.

Copies of the Obama book have sold for as much as $55 on eBay RECENTLY, but there are copies currently for sale under $10. Since the cover price alone was at least $4, that's not a bad investment. You might also be able to find it still on sale at retail, well, at least a third or fourth printing that is. Thirds have a special gold seal on the cover and the inauguration date.

President Obama also appears in The Savage Dragon #137 written and drawn by Erik Larsen. Savage Dragon has never been a favorite of mine, though I do own a couple of issues, and several years back Dragon met God, so that's something. The character is a cop, who happens to have green skin and a fin. Plus he's strong or something.

Originally this entry was going to feature other collectibles besides comics, but due to a scheduled down-time for Blogger, I wanted to get this finished ASAP. Next entry I'll look at other types of collectibles. Here's a preview though:

Looking on eBay, besides the obligatory domain names ( anyone?) the highest priced items are poster-sets of the Shepherd Fairey campaign posters, which are signed by the artist. If you look hard enough you could buy a full invitation set to the inauguration for a cool mil.

This is a nice collectible, a first printing of Obama's memoirs of his father's life signed and authenticated, and only 28K starting price.

Presidential signatures are actually a great collectible, and quite valuable as well, especially the older they are. Even the living ex-Presidents command top dollar when it comes to the certified autograph market, so if you ever have the opportunity to get a Presidential autograph, you definitely want to take it. When Bill Clinton's book came out a few years ago, lines for his signings were very long, but look

Then there's this silly auction for what is purportedly a 3 year old Barry Obama's crayon masterpiece. Seriously the seller has 0 rating and wants over a mil for something that my 2 year old could do better.

You May Have Noticed Something

I excised two words in the title of this blog: "sports card". I find myself wanting to write about other collectibles besides just sports cards, as witness in my last post about non-sports cards. So I'm making the change in order to broaden my own writing horizons, and also maybe bring in a bit larger audience.

So exactly what is it that I'm collecting (currently)?

  • Baseball Cards - Focusing on Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
  • Basketball Cards - Focusing on UCLA Alumni
  • Non Sports Cards - Barack Obama and Indiana Jones Sets
  • Action Figures - G.I. Joe 25th Anniversary Style Figures
  • Disneyana - Tinkerbell (wife), Pirates of the Caribbean, Eeyore, Minnie Mouse (daughter)
  • Anime Merchandise - Gundam 00 stuff
  • Lego
  • Indiana Jones
  • Books
  • DVDs
  • Pressed Pennies
  • Postcards
  • Things that come out of toy machines
  • Battlestar Galactica Titaniums
  • Johnny Lightning Star Trek

In the past I have collected a lot of things, and for the most part I've kept a lot of stuff which is now in storage.

A partial list of past collections:

  • Wrestling Merchandise (Magazines, books, figures, cards)
  • Hockey Cards - Focusing on the LA Kings
  • Football Cards (Sold them all)
  • Trading Card Games (UDE Versus, Harry Potter, WCW Nitro, WWF Raw Deal, Star Trek (Decipher), Guardians, Red Zone, others that were cheap)
  • Heroclix
  • Pirates Collectible Strategy Game
  • Star Wars Figures (both Vintage and 1995-)
  • Comics (6000+ in storage) and I still buy a few here and there
  • Records, Cassettes and CDs - I no longer purchase music on a physical medium. I hope to get that way with DVDs.
  • VHS Tapes - at one point I had over 500 movies on VHS. That's a lot of tapes.
  • Micronauts
  • G.I. Joe ARAH

I never really collected Hot Wheels surprisingly enough. I did buy more than a few "Hot Ones" back in the day, they were LIKE Hot Wheels, each with individual license plates and they were made by Kenner.

I think it's pretty obvious that I'm a child of the 70's, certain pop-culture franchises resonate more with me than others. Star Wars was huge during my formative years, but by the time that ROTJ came out I was almost a teenager and my interests matured quite rapidly, thus after a certain point I didn't buy any SW merchandise, until my 20's.

Upcoming posts will still feature sports cards in the mix, but will also focus on individual franchises, and entire areas of collecting, all from a budget minded perspective. If you're looking for me to write lengthy pieces on high-end Star Wars Statues from Japan, this isn't the blog for you. However, if you're looking to find the best prices on last year's Indiana Jones action figures, I'm your man (Wal-Mart had singles for $3.00 right after Christmas, TRU has them at $4.98 and Target is at $3.98 I think, and yes Mutt Williams in all his incarnations are about what you'll find these days).

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New Poll!

I know, three posts in one day, am I nuts? Well, yes I am. But that's not the point here. My creativity levels usually rise on days with big occasions, and today is about the biggest day in a long time. Something about a dude getting sworn into office in DC. Or some such nonsense.

Anyway, here's a new poll for you to vote in, and I made it last a lot longer than my first poll. I suspect that I know the breakdown of the answers, but I'm pretty curious about my readers. So do me a favor and take a quick second to let us all know if you plan to spend more, the same or less money on cards than you did in 2008.


Budget Non-Sports

In my most EPIC POST EVAR! I mentioned that I have collected Non-Sports sets in the past. I now have to amend that statement, I am CURRENTLY collecting two Non-Sports series, both are budget oriented, both are from Topps.

Indiana Jones Masterpieces


Hobby: 8 Cards/24 packs per box
Retail: 7 Cards/24 packs per box

Base Set: 90 Cards
Standard Inserts:
9x Silver Foil (1:4)
6x Etched Foil Puzzle (1:6)
90x Bronze Foil (1:24 Hobby only)
90x Gold Foil Serial to 99 (1:167 Hobby only)
90x Refractor Foil 1/1 (1:16,500 Hobby only)

One/One Inserts
Original Sketch Cards (including Panoramic Sketches) (1:24 Hobby, 1:48 Retail)
90x Each Color Press Plates [four colors](1:414 Hobby)
Original Art Foil Cards (Hobby Only)

Autographs: (Hobby Only)
George Lucas
Steven Spielberg
Harrison Ford
Lucas, Spielberg, Ford Combo

Retail packs are $1.99 SRP and available at most mass-market retailers (Target, Wal-Mart, etc).
Hobby boxes are in the $40-$50 range, which seems awfully reasonable for what you get. Several box breakers report that you'll actually get TWO sketch cards in a box, along with a single full set of base cards and a number of inserts. Trader Crack actually has a nice box-break and scans of the cards if you want to see what they look like.

This set is sort of a continuity type set for Topps, in that the breakdown is pretty much the same as their old Star Wars Galaxy and Lord of the Rings Masterpieces sets. Not being a LOTR fan, I have no knowledge of the latter, but I did have the first three SW Galaxy Sets at one point, and I really enjoyed those because they were so different from anything else being produced at the time.

With Non-Sports I do prefer to actually piece a set together out of packs, it's kind of a challenge, rather than buying a whole box at a time (plus my wife wouldn't allow that much of a card purchase at this point in time).

So far I've bought four packs of retail, gotten 7 doubles and two silver foils, which is one more than the odds at this point. If you have doubles you'd like to trade, PLEASE let me know, I'd love to make a trade.

President Barack Obama

Checklist: Unavailable

6 Cards & 1 Sticker/24 packs per box

Base Set: 90 Cards & 18 Stickers
Standard Inserts:
1x High School Basketball Card (1:192)
1x Presidential Pup Redemption (1:384)
90x Foil Stamped (1:3)
18x Foil Stickers (1:4)

I don't think I've made it a secret that I'm a bleeding heart-liberal and I, for one, really enjoyed all the political inserts in this year's sports cards (for those of you who hated them, why not trade yours to me for your favorite teams?). I was excited when I heard about this non-sports set, frankly because I find American History and Politics fascinating, and bite-size trivial bits bring me joy. I also can't remember any other set like this ever being produced, not this close to the election that is. I'm sure there are other President trading card sets, but I've never seen a set of cards for one President issued BEFORE he took office.

The set itself is pretty standard, 90 cards and 18 stickers. The two inserts are case inserts (1 per for the HS Rookie, and 1 per 2 cases for the puppy redemption), and will most likely be the hot cards from the set, since there aren't any autographs or relics. Currently since the set is brand new and the inauguration has just happened, prices are varying WILDLY on eBay. Starting bids for the High School Card go from about $15 all the way to $150. The Puppy redemption isn't going for quite as much, believe it or not. There's also a poster included in boxes from Topps Directly (and maybe elsewhere too, not sure).

Here's the High School card, it's actually kind of ugly if you ask me. I never liked that 1978 Basketball design, and the photo is so blurry I'm surprised they couldn't find something better.

At a paltry two bucks a pack, I'm game to put a set together, and I may even buy one of the HS Singles off the bay if I can find one cheap enough. I don't care about the parallel set, but they aren't obnoxious either. I actually really like the foil stickers, they remind me a lot of the Shephard Farley "Hope" Print that has been so prevalent since the campaign. I've only bought ONE pack so far, but I'll be buying as much as possible over the next couple weeks.

If you're interested in reading my take on the Inauguration festivities this morning, hit up my personal blog.

Next up from UD - Fight Strap Cards

Do you know what a fight strap even is? Since I have an practice-used Kings Jersey, I actually have one of these things, it's a simple strap of elastic with velcro and a button that is used to keep a hockey sweater from being pulled over your head in a fight. Big whoop.

Really, they aren't that exciting. Whenever I wear that jersey I always am aware of the strap since I end up sitting on it most of the time. I also don't wear that jersey whenever I'm going to be sitting in one place for too long, or driving for too long, since I can feel the button big time and it hurts.

According to Upper Deck: "The cards will definitely be rare as the strap is so small, we can only produce a small amount of them. Single cards will be numbered to just three copies and the combo versions will be one-of-one cards. Since these cards will be more premium, they will be produced on a thicker card stock, similar to a patch card."

So they're going to be rare. Not autographed though, and really, they have absolutely no color to them whatsoever.

Are you interested in these, or do you feel like I do, that it's just about scraping the bottom of the barrell when it comes to game-used relics? What's next? Jock-strap cards?

I'm just not feeling this. If Steve Judd in saying:
"Most people in the industry realize that “non-standard” cards, i.e. game –used jersey cards and autograph cards are loss leaders that are needed to sell unopened product. It is a topic that is discussed a great deal at all card companies. The industry does not yet have the next big thing to help sell products so the companies continue to crank out these cards because they have no choice."

And I believe that he is, do you think this is going to be the solution? Sure seems like UD thinks so. Sorry, I'm really not feeling this one.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

This is getting redonkulous

Just got this from Upper Deck:

Rare Dinosaur Bones Delivered to Upper Deck Headquarters

Prehistoric bones and teeth will be cut, embedded on cards and inserted into 2008-09 Champ’s Hockey

North Las Vegas, NV (January 13, 2009) – When Upper Deck started receiving in rare dinosaur bones and teeth to its offices in late 2008, there was a buzz in the air as many staffers gathered around to see these rare artifacts up close. Upper Deck dug deep to procure a variety of bones from ancient dinosaurs for inclusion in its upcoming 2008-09 Champ’s Hockey set.

These unique finds are currently being cut so they can be embedded onto trading cards in the set. The larger bones from creatures like the Woolly Mammoth and Woolly Rhinoceros will likely yield enough bones to make at least 100 cards, but cards that feature teeth will be much rarer.

“We didn’t want to ruin the feeling that you were actually getting a tooth by cutting them up too much,” said Matt Bromley, Upper Deck’s associate hockey brand manager. “But they were too thick to just include them whole. We moved ahead with cutting them vertically in half so now there will be two copies for each of these unique cards.”

Collectors may find tooth cards of ancient dinosaurs like the Spinosaurus, Pterosaur and the Tyrannosaurus Rex in 2008-09 Champ’s Hockey.

“The 2008-09 Champ’s Hockey product is a perfect vessel to deliver something truly unique like this to the hobby,” said Josh Zusman, Upper Deck hockey brand manager. “When we saw these pieces coming in, everybody was in awe. The inclusion of these cards in this hockey release helps bring the Ice Age to the ice.”

Collectors can sink their teeth into 2008-09 Champ’s Hockey when it hits shelves in mid-March.


First off, what do dino bones have to do with Hockey at all? I love that line "bring the Ice Age to the ice" but seriously UD, what's the motivation behind this? You couldn't create a cheap dinosaur non-sports card set and pepper that with relics? Kids would eat that shit up, I know, I was just at a dinosaur museum in Utah (the largest in North America), kids frickken LOVE dinosaurs. How hard could a dinosaur non-sports set have been to create? Paying artists for original paintings of dinosaurs can't be more expensive than paying Albert Puljols $200 for a single autograph. Heck, there's a new Ice Age movie coming out this year, you couldn't license that and put these in a dinosaur non-sports set?

Memo to Upper Deck - sports collectors don't want non-sports stuff mixed in with their sports sets. Get a clue. The rock stars in various sets haven't worked so far, the Presidential cards in this year's product left a lot of collectors cold (though not me, I loved them), and other than Allen & Ginter, there isn't a sports card product on the market place where dinosaur relics would truly fit the theme, and you can't go creating one just to make it fit.

I also kind of have a problem with them cutting up the bones in the first place. These are bonafide fossils (supposedly), don't you think they could go to some other educational or scientific purpose first before being whored out in trading cards?

All I can say to UD at this point is, SHAME on you.

Here's the pics I got sent too.

Confessions and Firsts

I have a confession to make, it's a minor one, and it probably won't affect anyone's life in particular, but I have to get it off my chest. Quite a few sports card bloggers have experienced a lull in their collecting habits one way or another, for example, Mario over at Wax Heaven left the hobby for a long time and then came back a few years ago and started his wonderful blog. Lots of bloggers are the same way. At one point I claimed the same, that I had left the hobby and was now back to it. That's not entirely true.

See, I've collected trading cards in one form or another since the mid-70's. Yes, I've taken time off from collecting SPORTS trading cards, but I've never truly left the trading card hobby. When I wasn't collecting sports, I was working on non-sports sets (Star Trek, Comic Books, Art cards) or trading card games (Harry Potter, WCW Nitro, Upper Deck Versus and Upper Deck's Pirates of the Caribbean), collectible miniatures games (Heroclix) and constructible strategy games (Pirates and Race Day).

Whew, that's a load off.

Seriously though, it's true. I started collecting Baseball Cards round about 1977 when my dad, who was delivering the LA Times in early mornings, would buy me some Topps packs at the doughnut shop where he got his morning coffee. I got my first box of Topps in 1981 and was bitten from then on. I dropped Baseball about 1989 after Pro Set Football was released, and I was bitten by that particular set (I'm still ONE card shy of a master set, the darn Santa Claus Card). From 1989 to 1998 I collected Football almost exclusively. During the mid 80's I dabbled in Hockey Cards, but not too extensively (remember this was the era of Topps and OPC ONLY), and expanded that in the mid-90's, only to give up on all sports cards in 1998 for a time. I started back up with Hockey once the Kings moved to Staples Center, and collected Hockey exclusively for a couple years. Then it was no sports until the 2006 Baseball season and I bought a team set of Angels at the Team store at Anaheim stadium. From then on I was back into Baseball full force. I dumped Hockey during the lockout and haven't gone back, since the Kings haven't been in contention, and the product that's on the ice hasn't been worth supporting until lately.

Even during lulls in sports cards, I was buying non-sports and trading card games. I'm a pack busting junkie, I still get a thrill opening up a brand new pack of cards, even if it's dashed seconds later. When I haven't been buying sports cards I usually keep up on the latest trends, because I don't want to miss out on something really interesting. Fortunately since the advent of relics and auto chases I haven't really missed a whole lot. Rip cards don't interest me in the slightest, and redemptions are hit and miss now. I'm a sucker for "added value", so when there's a redemption program (like the wrapper redemptions now only seen at large card shows or All-Star Fan Fests) I'm all over it like white on rice. That's one of the things I liked about WizKid's Pirates game, there was a wrapper redemption with virtually every set, and I dig stuff like that. I really enjoyed Upper Deck's original Predictor program where you could get a special foil version of a card if your player did whatever the card said during a specific game.

So now that I've confessed all that, here's the "firsts" portion of the post.

This is the first relic card that I ever pulled, coming from 2001 Topps Heritage Hockey, and a retail pack at that (I bought the pack at a 7-11 while getting a bottle of wine for my then-girlfriend). Honestly, I don't care what it books for, I'm not getting rid of it. I honestly can't figure out what it's a relic of either, could be a piece of the boards, could be a piece of stick, I have no clue. All I know is that it's a Gordie Howe, and it's beautiful.

I have some peculiar habits and routines, probably because I have a slight case of OCD. One is that whenever I got a specific K-Mart in Los Angeles, I always go over to the newsstand in the same strip mall and buy a lottery scratcher and a pack of cards. For some reason the newsstand is a "Diamond Dealer" of Upper Decks, and they actually carry hobby packs at a reasonable price. Sure there aren't THAT many choices, but I've had good luck there. Just last week I bought a pack of Upper Deck Basketball and pulled a Shaq jersey. Yesterday I went to K-Mart looking for any left-over after-Christmas clearance merchandise, I found a single pack of Topps Heritage for 30 cents, but that yielded a bunch of commons and a single black back. The only baseball packs they had left were Upper Deck Series 2, which I no longer need to bust, and Topps Co-Signers. Since I've only bought one other pack of that product, I figured, why not? I didn't even complain that the clerk picked out the pack. I pulled this beaut:

Most baseball fans in the city of Angels would be ecstatic about that card, but I LOATHE the Dodgers. It hasn't always been that way, I loved them during the Lasorda/O'Malley years, but the current ownership leaves me very, very cold (same way I feel about the Spanos family and the Chargers, only I've had personal dealings with them that left me feeling very upset with them). The "parking lot attendant" as Frank McCourt is known in the paper here, is a money grubbing scumbucket who hasn't done a thing to make the Dodgers competitive in a very competitive market. Say what you want about the Angels, that they're boring to watch, that they never make the big deal to get the big bat, etc., but you can't say that Arte Moreno hasn't been a pillar in the community and opened up the fan base to heights it's never seen before, even when the old cowboy owned the team. Oh and since he's owned the team, it's like doubled in value.

Ah well, it's still the FIRST double-signed card I've ever pulled. I'd be happy to trade it for something really cool, like a multiple signed Angels card, or something from one of the UCLA Bruins in the NBA right now (Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, Arron Affalo or Jordan Farmar preferred). I know there's Dodger fans out there, I've traded with some before, I just can't remember who they are at the moment.

I'm also intending to sort through all my recent purchases and repost both my set needs and my have to trade aways. Soon.

Plus I'm going to Disneyland this weekend and getting annual passes, so if you're a Disney fan and want me to look for something for you, lemme know.