Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Topps Remastered

Yesterday there was a short conversation on Twitter that got me thinking about some ideas that would get me to start set building again. It seems like it is going to be ages until Topps Heritage baseball catches up to the era that I began collecting -- the 70s.

The talk came from the 1987 minis that are going to be included with Topps 2012 series 2 baseball. Now trust me, I have no love for 1987 Topps baseball. The cards looked good, but you could start a paper trail at your front door and loop the earth a few times over with those cards. There were tons printed.

Someone had mentioned revisiting the 87 set and used the term Remastered. It got me thinking about the classic card sets and why I don't build large sets anymore. I got to thinking about the music industry and how they'll look to build interest in an older act by remastering their previous releases. I love it when a record company remasters a bands catalog and improves the music quality, finds hidden gems, adds a couple of live songs, and includes a demo or interview. The remaster usually gets some sort of gold or platinum name added to the mix.

I thought about it for a minute and realized that formula would be perfect for trading cards. How cool would it be to get an updated 52 Topps set printed on the same stock that they print Topps Tribute on? They could redo the entire original set, have parallel versions with alternate photos and outtakes. There could be memorabilia and autographed parallels, and you could even add some players to the checklist that didn't make the original cut. To top it off, you could also include some of today's players within the same design.

I'm sure you and Topps could come up with a hundred reasons why this couldn't be done but I could come up with a hundred why it should be done.

Here are a couple...

Exposing a New Generation of Collectors
Today's collectors loved collecting as kids. Most, now have kids and they would be able to share their love of the hobby with their their children. This isn't going to be a low end product, so the kids would get exposed to the highest quality of trading cards made today.

Where are the icons?
The iconic players of the game graced those Topps sets. If you ask the average baseball fan who they collected, it was Mantle, Mays, Aaron, Schmidt, Rose, Brett, Seaver, Jackson, Ripken, Koufax, Ryan... the classics. The best in the game. In any classic Topps set there are 40 or 50 household names, 50-100 well-known and collected players, a large portion of rookie cards and a bunch of commons. Not any more. The formula is still relatively similar, but with the exception of Pujols, Ichiro and Jeter, there are really no players that can compare to those legends in today's sets. The rest of the bunch are mostly regarded as commons and discarded. Why do you think they keep adding legends to current products? Bringing back those sets would generate a whole new era of nostalgia for the hobby.

Set building with a twist
Value for base cards just isn't there anymore. Inserts are just one element that have destroyed the value of the base card. I've seen people just discard commons like they were trash. Putting together a 660-card set that is expensive could change all of the that. Sure it wouldn't be cheap, but the end result could bring some much needed prestige back to the base card. When the players on the cards are junk, the value goes in the toilet. But here, we're talking legends, and yeah there were lots of scrubs in those vintage sets, but just like when we were kids, you'll get to relive those moments of glory when you got that one guy in a pack that you ALWAYS got multiple times over. My guy was Jim Wohlford. I swear I got that guy in every pack I bought. Maybe this time around I would get Steve Ontiveros or Rusty Kuntz... who knows? Does it matter? Around him will be Steve Carlton, Carlton Fisk, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray, Thurman Munson, Jim Rice, Andre Dawson and 50 other superstars.

I've got more reasons running through my crazy head, but what I don't have is time to give away ideas for free.

The other thing is that I don't want rhyme or reason. That's my problem with Heritage. Each year you know what's coming. The process is too slow to get to all of those great collections and we're only in the 60s. With Remastered you can surprise collectors with a different set every year and not be pigeonholed into following the original schedule. Start with 52. Jump to 75. Head up to 82. Go back to 69. Mix it up, make it fun, not predictable. I know you can do it Topps,the question is do you want to?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

C2E2 Returns and Conquers Chicago

Chicago is home to several amazing conventions and expos ranging from Home & Garden, Autos, Coins, Trading Cards and now for the third year in a row the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo a.k.a C2E2. It's kind of like the cantina in Star Wars. There are a lot of weird-looking, colorful characters jammed into one place and if you aren't careful someone might lob your arm off with a light saber or some other bizarre weapon of choice.

Whether you are a fan of comic books, television or movie stars, pro wrestlers, tattoos, cosplay, fantasy games, trading cards, movie props or simply hanging out with other people with similar passions, you need to visit C2E2 at least once in your life.

For comic book fans it is a melting pot of artists, creators and resellers with anything and everything you could ever want or need. From modern age to vintage you can find comics, artwork, previews, props, and more at your fingertips and it can be yours if the price is right. For instance, there was a live auction for Captain America movie props. The Shield from Captain America sold for nearly $25,000. If you walked less than 50 feet from the auction you could pick up an authentic samurai sword. Walk another 100 feet and you could get a sketch or autograph from one of hundreds of today's most popular and upcoming artists.

If walking the floor got tedious at any time, you could attend one of multiple panels ranging from a Q&A with Comic Book icon Neal Adams to how graphic novels are some of the most popular content checked out at Public Libraries across the nation.

Of course running into or seeking out some pretty popular entertainment stars is also a key portion of the C2E2 weekend. From an incognito appearance by Shia LaBeouf to TNA wrestling knockout Lisa Maria Varon, a spectrum of stars were on hand. Some of the more popular names to attend this year were John Cusack, Val Kilmer, Anthony Daniels, Chris Hardwick, Sean Astin, Tom Morello and the Walking Dead's Lauren Cohen and Steven Yeun.

Each year, I both love and dread heading out to the show. I know I am going to have fun and always look forward to it, but I also know I am going to see a million things I want to buy on impulse. However, this year, I set out to do specifically do a few things and wasn't leaving until I got them done.

For years I have been a tremendous fan of artist George Perez. Along with Ralph McQuarrie and John Byrne, Perez was a major influence on my choice of career as an adult. Their talents gave me the notion to pick up a pencil and begin drawing. I was nowhere near as good, but it encouraged me to attend the Joe Kubert school, and further my skills afterward as a graphic artist. It has enabled me to make a pretty decent living, and I've done some pretty good things with my talents over the years. I've met George before, but it was usually in a huge line of people where you are ushered in and out like cattle. This time it was early on the first day of the show and there was virtually no line because no one knew where he was. I got to tell him about the first convention I attended to meet him. It was several years ago in Philadelphia. I had just gotten my drivers license and drove from Atlantic City to Philly. Well to make a long story short, I got to attend the show, but the alternator in my piece of crap Dodge Aspen died on the way... It was a mess, but I still got to meet one of my childhood idols, so it wasn't all bad. This time around I was so happy that George was doing head shot sketches, and he drew Iron Man for me. He also signed 7 of my absolute favorite comics in the world including all 4 issues of JLA vs. The Avengers, Avengers #1, and the first 2 issues of his recent Brave & The Bold run. I wasn't at the con an hour and one of my two goals were already met. Ironically George wasn't supposed to be there, and was a last minute addition. Thanks to Twitter, I found out the night before the show.

The second was to drop by and say hello to TNA Knockout Lisa Marie Varon. You know her as Tara or even Victoria from her WWE days. She is far and away the most talented female wrestler on the planet. Better yet, she's just really a sweet person. I've spoken with her at several events like these over the years and she is always smiling. It's infectious. My co-host Russ Cohen and I met her originally several years ago at a THQ WWE video game event in New York and she did a quick interview for our then fledgling radio show in like 2004. It was awesome to have her back on the show recently in 2012 and I wanted to make sure I stopped by to say thank you and hello. We are looking forward to seeing her open a restaurant in Chicago and wish her nothing but the best. Like I said her attitude is infectious and it's inspiring.

Within a couple hours, I had met my goals, it was time to get down to business and some more fun. I snapped plenty of photos of the hundreds of costumed characters in the building. You could walk an inch without seeing someone expertly or horribly attired like their favorite super hero or pop culture icon. As I was walking the floor, I noticed that DotCom from 30 Rock was setting up a little space at the show. I like 30 Rock a lot, mostly because of Tracy Morgan and his crew. It was a completely unexpected treat to meet Kevin "DotCom" Brown. You want to talk a bundle of energy? He was unbridled passion. Unlike the sports shows where these guys barely speak to you and charge enormous amounts of cash for their attitude and autograph, Kevin was snapping photos and conversing with everyone. He is every bit as cool as he is on 30 Rock and then some.

I almost forgot to mention the Shia LaBeouf appearance. I don't think it was even announced that he was going to be at C2E2, but he was set up right next to George Perez, and no one was even paying attention to him at first when I snapped a couple of photos. Within minutes he was swamped, and the only two people that had steady, growing lines in the artist alley area were Perez and LeBeouf. Contrary to rumors or what you read on the Internet, he was gracious, kind, and polite to every one that approached him. He took photos, signed autographs, and really seemed to enjoy himself.

Marvel and DC brought out their popular artists and writers and held several autograph signings for fans. They had a few freebies for the just dropping by their booths. The con also saw the return of two old-school publishers -- First Comics and Valiant Comics. Valiant seems poised for a big return with X-O Manowar and many of the character from the initial run when Jim Shooter at the helm. First Comics, who brought us characters such as the Badger and E-Man is also looking to make an impact. Archaia also had a huge presence at C2E2. They brought out several creators and gave lots of free comics to attendees.

Cryptozoic Entertainment who are riding high off the success of their recent entertainment trading card releases of Big Bang Theory and Walking Dead were promoting their Walking Dead game and World of Warcraft gaming cards. They were pretty much the only trading card entity at the show. I sure wish others would follow suit and appear at the show. A sample pack of cards or stickers handed out at an event like this could spawn a whole new breed of collectors! Heck I'd even volunteer to run a booth for Topps, Panini, Tristar, Rittenhouse  or any other manufacturer free of charge just to help spread the hobby love.

It was a weekend of 100% crazy and just as I am ready to call it a night, I am already jacked up for it to come back next year.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Oh The Thinks You Can Think or Living Your Dream

I've always believed that if you want something badly enough you can get it. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices, take chances and work extremely hard. I've tried to do that with any job I've had. I've done all of the above and more during the past 2-3 months and I have really enjoyed the results. Thoughts go through my mind and I wonder if I can make them a reality given the short amount of time I have to actually work on the Cardboard Connection show. I work a full-time job and manage a lot of side projects, but I've never felt like the show was ever work. Even on a business trip to Las Vegas, we had fun and the hours melted away into days.

I've never been more proud of the Cardboard Connection team. Working with the guys (Rob, Mike, Paul & Brad) at the Industry Summit was a blast and we were honored to assist Kevin Isaacson and Panini America throughout the event, especially with the GTS Distribution Ultimate Case Break. I can't tell you how much fun it was watching over $15,000 in product get opened and then having all of the participants come on camera to show us their hits.

Our sponsors have also played a huge part in our success. We owe a huge thanks to Memory Lane, Inc., Collectors Proof, Blowout Cards, Onyx Authenticated, ISA Grading, & Leaf Trading Cards.

Upon returning home from Vegas, we've delivered some of our best broadcasts since bringing back the Cardboard Connection Radio show. It has been a combination of elements that have made them so much fun. First off, the main ingredient has been our listeners, we have dedicated core group that always help make the show fun. Being live, it's always a blast to hear and see what they are thinking as we are discussing products or speaking with a guest.

The guests are also a huge part of the show. I liken it to Ric Flair wrestling. Ric is great and his opponent always looks good when the show is over. The result is even better when he wrestles someone of equal or nearly equal talent. Its been said that Ric could make a broomstick look like a million bucks in the ring. That analogy also works the same for radio. You need a good guest, or you have know how to bring out the best in a person to make them sound good on the air. Of late, we've had some top quality guests that are also top quality people. That's magical and a lot of times we don't know what some people are going to be like on the air.

We've added a few new segments too. Set of the Week is one that's become pretty popular. We try to make a regular segment on Friday nights, but sometimes there is just so much to discuss, it slips off the list of show topics. We also added a new Entertainment Card segment with Ryan Cracknell, a long-time blogger who now happens to be the editor at the Cardboard Connection. There are more coming, so stay tuned.

A couple of weeks back we were honored to have Armen Keteyian on the air. Armen had just completed an assignment with CBS Sunday Morning about the hobby and it wasn't good. Much of the news presented was true, but there was no mention of the current industry and how it has adapted, changed and grown over the years. It was produced with a negative tone and basically was predicting the death of the hobby.

Armen got an earful from collectors after the piece aired. What impressed me was that Panini America's Jason Howarth was the first person from a major trading card manufacturer to reach out and debate Armen.

Brian Gray from Leaf Trading Cards also spoke out as did Upper Deck's Chris Carlin. We also opened a dialog with Armen, and were fortunate to get him on the show. It turned out to be a great segment, and with any luck, if he tackles the hobby again in a future piece, it will have some more active and current sources within the industry. Not only did he admit that it was done in a very short time-frame, but he also said that the story could have been a little longer with some mention of how the hobby has changed. Regardless, whether you agreed with Armen or not, the segment got the hobby some attention and it saw collectors unite to make people aware that the hobby is alive and kicking.

Cardboard Connection Radio with guest Armen Keteyian

A week before that we had on Shawn Witt. Shawn is the Executive Producer of the new memorabilia/collectibles show on ABC called Ball Boys. It's a carbon copy of Pawn Stars but only involves the sports memorabilia finds found at the store Robbie's 1st Base in Baltimore, MD. Shawn was awesome. He gave us some great insight on what to expect and how the show would shape up. So far, it's pretty good. I'd like to see some more about trading cards, but after a couple of episodes, I've continued to tune in.

Cardboard Connection Radio with guest Shawn Witt

This past Friday we were thrilled to have Jeremy Brown from Ultimate Sports Cards & Memorabilia in Las Vegas on the show. His shop is thriving in Las Vegas. It's a tough market to have a store in because there are no pro teams and the population is melting pot from all parts of the globe. You need to be diverse and keep a stock of many different teams and players on hand because you never know what kind of collector or fan is going to walk through the front door. If you didn't know, Jeremy is also the go-to guy for Rick Harrison's Gold & Silver Pawn Shop. So if you are a fan of Pawn Stars, check out our archives for a great segment on the health of the hobby in Vegas and learn how Jeremy got involved with the History Channel's smash hit.

Cardboard Connection Radio with guest Jeremy Brown

To quote rock icon Paul Stanley, "We are just getting started." We look to deliver the best guests on a weekly basis that we can. If you think you've got a great collectible product, are a big-time collector, or know of someone you think we should be talking to on the Cardboard Connection Radio show, let us know. We want your feedback too. You may contact us at

Thanks for all of your support, us collectors have to stick together!

Oh, and a special thank you to the many people that celebrated April Fools Day with us. Our "new" show Bottlecaps & Dumpster Divers was a huge success!

Bottlecaps & Dumpster Divers World Premiere

Saturday, April 7, 2012

SIGnificant Cards - Fleer Genuine Miguel Cabrera Auto

The 2012 baseball season is finally underway. To me the game has completely lost its luster. I can blame many things including ticket prices, concession prices, roids, attitudes and more, but it really comes down to the fact that baseball has become watered down. There are too many games, too many teams and the league has been far too relaxed with its punishment toward players abusing their drug policies.

I was out totally for awhile. You couldn't pay me to watch a game. I'd rather tune in for a hockey game, a game of roundball or my favorite -- the NFL. To be honest, I even prefer NASCAR and Soccer these days. But, in 1999 I decided to attend a few minor league games. I watched this young kid named Lance Berkman just absolutely kill the ball in a couple of games in Las Vegas. I followed him as he eventually was brought up by the Astros. It wasn't until 2002-03 that I got lured back into watching MLB on a more regular basis. I saw the Mudcats play and this skinny kid named Miguel Cabrera was just eating Double A pitching for lunch. It wasn't long before he was brought up to the Florida Marlins and began beating down National League pitching too.

In what seemed like an instant, he became their cleanup hitter. In addition to being a phenomenal pure hitter, he smacked a significant amount of dingers helping the Marlins reach new heights and a World Series victory.

I had been a follower, and his skills made me a fan. I began searching out his rookie and autographed cards. Of the ones I have collected, this is by far my favorite. Fleer, in my opinion was producing the very best baseball cards at the time of their demise. They were trying new things and in some ways they were also playing catch-up with Upper Deck. The fact is, they also crafted some of the very best brands at the same time. Avant, Genuine, Patchworks, Greats of the Game and E-X produced some of the most exciting card designs of modern times. Say what you want about them, but you can never take that away from the team that worked there.

This Cabrera card comes from the 2004 Fleer Genuine Insider collection. The card and the concept is just simply cool. You have what appears to be a thick regular-sized 2.5 x 3.5 trading card. The magic is that the card slides out and inside is a beautiful autograph or in some cases a giant swatch of game-used material. Yeah, I said game-used, not a swatch that could be this, or might be that. You know the ones where the manufacturer won't even tell you what it is, or where it came from. It's not some swatch of junk with no description used just to make the card look nice.

Anyway, enough rambling, it's a cool card, and best of all Russ Cohen found it while dumpster diving at the Fleer offices during our broadcast that reported them closing their doors for good.

Ok, I totally made up that last part, I pulled it out of a pack myself. But wouldn't that have been funny? I know for a fact that people were indeed dumpster diving at the Fleer offices and always wondered what they found. I wish Fleer was still around. Not the Fleer that Upper Deck has, but the real deal. They were creative, innovative and with the exception of a ton of redemption cards, they did a fantasic job producing some of the better baseball cards of the early 2000s.

Update 9/2012: With one day left in the season, Miggy is looking at the first Triple Crown since Yaz did it in 1967! Cabrera is in my opinion the best player in the game today. I applaud the way he's dealt with his demons and is back on top of the game. This is a good story. Who doesn't love a good story?

Friday, April 6, 2012

A History of a Beloved Hobby - Collecting Trading Cards

Ever wondered about the long history of the trading card? It's come a long way since its inception. Once packed out as a perk or advertisement to help sell tobacco, it's now a multi-million dollar business that involves collectors of all ages.

Enjoy a visual history of the development of trading cards with this hour-long presentation from long-time collector, writer, and Cardboard Connection Radio Show Host Doug Cataldo. From vintage to video cards, you'll see these collectibles in a new light. Learn about grading, authenticity, and the manufacturers that make the cards. Participate in a Q & A session at the end of the presentation. We'll even give some trading cards away before it's over!

For more details and bookings contact Doug at

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Van Halen at the Rosemont, No April Fools

Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth have combined their talents to sell millions and millions of records. A lot more than the guy that replaced him in 1985, but that's another story. I grew up on KISS, AC-DC, the Stones, and Van Halen. Those were my bands. When Dave left in 1985, I was devastated. To me Dave was and still is the consummate showman, the best front man in rock. He is more than a little bit country and a little bit rock n' roll. If you could dissect him, you'd find that his mojo is made up of the same magical elixir found inside James Brown, Jim Morrison, Charlie Chaplin and Don Rickles.

I've seen Dave with Van Halen and solo more than any other artist, and I've seen a LOT of concerts. You can only imagine how happy I was when the news that the band was reuniting for a tour in 2007 was made public. If you could mulitply that by infinity, that's how thrilled I was when they announced a second tour and a new CD in 2012.

There's something in the blood of the Van Halen family that simply rocks. Eddie, Alex and now Wolfgang have this ability to capture your imagination like no other musicians. On the new CD, A Different Kind of Truth there are many memorable moments. The haunting close to As Is, the catchy She's the Woman and the explosive Chinatown are just a few strong points. Their musical elegance, and make no mistake about it; Eddie's sound is the greatest of all-time, and Alex and Wolfie accentuate it, combined with the lyrical genius of Diamond Dave provides you with perhaps the best straight-forward rock album in the past 15 or so years.

Here's a couple clips from their April 1st show. Sure they've slowed down a bit, certainly Dave's voice isn't perfect, but then it never was. Still, I'd rather pay to see them 20 times than to pay and see someone lip sync or use auto tune to try to sound good. I want the real thing. Van Halen delivered the goods.

If you want to rock, do yourself a favor and check them out.  To quote Dave, "When was the last time you did something for the first time?"

Benchwarmer White Box Report - 2012 Industry Summit

One of the most amazing things about the Industry Summit is the excitement that you can see on the face of the attendees when they get one of the amazing gifts at the event. It is truly an unforgettable experience when you see the people that work within the industry get the same thrill that collectors get when they open a pack or a box of cards.

One of the more impressive giveaways came from Benchwarmer after a fantastic presentation from their President Brian Wallos. He brought out a White Box filled with limited edition memorabilia & autographed cards as a gift for the attendees. He also had Benchwarmer girls Mary Riley, Shay Lyn Veasy, Candace Kita and Lisa Gleave in attendance signing autographs and greeting attendees. It was by far the best looking booth at the show.

Check out this video to see the madness that ensued. It was truly beautiful chaos.

SAGE Hit Low & High Series Video Box Breaks

The first football cards of 2012 have arrived and they are loaded with rookie autos of players looking to make a big splash in the upcoming NFL Draft. RGIII, Trent Richardson, Ryan Tannehill and many more can be found in packs of 2012 SAGE Hit Football. Get all the details about these two exciting, new hobby boxes...

UFC Knockout Video Box Break

One of the most impressive Topps products of 2011 comes back for Round 2 in 2012. With 8 hits, and a checklist that includes ring masters, veterans, & rookies from the UFC and Strikeforce you will get a lot of bang for your buck.