Thursday, August 30, 2012

My Smallville Adventure Finally Comes to A Conclusion

In July I made a decision to purchase a couple of Cryptozoic products. We've had  a few of the guys on our show a couple of times, but I had never opened a box of their product, just some packs here and there. I like what they do, but I made myself a solemn promise that I would play up or tear down a product on the air without opening more than a few packs.

I review and discuss a lot of products. However, I don't get them from Cryptozoic. My dilemma was that I am  diehard fan of Smallville. I never missed an episode. I go way back to the days of Pete and Lana all the way up to Darkseid and Clark finally putting on the suit and flying. It was a no brainer that I was going to buy a box or two.

When my box finally arrived (it came with a box of Fringe, my other favorite Sci-Fi show) it looked like any other box I've ever opened. There was  no noticeable damage It was shrink-wrapped, and I was ready to tear into it to sort a set and see who the memorabilia and autograph cards were.

When I picked out the first pack, I immediately knew something was wrong with the box. You see, each pack is supposed to contain 5 cards. The first one was extremely light. When I opened it there were only 2 cards. The next pack had 6 cards. The next pack had a memorabilia card and so did the next 6. Yeah you read the correctly, there were seven memorabilia cards in the box!

7 amazing hits in one box!
Unfortunately there was no autograph to be found. Also, the collation was off and I got about 15% of the base set. On top of all of that, two of the memorabilia cards and several of the base cards were damaged unlike anything I've ever seen out of a fresh pack from a box in my 35+ years of collecting.

The San Diego Comic Con was going on so I kind of knew I should wait a bit before contacting Cryptozoic customer service, so I gave twitter a chance and like I figured, they were all taking care of business at the con. After eventually contacting them about the box, I opened up a trouble ticket and told them what had happened and showed them the photos I took of the damage. After a couple of email exchanges, they told me to mail them the box top, the emails and my contact/mailing info, and they'd take care of it.

 I sent it all certified right before I left for a vacation on August 3rd thinking I'd come home to the replacements on the 14th. It didn't go as planned. I checked my mail once during my trip and saw that they were now requesting I send in the damaged cards. I thought it was a little weird that they didn't ask in the first place, so while I was a tad perturbed, I sent them in on the 15th of August. The customer service agent assured me, they'd make up the extra postage cost with some goodies.

 On August 29th I received a package from Cryptozoic. I was stoked. I couldn't wait to see what was inside. I can tell you they made it up to me. First off, the 2 damaged memorabilia cards were replaced with mint ones.

 In addition to the two replaced memorabilia cards, they also replace the many damaged base cards and the missing autograph. I was thrilled to get this Cassidy Freeman auto. Tess Mercer was a fantastic character and I didn't have her in my collection.

I was already feeling pretty good about the returned cards, because honestly, that's all I really wanted, but there was more. In addition to the returned cards, there were 7 fresh packs of Smallville cards. How did I fare? Quite well, I found these...

I have to say that Cryptozoic really took care of the situation. While it wasn't the smoothest transaction I've ever dealt with, the results were certainly worth the wait. Thank you Cryptozoic.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

5-Star, Black, Onyx what's next?

For years, we've watched some very creative people craft trading card set after trading card set. We've seen innovations such as game-used, acetate, wood, plexiglass, thick stock, autographs, die-cut, gloss ink on matte finish, video cards, scratch-offs, glow-in-the-dark, cloth and many, many more. They are all great but if you, yes you, were to pick up the phone and call your local printer, you could set up a meeting and they'll explain and show you all of the technologies that are at your disposal. Same goes for the packaging, but if you are really creative, you'll come up with ideas of your own. I always thought a product with the name of Ice for instance should have a clear box!

The other thing we've seen in the industry is a lot of theft. Yeah, I said it, theft. It happens. People shift from one company to another, or a technology becomes popular and others duplicate or attempt to duplicate it. It's happened forever, but of late, it's making news because some of the actions are winding up in litigation. There are only so many types of metal you can have you know!

In 2011 alone, three different companies used the title 5-star for a trading card product. Who does the research for these companies, Helen Keller, Stevie Wonder? Maybe it really was true when they said, "We don't really pay attention to what everyone else does." YEAH RIGHT!

I'd be embarrassed if I put out a product with the same title as another company. I'd also protect my brand better. If by some chance I crafted a set with the same title as another one, I'd change it to show that I was original.  Forget about firsties, it's about sales and providing your customers with the best you have to offer, anything else is just lazy.

It's happening again in 2012 and it just can't be a coincidence. First, we have the company Onyx Authenticated. That's their name, don't wear it out! They jumped into the card game this year after success in the game-used memorabilia biz. Their product Platinum Prospects delivered autographs and memorabilia cards of top MLB prospects.

Not long after, the specs for Topps 2013 Tribute became public and there are Onyx autographs in it. Now granted, Topps used the moniker Onyx long ago to describe black parallels, but now it's in a different product altogether. Even more recently Panini unveiled a new brand of football cards dubbed BLACK.

Are we experiencing deja vu? Wasn't there an Upper Deck product with the same name? Someone pinch me, is this happening? Okay... now that you know that tidbit, would you believe it if I told that within Panini Black there is an insert with the name, yeah if you have half a brain, you guessed it, ONYX!

Coincidence? Payback? Spiteful?


Unoriginal? Yep.

Rookies & Stars Brings the Gridiron Goodness

If you are looking for rookie autographs and rookie materials, Panini has something right up your alley. Returning for 2012 is Rookies & Stars football with a price tag just under $100. 4 hits per box and a plentiful assortment of rookie cards, parallels, and inserts featuring current and future stars is what you'll unpack from this box.

Here's a look at what we unpacked:

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Redemption Report - Help! Have You Seen These Cards?

Supposedly, or is it allegedly pending shipment on 8/17/12 (they haven't shipped yet) these two gems came out of the same box. I just received an email alert that these two outstanding redemption cards that shouldn't have been in the product at all, are up for a possible replacement from Topps.

These are the culprits:

It was January when I added them to the other redemption cards I have received from Topps. That was 8 months ago. In recent redemption terms, that's actually not a very long time. I've had some out there for over 2 years, and that's being generous.

So if you were me, what would you do? Sit on them and wait it out or make the call and put it in the hands of the customer service roulette wheel?

Lemme hear your thoughts...

Saturday, August 25, 2012

There's Only One First Time -- Onyx Platinum Prospects

The box of cards arrives. It's larger than I thought it would be considering it contains only 6 packs. Wrapped in cellophane and looking smart with images of the product inside, and the new eye-catching logos Onyx unveiled earlier in the year, the time has finally come to rip into the companies first-ever trading card product.

And there is only ONE first time.

Think about it for a minute. Have you ever opened a companies first-ever product? Most of us are too young to have ripped into the first Play Ball, Goudey or Bowman products, Topps too for that matter. Even saying you opened Fleer or Donruss baseball in 1981 is pushing it, because both companies had many non-baseball releases as much as 25 or 30 years prior. Upper Deck, Inkworks, In the Game Inc, Cryptozoic, etc. are all more current opportunities for collectors to have experienced this rare treat. Upper Deck is usually the one that most people will claim as collectors clamored for their 1989 debut.

So it is a rare treat indeed to watch a company grow and craft a product that turned heads the second they showed off the images. We received a sneak peek of the cards at the 2012 Industry Summit and thought they looked amazing. Metallic ink signatures on black cards always have a soft spot with me and these were no exception.

I couldn't wait to dip into this box, and I wanted it to be special, so I opened it on twitter and did a pack-by-pack replay of the experience.

Interestingly Onyx was following the action and noticed that the box was heavy on Yankees prospect Gary Sanchez and Pirates sensation Jameson Taillon. It was not the best collated box to be honest. I scored 3 autos of Sanchez and a game-used card too. I also found 2 memorabilia cards of Taillon, an autographed memorabilia card and a gold autographed Taillon.

I'd say they were correct. It was horribly collated. But I got multiple autos of the hottest prospect in the product so can I really complain?

It's the first time, so I need to go a little easy, but that doesn't mean I won't point out some thing I believe Onyx can improve upon. Clearly the collation issue should be addressed, but there were some small quality control issues I noticed too. For instance check out these two base cards:

Can you spot the difference? It's not glaring but it is there. Josh Bell's card uses sentence text with capital letters at the beginning only, while Cabrera's is in ALL CAPS. Cabrera's is the exception, the base cards have regular sentence case. Small error, but it should have been caught before printing by the Onyx QC team.

The second flaw, and I think it's a pretty big one, is that while the game-used pieces have authentication info on the back of the cards, and the autographed cards do as well, the autographed memorabilia cards only authenticate the gear, not the graph. That's gotta change in the future. To me it looks like anyone could get one of these signed and pass it off as authentic from a pack.

While the collation was poor, the product has several strong points, especially at $70-$79. All autographs are on-card, the only redemption cards you'll find here are for full pieces of memorabilia that simply wouldn't fit into the box! 

Ok, so you know there were multiple autos of Sanchez and Taillon, what else was in the box?

13 of the 50 card set for 26%. Each base card is #'d to 500 and with parallels, there are only 800 cards of each player made. There were 3 base set duplicates and 2 Silver Series parallels #'d to 100.

As far as inserts go, here's the breakdown:

Platinum Prospect Game-Used Memorabilia Cards (Machine Numbered)
#PPGU04 - Jose Campos #'d to 100
#PPGU06 - Kaleb Cowart #'d to 150
#PPGU18 - Gary Sanchez #'d to 500
#PPGU20 - Jameson Taillon #'d to 500
#PPGU20 - Jameson Taillon #'d to 500

Platinum Prospects Authentic Autographs (Hand Numbered)
#PPA2 - Eric Arce #'d to 145
#PPA14 - Gary Sanchez #'d to 150
#PPA14 - Gary Sanchez #'d to 150
#PPA29 - Shelby Miller #'d to 120

Platinum Prospects Game-Used Memorabilia Autograph (Machine Numbered)
#PPGU20 - Jameson Taillon #'d to 500

2 Executive Etchings (Hand Numbered)
 #EE3 - Jameson Taillon #'d to 25
#EE4 - Gary Sanchez #'d to 100

To close, I'd like to say bravo to the Onyx team. We knew you could do it and do it well. Great first effort. It took guts to use metallic (known for smudging) ink autos and take that care to put them in your products, especially the first one and force the hands of manufacturers to follow your lead. They know collectors love them and they haven't been done often if at all by some manufacturers. Also including the redemption cards for full pieces of memorabilia is something that should be done by all. It's the next logical step and provides something more tangible than the norm, which is where the hobby is evolving towards whether certain people want to admit it or not.

I can't wait to see more!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Retro Break - 2010 Benchwarmer Signature Series

In this retro box break I take a look at some nice cards featuring some lovely ladies. From actresses, models, wrestlers, and reality TV, Benchwarmer CEO Brian Wallos has put together an exceptional checklist.

 I pulled a total of 11 autographs from the box. Check it out...

Caption This Card #1

Ah, ah, ah... I vant to take a crap!
Every once and awhile I find a card that just makes me laugh. It could be a poor design or a bad photo. I am going to share some of the ones that I enjoy as I find them. I'll leave a quote and if you feel compelled, leave one too.

This one is from the 2012 Topps Football set. It is card #174 of the Buffalo Bills Linebacker Nick Barnett. The photo probably should not have been used, but it was and here I am talking about it...

In it, he's got vampire teeth and is grimacing like he's constipated or something.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

2012 Topps Football Gives Collectors A Proper Kickoff to the Upcoming Season

Football is the sport I watch and collect more than anything. As a kid the only game in town was the base Topps set. In recent years, I stopped following it in favor of compiling autographed rookie cards of new draft picks. It's still my focus, but after seeing the sell sheet for this year's model, I was very curious. It appeared that the crew at Topps figured out that they really need the flagship to set the tone for the season. Of course that's always their goal, but this year they nailed it.

From on-card autos, to revisiting some of the Topps legacy through several insert set and creating unique and attractive chase cards for hobby, blasters, value boxes and HTA jumbos, they really delivered a spectacular assortment for NFL enthusiasts.

I created this video wanting the images to showcase how good it is. To do that, I show you every insert found in a single hobby box and at the end show the goodies you can collect at the retail level.


2012 Topps Finest Video Box Break

The Topps Finest brand is my favorite from the company. For some reason, they nail a great design and quality content with this one. A few years ago it was getting stagnant and ever since they restructured it, it's been a great product for all sports. It shined with UFC, Baseball is exceptional and Football is on the way in just a short time.

Check out what I found in a box of the baseball version:

Friday, August 17, 2012

Gabe Kapler, Ball Boys and Booker T

It's been a fast-paced couple of weeks with the National Sports Collectors Convention, the NFL Hall of Fame and Chicago Comic-Con. Luckily I was no where near any of those places. I was catching some rays on the beaches of Kauai.

But as they say, the show must go on.

In my absence, the crew stepped up and took over the studio as the invited eGraphs spokesperson, and former MLBer Gabe Kapler to make a Cardboard Connection with the Cardboard Nation!

On the following show they welcomed one member of the ABC TV Show Ball Boys to do the same. The guys spoke with Shaggy about the show and the sports and memorabilia biz.

The frenzy continued as soon as I got back to the mainland as the crew got a little sweeter with the addition of Sweet Lou Brown, another member of the Ball Boys squad. Lou grabbed a hold of the Cardboard Connection Radio listeners and never let go, we went into OT and a lil' After Dark. We also got to talk a little vintage with The Bubble Gum Card Wars author Dean Hanley.

Tonight is another really big show (insert poor Ed Sullivan imitation here). Discussing his life before he ever entered the squared-circle is the current Smackdown GM and pro-wrestling icon -- Booker T. Booker's new career as an author is just getting started with his book From Prison to Promise and he'll be bringing it to the Cardboard Nation tonight! Can you dig that suckas?

Listen live at 11pm EST:

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Tonight on Cardboard Connection Radio: ESPN Mint Condition Host Michele Steele

When we heard ESPN was going to run a segment about collecting, we were overly excited. As you know one of our goals is to help propel collecting and trading cards into everybody's world. Host Michele Steele has been doing a great job lining up top industry pros to bring the hobby into the limelight.

Tonight, we get to do the interviewing as she joins us for tonight's episode of Cardboard Connection Radio.

Also joining us will be the staff from to discuss the popularity of Live Case Breaks.

Join us and listen in at 10:30 pm EST.

Use this link to listen live (

Another Item to Cross Off the Cardboard Connection Radio Bucket List - Thank You Jared Kelley and Sport Kings

When I created the Cardboard Connection Radio show, I made a bucket list of guests and things I wanted to see the show accomplish before it came to an end. Most of those things have happened believe it or not. Broadcasting from the National Sports Collectors Convention, the MLB All-Star Game, the NHL Draft etc., etc. were on the list and crossed off. Interviewing industry professionals, great athletes, entertainment stars, and collectors was the driving force  behind us creating the show, and on my list were Reggie Jackson, Gene Simmons and the Ultimate Warrior. Believe it or not those goals were met years ago. One that I wasn't sure would ever occur, finally happened and we didn't have a thing to do with it taking place.

I loved seeing the Upper Deck and Topps logos appear in video games. You know, like on the diamond vision, or as a stadium ad. I have always wanted our logo to appear on a trading card. Not as one that we created, though some day that might happen, but as a part of the actual card.

Well, thanks to our friend and CCR listener, artist extraordinaire Jared Kelley, I can now cross that off my list. Jared has produced an amazing assortment of 1/1 hand-painted cards for In the Game's Sport Kings redemption program at the 33rd National in Baltimore. On one of those cards, a great choice by the way, is the Cardboard Connection Radio logo. It happened to be someone that was on our list to hopefully interview someday, the legendary Dale Earnhardt. While we missed that opportunity because of his heart-shattering, and untimely passing, I could not think of a cooler thing that anyone has ever done for us in this hobby.

Thank you Jared and Dr. Price. Me, the man with the mouth that never stops, I am truly humbled.

If you'd like to see all of Jared's amazing art for the National redemption program, visit this link.

I hope you have a tremendous National Sports Collectors Convention outing.