Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Goodbye 2013 NASCAR Season -- Hello 2014 Press Pass Racing.

Amazing isn't it? Jimmie Johnson was just crowned 2013 NASCAR Champion for the sixth time a week ago and hot on the heels of the season close, we have the first 2014 racing product. Press Pass releases their flagship brand to keep a steady flow of racing cards throughout the calendar year. I've heard we are in store for some big changes in the near future and I am excited to see and experience what they may be. For now though, I am going to enjoy this 100-card base set product and the autographs and memorabilia cards inside packs.

The design is solid this year and features drivers from Sprint, Nationwide and the Camping World series. You'll find rookie cards of Austin Dillon, Justin Allgaier and Kyle Larson too.

My only beef with this product coming out so early is that it seems incomplete. You see, this year Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman, Brian Vickers and others are moving into new cars this year. I hope that Press Pass will seriously consider providing a series two for 2014, perhaps even an online exclusive box set with an auto and memorabilia card.

Here's a look at the video box break:

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Cardboard Connection Radio Enters The Squared Circle

Over the years we've gone toe-to-toe with some of the greatest grapplers in the world. Are you a wrestling fan? Here are links to our interviews with some of our favorite grapplers:

Friday, October 11, 2013

What's Inside: 2013 Panini Prizm Baseball

It seems like only a few days ago (OK, months) 2012 Prizm hit the streets running. Collectors loved it and they didn't have to wait for more. 2013 Prizm is here with its shiny goodness, 4 levels of parallels and 2 autographs per box.

I was eager to check this one out. Not only was it a good looking set, both autographed card were actually in the product! That alone scores some points with me. So, what was in the box? Let's go to the videotape!


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Last Night Mars Attacked, Tomas Hertl Lit the Lamp and Collectors Rejoiced

On last night's episode of Cardboard Connection Radio we brought Topps Mars Attacks Licensing Manager Adam Levine in to discuss the continuously growing brand of one of the hobby's most unique trading card brands. From a team-up with Stan Lee to the upcoming Mars Attacks Invasion product, 2013 has been the year of Mars Attacks. We also spoke with Chris Carlin of Upper Deck about a variety of topics including the first cards of the NHLs Tomas Hertl who lit the lamp four times against the NY Rangers at only age 19. Hertl's 4th goal was one of the all-time greatest goals in the history of the league. Other topics include Andy Pafko, Set of the Week, the Chicagoland Non-Sports Card Show and more! Catch the replay!

What's Inside: 2013 Panini Certified Football

As the 2013 Football products continue to hit shelves, one long-running product, Certified gives collectors 4 hits, a mix of memorabilia and autographs, a little lower price and lots of colorful parallel cards. What's inside? Take a look:

With A Label Like Finest You Better Bring Your A Game and Leave The Redemptions At Home

For 20 years Topps Finest has been my favorite consistent product from Topps. It always brings out the best from the Topps designers and has continued to evolve into one of the best looking products. It's also been a source of many incredible autographed memorabilia cards. When Topps began producing cards for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, they added Finest to the lineup because like it's baseball and football counterparts, it showcases the best Topps has to offer.

The 2013 edition is no exception. It boasts an outstanding design, a perfect balance of Octagon ring generals and some incredible memorabilia and autographs from fighters and fans of the sport. Broken up into 2 mini-boxes you'll get a whopping 6 hits in the product, a mix of fighter gear, ring mats, ring girl kisses and autographs!

One thing though hits collectors like a kidney shot, too many redemption cards. A brief count after the products release showed over 15 key cards as redemptions in the product. Believe me, Topps doesn't want it that way, but it is, and if you are dropping $85-$95 for a product and the two main hits in the box are not actually in it, I believe you have a valid beef. Have a look inside a box of 2013 Topps UFC Finest...

Friday, September 20, 2013

What's Inside: Topps Tier One Baseball

Ah, Topps. Collectors either love or hate them. There doesn't seem to be much in-between does there? The company with the greatest legacy in sports cards is sort of an enigma. They do many things well and some other things not so well. In a day and age where customer service should be everything, it isn't. With social media, collectors have made and broken companies. It isn't the largest portion of the hobby by any means, but it is the direct lifeline for many to reach out and get their opinion heard. I've seen careers and companies ruined by stories told on Twitter and Facebook. Faith in a company should be the #1 reason why you put your hard-earned dollars behind a purchase. Why anyone would buy something they aren't happy with is beyond me. They are the company that is supposed to be the industry leader. This year, my confidence in them has wavered. It truly bothers me. Perhaps it is just me wanting something from my childhood to live on the way I've always remembered it, or simply because I want collectors of today to get the absolute best service they deserve. Maybe, I expect them to live up to the legacy. I've had my ups and downs with some of the recent Topps releases, but I can tell you that with Tier One, it's nothing but love from me.

Tier One shoots straight. It's a box with 3 cards in it (some contain 4). On average 2 autographs and one memorabilia card. It features outstanding designs, some unique takes on past Topps releases and contains one of the best mixes of past, present and future MLB stars that you can have. There are a couple of more greats I'd like to see on the list, but this one is nothing to sneeze at. I'd also like to see them up the basic relic cards here to be a little more high-end. I'm not saying 4-color patches, but maybe save the good stuff for this product next time around. There are unreal patches included, but a basic relic is sort of mundane in a product that could make an even bolder statement with collectors. I was very happy with my box. So happy, I bought more. Have a look at what I found:

Thursday, September 19, 2013

What's Inside: 2013 Press Pass Showcase Video Box Break

Consistency means something in the world of trading cards. I don't take a lot of chances purchasing a product that I don't believe will provide me something I absolutely won't keep in my collection after opening it. I mean if I wanted that kind of gamble, I'd head to Vegas. Do you ever think about that when making a trading card purchase? You see for me, I go in with the thought of getting something I'd like to add to my collection. Many people go at it from a completely different perspective. They go in hoping to get something great to sell. If I had a dollar for every time I've heard the only good trading card is a sold trading card, I wouldn't be talking about trading cards...

There are a small handful of go to products that will deliver something worth keeping or that will deliver something of significant value to use as trade material for another collector. Two of those products are manufactured by Press Pass. They are Redline and Showcase.

As the chase for the Sprint Cup gets underway, Press Pass delivers one of the most potent racing products of the year. Showcase is loaded with some of the most diverse racing gear and plenty of outstanding autographs. Would you like to see what's inside a box? Watch this:

SIGnificant Autos - Getting Old Sucks - Dying Is Even Worse

There is no doubt that life is precious. Every minute is a blessing. I've lost loved ones and there is no greater pain. It is amazing how fast time passes. It seems like yesterday that I was sitting in the Atlantic City Convention center watching Tommy Morrison manhandle Ray Mercer until he got gassed and Mercer delivered an unforgettable beating. That Morrison came back and fought after that showed how much heart he had. That he defeated George Foreman for a heavyweight title was another example. I was a fan. You see, at that time in my life I worked at Trump Regency (formerly the Playboy Club) and Trump Plaza. I got to meet all of the boxers of that era that came through town. Tyson, Foreman, Holyfield, Ruddock, Bowe, Seldon, Stewart, Holmes, etc. With all of the fights in the city, it was also a great opportunity to meet celebrities that loved the sweet science. Ah, the good old days.

I was fortunate enough to acquire a lot of great autographs during that span, and one of my favorite was Morrison. As Tommy Gunn in Rocky V, the most maligned chapter of the Balboa saga, Morrison became a star. That recognition translated well to his actual boxing career, but many thought of him as just another great white hype. Tommy was good, and what should have been a promising career was derailed when he tested HIV positive in 1996. 10 years later, that diagnosis would be reversed and he resumed a boxing career, but it was nothing like the early years. Some of the big names Morrison beat include James Tillis, Razor Ruddock & George Foreman. When he eventually retired it was with a respectable record of 49-3-1 with 44 KOs.

Here's an 8x10 I acquired in 1991 just before the big fight with Ray Mercer. I was truly saddened by his passing as he was only 44. I am 44. That is simply way too soon to leave this amazing world. RIP Tommy.

Minutes before going on the air for the 9/19/13 episode of Cardboard Connection Radio, I was informed that another one of my favorite pugilists passed away. This time it was the legendary Ken Norton. Norton was a monster in the ring. He defeated Muhammad Ali, not many men can say that. It was quite a feat to beat Ali in his prime. His fight with Larry Holmes in '78 was one of the best heavyweight fights of all time. Norton was 42-7-1 with 33 KOs. Check out round 15 of the Holmes fight, it is a classic.

His son Ken Norton Jr. became the first player in the NFL to win 3 consecutive Super Bowls. It was clear the family had some good genes.

I had the privilege of interviewing Ken a few years ago. I am and always will be a fan. He was a very cool guy in and out of the ring. Here's a link to listen if you like...

On that day, Ken being the consummate professional signed this Everlast glove for me, free of charge. It will never leave my collection. RIP Ken.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

34th National Sports Collectors Convention -The Final Chapter

It's time for part 3 of my NSCC Trilogy. I promise there won't be any Ewoks. On the same night as the Topps meet and greet, there was dinner party taking place with the members of the vintage group Of the members of the forum that I met that night, and the ones I sat with during the dinner, I enjoyed the company of a great group of guys. The night led off with a couple of speakers, one was very well spoken, one sounded like an infomercial, and one made me laugh out loud several times for all the wrong reasons. I felt bad, but I had to leave before the final speaker to attend the Topps event. Many thanks to Leon Luckey for his hospitality, I hope to have him on the show soon to talk more about Net54 and vintage. 

I'd be cheating you out of a good story if I didn't at least elaborate on the speaker that made me laugh. It was Josh Evans. Josh is the founder of Lelands. He's done tremendous things for the industry in my lifetime, and I am a fan. His story is a good one, he is easily one of the most recognized leaders in the memorabilia and auction category. Somehow in his speech, he was telling a story that for the most part made sense. It was about his origins, and he infused a little testosterone to toot his own horn. That happens at the National. The story somehow kept focusing on Charlie Sheen and a deal that Evans was trying to close with the former Two & A Half Men star. So what was funny about it? Well at first it was about a specific item Sheen wanted and Evans found it. He basically used his savings to purchase it and needed to sell it ASAP.  As the story progressed, the item started being referred to as stuff. He also kept saying he has sold Sheen a lot of stuff. When Evans went to deliver it, Sheen was not at home, but in rehab. Before he could mutter another sentence, everyone at our table was making interesting guesses as to what stuff Evans was delivering to Sheen, and what stuff Sheen was doing to get into himself into rehab. The funny/sad part of the story is that we never learned what the stuff was. However the item Evans sold to Sheen was Babe Ruth's world series ring. I was laughing so hard that I swallowed an ice cube whole.

I can't say enough about Panini America's NSCC presence. I'll get to the VIP party in a bit, but even before that happened, they had plenty of events going on. From having Jared Sullinger signing at their booth to case breaks and a massively popular redemption program, it was a constant barrage of cool. They had a large group of staff present ranging from marketing and product development to sales and VPs. We spoke to many of them on the Cardboard Connection Radio Show. Use that link to check out the archives. Here's a look at a couple of the cards from their VIP set. It includes cards of EJ Manuel, Geno Smith, Nail Yakupov, Oscar Tavares, and the mystery cards were Ben McLemore & Nerlens Noel.

They brought former Buckeyes and current Celtics power forward Jared Sullinger to sign at their booth which created a nice buzz among attendees.

In addition they crafted a huge redemption set for those busting the many Panini products over the weekend. It contains 24 base cards, 23 rookies #d to 499, 13 Diamond/Court/Gridiron Kings, 10 Team Colors, a variety of Tools of the Trade, and Staff memorabilia cards of Tim Franz, Tracy Hackler, Jason Howarth and D.J. Kazmierczak. There are parallels of many of the cards, as well as the extremely limited Print Progressions.

There were two additional big events that Panini had planned for the week. One was a meeting with distributors that would address any issues with the removal of MAPP pricing, and unveil their plans for a new incentive program called the Panini Round Table program. It would put branded Panini items including box cutters, shirts and more into the hands of shop owners. You can listen to Panini's D.J. Kazmierczak discuss the Round Table program, and more by using this link (FF to the 16 minute mark).

The other event was their VIP party. To enter you had to purchase $7500 worth of Panini products, or if you were insanely lucky you could have won entry via a Blowout Cards contest or the Ultra Pro and Cardboard Connection Radio contest.

Scott and Tammy (the winners) pictured below, had a fantastic time at the party and really had a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Here they are together at the VIP party shortly before enjoying the company of Dan Hampton, Chris Chelios, Thomas Robinson, Pedro Martinez, Johnny Damon, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, & Yasiel Puig.

This was truly a special evening. First class all the way. As you walked into the event you were given a gift bag. It was a beautiful Panini back pack with a 1/1 packaging printing plate, a redemption to use later for a Yasiel Puig autographed photo, a special VIP only Black Box, and some great Ultra Pro items to store your cards including storage boxes and one-touches. I was thinking to myself that was enough, a more than generous gift. 

Mike Trout Cracked Ice #'d to 5.
Then as you walked in you were given an additional redemption for a box of golden packs. Inside these packs were some pretty fantastic trading cards. Extremely limited editions of the Panini NSCC redemption sets with some amazing 1 of 5 and 1/1 memorabilia and autographed cards sprinkled in. Also seeded into these packs were instant redemption cards for items Panini had on hand including signed photos, memorabilia and more. DJ Kool was spinning jams, while some lovely ladies dressed in Panini gear, very tiny, Panini gear mind you, were dancing the night away. It was great to see some of our friends in a non-working environment for a change. Getting to spend some time talking about non-work things was a highlight for me. Make no mistake about it though, between tweeting, taking photos and filming interviews, it was was FUN work too!

Pictured here are some of the cards from the event I pulled out of the gold packs. I like collecting cards of the guests we've had on Cardboard Connection Radio, so the Tom Wilson card was a must keep. Wilson recently discussed being drafted and living out his dream of making the NHL.

The food was outstanding capped by a giant ice Panini logo that was surrounded by shrimp, oysters and crab. In addition there was Sushi, sliders, salads and even more delicious deserts.

Throughout the event athletes made their way in to socialize with the VIPs. It began with former Blackhawks great Chris Chelios and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist snapping photos and with each passing moment, it seemed another guest made their way in. Before you knew it, the room was buzzing about who would be next. The final two players to enter the room were former Red Sox and Mets pitcher Pedro Martinez and current Dodgers phenom -- Yasiel Puig. Both appeared to have a great time, laughing and dancing while mingling with their fans, and also the Panini girls. It will go down as one of the premiere events of this and any other National, past or future. Just wanted to say thank you to all the Panini peeps for making it a great event. They are a great group of people to work with.

This was a busy NSCC for me and the CCR crew. Sorry it took so long to jot down the meaty highlights, but there was so much to discuss and still I don't feel I covered it all. 

One last note. I always leave the National wondering what comes next. Time to put on the thinking caps, and try to outdo ourselves for next year in Cleveland. The show was a great success for Cardboard Connection Radio, and for that I thank anyone reading this, those that listen to our show, and visit our website. You make it worthwhile! While you might think I care more about all of the cool things I picked up, and they are cool, the best takeaway from the National is when we leave making new friends, business partners, and know that we've helped one or more of our friends make a connection within the industry. I am so excited to tell you we did that a few times over, and I cannot wait to see the results. 2014 is going to be a fantastic year.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Diamond Dave - Someone Get The Guy To Sign A Trading Card!

Collecting autographed trading cards is one of the easiest ways to find certified, authentic autographs of almost anyone. While not 100% policed, there have been some issues of autopen over the years, and I've heard a story or two about someone allegedly stepping in to sign someone else's trading cards. Still to me it is the safest route to go when you can't get the signature yourself. Also, I'm not keen on those situations where you stand in a line and wait for your 3 seconds of time with someone while they are signing your item. If I add a signature to my collection, it usually has a story attached to it that lasts longer than 3 seconds.

Sometimes collecting cards of musician autographs can be limiting. With products like Pop Century, Music, Music, Music, Allen & Ginter, Americana, and sets featuring Elvis & KISS that changed. We began seeing amazing autographs from artists like the Beatles, Billy Idol, Janis Joplin, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Henry Rollins, Lita Ford, Johnny Cash and many, many more. A few names that I have yet to see are ones that I think are must haves if you are putting a music set together. Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth. Along those lines, how about Joan Jett? I could keep naming names, but if I had to pick 3 those would be the ones I'd want to see.

Since there are no official autographed cards of Diamond Dave, I had to take a different route. I think Dave is the man. He played the rock n' roll game by his rules. Who the heck leaves the biggest band in the world to go solo? If you've seen any of his music videos from the 80s, the man set the bar for what music videos would become. California Girls, Just a Gigolo, Yankee Rose and Goin' Crazy are iconic, comedic and just plain awesome. Now gimme a bottle of anything, and a glazed donut to go!

I was lucky enough to get this autograph when I wrote music reviews back in 1996-97. I hope to add a trading card autograph of Dave and Eddie at some point in my life, but for now this will do the trick. I get to enjoy the signature and the best of David Lee Roth.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

National Sports Collectors Convention Takeaways Pt.2

So many interesting things took place during the 34th National, I needed more than one post to cover it. Tons of highlights and some seriously ridiculous lowlights. Our interviews with Tracy Hackler, Brian Price, Brian Gray, Scott Prusha, Rick Klein, Jonathan Dalton, Chris Carlin, D.J. Kazmierczak, Will Jaimet, were a lot of fun. Sorry if I am forgetting anyone, we covered a lot of ground, but there were more events that just didn't make it onto the radio show.

A lot of people came up to us and asked why we weren't in the corporate area. Here is your answer. We didn't want to be. Imagine if you were next to us, and paid X amount of money for your spot. For 90% of the show you had speakers blaring towards your setup, and you couldn't hear your customers -- you'd be pissed, correct? Well I would too, and I didn't think it would be fair to do that to whomever surrounded us. Also, if we had a guest like Lisa Marie or Sean Kane, and a line formed, would you want it in front of your space, hindering people from seeing what you have at your booth? I didn't think so. I was grateful for Mike Berkus and his crew for finding us a great spot that didn't do either of those things, yet kept us right out there where people could see, hear and talk without taking away business from another company or dealer.

A true highlight of the show for me was to meet some of my artist friends including Jared Kelley, Brian Kong and Sean Kane. Catching up with Jay Pangan and Paul Madden was also a treat. All are uniquely talented individuals, and have done some amazing work for their respective manufacturers. Seeing Sean Kane's work up close was mind-blowing. It looks good online, but when you see it in front of you, WOW! Watching Jared's processs of painting a card from start to finish was also an amazing thing to see in person. I hope Dr. Price has him and Paul at the booth again, dueling artists was AWESOME! Jay, well he's one of the nicest guys I've met and generous. I only wish I had more time to spend with them all. Oh, and if you are a fan of MLB mascots like I am, be sure to check out Brian's work on Trolley Dodgers‬, Pinstriped Yankees, Wearing Redsox‬. He stayed through the week to also appear at Wizard World's Comic Con (more about that in an upcoming post).

You'll see a thousand complaints about the littlest and biggest things that took place at the National. It doesn't matter what you do, you will NEVER please everyone. If you can learn to live with that, you'll sleep better at night.

So here's my take on the Topps redemption program. The Yasiel Puig Gypsy Queen card was easily the most popular and sought after at the show. I'll take the high road unlike some of you that just shoot from the hip. They are short-handed. I don't know why, I won't pretend I do, but they are. They need a few more bodies and minds over there. They have a solid crew with Clay, Mark, David and Jeff, but their redemption program is ALWAYS big time and they need to staff it like it is big time.  That they let dealers get in line before the show opened to the public, well that needs to be fixed too. It's not rocket science. Do a dealer redemption line, and an attendee line. Don't start the attendee one until at least an hour after show opens to the public. VIPs should be able to get in line first. At the very least, someone should be checking badges and monitoring the situation. When you keep it limited, expect madness. Something had to change, and it did by the third day. Hopefully collectors left happy and not frustrated.

As far as their meet and greet. It continues to astonish me how many people won't say the stuff they say online once they are face-to-face. I watched people that completely disrespect that company on a daily basis act like they were best friends in that room. It was sickening.

Some of the comments made were gold. I loved the collector that asked about more Santa cards. His comments totally validated us bringing him to the National 2 years prior. Clay at Topps said he's tough to get to sign. We had him at the National in 2011, and he signed a ton of autographs! They were pretty upfront at this meet and greet stating that cost is something that stops them from doing things. I suppose I can understand that, but would it really have killed them to bring in a UFC guy or girl to sign, or even a WWE person? No it wouldn't have. I'd like to offer assistance to them in the future if they need another person at events. I have loved the Topps brand since I was 5. I can't stand seeing some of the flak they take, but some of it is justified. I bet once they address the redemption issues and, get customer service back on track, some of that criticism will subside. For those that think they don't care, they do, but where some companies can turn on a dime, make a decision in a snap, or make an instant change, Topps may not be able to because of corporate. I am fans of their staff, they are all very intelligent guys and I think they just need some help. One last bit of advice for them, if they are reading. When you get that many Topps collectors in a room, don't let a single one of them leave with nothing. Throughout the evening they had a raffle for people to win prizes. Some walked out with 3 or 4 boxes of product. Some left shaking their heads with nothing. Considering those people hung around for 2 hours after the show closed, throw them a bone for being a dedicated enough fan. A pack probably would've sufficed. Topps brought 2013 mini to the show. For the second consecutive year, they have created a mini set based on their flagship product. Many people love them, including me. I skipped the minis this year. Why? Last year there was an awesome bonus mini pack only available at the NSCC if you bought a box. That was the tipping point for me. This year, that wasn't available, thus I didn't bite.

My son Will made a card at the UD booth.
He even tried to replicate the logo. Nice!
Upper Deck had a firm goal to reach a lot of different collectors. The fantastic "Make Your Own Trading Card" booth was a smash hit. It allowed kids to make their very own card using markers and a blank canvas. It was simply awesome to see kids partaking in this trading card goodness. In addition, they were essentially a loading dock for Cards2Kids. Dealers, retailers and collectors could drop off their unwanted cards at the UD booth and they'd go directly to the charitable organization. Simply spectacular! We dropped off a huge box of singles for them. On top of that, they had quite the rousing success with their Fleer Retro redemption promotion. When the National was ready to come to a close, they held a raffle for many of the items on display at their booth. They really didn't want to take anything home. Rumor has it that at one point during the show, they bought everyone at their booth ice cream. Why? Because collecting Upper Deck cards is COOL. You know cool, like Ice Cream. Shame I missed that, but I need an ice cream cone like I need another chin. Listen to Chris Carlin on Cardboard Connection Radio (skip to the 51 minute mark).

I was happy to see Collector Revolution set up at the show. I like what they are doing. Their customer base is growing and I continue to hear nothing but great things from the ones we talk to. That's a good sign. I will continue to observe their growth. The man in charge, Jonathan has a solid game plan, and the sky is the limit.

Some of my favorite people in the world are affectionately known to our group as the Brian Triad. That would be Brian Price, Brian Gray and Brian Wallos. You know them as the President of In the Game Inc., the owner of Leaf Trading Cards, and the man behind Benchwarmer. I often ask myself what would happen if the three of them merged. Now that would be something, wouldn't it? All three brought something special to the National. ITG put a fantastic cut signature autograph featuring all 4 of the Beatles. Yeah. John, Paul, George & Ringo on a single card. Amazing collectible. Check out the video of the presentation with special guest assistant Benchwarmer Mary Riley.

ITG's Chicago-centric redemption set was sharp too. Featuring great art of popular Chicago Blackhawks, it was on my must-have list. It was also great to see my friend Stephen Laroche and spend some time with him, as well as catching up with Allan Levine.

At the same time ITG was doing their promotion, Leaf was also doing something special. They had the Lucky Clover drawing for a Josh Gibson autograph. I told you we were busy right? We captured that on film too. Bringing the National home for collectors since 2000, yeah that's us.

As for Benchwarmer, Brian Wallos brings his lovely ladies to the show and the lines for them to sign cards is consistent throughout the entire weekend. Lots of people claim to have the best booth. Brian by far has the best looking booth. The one man and multi-woman show adds a dynamic to the National that no one else can pull off. As dedicated as his ladies are to the Benchwarmer cause, some of his collectors are even more dedicated. Some Benchwarmer super collectors were at the show, and they had some jaw-dropping cards in their collections. Me? I usually try to get all of the girls on the National exclusive cards, but again I was WAY too busy, so I snuck by and grabbed a Billie Jo Powers autograph. She was one I didn't have in my collection.

So, think I am long-winded yet? I've got more. Look at least one, if not two more posts about the National coming soon, or when I find some more time.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Takeaways from the National Sports Collectors Convention

With a week to process everything and recover from the 34th National Sports Collectors Convention, I finally found some time to jot down some notes from the show. I've pretty much said all I can say on the 8, yes 8 Cardboard Connection Radio shows that we did LIVE from the show floor, but even that didn't provide enough time for everything that went on. It didn't help that Wizard World's Chicago Comic Con was in the same exact building less than a week later.

Before I get into the recap of the National, I often get asked which event is better, so here's my standard answer. I enjoy them both, but as far as meeting people and the amount of traffic at the show, Wizard World owns the Donald E. Stephens convention center. The show continues to grow. I think the main difference is the interaction with the celebrities. That kind of access doesn't happen at the National. Instead of a pavilion, the guests at Wizard have their own table and staff, so the process is not only fast, but a more personable experience. The National could learn a lot by attending a comic-con to see how it could continue to grow. Opening the show up to a few new ideas could go a long way. It's also a different crowd. There is a lot of crossover, but for the most part it is two different audiences, in two melting pots of pop culture.

I picked up some fantastic new additions to my personal collection at both shows. Some, I had no idea I either wanted or needed until I saw them in front of me. At the National I was not expecting to find vintage non-sports wax boxes. I usually make it a habit to pick up supplies and singles towards a couple of older sets I am trying to build. I also go out of my way to find a fun junk wax box to open with my kids. When I saw a dealer with a table full of vintage non-sports wax, most for less than $10, I couldn't help myself. Here's a sampling of what I bought.

O-Pee-Chee Batman Returns: $3, Rocky IV: $12, Teenage Mutant Ninja
Turtles:$5, Robin Hood: $5, Back to the Future: $10.
One of the other additions came from the awesome case break of Panini America Rookie Anthology Hockey. I am a Red Wings fan and there were some amazing pulls from the break including a redemption for a Steve Yzerman #'d to 5. I have his autograph a few times as he is my favorite hockey player, so I didn't really pursue that card, but up until now, I hadn't added a Pavel Datsyuk autograph to my collection. Now, thanks to a loyal customer, I made a deal and now own a pretty sweet one. Have a look, and thanks to the member of the Cardboard Nation that hooked me up!

Just as the show was ending, I stopped to look around just a little more. Believe it or not, I had very little time to check out the whole floor or the show. We were BUSY! I did pick up a half a case of Leaf History of Baseball for $150. I also opened up a box of Leaf Inscriptions. Here's what was inside:

The final autograph I picked up was easily my favorite of the show. Two years ago, we brought our first autograph guest to the National. It was Santa Claus. People thought we were crazy, but I knew it would be something fun and unforgettable. Santa signed nearly 300 autographs in just over an hour, and he took a ton of photos with collectors, and industry pros at the event. This time I wanted to bring in someone that would be a fan-favorite, with a little local flavor. When I called Rob to discuss our National plans, the first name that came up was professional wrestler, Squared Circle owner, and friend -- Lisa Marie Varon. Luckily her schedule was open, and we couldn't have been happier as she was amazing with her fans, and our listeners. Here's a sample of what attendees that stopped by our booth received: 

I can't talk about the 2013 National without mentioning the Panini America VIP party. It was truly an unforgettable experience. It's going to need a post of its own. Watch for it soon.

Wizard’s Comic C​on Converges On Chicago

The Donald E. Stephens Center was PACKED for Chicago Comic Con.

Once a year a large portion of humans descend upon the venue known as the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center to gather for a small event known as the Chicago Comic-Con. This microcosm, aw who am I kidding… this enormous event continues to reach astronomical proportions with each passing year. 2013 was by far the largest Comic-Con I’ve seen in Chicago. The event took up two stories of the Stephens Center’s floor space, to facilitate the exhibitors and the attendees.

>> Read more at Comix Corner

What's inside a box of 2013 Press Pass FanFare Racing?

Over the years, I've had some outstanding autographed cards come out of packs of Press Pass Racing cards. In fact, a large part of my personal collection is made up of NASCAR Champions and the current crop of starting Sprint Car drivers. Of late, their products have been absolutely stellar. Redline has become my go to product when looking for autographs to add to my collection, and FanFare has such a wide assortment of drivers from all facets of NASCAR signing, that it to has become a huge fan favorite. The 2013 edition of the product is no exception, its loaded with great graphs.

Have a look at what I found inside a box of the new racing product:

Sunday, July 14, 2013

History of Trading Cards Comes To Schaumburg Library

I will be presenting the History of Trading Cards on Thursday, July 25 at 7 p.m. at the Schaumburg Library. If you want to learn about the history of trading cards from their origins as advertisements to their current status as 2.5 x 3.5 encyclopedia entries, I hope you'll come out and visit.

It's my last presentation before the National Sports Collectors Convention and I'll bring out some packs to share with the participants. Let's talk trading cards!

If you'd like to register for the program, use this link.

I hope to see you there!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Cryptozoic Covers The Walking Dead Comics With Set Two

The Walking Dead has become a pop culture phenomenon. From the mind of Robert Kirkman, the comic book that started it all has spawned a television show, and an enormous amount of commercial products ranging from action figures to trading cards. In fact there are multiple sets of trading cards that focus specifically on the TV show or the Comic Book. All have met with success.

This time around Cryptozoic revisits the comic book and the outstanding, dramatic, sometimes gory covers. The 72-card set recaps the many adventures Rick and his peeps have endured since the law officer awoke from a slumber. The comic and TV show are much different however. While many believe the show is extreme, the comic is far more violent and tragic. Many of the same characters are in both worlds, but their existence has some similarities and vast differences.

Have a look at the trading card set with this video box break:

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Pure + Plexiglass = Happy Collector

Yeah that headline lacks some pertinent info, but I don't usually inflict a lot of opinion into a box break. This time however, I felt it was abundantly necessary. You see, I am happy. A technology that I love has returned to the hobby. I love acetate cards. Love em. There's something about the clear, see-through nature of creating a card that looks good when you can see right through it. Maybe it's simply the transparency of it. I mean we all know a little more transparency would do this hobby a great deal of good... Whatever the case, as much as I love acetate, I love thick plexiglass more.

I can remember vividly when I was handed a Kobe Bryant UD Glass promo card. My jaw dropped.  My reaction was internal combustion. It was like a small explosion of the future and what COULD be done with cards was just multiplied by infinity and beyond. Immediately I thought of colored glass parallels, autographs and more. Sadly, I don't think the tech ever got the hobby love it deserved, or that I so selfishly wanted to explore.

When I heard rumblings that Leaf Trinty was going to have glass cards, I made sure I was going to get my hands on some. It's been ignored too long and I was beyond ecstatic to see it return. I can only hope that Leaf takes it to another level. It's not the most cost effective type of card to make and should remain a specialty item, but whoooo-hoooo am I happy to collect 2013 NFL rookie cards on this technology.

Here's recent break of Trinity I did, you can see how cool the cards look...

What Do I Collect?

I love getting mail and hearing comments about Cardboard Connection Radio -- good or bad. Keep em coming. In fact we need to make a regular weekly segment of reader mail and comments. If you want to ask a question, make a statement or just say hi, you can always reach us at

OK, that said, easily the most asked question is what do you collect. If you listen to the show, you know I am picky. I only really collect obscure Reggie Jackson cards, Kurt Warner autographs, Kyle Busch autographs and some oddball entertainment autographs. Right now I am chasing the Panini Golden Age Bad News Bears autos as well as a couple of TNA and Leaf Wrestling stragglers I missed out on after opening up some of those products. I'm always looking to add autographed cards of Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrom, & Sergei Federov to my collection, and I am in pursuit of autos of Brett Favre in a Vikings jersey and Brett Hull in a Red Wings jersey.

Recently I picked up some items to add to my personal collection, you know, things I just wanted...

They range from comics, to action figures, cards and even a sweet hat.

Here's a look...

L to R: Iron Patriot Action Figure, 2 Ken Shamrock Leaf Originals Wrestling Cards, Budd Lynch Bobblehead, Austin Aries TNA Live auto, Boba Fett cap, Essential She-Hulk Vol. 1, Kyle Busch Redline auto, Iron Monger build-a-figure & Paul Rudd Parks & Rec auto.
Pretty outlandish? Nah, I just like a wide variety of weird things and refuse to grow up. Do you collect anything special to you that you think is weird? Drop us an email and let us know. Maybe it could be a new segment on the radio show -- Collections of the Weird and Exotic?


I was cleaning up the office today and found 3 other recent items I acquired. The first was an autograph I wanted to add to my collection for a long time. I wish it was on a card, but this is a pretty awesome item too. He recently did a signing at a local book store, no brainer!

This was a surprise. I was at ALA, a librarian convention and I was extremely happy to find Gail Simone, Brian Azzarello and one half of one of my favorite creative teams (Batman: Dark Knight) writer Gregg Hurwitz sitting together doing a signing, so I got this gem.

 Finally, one last thing you probably don't know about me is that I collect Star Wars books. From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker to present, I am kinda obsessed with the stories of Star Wars. I don't dress up like them or anything, but I think I can attest a lot of the things that go on in my mind, as well as my vocabulary to reading Star Wars novels. When I was a little kid, maybe 6 or 7 I sat witha dictionary and a book and looked up words like corridor, bureaucrats, obstinate, and some that weren't in the dictionary such as Jedi, Corellian and hyperspace. Timothy Zahn isn't exactly my favorite Star Wars author, that designation goes to Troy Denning. But I owe Zahn something, and this is a really cool edition/addition to my collection. He wrote some great books and brought Star Wars books back to prominence with his Thrawn Trilogy and Heir to the Empire novel. His latest book follows Han Solo and Chewbacca shortly after they played a part in destroying the Death Star. I sure hope its good!


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Parks and Recreation Trading Cards from Press Pass

Boasting one of the most impressive entertainment autograph checklists of any recent non-sports trading card product, Press Pass has obviously has put a lot of eggs in their picnic basket for Parks and Recreation. Big names including Amy Poehler, Rob Lowe, Aziz Ansari, Paul Rudd, Megan Mullally, and key cast members Retta, Aubrey Plaza, Nick Offerman and more have signed for the series. Each box included a memorabilia card and 2 autographs. Look for some fun inscriptions and a complete recap of the series.

A Brillant New Basketball Brand From Panini America Shines

Tired of the same-old-same-old? I am, and any time the creative juices flow in the trading card industry, it piques my curiosity. When Panini America announced Brilliance basketball, it caught my attention. Colorful, well designed, with a solid mix of past, present and future, it is a pleasure to look at and collect.

New Configuration on Old Favorite Proves Winning Combination For 2013 Score Football

Great photos, a large base set, a 25th Anniversary celebration and more are packed into the 10, 50-card packs of 2013 Score Football. Have a look at the newly configured hobby edition of this old standard.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Press Pass Ignites a Flame For NASCAR Card Collectors

Filled with gear from the 2013 Daytona 500, autographs from today's top drivers and a beautiful looking base set, Press Pass revs up racing cards with 2013 Ignite. With at least 1 autograph and 1 memorabilia card per box, Ignite, now in its 2nd year provides plenty of thrills and even some bonus hits for some lucky collectors, giving new meaning to the term Hot Box! Have a look at what the product delivers:

Booklets, Laundry Tags, Crown Royale Pair Up for 2012-13 Panini Preferred Basketball

One of the most popular basketball releases in recent years returns for 2012-13, boasting a dual rookie class, laundry tags, patches, on-card autos from superstars past, present and future, and a variety of colorful parallels to make any NBA fan ecstatic. Check out what you could find in the elegant Panini Preferred Basketball product by tuning in to this video:

Monday, April 29, 2013

Find On-Card Autos of Top Prospects in 2013 Press Pass FanFare Football

The Draft is done. It left many confused and bewildered, but if you listen to Cardboard Connection Radio, you'd know we spoke about how all of the offense players getting hyped were NOT going to get selected early. It seems the NFL agreed, as names like Geno Smith, Matt Barkley and many more weren't chosen until round 2 or later!

In a year where OTs, DTs, OLBs, and S had the advantage, it will be interesting to watch 2013 sets because the early ones are offensive player heavy with QBs, WRs & RBs that were left on the board for much longer than they anticipated.

There's no doubt that a talented player or group of players will emerge as outstanding from deep in this draft, it always happens. Some of the best players in the NFL Hall of Fame came from later rounds.

Let's see how 2013 Press Pass FanFare football fares... It contains on-card autographs of the top prospects and some very low numbered parallels and inserts. Priced at about $85-90 you'll get 5 cards per box or will you???

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

SAGE Autographed Football Delivers Draft Pick Autos Just In Time For Annual Event

With 2 autos per pack, hot packs, hot boxes and unique new packaging SAGE Autographed Football returns for 2013 with over 60 subjects including Geno Smith, Matt Barkley, Manti Te'o Giovani Bernard, Eddie Lacy, Cordarrelle Patterson and more.\

With a draft that's leaning heavy towards a 1st round full of linemen, the checklist also includes Luke Joeckel, Datone Jones, Sheldon Richardson, Bjoern Werner too.

Have a look at what I found in a box:

Monday, April 22, 2013

2013 Topps Tribute Baseball - High End, High Yield, High Stakes

I've always liked the concept and appearance of Topps Tribute. It looks elegant, I'd say it would be the BMW of collecting. It's not the Lamborghini, but it is a brand that stands out on its own, is of a higher grade than other baseball cards and it usually delivers. You might find a lemon every once an awhile, or you might enjoy an experience of a lifetime.

Make sense to you? Not every box of Tribute is a game-changer, some are, but even in the boxes where the value doesn't seem to match up, there could be some long term potetnial that turns a mediocre box into a powerhouse down the road. I've had a few experiences like that with this product over the years because of the widespread mix of players on the checklist. Tribute's best element is the inclusion of baseball players from the past, present and future. From Willie Mays to Prince Fielder to Manny Machado, a multitude of generations is covered.

Originally priced at nearly $350 per box, it's come down to about $275. For all of the great elements like bat knobs, bat plates, eye black and the great looking designs and autos, there are a few shortcomings too. Small white swatches for instance are something you can find anywhere, they should be larger than life in a product like Tribute.

Have a look at what's in a box.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Impact Wrestling Cards Return with LIVE from Tristar

As Impact Wrestling embarks on a road tour for their televised events, leaving behind the Orlando studio, Tristar has conjured up a brand-new set to coincide with the celebration.

An all-new 109-card set with nearly 50 autograph subjects, up to 12 autos on a single card and memorabilia from TNAs top stars including the Knockouts and most recent roster additions, it is another outstanding effort.

Have an in-depth look at the set:


Leaf Brings On-Card Autos of the Top 2013 Draft Picks & Johnny Manziel Too!

2013 Leaf  Metal Draft Football has quite a few surprises within boxes and cases, but the two things you need to know about the collection are: it brings you on-card autos of over 70 top NFL Draft hopefuls, and the first autographed cards of Heisman winner Johnny Manziel.

There are 5 cards per pack and they are all autographs!

Here's what I found in a box:

Tristar's SignaCuts Baseball Returns with 2013 Bronx Edition

Many collectors would balk at the premise of a one card per pack product. If there isn't a set building element involved, I prefer cutting to the chase. Tristar has had solid success with the formula within the SignaCut product line. It's back for 2013 with Bronx edition.

Loaded with players that donned the pinstripes for the Bronx Bombers, or as some might refer to them, as the Evil Empire, this is a very cool opportunity to score a fantastic cut signature for a fairly affordable price.

For under $50 you could add a Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, Joe DiMaggio or 1 of many other Hall of Fame or HOF caliber player to your collection. Of course there are some guys that aren't that great too, but many are tough to find players with little or no autographs on cards.

For the Yankees aficionado, it is a great way to bolster your collection with a solid element of fun.

Check out what you might find in a box, as well as what I did find...

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Big Hurt, Rocket Ismail, The Soup Nazi and Me?!?

They say that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. I am living proof that is not true. I lived there for nearly 12 years and got out relatively unscathed. I've only been back 3 times since I left. It's a fun place to visit, but I wouldn't wanna live there!

I just returned home from the 2013 Industry Summit. It's an event not like many others. You get a room full of power players in the trading card industry for four days of rubbing elbows, making deals, pitching products and big announcements. It's four days of non-stop information with ample time to catch up with old friends, make new acquaintances, and most important... take care of business.

On the last day of the event, Chris Carlin, the PR machine at Upper Deck asked me to be a part of a bit he was filming for an upcoming April video. It was fun, as my friends Rob Bertrand and Wayne Frazer were also part of the shoot. A couple other guests at the Summit were also part of the video, you might have heard of them: "The Big Hurt" Frank Thomas, "The Soup Nazi" Larry Thomas, and "Rocket" Ismail.

The premise is that Upper Deck is bringing gum pack to packs of cards. I'll let you see how that works out for them. Enjoy the video.

Cryptozoic Provides Collectors With An Inside Look at Castle Seasons 1 & 2

With the 100th episode of Castle coming to TV this month, there's a reason to celebrate for fans of the show, and its cult star Nathan Fillion. One way collectors can get even closer to the Castle action is with the latest trading card release from Cryptozoic Entertainment. Castle Season 1 & 2 trading cards are finally in stores and collectors are snatching them up quickly.

The 72-card set features highlight from the first two seasons of the show and includes wardrobe and autographs from the shows top stars.

If you'd like to see what's inside a box, look no further...

Saturday, March 30, 2013

ITG Shoots & Scores With Motown Madness A Trading Card Tribute to the Detroit Red Wings

There are not many sports franchises that can be the sole subject of a trading card product. The NY Yankees, Real Madrid, The Montreal Canadiens, The Dallas Cowboys, Manchester United, The Boston Celtics and the LA Lakers could easily fill their own sets, but not too many other ones could and make money for a card manufacturer.

The Detroit Red Wings are another one that can fill a mighty long checklist with top names and at the same time make many fans and collectors reminisce about the 90+ years of making Detroit affectionately and passionately known as Hockeytown.

In The Game absolutely nailed this set. From the base cards to the manufactured patches to the autographs and real game-used items this collection will appease a Red Wings fan like no other.

I can already hear other hockey fans crying about this one. Guess what, if you are open-minded there is something here for you, if not... tough. It's called Motown Madness for a reason jerky!

Check out the box break video and if you want some more info about the product, be sure to visit the Cardboard Connection Motown Madness page.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Soup Nazi talks to Cardboard Connection Radio

On the next edition of Cardboard Connection Radio, our interview from the Industry Summit with the incredible Larry Thomas AKA the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld will air as part of a live show.

Larry was an awesome guest. Funny, appreciative and genuine, a great guy. He was so cool that he worked a little magical phrase especially for Cardboard Connection listeners...

Here's a clip of the interview

If you'd like to add this autographed photo of the Soup Nazi to your collection, make sure you are following @CardboardRadio on Twitter and tweet what the Soup Nazi says to us in this clip to be entered in a drawing for the photo.

You have until Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 11:59 PM Central Time to enter.

A tremendous thanks to Dave and John at Sweet Deal and long time friend Scott Schwartz for making this possible.

Friday, March 8, 2013

New Guests Bring Significant Impact To Cardboard Connection Radio

Wednesday night we welcomed Mandy Fuerst from Tristar, Brian Gray from Leaf Trading Cards, and Colin Barnicle the producer of the ESPN 30/30 short The Holy Grail on the show. We were also supposed to have Scott Gaeta from Cryptozoic on the show. For some reason, he no-showed even though we double-checked for confirmation. While we were disappointed that happened, it didn't put a damper on an amazing show.

We talked about TriStar's brand-new Impact Wrestling LIVE! wrestling card product hitting stores in a few weeks as well as the National Sports Collectors Convention autograph pavilion with Mandy. She gave us great info about the schematics for their products and some hints on potential upcoming projects. It was fun after meeting her many times to finally have her on the show.

Colin spoke very candidly about his documentary of the esteemed and scrutinized Honus Wagner T-206 trading card that is currently valued at over 2 million dollars. It was a great discussion about a topic that has been talked about by many for years, and will continue to be for many more.

Brian Gray earlier in the day had dropped the bomb that his products included a mystery redemption card of one Heisman winning Johnny Manziel. We spoke with Brian about the major announcement and some other Leaf happenings. He's continuing to break ground as a manufacturer and is finding ways to deliver the cards he wants to put into collectors hands. Always interesting.

If you missed the show, here's a link to the archive to listen:

Tune in tonight for an all-new show with artist Sean Kane of Painted Glove Collectibles 
editor of the Cardboard Connection Ryan Cracknell, Law of Cards with Paul Lesko and NHRA and NASCAR racer Nicole Lyons. Listen live at 10pm EST:


Monday, February 18, 2013

Topps Series 1 Price Drops, Is It Loaded With Too Much or Not Enough?

I was looking over some products in hopes of picking something up at a good price while simultaneously putting together a video of 2013 Topps Series 1 Baseball. I recently opened a hobby box and a retail box of the first entry in the 2013 MLB collecting season. Needless to say, that when I saw Series 1 had dropped from $60+ to  $46 I was a little surprised. That kind of drop doesn't usually happen this close to the release date.

But it has happened, and while I am an avid fan of many of the manufactured relics that appear in 2013 Topps I can't help but wonder if there is just too much going on with the brand. I've heard commentary from all kinds of collectors. Some love it, some do not -- I get that.

You can beef about what you love and hate, it is a free country. When I look at what the flagship product has become, I see many of the traits that I loved about it as a youth. It still has the set building qualities I remember as I tried to collate a set.

I love inserts as much as the next guy or gal, but it seems excessive here. I don't need that bloat to keep me interested in the base product. Some of it I can handle, some of it I can even tolerate, and some of it I can really enjoy, but I guess my question is, when is enough, enough?

This hobby seems to be geared towards outdoing the competition and then outdoing yourself. I understand that competitive nature. I have it. I want every Cardboard Connection Radio show to be better than the previous one, but even I know that when you overdo things it seems forced. That's pretty much how I feel about this year's product. All of the gimmicks, followed by the biggest card promotion, the million dollar chase, etc, etc.

That's said, when it comes down in price to the point where it is $1.27 per pack, it is one of the best bargains in the industry. There is no product that can touch it at that price, and that my friends is why it's been around longer than I have and will probably be around long after I am gone.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

What a week for collectors and Cardboard Connection Radio

It's been a great week for collectors nationwide and beyond. The NBA All-Star Game is going strong and Panini America is right in the thick of things in Houston rubbing elbows with the top names in the sport, past & present. They are also celebrating the 20th anniversary of Contenders Football and waiting with baited breath on the conclusion of an Andrew Luck 1/1 from the 2012 product that's over 30K.

It was National Hockey Card Day in America, following a successful run in Canada last weekend and collectors got a treat from Upper Deck.

We announced the Scholarships that we are working with the Industry Summit to provide to Hobby Shop owners a few weeks back, and now you can get the details of our Media Partnership with this tremendous event.

This past week we had a couple of great shows. On Wednesday we were joined by Onyx Authenticated President Lance Fischer and Miami Marlins prospect Justin Nicolino. We got the lowdown on some upcoming Onyx products, and had a great conversation with Justin about being part of the blockbuster deal that sent Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes to Toronto and Nicolino to the Marlins. He was a great guy and hearing the story about his mother collection cards was priceless. You can listen to the archive of the show using the link below.

Cardboard Connection Radio with Onyx Authenticated and Miami Marlins prospect Justin Nicolino:

Friday was also a fun show. We had an appearance from one of the most beloved people in the trading card industry, and good friend of the show -- Tracy Hackler. Tracy phoned in for our "This Week At Panini" segment live from Houston, TX and the 2012-13 NBA All-Star Jam Session. Also, to celebrate National Hockey Card Day in America, we spoke with Upper Deck's Josh Zusman about the annual event and some upcoming UD products including Fleer Retro Hockey. We also asked if there will be a 2012-13 The Cup product. What did he say? You'll have to tune in to find out.

Cardboard Connection Radio with Panini America's Tracy Hackler & Upper Deck's Josh Zusman:

Enjoy the shows!

Reach for the Sky - A Look At My Velvet Sky Autograph & Memorabilia Collection

The art of building a collection can take many turns. If you are a player collector, it becomes a chase to get all of the cards of that particular player. If you open a lot of packs, sometimes you get into a rut. You might want to find a particular player and wind up getting another. This year I've been a magnet for the Colts Coby Fleener. It's gotten so bad that I've coined a phrase about it so that when I find one, I call it "Getting Fleenered".

Over the years there have been some players that have signed a lot of autographs for trading card products completely devaluing the worth of their signature. The big three that come to mind for me are Bob Feller, Pete Rose and Bill Mazeroski. This year, it seems that I could add Coby Fleener to that list. The guy has so many autographs in the overabundance of 2012 football releases that there is no way it'll attain a solid value unless he sets a bunch of records and notches a Super Bowl or two. It's a shame too, because with Andrew Luck as his QB, he has a chance to enjoy a great NFL career.

Anyway, I am rambling, and my point was that sometimes pack opening dictates what or who you collect. As an avid fan of TNA Impact Wrestling, I was drawn to the Tristar products when big names like Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Kurt Angle, Booker T, Sting, Rob Van Dam, Jeff Hardy, Kevin Nash and Mick Foley graced the autograph checklist. However, as much as I loved those guys during their careers, I've had the opportunity to interview and interact with several of the TNA Knockouts. Traci Brooks, Gail Kim, Tara, and some past Knockouts including Trinity, Chelsea, Goldy Locks & Lollipop all have appeared on Cardboard Connection Radio. All were incredibly fun and passionate about their craft.

I'll tell you that the fact that I helped write card backs for the very first TNA Trading Card set from Pacific Trading Cards made me want to see what was next for the card line. Tristar has done an awesome job with them and I own every single set they've produced. My only beef with them is that they need to do an ON-CARD set. It seems they only deal with stickers and it's just lame that they can't do one series on-card after all this time.

That said, they have really nailed the autographs. They have gotten just about anyone that laced up the boots, or spoke a word on TNA television or PPVs to be a part of one or more of their sets.

Back to the Knockouts... I was already a huge fan of Tara, Traci and Gail Kim. As the Knockout division has grown, I also became a fan of Mickie James, Brooke Adams (Tessmacher), and Velvet Sky. Honestly, I was shocked when she disappeared from the Impact Wrestling scene for a tad last year. You could see that beyond her beauty, she had a relationship with the TNA fans that was unparalleled among her peers. The Knockouts are the main reason many people watch Impact Wrestling in the first place. She was one of the biggest draws for the company and quite frankly her Beautiful People gimmick with Angelina Love is arguably the best Knockout angle to this date. She returned in late 2012 and it was evident that she was missed by the crowd reaction.

As I've opened a lot of Impact Wrestling product, Velvet became the wrestling version of Coby Fleener for me. Like I said, it's not a bad thing. I always enjoy adding new cards to my collection of people that are great at what they do. Unlike Fleener, and yeah I get that its Sports Entertainment, in this case though she is a proven commodity, and has a Knockouts Championship on her resume. I imagine she'll add several more before her career is over. Here's to hoping both of them have stellar careers, then they benefit, and my collection does too.

All of these cards with the exception of the personalized one came out of a pack of cards, I didn't get any on the secondary market. The personalized one was a purchase I made when Velvet offered them up to assist her friend and fellow wrestler Daffney, who was involved in a car accident (another reason ya gotta love Velvet).

I'm hoping someday we'll get Velvet on Cardboard Connection Radio. She's a bit of sports fan herself, a Yankees fan and it would be cool to hear her perspective about being on trading cards and signing autographs.

Here's a look at a few cool cards from my Velvet Sky collection:

Knockout Signature Curves Auto
TENacious Velvet Sky/Gail Kim
Reflexxions Personalized
OBAK NSCC Exclusive
TNA Xtreme Velvet Sky Auto
TNA New Era Auto/Memorabilia
Signature Impact Quad Memorabilia

Reflexxions Quad Memorabilia

Xtreme Beautiful People Dual Auto