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: