It’s time for the annual Mikey Awards where the best and brightest get ignored as I choose what I liked in 2015.
Well, more specifically what my collectors liked. It’s my list of the sports card releases (and some other things) that, in one way or another, had folks in my shop talking.
I do not expect you all to agree, but please enjoy what I found interesting in the hobby for the past 12 months and may 2016 be an even better year for collecting.
Rookie Of The Year (AKA, please have a better career than Pat Listach award): 2015 Topps Strata MLB – There’s something about a baseball release in December that sells out, the restock sells out and then collectors are still waiting for more that puts Strata in contention for the ROY Award. Throw in how each relic card offers an MLB hologram so you can see what game it came from and it’s trophy time.
Say Wha… Moment Of The Year (The “Is My Kid Going To Be Able To Go To College?” award) – So there I was reading to my son before bedtime on November 3 when the phone rang. It was my distributor sharing that Edmonton Oilers’ teen idol Connor McDavid had gone hard into the boards and was going to be out for a while.
The timing could not have been worse since 2015-16 Upper Deck Series 1 was due to hit less than 48 hours later. My son realized something was up when my jaw dropped further than when my wife shared she was pregnant the second time. Fortunately, Upper Deck 1 had the staying power of the word “cool” and we went through our 29 cases in a more than reasonable amount of time.
MVP – 2014 Bowman Chrome MLB – Sure I live in Colorado, but I’m not smoking anything. Yes, I know I’m talking about the year 2015 in this piece, but thanks to a certain Chicago Cubs rookie, we went through 100+ cases (yes, you read that right) of 2014 Bowman Chrome and Bowman Chrome Jumbo MLB last year.
One crazy night involved three Kris Bryant signed cards being pulled and sold with one phone call each. One happened to be the Orange Refractor and sold for enough money to cover a weekend in Las Vegas that would be movie worthy.
Most Improved Product Award – 2015/16 Upper Deck Black Diamond Hockey – UD took one of their longest running, most successful annual hockey releases, sent it to a heck of an off-season workout program, allowed it to come back bigger and better than ever before and puckheads responded better than I ever could have hoped.
So far we have gone through 50+ boxes in spite of shelf price jumping by about $150 each. It did not hurt that they added a single card pack of Exquisite as a chaser.
High-End Product Of The Year – 2014/15 Flawless NBA – While I did not go through nearly as many cases of this that I did with 15/16 Upper Deck 1 NHL, collectors embraced the rookie cards of Andrew Wiggins, an actual briefcase, Team USA cards, diamond cards and enough stars to make everyone forget that MJ isn’t in there.
Total Recall Award – 2015 Topps Tribute MLB – Topps literally wrote the book on how to handle a product with a flaw like so many of the autographed cards having issues. They offered to replace damaged singles from packs AND they allowed shops and distributors to send back as much as they brought in.
As a shop owner, it was great to see them standing behind their products and instilling confidence within ordering future releases. I’ve been at this for a couple of decades and I have never seen such a strong and effective response to a product with minimal issues. In case you were wondering, we not only sold out of all that we brought in, but went deeper and sold that as well.
The Larry Bird Isn’t Walking Through That Door Award (at least for a few years) – The NFL and NFLPA decision to go with a single license for the foreseeable future.
While I understand that in recent years Panini has made tremendous strides with their releases, the NFL is the one sport that needs more than one manufacturer. It is the only true year round sport and when we see a strong rookie class like we have this year, my collectors have shown there simply can’t be too many releases. Topps NFL releases usually go over better than new songs from Taylor Swift and as a shop owner, I have concerns as we head into this new frontier in a few months.
I checked one mock draft and sadly only one quarterback made it onto the top 10 prospect list (spot 10 to be specific) but the idea of no Topps base brand, Chrome, Inception, Finest, Five Star and others makes me wonder where my rent money next fall will be coming from.
The Man It’s Cool To Own A Card Store Award – This summer, one of my collectors asked if he could sell his cards in front of my store one day. Now that’s not a request I get that often and it did not come from just anyone. This one happened to be an Iraq veteran who was battling cancer.
Needless to say, my answer was yes.
Not only did my collectors step up and support him by buying loads of singles, but our local Fox affiliate got word of what was happening and led their newscast with the story. That brought even more customers to the shop.
Much of the year, Mike’s was just a place to hang out, buy, sell or trade but the days I hosted Brad at my store were my favorite by far.
The A Man Has Got To Know His Limitations Award – 2015 Panini Immaculate MLB – So you take a popular product with a history in both MLB and NFL, add some of the sweetest swatches and biggest names from the past and present and charge about half of what the NFL release goes for and apparently that’s all it takes for breakers to not even care that your products do not have team logos or names.
We went through case after case of Immaculate this year and many of those same collectors are chomping at the bit to get into cases of 2015 National Treasures MLB due this week.
Comeback Product Of The Year – 2015 Bowman’s Best MLB – The last time we saw Bowman’s Best baseball made, Tim Lincecum was a rookie, Troy Tulowitzki was a (RC) and Dice K was a good investment. I have to admit I got a bit nostalgic when I got the email sharing that Bowman’s Best was back. Now we don’t have the same nine autos per box we saw in 2007, nor do we have the same $300 out of the gate box price.
Granted, just about any baseball release this year benefitted from autographs of Mr. Bryant, Carlos Correa, Joc Pederson, Kyle Schwarber, Byron Buxton, Joey Gallo and enough rookies to make us think it was a football crop, not a baseball crop. Just like another December MLB release Topps Strata, we have gone through case after case of it and it doesn’t look like that will be stopping anytime soon.
Promotion Of The Year Award – Panini Black Friday – I think it is finally time to retire this award for good or at least rename it the BF Award. For the umpteenth year, no other promotion has driven in box shredders like BF has. I like opening my store on Thanksgiving about as much as DeAndre Jordan likes standing at the free throw line, but since I was not able to give out my Black Friday packs before 10PM MST on turkey day, I was not going to let my collectors down. In a couple of hours, we went through dozens of boxes and even saw a Jameis Winston autograph /10 emerge. The next few days my customers plowed through many, many more boxes and many more BF packs.
So there you have it. I can only speak for my own card store in my own little neck of the woods. I hope you got a chuckle out of this and my other efforts from the past year and feel free to share your own thoughts on Facebook or Twitter after you gave it a read.
Mike Fruitman owns Mike’s Stadium Sportscards in Aurora, CO. Normally, his column focuses on what products are selling best in hobby shops. He’s got thousands of cards for sale on COMC.com under the ID cardmn5150. Enjoy new arrivals and big hits from Mike’s on Twitter. Mike’s is always looking for more friends on Facebook and you can email him at [email protected]