Hello Card Peeps,
I’m back once again with the annual Mikey Awards. I hope you enjoy and get a chuckle from my highlights and occasional lowlights from the trading card industry in 2018. These are intended to mostly make you laugh or think and if you are a manufacturer who does not have a great sense of humor, please consider stopping at this point. Should you proceed, feel free to nail me on getting zinged, but only if you thank me for any kind words I often shared about you and your releases throughout the year.
All in all, 2018 will go down as a great year for my shop and more importantly, my collectors. There were some incredible pulls, boxes that I loved selling, a great many that I regret selling and a few that I still wonder about. For the most part, enough rookies clicked where there were few skunked releases and for those rookies that didn’t perform, there were a few enjoy able surprises. I’m already looking forward to 2019 releases that include Vladimir Guerrero Jr after he gets “Kris Bryanted” and gets to play, the entire Duke basketball team goes pro, Justin Herbert from Oregon changes his mind and Jack Hughes skates circles around collectors and becomes the next Young Gun to have.
Here we go with the Sixth Annual Edition…
The I Owe You A Beer And A Hug Award To My Current Favorite Player – Patrick Mahomes. I do not usually find myself with a soft place for Kansas City Chiefs players since my store is located near Denver and Bronco orange is usually the color of choice around these parts. After one game last year and 15 games this year, Mahomes has 12 wins which is not bad considering it took his dad 11 years to win 42 games. Sure he was a relief pitcher for most of that decade plus, but why let facts get in the way of a cool stat.
After three games this year, I had to look at replacement cost on my 2017 NFL trading card options. I had to do that after week 4, 5 and 6 also, but it was easier since I had many fewer options by that point. I took another peek at replacement cost this week and yeah, I owe him a beer, holiday card, envelope stuffed with cash and probably a loft in Vegas for a weekend.
Sadly the last week before Christmas I was Mahomes-free of singles and he was definitely on the want list for girls and boys this year. Currently my 2017 case options are gone and it won’t be long before my 2017 section resembles what my 2017 MLB section looked like when Aaron Judge ruled the world.
(Update: Since I originally started writing this a few days ago, I have now run out of 2017 Majestic and Pantheon and if it keeps going, I won’t have to root for Mahomes since I will soon be out of everything from that year).
Mahomes rookie cards have been the talk of the 2018 football season. I’d love to have some more to talk about.
Promotion Of The Year Award – National Hobby Shop Day. OK, full disclosure. This national promotion idea was mine. It hatched one night with fellow shop owners Michael Ant and Rana Bindra when they were in town. We had a great dinner at the Buckhorn Exchange and I cannot tell you that there was no alcohol involved.
The first year of NHSD in 2017 there were less than 40 stores involved and by the time 2018 NHSD rolled around, more than 100 shops found value in offering up free food, a great selection of autographed memorabilia, oodles of free promotional packs from Cryptozoic, Panini, Topps and Upper Deck, free supplies from Ultra Pro and much more that the folks at GTS put together with the incredible help of Rob Bertrand.
Props to Panini for Father’s Day, Black Friday and the two Player Of The Day promos, Topps for National Baseball Card Day and their free holiday packs, Upper Deck for National Hockey Card Day and the return of their Winter Packs, but giving away autographed stuff from Dr J, Todd Gurley, Auston Matthews, Mike Ditka, George Springer and Pele kinda stood out to me.
I Got Who? Wait, I Think I Him Awhile Back. HOLY CRUD I GOT HIM! Award – Phillip Lindsay. As the owner of a card store in Colorado and having attended the University Of Colorado, I was well aware of his on-field abilities. It did not hurt that he happened to attend a local high school. As many of you know by now, he was not invited to the combine, nor was he drafted, but the Broncos still gave him an invite to training camp and as they say, the rest is history.
From a card perspective, many shredders got to know him by pulling his singles from both Contenders Draft and Elite Draft from Panini. After those products, he did not appear in a release until Panini Obsidian which released in December. No blame for Panini here since 99% of the time, when they drop undrafted rookies into releases, most collectors get that “I just ate a lemon” face when they pull them. No further blame for Panini since product checklists are thought out well in advance and changing spots on a dime isn’t as easy as we ll might think it is.
We were lucky to host Phillip for an autograph signing this fall on a chilly Colorado night. The line (I was told since I was helping collectors for multiple hours) went to the restaurant down the way. That might not mean much to you if you haven’t been here, but between myself and the restaurant is a nail salon (I don’t go there), eyelash threading spot (ditto), chiropractor (as little as possible) and a double spot sized apparel cleaners (this one I use often) AND THEN the restaurant. His ability to evade defenders and find the hole is only exceeded by his friendliness with his fans. That having been said, I REALLY can’t wait for Contenders, NT and every other remaining late season release to offer up his singles— and neither can my collectors.
Eff Off The Line Award – Anything Panini FOTL – As a shop owner, we usually have a few competitive advantages to offer over online retailers. In addition to immediacy, our prices are typically very competitive when you factor in shipping. There is the cool bonus of being able to bust with a friend. Many of us kick in free supplies or offer drawings to reward your support and more. However, typically there is someone offering product for less than we do online. Some online sellers offer bonus items with purchase.
Thanks to someone who was genuinely brilliant at Panini (no sarcasm there), collectors can now purchase product that arrives earlier than the boxes and cases hobby shops can offer— with additional content that my product cannot offer. Also, after initially saying that cases would not be made available to collectors, that policy has been changed on some releases and props to the online big boys who get an amazing amount of these releases when they become available.
I have not tried winning the cardboard lottery on FOTL boxes, but do feel for the many I hear from or read about that have boxes or cases in their online shopping carts, only to be removed at the time they try to check out.
It is hard to blame Panini for wanting to get full retail on some of their more popular releases and unlike 17/18 Prizm Mosaic NBA, these direct to consumer offerings seem to sell out faster than Foo Fighter concert tickets on release day.
Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder Award – 17/18 Upper Deck Splendor NHL – Originally due in early 2018, Splendor released much, much later in September and was received like the hockey version of Topps Dynasty. Heck, who are we fooling, it was Topps Dynasty NHL, but that’s OK since it looked that good if not better.
Each box offered one encapsulated card with a low serial number. This first year release offered patches usually reserved for The Cup. It also offered a 1/1 cut signature list that might just be the best collection of NHL cuts ever.
Throw in a checklist of names that even non hockey collectors would recognize, a release date that had it standing out against early season affordable releases like MVP and OPC and each pack we saw made my puckheads want it all the more.
We went through our multiple case initial order and am glad that I stepped up so much for this release since my collectors ate it up like a Hot Bowl from TIm Hortons.
Absence Doesn’t Always Make The Heart Grow Fonder Award – 2018 Topps Archives MLB – Topps Archives is always one of the most desired sets of the year. It has a long-running history of set collectors salivating over it and when the order forms came out for it, I jumped at my chance to snag five cases between my direct Topps account and distributors. What I did not expect was the hobby product being delayed until October 24 while the retail blasters came out on time on my birthday, August 15.
While I enjoyed great success with the blasters I brought in, the hobby product I ordered had the same excitement as Johnny Depp’s version of The Lone Ranger. Even including autographs from the actors from The Sandlot was not enough to generate much buzz. At my store, passionate set collectors had already completed their sets, Ohtani had already been committed to getting Tommy John surgery and instead of moving through all my cases upon release, they became the suggested product (at well below SRP) for many of my holiday shoppers. Yup, what should have been sold by the end of August became cardboard Christmas coal.
Card Of The Year #1- 2018 Bowman Chrome Shohei Ohtani Superfractor Autograph. As 2018 Bowman release date approached, Ohtani was having a rather lackluster spring training. It didn’t matter. He turned out to be the real deal. There was some buzz over the product initially, but it went through the stratosphere when Blowout cards offered $60,000 for the autographed Superfractor if the person who eventually pulled it landed a BGS 9.5 and agreed to sell it to them. Nathan Burns of Grand Slam Collectibles in Tennessee offered a higher amount for the same card and Blowout eventually bumped their BIN to $100,000.
At the shop level, it created a massive amount of existing collector interest and perhaps more importantly, replaced much of the mainstream conversations about steroids and the impact on sports cards with a genuine Willy Wonka card chase.
Bowman is always a heavily collected set and #bowmanday was a real holiday, once my cases arrived after 3:30 on release day. I remember waking up each morning and first looking online to see if someone had pulled the equivalent of the golden ticket. It was eventually pulled by a collector in Northern California who slabbed it and when it went to auction, it sold for over $184,000 including the buyer’s premium.
Unfortunately I had just purchased a jumbo case of Bowman at the highest price to date. Still, with plenty of red and gold Ohtani autographs that were still clearing insane numbers on eBay (when they actually got paid for), it all cleared off my shelves. By the time I was done with my direct order through Topps and what my distributors allowed me to purchase, I had made more on an initial release than I can recollect in my 25 years of store ownership. Right around the same time, my wife got a wild hair to redo the master bathroom at the house and, well, so much for those profits.
Card Of The Year #1A – 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle #311. Fine, this card could be 1 and 1A every year that one of the premium ones come up for auction, but this year two of the more prime examples garnered a little more attention than usual. In March, Super Bowl Champion (With the DENVER BRONCOS) and elite level card collector Evan Mathis announced he was putting up his PSA 9 Mantle for auction. When it finally closed in April, it went for a cool $2.88 million.
I happen to work security at the Pepsi Center in Denver and when the Avalanche were hosting the Predators in the first round of the playoffs, I was assigned to keep an eye on John Elway. Typically when I get a job like this, I hang and try to stay out of the way of whomever I am keeping an eye on. Then again, the opportunity to hang with #7 doesn’t happen that often.
I texted Evan and shared that I was hanging with John and asked if he wanted me to say hello. I worked into the conversation that I own a sports card store when I’m not keeping an eye on Colorado sports icons. He heard that Evan had sold the Mantle recently and I shared what it had sold for. He then asked what Evan had paid for it. I did not know, so I texted Evan who shared the number and I let John know. John and I chatted a bit more and I got to thank the Duke Of Denver for all the decades of my being able to sell his cards and autographs in my shop. After walking John to his ride, I was $50 richer thanks to his generosity and more importantly I had enjoyed 3+hours of time with the player who had more of an impact on my store than any other player.
Then came the PSA 10 Mantle owned by noted collector Marshal Fogel who loaned it to the History Colorado Center for two brief exhibit appearances–one in the summer and another during the holidays.
It arrived by armored car, was displayed in a UV protective case and was protected by Jackie Chan at all times (one of those three is not accurate).
What it allowed the general public to do was to take an up close and personal peek at a $10 million+ card. The local and national publicity assigned to this happening was all I expected it to be and even though I didn’t get off my backside to go across town to peek at it or enjoy Mr. Fogel’s talk about it (and the rest of his museum quality collection_, it generated a large amount of buzz in my neck of the woods. Personally it led to a radio talk show appearance and a quote in an AP article about the card. That in turn led to countless calls from collectors selling cards, a few of which were not from 1987-1992.
Creepiest Sponsored Ad That Appeared While Playing Ad Supported Video Games On Your Phone – The Psychic Reading Woman For The 2018 NFL Rookie Class. One of the ways I relieve my card store owner stress is by shooting planes while playing Hawk:Freedom Squadron. Yup, I like shooting planes down just as much as the next guy and I am too cheap to pay the commercial-free version. Imagine my surprise when the sponsored ads went from Lyft and other video games to a woman sitting at a mystic table while loudly whispering in a completely stereotypical tarot card reading tone about Bradley Chubb, Saquan Barkley, Calvin Ridley and other 2018 rookies.
At first I was stoked that Panini had stepped up and was willing to try this type of advertising. Over time, she really creeped me out. I’m not talking skipping meals creeped out, but it made me wonder what the pitch meeting was like for this campaign. “I’m telling you, the mind reading crowd is exactly the type of underappreciated market segment we need to get into sports cards; and I have just the way to make it happen…”
The Is That Really Your Autograph, The Letter J, The Letter F Or Did You Learn How To Sign Your Name By Vernand Morency Autograph Award – J’Mon Moore. Going into the last game of the season, this 4th round pick had one catch for 10 yards and lost a fumble on a kickoff. However, his autograph (or perhaps the lack of it) will be long remembered by the hobby well after his on field exploits (if he ever has any).
The Packers are among the teams where even the autograph of a 7th rounder can be popular and I was initially glad he was included at the rookie premiere photo shoot. I have no idea how many times he was compensated to sign his name for Panini, but his ability to ruin a game for the Packers was exceeded only by his ability to ruin packs and boxes when collectors found his lackadaisical scribble.
I get it, my autograph is only worth something on a check and some handwriting analyst would say that I probably have mother issues, but I do manage a minimum of 3ish discernible letters and if you gave me a couple of bucks per inscription, I would probably make a 4th letter visible as well. I’m just glad Moore had all that spare time to work on routes and the playbook.
Comeback Product Of The Year – 2018 Panini Playbook NFL. — Panini Playbook football had been a strong seller at my shop since it first released in 2011. Panini elected not to offer it up in 2017 (just think where those boxes might be pricing these days thanks to Patrick Mahomes), but when it came back this season, there were more than enough collectors lined up to break the cases I had ordered.
The first 2 1/2 cases lasted just a couple days and each subsequent restock has enjoyed the same result. It did not hurt that one of my box busters enjoyed snagging a Tom Brady booklet (numbered to 3) on release day live on my shop’s Facebook feed. It’s also been selling very well online.
Panini, if you’re reading this (and I’m guessing you are) please, please, please, please, please do not make us wait until 2020 for the next version of Playbook.
You Got Kareamed Award – Kareem Hunt – I prefer my ESPN to be lawyer free and with on the field highlights instead of discussions of player futures after their disturbing off the field issues come to light. Whenever there is a Ray Rice/O J Simpson/Pete Rose/Kobe Bryant/Michael Vick or other player negative story, my first thought is to my collectors and how they might be affected. Sure, my second thought is to how many of that player’s card I own and will I ever be able to sell them again.
In spite of owning a card store in Denver, I have a healthy amount of Chargers, Chiefs or Raiders fans and it really bothers me when one of my collectors owns autographs, relics or rookies of a player who gets into trouble. Sure, some pulled Hunt autos from packs, but he was a strong seller already for me and I know a healthy amount of my collectors had started to invest in him. Now I’m not saying he won’t come back at some point, but for the foreseeable future, his autographs are worth about one-third of their value just before the video of him attacking/defending himself from a female at a hotel. Full disclosure, I only had one autograph at the time of his troubles rather than the dozen or more some of my collectors did. Sadly it can sometimes become a reason to stop collecting as one of my former shoppers did.
Brad Pitt From SE7EN What’s In The Box?! Award – 2018 Leaf Memorabilia Vault Edition – A couple of months ago, I snagged a couple boxes of this product that offers ten autographed items–photos, jerseys,balls, etc).
I was intrigued by what was possible inside of them and figured that I could roll through a couple with enough time. Fortunately my collectors have a liking for our breaks and wanted to give it a go.
I scheduled our first one for a Sunday after hours since hit breaks can take some time to work through. The first box sold out and while I was breaking it, had enough commitments for the second one as well. Since then, I have gone well into double digits on cases including a few nights with four cases getting busted per (check out one of our breaks here).
The autograph selection is impressive and interesting at the same time. Sure there have been OMG athlete names like Griffey, Mantle, Mays, Williams (Ted, not Venus), Montana, Nicklaus, The Big Hurt, Dr J, Duke, Magic, A-Rod, Bird, Hawk (see what I did there?) and Orr/Hull but there have been some great entertainment names that have popped as well with autographs from the above mentioned Mr. Pitt, Carrie Fisher, Kenny Baker, Barbara Eden, Steven Spielberg and I know someone had fun putting autographs from Clint Eastwood and Susan Sarandon in the same case.
Lately it seems when I order them, that Brian or one of his staff walk around the room and find 10 random things to case up for me and I just wish I could be there to peer into the autographed memorabilia vaults filled with baseball bats, basketballs, full size and mini football helmets as well as the most unique selection of entertainment photos possible.
That does it for the Mikeys for this year. Guys… thanks again for your ongoing support. And to all the manufacturers, distributors, card shop peeps, breakers and especially all of you collectors, may you have an incredible 2019 filled with autographs and rookies from #1 draft picks who made it, instead of those who did not.
Mike Fruitman owns Mike’s Stadium Sportscards in Aurora, CO. His column normally 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]