Hello fellow card maniacs,
We survived another year in the hobby and man was it one to remember. We experienced Acunamania, Lukamania, Lamarmania and sadly the absence of any real hockeymania, but the NHL season isn’t over yet fortunately. We also experienced Zionmania, but perhaps he should play a regular season game before we start voting him into the HOF.
For the most part, the news was good this year unless you happen to know what the word “trimmed” means and how it plays into the hobby. It was especially a good year if you owned a hobby shop that was lucky enough to have healthy allocations.
Sure we saw some duds, but these days with breakers and shops moving through so much wax, it is hard to find a release that does not have multiple collectors hunting it.
At the shop, the best move I made this year was to initiate a Kid’s Club for our younger collectors. Plain and simple, they sign up for free and each month they can drop in and receive a free item. It is usually a pack of cards or supplies and while I was hoping to make it up to 200 youthful hobby enthusiasts, I find myself closer to 300 in the club and it really showed this holiday season. If I had a buck for each time a parent or acquaintance mentioned they were shopping for a member of our Kid’s Club, I could afford to buy a box of 19/20 Prizm hobby NBA.
2019 brought me a bit of frustration when rookie playoffs master Cale Makar was kept out of the standard UD Young Guns set in Series 1. Seemingly right after that he was hurt, which as you read down involving Jack Hughes, this might indeed count as adding injury to insult.
I’m ready for 2020 to start with a bang and with both 2019/20 Contenders NBA and 2019 Contenders NFL both hitting on the same day this week, that seems more like a certainty than a pipe dream.
So, here you have them. My list of products or events that warrant appreciation or slight feather rustling with a Mikey Award of their own. Please enjoy and I can’t wait to see where we are a year from now.
The Patrick Mahomes Product Year Savior Award
In 2018, a second year player who only played one game his rookie season came onto the scene. He had enough heat to push sales of 2017 releases to the point where they were outselling the 2018 year releases that were fresher and supposedly more loaded with QBs and other stars and even though he played for the Chiefs, I wanted to buy Pat Mahomes a beer.
While Lamar Jackson played more games his rookie season, his performance against the Chargers in the playoffs left me more than underwhelmed. He went 14 for 29 for 194 yards and had a QB rating of 11.4. I watched him that day and thought his collecting career was in severe doubt. Then the 2019 season began and my Broncos had Joe Flacco as a starter giving Lamar his own team.
In a year where collectors were supposed to be focused on Saquon Barkley and the second coming of Otto Graham in Cleveland, Baker Mayfield, Lamar left us forgetting the others and pushed 2018 releases much the same way that Mr. Mahomes did the year before (have you seen the hot auction list?).
So Lamar, if you Make It To Mike’s, feel free to raid the back fridge with the good stuff. The photo here is of a not too shabby card of Lamar that I pulled for one incredibly lucky collector before he really blew up. It still sold for close to 5 figures and it was nice to breathe again when it finally showed up at the buyer’s house.
Product ROY Award: Panini One NFL
Yes, these are the 20129 Mikey Awards, but since 2018 Panini One Football hit in February 2019, it gets to play along. Panini learned from Topps Dynasty and other popular single card high end releases that sometimes less is more. These boxes offered 1 signed or autographed relic card of a mix of rookies and veterans with a suggested retail price of $100 or so per. Please raise your hand if you were able to get one at that price since I do not remember too many being offered at that level.
Boxes shot up to the $200 range once people got a peek at some of the possible hits and the quality of some of the relic cards that were part of the set. It did not hurt that Panini stepped up to include Tom Brady autographs which were clearing low four digits upon release. I’m looking forward to 1/22 when Panini One part two is supposed to land.
MV Product: 2018 National Treasures NFL
Captain Underpants Award – 2018-19 Fleer Hanes Michael Jordan 30th Anniversary Trading Cards
Arm Of The Year Award: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
— Adam T. C. (@atc2448) March 18, 2019
Full Of 5HIT Award: Topps Luminaries
Topps did a great job with their 2019 Topps Luminaries Hit Kings autographed relic set reminding us which players had not one hit, but 5 in a game. At least that’s what I think they were trying to say with this particular set but it looked pretty funny.
There was a great mix of current and retired players who were full of 5HIT including Al Kaline, Hank Aaron, Derek Jeter and many others who were full of 5HIT. Of all the players, I happen to think that Rickey Henderson was the most full of 5HIT. Shame on you if you disagree with the players Topps thought were full of 5HIT.
You Call That An Autograph Award
When Panini shared images of Zion Williamson’s initial autograph session the world stopped. Ever since I saw Zion’s highlights from his high school performances, I was counting down the days until I would be able to see my collectors pull his signed cards. Then I saw the ink that would launch 1,000 visits to my shop as well as countless others. Needless to say, it made me worry about the discontinuation of cursive in schools and beyond that, whether pens were part of his upbringing.
Admit it, when you first saw his John Hancock, you had genuine concern for any of his professors at Duke who had to grade any work he submitted that did not involve a computer. Fortunately, much like my mom’s admiration for hippos, it was so ugly that it had to be admired. Even though he’s still sidelined, his cards are still fetching big prices with low numbered copies at four figures and more special issues bringing even more.
Do You Swear To Tell The Whole Truth Award – Me
Thanks to the most recent lawsuit between Leaf and Upper Deck, I was deposed for the first time in my life. Sure, I’ve worked concert security since 1988 and have ruined more than my fair share of nights for poorly behaving patrons, but I have never had any related time on the stand or anything similar to have experienced before. Since I’m such an introvert who isn’t comfortable around people who doesn’t follow industry happenings or have opinions (NOT!) I guess Upper Deck thought I would be worth asking a few questions. The current lawsuit involves distributors not carrying unlicensed hockey releases, which Leaf happens to make.
After a few phone sessions with UD, it was time to enjoy some back and forth from Leaf’s lawyers on a speaker phone and two representatives from the UD side. It was interesting answering hobby-related questions and the objection count was less than the over/under I expected. As a rule, I do not carry Leaf NHL releases, but do support most every other product line they make. Should things proceed I guess I might get a trip down to Texas and should both sides be reading this, could be please work to make sure the Nuggets are in town that night? It’s fun to check out my favorite team on the road whenever possible.
Pass The Dutchie Award: Panini America
Panini shared at the 2019 Industry Summit that they are exploring increased online selling scenarios as a way to well, make more money at the request of the management in Italy. Now, these are their boxes and cases so they can really do as they please. As a shop owner, I only have the right to purchase what they or my distributors make available to me. At this point, the demand for product is so strong that their First Off The Line efforts are basically sell outs within minutes.
When it was revealed that they were offering 19/20 Prizm FOTL as a Dutch Auction, I did two things. The first was to look up what a Dutch Auction was. The second was to set my clock so I could follow it. While I had no intent to buy any boxes that way, I try to keep hip of all hobby happenings. The boxes started at $1,000 and dropped a bit every two minutes until all the boxes sold out. I was able to follow online the amount of boxes Panini was selling by the minute and when prices went under $400 per, that’s when things started getting interesting. They eventually sold out just under $300 per box and with that, there was a new established way for manufacturers to offer their wares and maximize their return.
I’m guessing that we will see more releases offered this way down the line and man I feel for those brave souls who did not wait a few hours to enjoy better pricing. I mean they got their boxes and all, but patience paid for most collectors.
Shop Owner Of The Year – Nathan Burns
The Most Valuable Gary (MVG) Award
Entrepreneur and influencer Gary Vaynerchuk gave the hobby a huge boost during his appearance on the Rich Eisen Show back in April. To the host’s astonishment, Gary V presented a logical reason as to why collecting sports cards was not just in the midst of a big comeback, but cards were doing pretty well as an investment, too. One of his suggestions was to buy Giannis Antetokounmpo graded Prizm rookie cards and it did not hurt that Giannis went on to become the MVP as well as leading the Bucks to a 60 win season.
In the days following that national appearance I was able to fully appreciate Gary’s reach as there were collectors I had never seen before who stopped into my shop to ask about that specific Giannis single as well as others. He even had a table at the National, where he was incredibly visible and gracious with his time and produced a very nice video about the week. I cannot tell you how many photos I saw him take and conversations he had with attendees.
April 9, 2019 A Date That Will Live In Hockey Infamy
There were no games played that day, but something happened that potentially changed the landscape of the NHL for the next decade or so. It was the day that the NHL held their draft lottery. For the second time in so many years, the Colorado Avalanche had the best chance at securing the #1 pick and for the second time, the Avalanche had three teams move in front of them. I spent the 18/19 NHL season paying attention to the results of not only the Avalanche’s games, but also those of Ottawa. Do you have any idea how much that sucked? Every game the Senators lost, gave the Avs a better shot at the #1 pick and fortunately, the lost plenty of them. As many of you know, I own a sports card store just east of Denver and the success of the local teams kinda plays a role in my ability to stay open/remain profitable/show my face at industry events.
So when I watched Joe Sakic’s face more closely resemble that of a CNN anchors during the 2016 Presidential election night, I knew I was hosed. The Avs came off a season where they had beaten the #1 seed and were close to making it to the conference finals having brought up Hobey Baker Award winner Cale Makar during the playoffs. The thought of adding Jack Hughes to a team with Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog was beyond tempting. As I write this, Hughes is playing for the Devils and has six goals and ten assists in 36 games. Let’s just say that the Lose For Hughes mantra of many fans last year hasn’t exactly paid off in spades and I’m left to wonder what might have been.
Dallas Autographgate Award: Part 2
Way back in 2016 there was a row over whether certain Dak Prescott rookie cards may have been done with an autopen. It was eventually resolved with Dak signing fresh batches in the presence of Panini execs.
While the autopen was nowhere to be found with Luka Doncic rookie autographs, there were widespread discussions regarding whether he had indeed signed some of his autographed cards. The fingers were quickly pointed at his mother, Mirjam Poterbin, and whether she had done her busy son a solid and put her pen to paper (or sticker) for her kiddo. I have no idea whether this accusation is accurate, but when his sophomore season began, he emerged with Curryesque numbers and nobody seemed to care as to where his autographs originated. Well, it could be that or when collectors finally realized how…um…highly regarded Luka’s lovely mom was, that perhaps her signing those singles was a benefit and not a negative.
Comeback Set Of The Year – 19/20 Upper Deck Buybacks NHL
When 2015/16 Upper Deck Buyback hit, not many shops knew what to do with it. There was no history to it and when it landed, jaws dropped, the hockey card heavens opened and for all I know, kidneys were sold to cover case costs. UD had taken some of their coolest relic and rookie cards, added autographs and offered them as incredibly low numbered versions. I remember at a subsequent Upper Deck conference Upper Deck sharing that they could not offer it as an annual offering since accumulating all the autographs necessary represented years of work.
Fast forward to this year when solicitations emerged for the return and I knew that no matter how many I was able to line up, it would not be enough. All the big names appear like Wayne, Yzerman, Jagr, Roy, Sakic, Forsberg, MacKinnon, Bourque, Crosby and every other living OMG player.
Seriously, check out the checklist and even if you aren’t a puckhead, you should commence drooling almost immediately. Sure the Forsberg I included a picture of doesn’t have a 4 color swatch on it, but being able to get an Upper Deck certified one would make any of my local collectors feeling like they scored a hat trick.
Hello Froze Over Award – Me Again
I turned 50 in August of 2019 and I felt compelled to visit The National Sports Collectors Convention before passing this dreaded age barrier. Yes, I Mike Fruitman in spite of owning a sports card store since December of 1992 had not yet attended a NSSC event in spite of numerous other shop owners who were quite sure that I had been there. Some were convinced that we had even gone out to dinner or for drinks while attending. I meant no disrespect to NSSC promoter extraordinaire John Broggi for my not attending, but I just had no compelling reason to spend more time away from my shop than I already did.
As expected, it was over the top and filled with cards for every collector and every price range. I was able to line up morning meetings with manufacturers and hobby shops thanks to representatives from Panini, Topps and Upper Deck taking time away from their busy schedules to wake up early to join us. My “National Moment” was when I visited the booth of friend Joe Davis who owns J&J’s Sports Superstore in Georgia. While Joe knew I was a concert addict, he did not know my birth date. While at his booth, he showed me a single date ticket from the August 15th date for Woodstock. It just happened to EXACTLY match my date of birth.
If my numbers are correct, he had it tagged at $500 and offered it to me for $200. I was able to convince him that $250 was a better figure and most importantly it gave me the appreciation of what it is like to be a collector who comes across something that hits their heartstrings so strongly that walking away without it, simply isn’t an option. While I haven’t purchased my tickets yet, I’d take the bet that attending in Atlantic City in 2020 has a much better chance of happening than 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].