Thursday, July 10, 2014

Pack Break: Transformers Collectible Figurines & 3D Puzzle Piece Collector Cards

I decided to share my latest Random Toy Reviews post here as well since it kinda fits in...after all these include trading of the main reasons for my purchase!

It should come as no surprise that Hasbro has revved up the licensing machine and has been issuing the Transformers license to just about anyone willing to slap the robots on their product.  To cash in on the collectible PVC or vinyl and or blind packaged market, Goldie Marketing has released a series of small, super deformed collectible figurines based on the Generation 1, Prime and Movie segments of Transformers.  I found these in a gravity feeder over in the trading card aisle at my local Target.  I was already enticed by the concept itself, then I noticed it also included a weakness of mine...a collectible trading card.

This is a pack from series 1, but as you can tell there will be a total of 30 figurines between series 1 & 2.  When I picked this up I assumed the character assortment would be from G1 since Optimus Prime and Megatron were so predominantly displayed.  These foil packs retail for $2.99 each.  I should also mention these come packaged on a blister card with one figurine (that you can see) for $3.99 at Toys R Us and also in multi-packages for each segment.

So what's inside the pack and what do these figurines look like?  Well here you go.  In addition to the figurine, you also get a collector's base, the aforementioned trading card / puzzle piece as well as a checklist insert.  I was beaming when I saw Optimus Prime staring back at me from within the pack!


The figurines are small, one inch or so at best.  However they appear to be well sculpted and well painted. The paint applications are well placed and I wouldn't have expected so many different colors (I count 5) on a toy this small / cheap. Well played Goldie.

The included collector's stand is nothing more than a small rectangle piece of plastic with two pegs that insert into the bottom of the figurines' feet.  I should note that this Optimus Prime figure stands just fine without any additional support.  The bottom of the stand has the Thrilling 30 Transformers anniversary logo sticker.

The collector card is not your standard trading card size, but more narrow like a credit card.  The front features some nice artwork along with the tech spec rankings for that character.  Underneath the faction symbol you can see the character's number in the set.  Optimus Prime is #01/30.

The back side of the card is the 3D puzzle piece done up with the lenticular technology that is commonly seen on trading cards.  The back of the checklist insert shows off the assembled puzzle image.  While I like the idea of the puzzle, the front of the card captures more of my attention than the 3D backs.

Front, inside center and back of the checklist.

I was surprised to see that not only did this line of collectibles include G1 characters, but also a selection of characters from the Prime and Movie universes.  While I can't say the movie characters excite me at all, I like the inclusion of the Prime characters.

In my opinion, Goldie Marketing did a good job w/ the character selection.  G1 has some more of the iconic characters (of course Bumblebee had to be included) as well as Prime.  However I'm scared to buy another pack in fear of getting stuck with one of the movie characters!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Pack Break - 2014 Topps Garbage Pail Kids Series 1

(This post got buried in my Blogger account since it was saved as a draft and never posted.  I write this post back in February!)

So Topps decided to bring back Garbage Pail Kids for another round in 2014.  Mind you I'm still not up to date with all of the new card releases with me being out of the circle for awhile.

No longer do the GPK sets have the tag line "All-New Series", replacing it 2014 Series 1.  The price tag seems to have risen at retail to $2.49 a pack.  I grabbed a $4.99 jumbo pack after seeing some of the images online.  21 cards/stickers plus a bonus card/sticker.  A quick scan of the back of the packs lists gold parallels, printing plates, SP "c" name variants, artist autos, Motion cards, Olym-picks in bronze/silver/gold varieties and Sketch cards.  There were a few that made me laugh, but some of them are just down right ugly or dumb.  Here are a few of the highlights:

Two thumbs up

Two of the cards had no name.  The small text tells you to make up your own name.  Anyone got a suggestion?

With the Winter Olympics here Topps decided to have a little fun, GPK style!

Bonus sticker

Artist Autograph!!  Seeded 1:193 packs (jumbo odds)

As cool as this card is, I don't think I'm going to keep it.  I'll gladly trade the card for just about anything else so if you're reading this and you're interested let me know, otherwise off to eBay it goes in a few days.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tony Gwynn

I feel like I've been living in a hole recently.  I've taken on some extra duties at work that have kept me busier than normal, on top of it already being the busy time of the year for my line of work.  I haven't kept up with much baseball.  Heck, I haven't even watched as many Braves games as I'd like to.  So to say I was caught off guard by the news of Tony Gwynn's death is an understatement.

Any time I can sneak in a Pacific card like this I will!

I was sadden to hear of the news.  I always thought Gwynn was one of the best students of the game.  Seeing how he played his entire career with a team that resides on the other side of the country from myself, I never got the chance to see him play a lot.  When I did however I would marvel at the guy's patience at the plate.  The guy seemed to never strike out.  He just kept churning out hit after hit. 

Gwynn also seemed well liked and respected around the league.  I never heard nasty things said about him.  He seemed to stay out of trouble off the field too...something a lot of today's young athletes could learn from.  If Gywnn's name was in the headlines, it was for something remarkable he did in the game of baseball.  For those reasons alone I started casually collecting Gwynn's cards years ago.  I didn't chase the high end stuff, just a lot of the what I thought cool inserts of his I had in the 90's when I first started collecting.  I tried to pick up some game used cards and I'd still love to grab a RC or two of his and an authentic autograph, but for now I'll stick with what I got.

As I was going through my meager folder of scanned Gwynn cards, I came across this one that I thought summed it all up pretty well...

1996 Fleer Ultra

Friday, June 6, 2014

Stadium Club Firebrand wood inserts are back!

Just when I thought I'd skip over this year's Archives set, I saw that they contained a 10 card Stadium Club Firebrand insert set.  Sold.  In just one day I managed to pick 6 of the 10 cards for less than $10.  I'm waiting for the Carlos Baerga to show up in the mail.

These are cool because 1) they are wood, 2) they feature some decent die-cuts and 3) feature a mix of old school and new school.  And here I was thinking I was getting a little bored with Topps!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Pack Break - Wacky Packages Series 11 + a bonus

My wife was under the weather the week of Christmas and was pretty much out of it.  Any man should know when the mom in the house is out of commission so to speak, things can get...well lets just say interesting.  Having two small daughters I had my hands full while my wife tried to recover.  After she started to feel better and made her attempt to return to the land of the living, she surprised me with two packs of cards.  Knowing I hadn't done much in the recent past w/ cards I was shocked she thought of getting something for me as a token of her appreciation.  She said the Walmart she was at didn't have any baseball cards so she opted for Wacky Packages.

Growing up I had been given a few packs of Wacky Packages, but Garbage Pail Kids always interested me more.  As an adult living in a world of constant marketing I find a new appreciation for the humor Topps goes for with their Wacky Packages set.  This Series 11 pack comes with 10 cards stickers.


I think this 'Red Mobster' sticker is one of the many inserts that can be found.  I'm guessing it's part of the set called Rude Food - but don't hold me to that.

Topps has done a good job working in some parodies of modern things (like the Walking Dead) to go along w/ classic items.  Even my wife got a good chuckle as we opened the pack together.  Last thing I need is something else to collect so I don't plan on buying any more, but I'm sure I can find a binder or a comic box that will be perfect for slapping these stickers on.

The other pack my wife gave me was a 4 card pack of Garbage Pail Kids Chrome.  I had previously bought a rack pack of these and loved the chromed look.

These two cards are part of the base set

I thought these Pencil Art cards were an insert set, but if you look in the top right corner you'll see Green Jean is #39b.

Now the Lost cards are not part of the base set as their card #s have an L prefix.  I like that Topps started to include this unused art from the 80's.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

As of today it's official, the NBA's Charlotte Hornets are back!

Baseball will always be my first and true love, but growing up in Charlotte, NC as a kid one couldn't help but embrace the "buzz" in the late 80's and throughout the 90's.  The arena affectionately nicknamed the Hive was on fire back in the day.  We had the likes of Larry Johnson, Alonzo Mourning, Muggsy Bogues, Kendall Gill, Rex Chapman, Baron Davis, Bobby Phills and more.  Then the owner upped and moved them to New Orleans. Boo.  Well today at 12:30 PM EST the press conference will make it official.  The Hornets are back where they belong!  Welcome back Hornets, you've been missed.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

An interview w/ a Topps sketch card artist, James-Michael Smith

Today I present a different type of post.  It turns out a friend of mine has been doing some work for Topps, lending his incredible artistic abilities for 1 of 1 sketch cards!  I've posted a few of his Topps Museum Canvas Collection sketches on my Facebook page in the past.  I asked him if he'd be willing to sit down for an informal interview and he agreed.

1)      First of all, tell us a little about yourself.
Well, I’m an artist/Bible teacher/martial artist who grew up in Savannah, studied fine art at Reinhardt and UGA, went to seminary in Massachussets, and has lived in Charlotte since 2003. I’m also a ginger and my favorite movie of all time is Big Trouble in Little China. What did I leave out?  J

2)      What is your favorite sport?  Did you play sports growing up?  Do you have a favorite athlete?

Hands-down my favorite sport is MMA (Mixed Martial Arts)! I grew up playing basketball and doing martial arts. I wasn’t particularly great at the former, but I always did well at the latter. My favorite basketball players as a kid were Magic Johnson and Dominique Wilkins. I was also a big John Stockton fan in college. For the last seven years or so, I’ve been concentrating on Brazilian Jiujitsu, which is both a sport and a martial art and I’ve loved seeing the explosion of BJJ and MMA in American and around the world over the past decade or so. It’s hard to narrow down the fighters I’m a fan of, but I’d say my favorite MMA athletes are Renzo Gracie (whose association I train under) and Lyoto Machida for the men, and Felice Herrig and Tecia Torres for the women. Oh, and as a UGA alum I’m definitely a Bulldogs fan. Go Dawgs!!

3)      How did you come about working for Topps?  Have you done anything else for them?
I’ve been doing portraits of fighters and martial artists for the past few years and ended up connecting online with other MMA artists, a couple of whom do illustration and sketch cards on a regular basis. When Topps was looking for artists for their 2013 UFC Bloodlines set, my friend Scott Cohn (a fantastic comic book artist and illustrator whose work folks should check out @ Deviant Art) suggested my work to them. The director for Topps’ UFC department got in touch with me and I ended up doing around 80 or so cards for Bloodlines. While working on those, someone in the MLB department saw my work and contacted me about doing a set for their 2014 Museum/Canvas Collection. I ended up doing about 50 for that set which was just released a few weeks ago.

4)      From beginning to end, how long on average did it take you to complete one card?  What type of pen did you use for the sketches?
It depends on how complex the composition is really. Some I was able to do in under and hour. Some took a couple of hours to do. I used mostly Pigma Micron pens and Prismacolor art markers, as well as colored ballpoint and gel pens.

5)      Did Topps specifically request certain types of sketches?  (i.e. portrait, in game action) 

For Bloodlines, they gave me carte blanche pretty much. I could choose the reference photos from a collection they had the rights to and go from there. They asked that I try to work in the fighter’s nationality or country of origin if possible, since the set focused on the international aspect of the fighters’ backgrounds. So I used many of the color schemes of the various flags on that set.
For the MLB set, they were more restrictive. Rather than letting me choose my reference photos, they sent me ones they wanted me to work from. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of that approach because different artists’ styles lend themselves to different poses or compositions. Many “action shots” in baseball are actually pretty awkward looking when drawn at 2.5”x3.5” scale…especially if the reference photo is poor quality. So that set was much more challenging than Bloodlines (also, I have to confess I’m not very knowledgeable when it comes to baseball…at least compared to my MMA knowledge! So there were a number of players I drew who I’d never seen before. But I won’t say which ones in case they happen to read this! Haha!).

6)      Which card ended up being your favorite and why?
In the Bloodlines set I’d have to say it was my Ian McCall (aka. “Uncle Creepy”) card. 

The reason being that I had Ian autograph it and we raffled it off to raise money for a friend who lost her husband after a long battle with cancer last year. We ended up raising over $700 for the family from the raffle of that card.

From the Museum/Canvas Collection set I’d say it was one of the Cal Ripken cards I did. My roommate of 11 years got married last week and he’s the biggest Cal Ripken fan you could ever hope to meet. So I did a few extra cards of Cal and framed a couple of them as a wedding present. 

7)      What does it feel like to see your cards selling for (usually) high dollar amounts on eBay?
It’s pretty cool, I have to admit. Seeing a sketch card you did go for 3-digit figures is really gratifying, especially if you know it went to a fan of that particular athlete.

8)      Lastly, do you have any more plans to work with Topps in the near future?

I definitely want to do another set for next year’s Bloodlines series! The UFC is launching a women’s 115lb division this year and a number of the women they’ve signed (Felice Herrig, Tecia Torres, Paige Vanzant, Bec Rawlings) are fighters  whom I’ve done charity portraits of before and who have been supportive of my work. So I told Topps that I absolutely want to do sketch cards of them for this year’s set.

Turns out that Topps sent him a few sketch cards back as part of his compensation, and with JMS not being an avid baseball card collector he has listed these on eBay.  Here are a few available:

Atlanta Braves lot featuring John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Deion Sanders
* Baltimore Orioles slugger Chris Davis
* Boston Red Sox great Dustin Pedroia
* Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun
* Oakland Athletics bash brother Mark McGwire
* Philadelphia Phillies legend Mike Schmidt

James-Michael Smith is not only a great artist as you can see, but he is also a great all around guy.  Oh yeah, he does commission work too so if you like the sampling of his work give him a shout and perhaps he can craft a masterpiece that will be the centerpiece of your team or player collection!

JMS can be contacted via Twitter, or to view more of his work stop by his Art of the Dojo page (quick link to his other sketch cards), Facebook and Tumblr.

A huge thanks goes out to JMS for taking the time out of his busy schedule to share with us just one of his incredible talents.