Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Leaf Invictus - you gotta do better than this!

Note: This is entirely my opinion, but this is NOT a good product. I will never buy a pack/box of this, so all images below are courtesy of eBay or Hobby Insider. And sadly, as a huge Jaromir Jagr collector, there is not a single card of his from this release I will own. There is only one subset that I half-way like, and they even screwed up the Jagr card for that one.

So, Invictus, huh? The 2009 rugby film directed by Clint Eastwood? The poem published in 1888 by William Ernest Henley? The international games (held this year in Sydney) for servicepeople? The Latin word meaning "unconquered" or "undefeated"?

Nope, 2018 Leaf Invictus Hockey. Now let me get a few things out of the way. Leaf does not have a license for NHL cards, so most shots of modern players are shoulder-up, logos airbrushed when needed. This is nothing new. Some players have no agreement at all with Leaf, so their pictures are represented by cartoony jerseys representing the player. Notably on this list are Gretzky (exclusive with UD), Roy, Orr, and a handful of others. So overall it is hard to knock Leaf for including cards of these players. They're at least getting the memorabilia cards out there, right? They did they best they could, right?

All excuses.

I watched as people busted this product on Blowout Cards and Hobby Insider. People loved it. I did not. I commented on HI that some of the designs looked like custom cards made by amateur Photoshoppers, and I stand by that. For the most part the cheers came from the vintage pieces, so maybe that's the strong suit. I do know that the Upper Deck releases are a little thin on vintage items.

Before we jump into the cards, I will admit that some of these seem like minor and petty complaints, but some of the overall design choices and memorabilia pieces are baffling. This is not the most expensive product out there, but it's not a blaster box from Target, either. I would expect more from a company who doesn't have a license, meaning their standards should be higher.

First up let's look at the terrible designs of some of the card sets. Now this is a professional company putting out tons of products every year, not just for hockey, but for many collectors. So what makes them think they can get away with designs that looks like my 11-year old used GIMP to some up with some home-made cards?

This one is a Carpe Diem card for Newsy Lalonde. Kudos for the decent size swatch and vintage player. But remove the picture, remove the memorabilia, and really look at the layout:

There are at least five different fonts, and the text of "SINGLE" is running into the halo of white surrounding the swatch window. The spacing is uneven at best. And I guess Carpe Diem ties us back to the Latin usage of Invictus?

This Unconquerable Duos card of Scotty Bowman and Guy Lafleur looks ok at first glance. A decent job at airbrushing the Lafleur logo, and the word "Unconquerable" a meaning of "Invictus", so yeah, I see what they did there. But wait, is that chain mail covering the entirety of the background? Sheesh.

This Rocket Richard card for the "Ice in His Veins" insert set is quite special. I'm not sure what the background is supposed to be, but look at those effects put into the title. So awesome.

The Winters Past cards have roughly 3/4 shots of the players, which means the airbrushing is more obvious. The layout is fine, but the background of the card is an almost holographic tree. A tree. And the reverse has... more trees and some (presumably) snow falling.

Now having multiple players on a card can either be a thrill or a curse, depending on who or what you collect. Having some of the best 8 players of all time? Probably a win overall. But when you get nitpicky, it falls apart. This particular "8" card (I have to assume that is the name of the subset?) has some of my personal cardinal sins for hockey cards. First off, we know that UD has the rights to Gretzky and Orr, so fine, but I guess they can't even put their names on the back of the jersey pictures? Fine. But with a quick glance, it looks like Vezina is wearing Gretzky's jersey. Also, it looks like the Gretsky depiction is of an Oilers jersey, but the swatch is clearly a Rangers piece.

For this one, look at the swatches. Messier has a cool patch or label piece; Bourque's is obviously a patch. Francis, Coffey, and Oates are probably patch pieces simply from the density of the fabric. Gretzky and Jage are jersey pieces (and Jagr's is likely from an All-Star jersey though he is pictured in a Pens uni). There is a lot of inconsistency with the swatches chosen. And design--the Invictus logo isn't at the top!

I'm not sure what to call this one. First off, I like the general design--we don't usually see multi-swatch cards where the pieces are that large and elongated. It does lock you into a certain design, but Leaf pulls this one off. And the patch pieces are fantastic. However, the lack of licensing bites them. What's weird about this one is that they have Jagr pics in numerous cards, but they chose to put a jersey mock-up in his spot, likely so that it "matched" Hamrlik and Bonk (players we don't see much game-used cards of anyway, so yay?). Unfortunately the Jagr jersey is a Pens jersey and the patch piece is (likely) a Rangers piece.

Next up are what I will call the multis. They are cards that have many swatches, but with little selection to the individual pieces. For my money, the best single-player multi-swatch cards ever done were the Complete Jersey cards, because there was a patch, a jersey, some fight strap, whatever--some variety. The ones below happen to be from the Ice Age subset, but there are other examples. Not a great design, and again, the "Ice Age" looks like my son did it, but whatever. And don't worry about the fact that the subset is literally about the start and end dates, so the ice age, of the players. But really, what is the point of having six (!) memorabilia swatches on the LaFleur if they look exactly the same?

And this Jagr. A couple of patch pieces, fine. Then four burgundy swatches from an All-Star jersey (nevermind he is in a Pens jersey again):

The Lemieux is basically the same. Four identical swatches along the bottom:

While I think the burgundy swatches at the bottom only appear to be different because of lighting, at least this one is mostly acceptable:

Again with the name--Undefeatable Fabrics is just a dumb name for a subset, but it goes back to the whole Latin Invictus meaning. We get it. This design is far too similar to the Carpe Diem one, and looks like more Gimp-skilled kids did it. This subset also has a ton of "let's put three swatches that look identical!". And poor Roy--not only is he nameless, but the pictured jersey is Habs while the swatches come from (probably) an Avs jersey. Examples:

Lastly, the one subset I actually like, the International Ice ones. Decent pics chosen to minimize airbrushing, the row of flags, the globe in the background. Sounds like a winner. See? Some good examples--Bure and Salming.

Then, uh-oh... Jagr and Golzig are from the US? Naslund is Canadian?


Jagr is famously from the Czech Republic.

Olie the Goalie was born in South Africa to German parents who moved to Canada. He never applied for citizenship which allowed him to represent Germany in a number of appearances at the Olympics and World Cup. He did play a couple of seasons for the Tri-City Americans and later the Capitals, so maybe that qualifies him to have a flag from the US shown?

Mats Naslund--not Canadian. Tons of international play for his native Sweden. He was drafted by the Habs, though, so I guess he can get a Canadian flag for that?

There are other examples, but you get the point.

So I'll stand by my opinion. Invictus is garbage. It's not meant for everyone, and clearly I am not their target audience. I'm glad they have a market for some die-hard collectors. I'm just not one of them.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Wow, it's been a while!

Woowee, I can't believe it's been 2-1/2 years since my last post. Honestly I had forgotten about this blog until I started up my other one.

By the looks of it I missed A LOT!

I amassed a collection of roughly 1,800 sketch cards, built a couple more Lost sets, and didn't really ever sell off much hockey.

Well, there was one guy that spent a decent amount on some of my leftover Jagr collection, and a few small sales here and there. But for the most part those same hockey cards are still in boxes in my office. Stowed away in the closet hidden amongst boxes of comics and other items now.

But back to the sketch cards.

After being a very active member of the Scoundrel message boards I called sketch card collecting quits. The short version is that I simply got tired of waiting too damn long on too many artists to come through. Chris Gutierrez, Justin Vandemark, Jim Kyle, Jeremy Treece, and a few others.

I never publicly aired my grievances much with these guys, as they finally came through (eventually, some after 15-months...). The last incident is still open and is with Jeremy Treece. He had an artcast that I knew about ahead of time. I paid for three 8x10-size items he was doing live. I paid him, I saw two of the three being worked on live, but then had to leave.

I still don't have the 8x10s.

I paid in April.

I have not gotten responses to emails--sent to a couple of different addresses--or PMs through Scoundrel or DeviantArt. I even responded in a journal entry that he had put up the previous day in one case.


I used to wonder why collectors got all up-in-arms over artists taking so long. Toward the end of my collecting, which was probably finalized in April, I easily understood.

One artist had $300 of my money for several months that was to cover a few cards. Over time only one card, an Artist Proof, was left over. It was $150 of that original total. He had been working on it, had something roughed out in pencils, etc. When I pushed for an update, at the 11th hour he wasn't feeling it and refunded my money. It was months after the initial payment.

Oh wait, that was Jeremy Treece, too. Oops. Either way, I felt that in good faith he could have the live artcast items mailed out.

Still waiting.

So what's going on today? I still have a ton of sketch cards available for sale.

Take a look at my list for the cards and prices.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Razor Cut autos - should they be numbered?

I'm not one to cry foul often, but I've noticed a few people in the two Razor Cut products that could easily have more out there...

Quick backstory, I'm trying to pick up the Cut cards of anyone attached to the TV show "Lost". So far I have six or seven, but that's besides the point. I have a daily search that gets emailed to me for the cards listed in the last day or so.

I've had this search in place since the first Razor Cut product hit the shelves.

Back then I noticed that Janet Leigh always seemed to pop up, as did Joe Namath. the latter was easy to spot because most, if not all, of the cards came from those Bammer tags (or was it Bammo?).

With the Encore release I'm seeing numerous Leigh cards again, but now Namath has been replaced by Pete Rose. It's great to see so many Charlie Hustle cards getting out there, but can there be more than 10 in Encore?

Who knows, because none of the non-1/1 cards are numbered...

Also, on a side note I wish Razor would have named their minor league baseball release something different--my eBay search gets junked up with those cards and it takes me more time to weed through the search results each day. I know, boo hoo, right?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The problem with sketch cards (Part 2)

This is spin-off of my earlier post from October 5th.

So what's in a name?

In the case of Topps' Indiana Jones Masterpieces, not a lot. The draw, no pun intended, is the tiring inclusion of sketch cards. But what more did we expect? People would feel cheated without them. And I know George Lucas and his crew probably aren't letting props or costumes loose for cards.

There are some great sketch cards, but it would be no fun to show those off, now would it? Instead, I wanted to get four or five bad sketches and show them off. All images courtesy of eBay, and unfortunately it only took me a few minutes to locate them.

1) Indiana Jones silhouette - basically just a blob of ink. I'm assuming it is supposed to be Indy himself, but based on the sizable "lump" on the back it could be Joseph Merrick wearing a Castro Hat, with a hint of Abraham Lincoln's chin thrown in.

2) Sankara Stone from Temple of Doom - I think. It could be the top of a beetle from Raiders for all I know. The point is, it's an oval with three amorphous shapes. No shading, nothing. Really a poor excuse for Masterpieces.

3) I call this one "Test Tube With Squiggles". I think it's from Temple of Doom as well. It's pretty lousy. At least it has some color. Maybe sellers will get a premium for this one.

4) The Grail - this one isn't good enough to be the cup of a carpenter, much less THE carpenter (or even someone from The Carpenters). It has a nice symmetry to it, but c'mon, a Masterpiece? Far from it. No shading, nothing. I realize it's just a cup, but even a cup wants to be something more than this.

5) I was on the fence about this one. It has a certain style to it that looks intentionally sloppy, and I'm all for that. It has a sort of kinetic motion that reminds me of Pigpen's "filth cloud" on Charlie Brown. However, the German pugilist in the sketch has no legs, and his right arm looks like something from a video game that would shoot poison darts or something. An "A" for effort, a "D" for execution.

It is worth noting that Topps did try something a little different by including press plates in Masterpieces. Some collectors like them, but coming from a hockey background where there was a huge glut of them, I see plates as little more than a novelty. Some sellers have crazy BINs, so needless to say, those plates aren't moving right now.

Topps also had fold out "panoramic" sketch cards as well. When I get a chance I'll see how long it takes to find four of five questionable sketches of those, too. I got quite disgusted by the above, so I haven't been looking for Indy sketches much these days.

Also, I will admit that the base set for Masterpieces is quite beautiful. But should that really be a bragging point? Shouldn't base sets be nice anyway? I'll just wait and pick up a base set for $2 pretty soon and leave it at that.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

More hockey housekeeping

I did some more cleaning in my office. Say goodbye to the following sets:

1991-92 Stadium Club
1995-96 Pinnacle
1996-97 Donruss
1996-97 Pinnacle Mint Die-Cut and Bronze
1997-98 Pacific
1997-98 Pacific Dynagon Ice Best Kept Secrets
1997-98 Pacific Omega
1997-98 Pacific Revolution
1997-98 Pinnacle Mint Die-Cut and Bronze
1997-98 UD
1998-99 Pacific
1998-99 Pacific
1998-99 Pacific Aurora
1998-99 Pacific Dynagon Ice
1998-99 Pacific Omega
1998-99 Topps Gold Label
1998-99 UD3 (several 1-60 sets)
1999-00 BAP Memorabilia
1999-00 Pacific
1999-00 Pacific Aurora + Striped
1999-00 Pacific Paramount
1999-00 Pacific Prism
1999-00 Pacific Revolution
1999-00 SP Authentic (minus SPs)
1999-00 Topps Premier Plus
1999-00 UD HoloGrFX
1999-00 UD MVP
1999-00 UD Piece of History
1999-00 UD Retro
1999-00 UD Wayne Gretzky Hockey
1999-00 Upper Deck (minus SPs)
2000-01 UD Heroes
2000-01 UD MVP
2001-02 SPx (minus SPs)
2001-02 Topps
2001-02 Topps Heritage parallel
2001-02 UD Honor Roll (minus SPs) (x2)
2001-02 UD Ice (minus SPs)
2001-02 UD Mask (minus SPs)
2001-02 UD MVP
2002-03 BAP All-Star
2002-03 Topps Total
2002-03 UD Classic Portraits (minus SPs)
2002-03 UD Mask
2003-04 BAP Parkhurst Original 6 NY
2003-04 SP Authentic (minus SPs)
2003-04 SPx (minus SPs)
2003-04 UD Ice (minus SPs)
2004-05 ITG Franchises Canada
2004-05 ITG Franchises East
2004-05 ITG Franchises West
2004-05 SP Autnentic (minus SPs)
2004-05 UD All-World (minus SPs)
2004-05 UD Ice (minus SPs)
2004-05 UD Legends Classics
2004-05 UD Rookie Update
2006-07 SPx (minus SPs)

I have no idea how many cards the list above comprises, but it's quite a few. Basically I didn't want to have to deal with trying to sell or trade them, as packaging and shipping potentially hundreds of cards is just too tedious.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

So what do 25,200 hockey cards look like? *

I'm trying to do a little fall cleaning. Windows open with the breeze flowing through the house, the Autumn-colored place-mats already out on the table. Kind of a refreshing feeling to be honest.

The place that keeps getting more clogged than a fat man's arteries is my office. I'm saving myself the embarrassment of showing pictures of that. However, one place that could really help out is my closet. In it remained the boxes full of hockey base cards, from my many years of collecting.

So where can the veterans like Howe, Plante, Roy, and Gretzky rub cardboard elbows with the new kids like Brust, Dawson, Smid, and Price? In my trash can, of course.

A veritable plethora of dead trees and ink, gloss and great action photos, stats and pronunciations, holograms and logos. All gone. **

It was fun flipping through them, but depressing thinking about how much money I sank in box costs in hopes of hitting those big cards. But it evened out. For every good box I opened up 4 bad ones.

So what sets did these thousands of cards come from?

Topps, OPC, BAP, BAP All-Star, UD Foundations, H&P, Artifacts, Trilogy, Ice, Between the Pipes, Invincible, Prism, Crown Royale, SP Authentic, the Chrome quadruplets (Bowman CHL, Topps, OPC, and Bowman), Classic Portraits, SPx, SP Game Used, Parkhurst Retro, Topps Premier Plus, Bee Hive, Hot Prospects, Black Diamond, Franchises, Vanguard, Original 6, Victory, SPx Top Prospects, Leaf Preferred, Bowman's Best, Omega, Gold Label, Paramount, Pinnacle, Score, OPC Premier, Revolution, Dynagon, Donruss, Donruss Preferred, Gold Reserve, Greats of the Game, Stadium Club, Private Stock, Titanium, Legacy, MVP, Vintage, Young Stars, Top Shelf, Heads Up, Stanley Cup Champs, Topps Total, Archives, Challenge for the Cup, HoloGrfX, UD3, and plain old UD.

Notice I didn't break them out in years, as the list would be terribly long.

And I'm not even sure what sets are in the other boxes.

So goodbye Gretzky checklist card, later Iginla Hot Prospects, see ya' Datsyuk Parkhurst. It was fun.

With no further delay, this is what 25,200 cards look like:

Next up, what ever shall I do with all my complete sets?


* The 25,200 total was a safe estimate based on the full boxes and some added in for the stacks tossed, as well.

** OK, so they're not all gone, I just ran out of those small plastic bags. I find those bags have a nice balance of card volume versus weight. I have a couple more 3200-count boxes and s few stacks tucked away in my closet.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The problem with sketch cards

It seems that non-sports sets these days are pretty much required to include sketch cards. There are the obvious Batman Archives-type sets that are based on comic books. Those scream "sketch me", but do we really need sketch cards for something like CSI?

In any event, someone on a message board I frequent is in love with Heroes cards. I've seen a few sketch cards of Hiro that I really liked, so I hopped over to our friendly neighborhood pimp, eBay. I came across a couple that are terrible as far as sketch cards go.

No disrespect to the artists, as they can clearly do better than I ever could have, but who are these people supposed to be? (Images shamefully ripped from the auction descriptions.)

The above is supposed to be Claire. Again, it's better than what I could attempt, but it looks a lot like a character on one of my wife's soap operas who most certainly isn't Claire.

The next example is:

This is Niki? According to the description it is, but I'm not seeing it. I understand there are intentional stylized renditions (see Mark McHaley from Batman Archives), but faux-Niki is pretty bad. I can only imagine the look on the person's face who pulled that one.

So is this an easy way to differentiate between high-end sketches and the "rest"? High-end sketches actually resemble the person they are supposed to?

Sorry, but a crappy sketch card by a great artist is still a crappy sketch card.

UPDATE: The soap opera "Claire" gal is, after some investigation, Leven Ramblin from All My Children. Here's a small pic:

Thanks to my wife for pointing me in the right direction on that one.