There was a time in eBay’s infancy when completed auctions actually showed seller, buyer, and final price. Every once in a while I captured a screenshot. Now 10 years later, here’s a tiny timecapsule of sales-gone-by.
Let’s start with FAMILY GUY Season 2. Mark Dos Santos was a regular contributor for Inkwork; but when you take a popular cartoon, a marvel comics spoof, and a collector trying to finish this larger puzzle … you have lightning-in-a-bottle.
Star Wars 30th Anniversary (2007) was already hot … but Topps upped the ante by getting known comic book cover artists to contribute. Phil Noto has drawn more books than I can list. Even a minor character from him can sell over $200.
When Lord of the Rings Masterpieces (2006) came out, people lost their minds trying to get one of each artist. Each contributing artists was listed at a different “rarity” with different insertion odds. This is a Level D (1:163 packs) Jake Myler (300 total sketches).
I’ll leave you with a Marvel Legends (Topps, 2001). This Silver Surfer is ridiculously rare because it was not found in hobby boxes. This is a “Custom Cover” sketchcard only found in retail packs by Marat Mychaels.
If there’s a particular throwback set you want me to dig for, let me know. I’ll see what’s hiding on an old hard drive. Good luck collecting fam. — Find me on Twitter @Sketchcards
I’ve attended DragonCon for well over 15 years. My favorite part is always Artists Alley. It’s no secret I love sketchcards; so below is my big ole’ gallery of cards seen on the convention floor. Without a lot of commentary, here’s my very photo-heavy review:
Kate Carleton (@KeelHaulKate on Twitter) had $60 Artist Proofs. I loved the variety and choice. I also appreciate that they are pre-drawn (not blank), because sometimes seeing a ton of blanks is overwhelming when you consider the volume of possibilities.
For example, seeing Matthew Sutton’s notebook (@Sketchbooks on Instagram) was awe-inspiring. He must have had almost 100 blank cards, including Stranger Things and Bombshells II. — I wouldn’t even know where to start. It’s like when Willy Wonka says, “The suspense is terrible. I hope it will last.”
Robert Hendrickson’s photo-realism is off the charts, (@Hendrickson_Art on Twitter). He even had cards drawn with room to add an actor signature (like the Patrick Stewart card above); which is brilliant for an actor-heavy convention.
Caleb King (@caleb_king on Twitter) brought his A-game. “Rick and Morty” fans should have been lined-up at his table as soon as the doors opened. He brought almost 40 different cards, and none disappointed.
I’ve brought from Scott Rorie (@ScottRorieArt on Etsy) a half-dozen times before. He only brought 3 cards to DragonCon, but he brought these Star Trek masterpieces.
I always like chatting-up Bryan SilverbaX (@SilverBaXart on Twitter). He’s actually local to my neck of the woods, and a great talent. He’s got a current Kickstarter (until 09/15), so hit him up.
Blair Shedd (@onegemini on Twitter) only brought two cards with him, but they’re a bargain. He kept them in his cash-box, so you may have to “request” them if you’re interested.
These Tad Stones sketch cards were not from any official set, but when you meet the creator of “Darkwing Duck” and Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers … you flip through his notebook. At $20 each, they may have been the bargain of the convention. The lady in front of me bought two, and I bought the one Tad is holding. I imagine he sold half the notebook by the end of DragonCon.
Jill Thompson (who has worked on Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman and her own “Scary Godmother” series) has never been on a sketch card set that I know of … but when I requested a card (seen in front of her), she didn’t hesitate. She’s a great creator and kind person.
But if you want to go the old-school route of buying from card dealers, there were a few of those on the convention floor as well. The first 3 floors of the AmericasMart building were dealers and vendors. The fourth floor was Artists Alley. — I’m sure I missed a ton of great artists and available cards. Did you attend & pick up a sketch card? Please share with me @Sketchcards on Twitter. Happy Collecting.
Scott Hanna (@inkerscott1 on Twitter) has inked more comic book pages than anyone ever. ComicVine has him credited in 1447 issues (and I think that’s still light). ComicBookDB says “well over 21,000 pages of comics art.” — So, when he was tabled at this year’s DragonCon, I had to chat him up and commission a sketchcard. His table-partner (I assume his wife) documented the whole thing on her Instagram. Below are screenshots from her videos.
He’s an incredible talent & kind to fans.
I totally recommend you meet him if you ever have the chance.
It’s always fun to be part of the process. Thanks again, Scott. I’ll be sharing more pickups and photos on my Twitter (@Sketchcards). Happy Collecting! — I’ll leave you with a scan of the finished card:
Sometimes I feel the need to archive data. When I saw @JamalIgle (best known for penciling Supergirl and Firestorm) share some 30 year-old scans on Twitter, I knew I needed to save them. This is a snapshot into the Comic Book Market in 1985 that is rarely seen.
Comics used to be returnable. Publishers would have a print-run number (the draw) vs. the true number of copies actually sold (the sales). The numbers above are from DC Comics in 1985. It appears sales were sometimes as low as only 12.6% of the printed volume. — Nowadays Comic Books are usually printed to order, then reprinted as necessary. That’s why you may see 3rd or 4th prints more often. A website called www.comichron.com keeps track of current monthly sales. Here’s a screenshot from June 2018 for comparison:
If I’m reading the 1985 document correctly, the highest selling Comic Book title was “Crisis” at 79,000. It’s interesting that sales in 2018 are arguably stronger than in 1985 (even with other modern competing entertainment options). Justice League sold 150% more than Crisis this Summer. — It’s also interesting that DC Comics kept track of comparative Marvel sales. It appears that DC Comics was loosing the war in 1985. — Below is the cover letter that goes with the Sales Analysis.
Below is an internal document from then Marvel Comics Editor in Chief, Jim Shooter. It’s dated January 1984. It tells a different kind of story. — In early 1997, Diamond forged an exclusive deal with Marvel, eventually leading to near-monopoly on comic book distribution. But in 1984, there were multiple distributors to order your comic books from.
If you want to look at 1984 sales in a different way, check out a different kid of statistic represented below. This is Sales-Per-Comic-Store. Amazing SpiderMan was selling 103 copies per hobby shop. If I’m reading the document correctly, Alpha Flight was outselling Batman 6:1.
The takeaway is that Newsstand (grocery spinner-racks) sales were declining, and “returnable” Direct Sales were increasing. Regional distributors were getting squeezed out since Newsstand was no longer driving sales. We sometimes think the early 80’s was the “glory days” of comics, but they were actually some of the hardest/slowest years. — I would love to hear your feedback. Find me on Twitter @Sketchcards. — Happy Collecting!
In December 2015, Beckett magazine started teasing an upcoming Topps Warcraft trading card set based on the upcoming movie (released in the U.S. on June 10, 2016). In May 2016, Beckett magazine updated that article to say the Topps set was cancelled. Despite the cancellation of the full 2016 release, on August 2017 Topps released the cards they had already collected in a “premium pack” format (one hit-per-pack format, exclusive to the Topps online store).
Here’s where it gets real confusing … The Topps website simply says: “Topps Warcraft 2017 trading cards brings the movie to life with autographs from the cast, props from the film, and original sketch cards!” There is no mention of odds or ratios, and the checklist (partially seen above, & linked here) makes no mention of which sketch card artists contributed. I have only found 10 packs opened and shared online, and none of them were a sketch card. There is a rumor that very few sketch cards were actually pack-inserted, and many of the cards on eBay (or otherwise found online) are actually Artist Proof or Returns. — So I started a hunt that I hope to continuously update. Below is a sample from each artist I can track-down in an attempt to make a checklist.
The only other name I’ve seen attached to the Warcraft set (but no samples for) is Sol Mohamed. Could there be any others? Let me know if you ever find any. And if anyone ever buys any packs (still available on the Topps online store), please share your breaks & findings! Thanks. Tweet me @Sketchcards — Happy Collecting!
Marcia Dye shared she sketched 30 cards for the set. If 16 known artists drew 30 each, that’s 480 total sketch cards. Pretty limited, in my opinion. — I heard there were 7300 total packs (unsubstantiated right now), so that’s about 1:15 odds in theory.
Y’all are probably going to disagree with some dates in this article. Below is my attempt at chronicling the history of sketch “puzzle” cards. Feel free to fact-check. If you determine better dates, please send me your edits … now, here we go …
A “puzzle” is what collectors call it when two or more sketch cards should be displayed side-by-side because the art is intentionally drawn to make a larger conjoined image. When sketch cards were first mass inserted in 1997/1998, puzzles were unheard of. Every card was drawn to stand on its own. Of course, some artists were creative enough to experiment with puzzles on personal sketch cards, but not on pack-inserted cards.
The first time puzzle cards started arriving in packs (according to my research) was around 2007. They could be found in both 2007 Marvel Masterpieces (by Upper Deck), and DC Legacy (by Rittenhouse Archives). The difficulty of a puzzle sketch is that the cards were never inserted together in a single pack or box, so the chase was truly difficult. Collectors had to trade, or relentlessly search eBay. The Message Boards became a community that would help each other out.
2010 was the first year that puzzles were intentionally kept together. Heroes & Villains (by Rittenhouse Archives) promoted: “Collectors should also keep a keen eye out for randomly inserted ‘Hot Boxes’ that will feature multi-card puzzles from multiple artists including Andy Price, Guy and Ian Dorian, Gabe and Chachi Hernandez and others!” — Of course it provided more value in a box, but some of us actually enjoyed the challenge of the “hunt.”
Many sets never looked back. In the past few years, I can’t recall a single set that separated puzzle pieces. Companies intentionally kept them together. I guess they knew it was frustrating to pull a piece knowing that you will likely never complete the image. I’ll leave you with two of the most epic sketch card puzzle sets I found online. Want to trade puzzle pieces? Find me on the Twitter @Sketchcards. — P.S. I still need a Sean “Cheeks” Galloway piece of Wolverine from Iron Man 2. Happy Collecting!
Kevin (Twitter user @IWantThatCard) shared the following images from “The Complete Avengers” (Rittenhouse Archives, 2006). Are these the first pack-inserted “puzzle” sketch cards? Thanks for sharing!
Pastime Cards, a Brandon, Fla.-based company, started making trading cards in 2013. By my count they released at least three sets back-to-back that year: Pastime Collection Hall of Fame Edition, Pastime Collection Enshrined Edition Baseball, & Pastime Collection Milestone Edition Baseball. Some of these baseball sets included sketch cards. By 2015, they were ready to expand into Non-Sports with their Pastime Presidential Portraits set.
Pastime Cards had a Twitter account, a website, and Presidential Portraits sell-sheets created to promote the set. By all accounts, the set looked like it would be another success; but cracks were starting to show. As promotion started, someone posted this on a popular message board in January 2015: “Pastime I thought was bankrupt? I know they screwed me out of a redemption. Never answered any emails or tweets.” — Someone immediately responded on the message board: “Send me a PM, as I communicate with the Pastime owner frequently. I can pass your message along or put you in direct contact with him. I know that he had some personal issues lately that interfered with his business.”
Packaged as a premium-style factory set for $45, each Pastime Presidential Portraits set would come with 44 base cards, a sketch card and two inserts. Redemptions for the original artwork used to create the set would be randomly inserted. The one-per-set sketch cards were titled Presidential Portraits. Nearly two dozen artists contributed to the set.
The release date was set for March 10, 2015. All sketch cards were completed and returned by the artists. Sets were being pre-sold. It appeared like everything was on-track, except the artists had not been paid yet. They were promised that payment and blank artist proof cards would be provided after the set was released, and revenue was generated. In April, another popular Message Boards lit-up with complaints:
“Does anyone have a link to a current website for Pastime? I can’t get any of the links posted to work.”
posted April 20, 2015 01:50 PM
“Starting to look like this company is a scam. No artist has been paid that I know of.”
posted April 20, 2015 02:31 PM
“This company owes me payment for those cards and it’s weeks past the 60 day payment window.”
posted April 21, 2015 12:07 AM
Payment would never come. Dozens of artists would go unpaid. Pastime Cards last tweeted February 2015, and in April 2015 their website was taken down. They undoubtedly knew by the time this set was released on March 10th that the company would not be moving forward. — Things went silent until July 2016. Then the mother lode of Pastime Presidential Portraits cards started hitting eBay. It wasn’t the company selling their own cards, but rather a well known 3rd-party (innocent) re-seller. They must have bought the entire back catalog of cards at auction or deep-discount. Pastime Cards was closed for business.
Thus ends the saga of Pastime Cards. For one good year they were the new kids on the block with plenty of potential. Then the owner “had some personal issues that interfered with his business.” We will probably never know why the owner ignored all his/her creditors, or went ahead with the release of the set knowing redemptions couldn’t be fulfilled. Let this be a cautionary tale for freelance contributors. The card business is a hard business. Want to continue the conversation? Know any additional details? Hit me up on the Twitter @Sketchcards. Happy collecting.