CSI sketch cards by Strictly Ink

Strictly Ink has been making trading cards in the United Kingdom for at least 18 years, based on franchises like “Dr. Who,” “Hammer Horror,” and of course, “CSI.” — CSI trading cards came out at a time when the TV franchise was at its peak, starting in the year 2003 with “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (Las Vegas) Series 1.” They made at least six full sets, four preview sets, and one limited set. Sets weren’t just based on the Las Vegas series. New York, and Miami were covered in future sets. But in 2005, Strictly Ink started adding sketch cards.

CSI:NY (Series 1) was released in 2005. Hand-Drawn Sketch Cards were found 1:90 packs. Half of the sketch cards were inserted as redemption cards (not live). There were 18 different artists. Some artists were considered “rare” (contributing only 12-27 sketch cards each). Seven of the artists contributed 50 or more. By my math, there were less than 700 total sketch cards.

CSI: Miami (Series 2) was released the same year, 2005. This time 21 different artists participated. Redemption cards were again heavily utilized. Strictly Ink calls their sketch cards “RealInk” cards.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation  (Series 3) was released in 2006. Odds continue to be 1 or 2 per case. They tightened up the checklist to nine artists. Redemption cards were again heavily utilized. The Redemption cards were returned to the collector, but the corners were either cut or hole-punched to signify that they have been “used.”

CSI: Miami (Series 3 Limited Set) was released in 2008. This set was not released to wide distribution, and could be found as a part of the 2008 Strictly Ink Yearset. The Yearset was issued as a limited edition of 200 numbered sets, with different compositions. Featured were items from different 2008 series, plus a selection of cards from series that had not been released. I believe only 50 total “CSI: Miami” sketch cards were released. Two sketch card artists contributed: Robert Aragon, & Caroline Edwards. These are by far the most limited.

Are you a fan? Do you know something I don’t? Do you have a scan of the Yearset sketches? Let’s continue the conversation on Twitter @Sketchcards — Thanks & Happy Collecting.

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Topps Museum — The Canvas Collection

Not every sketch card is generically called a “sketch card.” Topps has an annual baseball card set that titles their sketch card inserts as “Artist Original Canvas Collection” cards. Let’s break it down.

In 2012, Topps released their inaugural “Museum Collection” baseball cards. Not for the faint of heart, this is a premium set that delivers a lot of unique content. The name itself evokes the possibility of high-end pulls worthy of display. Each pack contained five cards, and SRP was around $200/box. One of the insert card sets are called “The Canvas Collection,” inserted one card per box. These are reproductions of artwork, but you also have the chance to find the original art card inserted into packs. By my math, there were 48 players in the Canvas Collection set. The original art cards were limited to 10 per player featured, (each had very similar art), so that’s 480 total sketch cards across the whole run. The odds were against the collector finding one, so the box graphics, and sell sheets didn’t really promote them as a hit. Below is a 2012 box image, as well as a 2013 sell sheet.

Below is a sample Canvas Collection reproduction card of Bob Gibson from 2012. Note the language on the back. It clearly says “reproduction.” If you are bidding on eBay with only a front scan, it becomes a whole lot harder to know what you’re buying. Keep reading below to see the distinctions between originals and reproductions.

The set returned in 2013 with a similar strategy and checklist. The 2013 set had 35 cards, which was down from 48 in 2012. A total of seven artists contributed to the set:

  • Dan Bergren
  • Gabe Farber
  • Brandon Kenney
  • Gary Kezele
  • James Henry Smith
  • Bob Stevlic
  • Brad Utterstrom
  • Russell Walks.

Kenney, Kezele and Walks returned from the 2012 lineup. Besides basic versions of the insert cards, each of the 35 players again had ten original sketch art cards inserted across the run. These are hand-numbered to 10 on the front (for a total of 350 sketch cards). When you are bidding on eBay with only a front scan, look for hand-numbering.

Above are images of both an Artist Original Canvas Collection (hand-numbered 05/10), and a pack-inserted reproduction. You can see how similar they look at first, but how the wording on the back of the Original says “Congratulations!” The original art is very similar to the reproduced inserts, but of course, not exact.

2014 gets more confusing. Inserted one per 2014 Topps Museum Collection Baseball box, collectors again received one reproduction card. It was is the biggest checklist yet for the insert. (It debuted in 2012 with 48 cards. In 2013, it was down to 35.) And while there are 50 cards in the 2014 set, there are three players who have two cards each for some reason: Yogi Berra, Lou Brock and Johnny Bench. CardboardConnection shared this information online: “Besides the basic inserts, original art versions are randomly inserted. These are not reprints but rather one-of-one pieces of art. The checklist for these art cards go beyond the 50 players in the main set.” — Wait. They deviated from their previous formula of 10 sketch cards per player, and made a bunch of random sketch cards? Do we know how many were even created? And worse yet … the reproductions say “Congratulations!” on the back of the 2014 cards (see above).

2015 Canvas Collection Reprints returned at a rate of one per box (but box SRP was up to $250). The set again consisted of 50 cards. Canvas Collection Originals again had original artwork drawn directly on the card, but the sketch cards were not related to the pack-inserted Canvas Collection Reprints. This Stan Musial sketch (above) by Kevin-John is most likely not duplicated over-and-over, like in the 2012 & 2013 sets. Again, I don’t think collectors ever received a final checklist or likely production run.

2016 Topps Museum shortened the insert set to just 25 cards. They also offered 5×7 enlargement reproductions as box toppers. Sticking with the previous year’s formula, Canvas Collection Originals sketch cards were not related to the pack-inserted Canvas Collection Reprints. This Tony Perez sketch (above) by Carlos Cabaleiro is most likely not duplicated over-and-over. Again, collectors never received a final checklist or production run.

2017 was wash, rinse, repeat (see above). Again, collectors never received a sketchcard checklist, and sketch cards were not related to the reproduction cards. The reproduction checklist had multiple duplicates (including THREE different Miguel Cabrera, and THREE Clayton Kershaw’s in the same subset). But a new sketch card emerged … “Canvas Collection Autographs” included Athlete SIGNED versions of an Artist Original Canvas Collection. See the Buster Posey below.

2018 will most likely drop in June. Advance solicitations say “the Canvas Collection insert is found in several different versions. A Canvas Collection Reprint falls one per box, while Canvas Collection Originals and Canvas Collection Autographs are both one-of-one lines featuring hand-drawn artwork.” — It’s additionally worth noting that other Topps sets/sports have also adopted the Museum brand, such as 2015 Topps Football Museum, and 2017 Topps UFC Museum … It’s a good brand.

Do you have a Canvas Collection Original? Or do you want to continue the conversation? Find me on Twitter @Sketchcards. Happy collecting.

5minutes with artist Wilson Ramos Jr

This interview has been my most intriguing to date. Wilson Ramos Jr drew for the Fleer/Skybox Marvel Creators Collection set twenty years ago, and has fresh insight into the very first one-per-box sketchcard project. I can’t thank him enough for sharing.WlsonR

(Q1.) Welcome, Wilson. It’s an honor.
Do you remember how you were approached to draw/submit for MCC98?
(A1.) Well, 20 years ago, the idea for sketchagraph cards was brand new and it seemed like there wasn’t enough artists to fill the demand. I was working at The Marvel offices doing Art Returns (my job at the time to return the original artwork back to the artist after the comic was printed). The famous Marvel Bullpen (all comic book artists in their own right) were asked to do some sketch cards. Since I was also an artist (mainly known for coloring at the time), I was also asked if I wanted to be a part of it, and I jumped at the chance. Being able to draw official Marvel heroes, penciling, inking, & sometimes coloring was exciting. Up to that point I only colored a few things.

(Q2.) Do you remember any stories about friends who also participated?
Did everyone think it was just a passing fad?
(A2.) Since the Bullpen was a part of it, we all felt it was a fun thing to do (at least I did). It was so new at the time, I think it helped sell the cards. Many of us ran out to buy some card packs! I recalled finding a Wolverine Sketch card drawn by one of the bullpen’s inkers, Pond Scum. I don’t recall if anyone thought it was a gag or a fad; there was so much excited activity going on at the time, we were each showing the cards to one another; seeing who in the Marvel universe people picked to draw. Some of us drew the heroes we most liked, and others would try to find some obscure hero. Again it was a very exciting time. The only downside was there were so many cards to draw and we didn’t have to much time, so it was quick sketches. We also got to see some of the art the comic professionals were doing, such as the paintings Mark Texeira would show us. Some of us wanted to stop because of what he brought in. Fun times.

(Q3.) Do you remember any specific cards you drew for MCC98?
Were there any guidelines, or was it truly “draw anything you want”?
(A3.) At first there were no rules. Draw whatever you like as long as it was from a Marvel Comic (I think it had to be Marvel owned, so no Conan, Transformers, G.I. Joe, or even Rom). I remember drawing a lot of Spiderman (he was my favorite hero), Moon Knight, Ironman, Hulk, Kingpin, Cloak and Dagger, SpiderWoman, Wolverine, Captain America, and more heroes then I can remember. Later (I don’t recall if it was the same set, or the next), but some rules were added such as to limit repeats of the same head shots & stuff like that.

(Q4.) Did you think your sketch cards were still going to be in-demand 20 years later?
Do you still own any MCC98?
(A4.) I only participated in 2 or 3 sets, then I never did another one for 7-10 years. At first I didn’t think they still did them. I didn’t follow the card scene as much as I did the comic book market. When I went full Freelance in 2004, I was just dong comics. But it was my connection to comics that brought me back to sketch cards. An editor I had worked with years before started working at Topps. Then I was asked to do some of the Star Wars Galactic Files sketch cards. So, I was back doing them off and on for the past 7 years.

As for MCC98, I still have one or two, (or maybe they are from the later series, Silver Age). I know I have a Gene Colan card in my collection. I don’t have any of my own, but funny enough I think I still have a few blanks, or really some that I started but were so bad I didn’t turn them in. Those got banged up over the years, I always though I would do some new art on them at some point.

I’ve seen my cards pop up over the years. We didn’t make copies of all the cards like we do now, so I don’t know how many cards I did. I have images for maybe 12 or so. I found out that an Ironman card of mine sold for $300 a couple years ago. That was a big surprise! They were all quick pencils sketches, very rough art, but they found a fan.

(Q5.) What do you now do with Artist Proof cards & ‘Returns’?
How can a collector contact you?
(A5.) My website is www.the8spot.com and I have an eBay store where I sell Comic books and comic book related items (such as my artwork), as well as sketch cards. I only have a few AP left for Marvel (those are from the Thor: The Mighty Avenger set) and I have a lot of Star Wars cards. I haven’t sold all those yet. I do plan to put them up on my store a few at a time. I also now have Custom card stock for commissions. My store is stores.ebay.com/ramoscomics … And of course people can find me on Instagram or Twitter @ramoskaiju

(Q6.) Are new sketch opportunities still exciting?
Is there anything new to look forward to?
Are you open to new companies contacting you for new projects?
(A6.) New projects and getting to draw new things is always exciting. I’ve done Star Wars for a number a years now for Topps, but then new things popped up that I never knew I would have so much fun doing (such as Mars Attacks, Wacky Packages, Garbage Pail Kids, and I just finished up a few weeks ago drawing the 45th Anniversary cards for Red Sonja for Dynamite Entertainment). It’s been a while since I heard from Cryptozoic or Upper Deck; but that’s also on me as a freelancer to contact them to let them know I’m available. Editors change contact info as well. I’m always up to do more cards. It’s fun to do. In my normal freelance work, I letter books for Papercutz. I’m a freelance Art Director for Apex Comics Group, and of course I self publish with Section 8 Comics my own book is Team Kaiju at http://www.the8spot.com

Great insight. Thanks again, Wilson!
Want to continue the conversation? Tweet me @Sketchcards, or Wilson @RamosKaiju

HeroesCon Throwback Thursday (2007)

If I was forced to pick what year sketch cards were at the height of their popularity, it might be 2007. “DC Legacy” was about to be released from Rittenhouse Archives, and everyone on the convention scene was buzzing. I attended Heroes Convention in Charlotte, NC, and many of the artists brought their cards with them. So I took pictures.

Above is Sean “Cheeks” Galloway, the character designer for “The Spectacular Spider-Man” (TV series). You can see that Rittenhouse provides oversize card stock that is later cut down to standard size (better guaranteeing good condition, and sharp corners).

This is Renae DeLiz, and husband Ray Dillon. They have been a team for 12 years now. Renae is currently the writer/artist and Ray is the inker/colorist/letterer of a new creator-owned project called of “Lady Powerpunch!” Look at the massive stack of cards in front of Renae! Here’s a few close-ups.

Things get more interesting when you jam with other artists. At HeroesCon you might be sitting next to “Garbage Pail Kids” legend, Brent Engstrom. So naturally, you ask him to play in your sandbox. Take a look at the three-artist jampiece below. The other image shows scans from Uko Smith. Do all artists scan their work before turning cards into the company?

Lastly, I’ll leave you with some scans from Cat Staggs. She recently illustrated the covers and interiors for the Smallville Season 11 comic series. — And even if an artist is not drawing for your favorite current card set, you can always provide blank card stock to an artist and commission your own sketchcards. Next to the Cat Staggs photo is Bernard Chang, who drew a Valiant “Archer & Armstrong” sketch card for me that year.

Do you want to see more Throwback Thursday stories? Do you have your own? Continue the conversation in the comments section below, or Tweet me @Sketchcards. Happy Collecting!

Wizard Magazine’s best attempt

As a follow-up to yesterday’s blog post about Vintage pricing (ca. 2002) … I had this nagging memory of Marvel sketchagraph cards once being “priced” in a magazine. Before the pervasiveness of eBay and online options, you waited for a monthly update from Comic Buyers Guide or Beckett magazine. Lucky for me, I’m a pack-rat and archiver of worthless collectibles. I dove into a massive backissue catalog long abandoned in my basement, and after skimming no less than 45 comic-based magazines, I stumbled across the “Greatest Issue Ever.” In June 2000, Wizard Magazine attempted their most adventurous price guide, claiming “30,000 items priced” on the cover.

Wizard magazine often priced comic books, but a couple times a year they had a few pages dedicated to pricing action figures or trading cards. When they priced trading cards, they often over-simplified the sets and never really attempted to individually price sketch cards. And to be honest … they aren’t really accurately priceable because original art is so subjective. But in June 2000, they gave it their very best attempt.

I honestly don’t know if this is the one and only time Wizard Magazine printed sketchagraph prices; but I know this particular attempt was less than perfect, and could use some serious editing. Darren Auck, Renato Arlem, and Steve Bunche’s names are all misspelled (and that’s just the first few listings).

Wiz-Mistakes

For now, let’s just be thankful we have a partial artist list. If you pick up the April/May 2018 issue of NonSport Update magazine, you’ll find an article on the 20th anniversary of MCC98 that reminds us that a complete artist checklist was never released. This Wizard Magazine list is about as complete as it gets, and must have been a massive undertaking by the writers and editors to assemble. So, thanks Wizard! … Now can I get a time machine so I can go back and purchase a few of these cards for just $20 each?

Have a question? Let’s continue the conversation on Twitter @Sketchcards. Thanks & Happy Collecting.

Vintage SketchCard PriceGuide

I recently dug something out of storage. In 2002 I was recording every sketch card sale in a notebook (for my own use). Now that it’s the 20th anniversary of MCC98, people have been asking if those 1998 sketch cards have gotten cheaper or more expensive over the last decade. Let’s put that debate to rest. Here are two random pages from my notebook (please excuse any spelling mistakes). You can draw your own conclusions, but prices have always been pretty competitive.

Sometime after 2002, I realized it was better (and easier) if I just take a screenshot of interesting sales. Remember when eBay publicly posted sellers names and additional information? I wonder if any of these buyers are still active. The Jubilee (X-Men) is by Renato Arlem.

Also, a Twitter friend has been doing some recent research on 1999’s Marvel: The Silver Age and asked if I had information on these. Yes, I was recording many of those prices, too. Here’s a Marie Severin and Joe Sinnott.

And for good measure, here’s a few decade-old sales of 2001’s Marvel Legends by Topps. I added another Marie Severin so you can compare her prices on alternate card stock. The Wolverine is by Humberto Ramos.

Now that I have my notebook out of storage for a few days, any requests? Is there a long-lost or rare card you want me to research? Let’s continue the conversation either in the comments section or on Twitter @sketchcards — Happy Collecting!

Major League artists draw sketch cards too.

It would be a misconception to think that all sketch cards are drawn by unfamiliar names and freelance artists. Yes, the medium is a great way for up-and-coming artists to be seen by a larger audience, but sometimes seasoned veterans make the checklists too. It benefits both the manufacturer and the collector if a few recognizable names can be inserted into a sketch card product. You might be surprised by who has participated in the past.

Wonder Woman and Catwoman cover artist Adam Hughes has worked on multiple sets (including Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and Women of Marvel). While he is most known for his pinup-style female characters, Adam offers us a bit of everything when it comes to his sketch cards.

Sometimes an artist is so well known their name is prominently used in the advertising of an upcoming set. When Upper Deck’s 2014 Marvel Premier was being solicited, Neal Adams was a major selling point. Since Neal is known for helping to create some of the definitive modern imagery of Batman and Green Arrow, with a career spanning more than 50 years, he was a huge draw for collectors (pun intended).

The older sets were chock-full of recognizable names. It would take a book to list all their names and career contributions. Shown above is a 1997 Fleer Ultra Spider-Man sketch of the Vulture by Bill Sienkiewicz, and a 1999 Fleer/Skybox Silver Age sketchagraph of Spider-Man by Stan Lee.

The list could continue indefinitely, but the point is clear, even legendary creators like drawing trading cards from time-to-time. Above, I’ve shown samples from Mark Texeira, Art Adams, Humberto Ramos, and Chris Bachalo. Here’s where I leave my random disclaimers: (#1.) Recognizable names aren’t always the highest selling cards on eBay. I’m not necessarily trying to correlate veteran artists with value. (#2.) Not all sets include a veteran artist on their checklist; but I would personally like to see more of it. (#3.) I don’t own any of the cards shown above. Sorry. Good luck on your hunt.

Do you have a favorite artist that I forgot to mention? Let’s continue the conversation. Leave a comment, or find me on Twitter @sketchcards. Happy Collecting.