People must love a scandal, because this Blog post was one of my most popular. So, as a follow-up, I’ve been researching a story that I knew existed, but had never seen collected into a timeline. This story revolves around a man named Brian Wallos who first made a name for himself in the collectibles business as a high-volume Beanie Babies dealer. Nowadays he is most recognized for distributing “Bench Warmer” trading cards (that showcase female models in bathing suits). Controversy follows Wallos. Bench Warmer trading cards were actually created in 1992 by Connie Lolan Woods, but after much disagreement, and in a startling contractual upset, Brian Wallos took over all operations.
Brian Wallos has always been interested in politics. After twenty years of pin-up models, Brian really wanted to make a trading card set based on the 2016 Presidential election. Sometime around 2016, Brain Wallos was quoted saying, “Some of my regular card buyers have said, ‘Oh, I hate all the candidates!’ or they hate Trump or Clinton … but the point is that there is no subject matter on Earth that I can put on trading cards right now that would be hotter than this.” — I’m not sure he was right.
The political trading card set that Brian Wallos would go on to create is called “Decision 2016.” He ran a Kickstarter campaign from Mar 29 – Apr 28, 2016 that was not successful. The funding goals were never met.
But lack of funding wouldn’t deter Brian Wallos. He had previously run a successful Kickstarter campaign for a Bench Warmer trading card series called “Dream Girls.” In fact, it was wildly successful raising $48K more than was initially needed to make the set ($68,275 pledged, and only a $20,000 goal). The funding period was Jul 7 – Sep 5, 2015. The money was already in his bank account, and production should have started soon after. On Apr 19, 2016 an update was made on the Dream Girls Kickstarter page: “the Dream Girls Books were having some trouble with production … we appreciate everyone’s patience.” So very little Dream Girls Kickstarter content had been produced by April 2016, and Brian Wallos knew his Decision 2016 Kickstarter ended unsuccessfully. I have no evidence of what happened next, but it is speculated that Dream Girls financing was redirected to create the Decision 2016 trading cards. Starting July 2016, the updates on the Dream Girls Kickstarter webpage were for “backers only,” and you had to log-in to read them; but the comments are still public (seen below). No Dream Girls product would be made for the rest of 2016 (while Decision 2016 got produced). Once money was presumably recouped from selling Decision 2016 trading cards, Dream Girls refunds started in March of 2017.
Decision 2016 finally got released April 12, 2016 (in both Hobby and Retail formats). A Hobby case break would include 1 Cut Autograph from a political hopeful. The set must have been a success in Brian Wallos’ opinion, because a follow-up set (Decision 2016 Series 2) would be released on February 28, 2017. This is the set that would pique my curiosity as a sketch card collector. Only found in hobby format, each Series 2 box included two hits. A Hobby case break would include 32 hits, and one of them would be a sketch card. That’s right … political sketch cards would fall one per case, limited to a max of 150 cases. Decision 2016 Series 2 was a print-to-order release so the total production could be lower based on the demand. The pre-sale case price was $1,550 direct from the Decision 2016 website.
So in the end, Brian Wallos completed his passion-project card set. It might have been the trading card equivalent of a three-card monte, but Decision 2016 made it to shelves, and collectors now have politically-themed sketch cards. I’ll leave you with two more screenshots below … one is a few cards that recently sold on eBay, and the other is Brian Wallos’ Twitter page (from August 8, 2018) that shows Decision 2016 Series 2 is still his banner picture, almost two years after release. He must really be proud of that product. — Want to continue the conversation? I’m on the Twitter @Sketchcards. Happy collecting!