Behind The Art Card: Interview With Sport Kings Lead Portrait Painter Jared Kelley

Photobucket
This is an exclusive first look at Sport Kings Series E that will be released later this year.  This Rocky Marciano painting is just one of many that Jared Kelley created for Sport Kings Series E.
Jared Kelley is considered one of the most influential artists within the trading card industry.  He is currently the Lead Portrait Painter for Sport Kings, LLC and is the man behind many of those Upper Deck Goodwin Masterpieces containing beautiful hand painted portraits of the nation’s Presidents.    Collectors have really reacted to his work, and I think its safe to say he will be involved within the hobby for many years to come.  Mr. Kelley was nice enough to take the time out of his busy schedule and answer a few questions about his artwork and his involvement within the trading card industry.  I hope you will enjoy!
  • What is it about portraiture that you find so interesting?
I like the challenge the most! I don’t know if every artist is like me, but I have always been entertained with puzzles; crosswords, sudoku, Rubik’s Cube, chess, riddles, etc. Portraits provide me with the same level of entertainment, if not more so. When an artist paints a portrait, he doesn’t start by painting an “eye”. He starts by painting a shape. Every inch of the model is composed of nothing more than shapes. The bone structure, the shadows, the folds in the clothing, are all simple geometric equations that are noticed and solved in the artist’s perception. Many people are surprised to know how well they CAN paint when they are taught to think in terms of shapes, and not objects. It’s a great puzzle that the artist pieces together and this is what I find so fulfilling. Very similar to the sense of accomplishment most men experience when they’ve finished assembling a bookshelf from Ikea and notice that they only ended up with 3 critical pieces of hardware that were overlooked and no more.
  • When capturing an individual’s portrait, what do you find to be the most difficult part of the painting process?

When you understand that a portrait is essentially a puzzle with varying numbers of pieces, then no painting is difficult because it’s a “portrait” per se. The difficulty for me is more in determining how many “pieces” the puzzle will require to be complete. This is always a case by case situation and can be affected by deadlines, time constraints, ability to focus on any given day, and of course the person posing. All of these elements can affect the production of a portrait. If a portrait seems “difficult” on any given day, I find that an added measure of shear determination is the best remedy. The work’s gotta get done; no excuses!

  • If you would have had instructors proficient in portraiture, how do you think your work might differ from what it is today?
I work in acrylic for a few reasons. First, when I was a younger newlywed and just starting out in life, my work space was essentially an apartment broom closet. For that reason, the smell of oils and solvents wasn’t very appealing to have in the home, so I started to lean heavily towards acrylics because of their non-toxicity and solvent free clean-up. If I had the opportunity, I would have loved to have had instruction on traditional portraiture using oils. Though acrylics have come along way since their advent in the 50’s, nothing replaces the body of an oil paint. I would have loved to learn the uses of the various oil mediums and the best techniques for layer applications, none of which was taught to me in college. Bummer.
  • Since becoming involved in the trading card industry, what has been your favorite miniature sports art project that you have worked on? Why?
Without a doubt, unequivocally, the Sport Kings Series E set that I am currently doing. I started painting my first sketch cards back in late 2010 for Upper Deck. Since that time, my comfort level for working in small scale has greatly increased. Also, as with everything in life, I’ve learned by experience what works better when creating these little masterpieces. Since I signed on with Sport Kings Gum, LLC (www.sportkingsgum.com) I have employed new techniques that have taken these latest cards to a higher level of excellence. The Sport Kings series will be well worth the high dollar amounts that each painting will surely sell for at auction. I love adding little “extras” to the cards to help increase the rarity factor for the collectors. For example, in the Upper Deck Goodwin Masterpiece paintings, some of the backgrounds were different than others and, in the case of the George Washington cards, there were singular pieces of glitter embedded into the eyes of Washington so that the card sparkled slightly when the collector held it. Of course, collectors have noticed that I choose to gold leaf the edged of my favorite cards. This tradition will be maintained in the Sport Kings paintings, which will feature gold edges on every portrait since no painting will have multiple copies offered. Just 1 of 1’s. There will be plenty of additional “extras” amid the cards in this set. I’m very hyped to see the market’s reaction to such a great set of cards.
  • Is there anything special you have to keep in mind when working on a project for a trading card manufacturer?
Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines!!! Since each project entails its own set of circumstances, and given the fact that I am still very fresh to the sketch card scene, the biggest learning curve for me is simply calculating the time needed for completion. There’s no real science to determining the time you’ll need to hand paint such a large number of cards. When you’re trying to figure it out it can feel like throwing a dart at a board while you wear a blindfold and praying that you hit the bull’s-eye. Obviously you’re going to have to adapt to circumstances as you embark on the project. For me, I would estimate that a card takes 3-4 hours each to go from blank stock (nothing but graphics on the back and bottom front) to finished product. Now, multiply those hours by 500 and you’ll start to appreciate the effort that goes into such a high caliber product.
  • What upcoming projects within the trading card industry are you currently working on and look forward to seeing hit collectors’ hands?  Why?
I plan to work on the subsequent “Series” editions for Sport Kings. I was strongly drawn to Sport Kings preservation of and loyalty to artwork in their products. They are a growing force in the trading card world and I hope to stay onboard their ship for years to come. The degree of excellence to which Dr. Brian Price (Owner/CEO) aims for all of his products, including the In The Game and Famous Fabrics sets (www.itgtradingcards.com), (www.famousfabrics.com), is what I admire most and hope to emulate in my work. When a collector pays $3000 for one of my cards I want that collector to feel confident that he/she just secured a quality product which will only increase in value as time rolls on.
  • Looking back, what are some of the more memorable pieces of work that you have done?  Why?
I am a huge American History buff and love patriotic themes. The chance to paint the Founding Fathers for the Upper Deck set was a thrill! I have to say, however, my favorite sketch card painting thus far has to be the trophy Washington Card, which Famous Fabrics will be giving away to the first collector to acquire all 96 cards in the 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue set just released in late February. The biggest difference in that piece is the story being told in the background. By far, it’s the most detailed background I’ve painted on a card to date, though some of the Series E cards will have similarly active backdrops.
  • Are you a collector?  If so, what do you collect?
I don’t collect anything besides plaque in the arteries and scorn from my two cats. This has been part of the excitement for me upon my introduction to the hobby. Apart from the cool experience of painting on a trading card, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some really awesome collectors who have turned into good friends. I’ve been so touched by the warm fanfare given to my work in the hobby, that I have even featured the names of supporters in several of the Series E portraits. It’s my way of expressing my appreciation for the collectors. I will admit to “breaking” my first two boxes of cards when the Goodwin Masterpieces came out. I’m sure I’ll be doing the same with each new release from Sport Kings. Who knows, I may become a full fledged collector yet! In the end, I love what I do!

Interview With Washington Nationals Pitching Prospect Ryan Tatusko

Photobucket
Ryan Tatusko is a RHP in the Washington Nationals organization.  Collectors can find his first baseball cards in 2011 Bowman Chrome, and he will have autographed cards in some of Panini’s new MLBPA licensed products.
Ryan was kind enough to take the time and answer a few questions for Sports Card Info.  Be sure to follow him on Twitter and check out his blog – Welcome to the Backfields.  Enjoy!
  • Which current MLB player would you like to pitch against the most?

The current pitcher that I would love to pitch against right now would have to be Justin Verlander. The kind of pitching repertoire that he has I think is unmatched in Major League Baseball.  Anytime a pitcher can win the Most Valuable Player award obviously is someone that is going to be a force to be reckoned with on the mound.  I think going against Verlander right now would be an honor, but obviously just being in the big leagues and being able to pitch against any pitcher at that level would be an incredible experience for me.

  • What is your most memorable on-field experience since becoming a professional ball player?

The most memorable on-field experience since becoming a professional baseball player would have to be the no-hitter that I took into the ninth inning against the Modesto Nuts at their home field in the California League.  I was very fortunate and had an amazing defense by me that night and I carried a no-hitter with one out into the ninth inning where I proceeded to give up a base it right up the middle on a 2-1 fastball. That game still resonates very loud in my mind and I still look back on that as probably the most fun pitching experience that I’ve had in professional baseball.  What made that experience even more special was after the no-hitter was broken up the away crowd gave me a standing ovation for a couple minutes for taking the no-hitter into the ninth.

  • What lessons have you learned on the field that you can apply to off the field?

Things that I have learned off the field that I carry on the field are hard work, patience, and humility.  I think those are the three key qualities that you have to have in order to become a good professional baseball player, especially one that spends some time in the minor leagues.  The hard work being one of the most important qualities because there’s so many people that are competing for the same job at every position, that you have to do whatever you can to be ready at any moment to give your best.  Patience is key because you keep working in knowing that you have to know when you capitalize when it is your time, not getting too eager or anxious and wondering about what the next levels are like.  You got to live in your own moment at the level you are at, and try to do the best that you can.

  • Batters can sometimes do annoying things at the plate.  Is there anything batters do that annoy you?

Even though sometimes batters do annoying things at the plate, pitchers also do annoying things on the mound.  Things like stepping trying to disrupt the hitters timing, taking your time on the mound, or taking a long walk around the mound or playing with the rosin bags.  We also do things like calling the catcher to the mound.  You try not to notice the annoying things at the plate because they’re just trying to break you out of your time and disrupt your rhythms.  The first time you notice that the batters are doing something that’s incredibly annoying, then you know he has done his job by taking you out of your rhythm.

  • What is your favorite and least favorite pitch to throw?

My fastball is my favorite, especially when I am feeling incredibly good with it.  I love throwing it because I can get to cut a little nit, and also make it run.  I dislike throwing anything that isn’t working that day.  Sometimes you have a fastball curveball that’s working for you that day, and sometimes a fastball changeup, and you know that when you’re curveball is not working and the catcher calls that pitch in a critical count you have to somehow find the confidence to make it a strike and throw it with confidence.

  • What expectations to you have for yourself in the 2012 season?

Expectations that I have for myself in 2012 are to continue what I was building on in 2011.  I was very fortunate to go to winter ball down to Venezuela and work on my mechanics.  I think that was probably some the most invaluable experience that I could have received.  Not only did I get to work on mechanics with pitching coaches who have never seen me before, and may have a few different tweaks and suggestions that maybe other pitching coaches might not have found, but I got to use those tweaks in a game setting.  I started to really get my motion and my rhythm in AAA towards the end of the year in 2011 and pitching coach Greg Booker had a lot to do with that.   He continued to work with me in the bullpen and help me out, and provided me mental and physical tweaks.  I think that he helped me immensely so I’m really looking forward to getting to work with him this year and hopefully just building on what I was doing in 2011 because I really feel like I was starting to head on the right path.

  • What are some of the highlights of your personal collection?  What would you like to add?

I’ve been blessed to have multiple highlights in professional baseball one being that I talked about before; taking the no-hitter into the ninth inning, being able to go down to Venezuela and play winter ball was an extreme highlight of my professional career, and I had an absolute blast touring the country and seeing the culture. The fans were first class and the players and coaching staff were just all incredible.  I would absolutely love to be able to do it again.  I was also traded in my career and that was a memory that will forever be ingrained in my mind.  I got to learn a different organization and work with new coaches which were able to make me a better baseball player.  I’ve played in the American and National League organizations, and I’ve been able to take a few at-bats in the long relief appearances I’ve had.  Getting my first professional hit while in AA in Harrisburg was a big memory for me as well.  I look forward to creating new memories as I continue to play baseball and hopefully these memories will include some really great highlights in the major leagues.

Hobby Interview: Leaf President Brian Gray

Photobucket

Leaf President, Brian Gray was nice enough to answer a few questions for Sports Card Info today.  With the release of Valiant this week, I just had to catch up with him.  I hope you enjoy!

  • What separates Leaf from all the other card manufacturers?

Leaf is founded on one simple principle. Be what the other manufacturers aren’t while giving collectors what the other manufacturers won’t.

We are a 100% customer driven company. We do not rest on laurels of our history. We fight every day to make compelling products and provide the best service in the industry.

Plus, I collect too! I can assure you most owners of manufacturers in this market do NOT collect. How can they have a customer/collector driven vision, when they don’t even collect?

  • When it comes to releasing a new product, you truly listen to what collectors want to see.  Why do you think this is so difficult for other companies?

Honestly, it isn’t hard at all. The problem is that bigger companies have systems and red tape that makes being flexible for customers difficult. I don’t think collectors should have to settle for bad customer service just because a company is big. Or, they shouldn’t have to deal with checklist switcharoos because a manufacturer has an exclusive.

  • Since taking over the Leaf brand in 2010, what has been your favorite project you have worked on?  Why?

Working on Muhammad Ali products was amazing for me. First, I love Muhammad! He is a true hero of sports and an idol to millions worldwide. In addition, I learned a great deal in preparing these products and added Ali to my PC (personal collection).

  • Ichiro has been a huge draw for collectors opening your newest baseball products.  Do you have plans to incorporate any more active MLB players within your products?

Yes, we will be announcing another deal in the coming weeks. I am so excited to add “championship” talent to our roster.

  • Resurrecting the popular Crusade design from the 90’s was a great idea.  What other insert designs would you like to see make a comeback?

There are so many.  In 2012, Leaf will be exploring many lost (and some new) technologies in bringing that unappreciated era back to the forefront.  Plus, look for 1990 Leaf and 1948 Leaf designs to make appearances.

  • If you had to open a Leaf product right now, what would it be?

For resale value, 2011 Leaf Valiant Baseball… 10 autos with Ichiros at that level are crazy… plus I love that old Crusade design!

As a collector, Muhammad Ali Metal. It is underappreciated in the market and I would take this opportunity to break wax and use eBay/stores to fill sets while prices are reasonable.

  • Which vintage Leaf product do you find the most interesting?

1948 Leaf. Simple set with simple art that changed cards. The first color post-war baseball set was huge. We will be celebrating this in 2012.

  • Do you have a personal collection?  If so, what is in it and what is your favorite piece?

Yes… too much to itemize. I have an extensive presidential autograph collection, but frankly my favorite items are pictures of me and our personalities together signed… Ali, Tyson, etc…

I would like to thank Mr. Gray for taking the time to answer my questions.  Leaf has been releasing some great stuff and I look forward to what the future brings.

On a side note, I noticed that a Hak-Ju Lee 2011 Valiant autograph popped-up for sale and was signed in silver ink.  I asked Mr. Gray if there were any ink variations within Valiant and he said there were none.  Lee just happened to pick-up the wrong pen.

Photobucket

Interview with Jim Maser – The Pin Man

Photobucket
(Right – Jim Maser – The Pin Man, Left – Dave, and me in the middle)
Pins are some of the most popular collectibles, especially when it comes to sporting events.  If you’ve attended an All-Star Game, World Series, or Super Bowl, its likely that you’ve run into Jim Maser a.k.a. The Pin Man.  I first met Jim and his brother Dave during the 2009 National Sports Collectors Convention in Cleveland.  I had never seen so many pins all in one place before.  Any pin collector would have a ball browsing through his inventory.
Recently I caught up with The Pin Man and he was nice enough to answer a few questions for the blog.  Be sure to check out The Pin Man on eBay.  He has a ton of great stuff.
  • How did you come to the decision to deal mainly with pins?

I got into selling pins by accident.  I discovered selling on eBay in 1998 and I bought a bag of pins at a swap meet and put them on eBay.  They all sold out so I got more and more and now I am the Pin Man.  I was also fortunate enough to be living in Southern California, which happened to be where three major pin makers are located.

  • Over the years, I’m sure you’ve seen a ton of cool pins.  What are some of the most interesting ones that you have owned?  Why did you find them interesting?

The most interesting pins that I had were prototype pins from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.  They were interesting because they were the prototypes of many of the pins that were sold in Atlanta.  I ended up selling all of them to a few Olympic pin collectors.

  • What is the best part of your job?

I love working for myself and being able to make sure that all of my customers are always satisfied no matter what I have to do to provide that satisfaction.  I also love sports and being involved in some of the major sports events throughout the year such as the All-Star Game, World Series, and Super Bowl.  I also love the hustle-bustle of working shows and meeting new people.  I have also made a lot of good friends (like you) through this business.

  • What are some of the most in demand pins collectors are after right now?

The most in demand pins right now are Packers and Super Bowl 45 champions pins.  Also in demand are press pins.  Unfortunately the NFL lockout is going to put an end to the demand for the NFL pins.  I am also going to have an exclusive Opening Day pin for the Colorado Rockies that will be in huge demand on April 1st when I am selling at Opening Day.

Photobucket

  • Would you like to see pins integrated into trading cards somehow?

No I really don’t think that it works.  I believe that it has been tried by Score a few years ago and it just didn’t work.  I think the problem is that pins can’t be easily put in packs without the potential for damage to the cards.

  • Do you have a personal collection?  If so, what is in it?

I have a small personal collection.  I am originally from Detroit so I like to collect pins for the Tigers, Red Wings, Pistons and Lions.  I also collect pins from events that occurred in Detroit like the 2005 All-Star Game and Super Bowl 40.

Want to learn even more about The Pin Man?  Take a look at this article by Steve Stoler of WFAA-TV Dallas/Fort Worth.

Interview with Chris Justice of The Hobby Box & CardsInfinity.com

Photobucket
Having almost 8,000 subscribers and 8.5 million total upload video views, makes Chris Justice one of the most popular video box breakers on YouTube.  Chris owns and operates The Hobby Box which is a sports card shop located in Wilmington, North Carolina.  Chris was nice enough to take some time and answer a few questions I had about his shop, YouTube, and The Hobby.  Be sure to check out his channel and site, CardsInfinity.com.
  • What made you want to open The Hobby Box?
I have collected since I was a teen and I have always enjoyed sports and sports cards.  In the early 90’s I went to college and graduated with a BS in Information Systems.  I enjoyed computers, but I could not see myself working on one all day long, day in and day out (funny I do that now in this hobby :)).  So during and after college I worked as a bartender for 8 years.  I really enjoyed talking with customers and watching sports while working :).  Around 2004 a friend of mine showed me what the card companies were doing with sports cards and I thought it was the coolest thing.  They were embedding jerseys in cards as well as having them autographed.  Well my interest was struck, so I got back into collecting pretty heavily.  There was only one shop in my town and the guy charged really ridiculous prices for his hobby boxes.  So since I enjoyed sports and sports cards I decided to open my own store and that is how The Hobby Box got started.
  • How important is YouTube to your business?  Do you think it’s possible for a hobby shop to survive without having a presence on the internet?

Let me explain how I got started on YouTube.   I started my store in April 2006.   Customers would come in and break boxes and it was really exciting to see what each box produced and their reaction to the cards they pulled.  At that time the only place to really share your break was on a card forum.  You would sit in front of your computer and type out what you got and post a scan.  That is really fun in itself, but you don’t get the persons reaction to the break.  I was selling a shirt that I had made out of 550+ jersey cards on eBay. The winner of that shirt was Dr. WaxBattle.  He has a website called The BackStop.net.  I checked out his website and noticed that he was taping customers breaking boxes.  I thought that was the coolest thing ever.  Not only do you get the first look, but you get to see the reaction of the person opening the box.  Then I searched YouTube to see if others were doing it and there were only about four.  Joe Holman was breaking a blaster box here and there, Backstop was doing it, Rip & Pull, and a guy by the name of KoolJazz1966.  I really loved all their breaks, but KoolJazz stood out the most and here is why.  This guy just seemed so into sports cards and I loved his reaction.  Just a down to earth guy that was not in it for the “BIG MONEY” pull, but the actual love of opening boxes.  “Box Break Thursday” he called his breaks, and he would tape the breaks for the guys on TCC website (Trading Card Central).

As much as I loved his reactions and admired The BackStop, Rip & Pull and Joe for starting the whole thing, there was something missing.  The missing part was they were not allowing the viewer to live vicariously through the break.  Plus they were showing way too many base which can make a break rather long and boring.  I thought I would start taping my customers opening boxes in the vicarious position and we would also breeze through the base cards. This way people can see what the major hits are, get the reactions, and at the same time live vicariously through the break.  So that is what I did and that is basically how I got on YouTube.  Now I didn’t get on YouTube to make money.  That was not even on my mind.  I did all the videos specifically for the love of the hobby and to have fun with it.  I started selling boxes on the internet about 7 months later when people kept asking me if I would sell them a box.  I was like sure, and if you like I can break it here for you and upload the video and mail the cards.  A lot of people liked the idea and that is how it all got started.

So in a nutshell, YouTube is very important to me.  It brings together a community of people that, when on the internet, feel like they are all at the card shop together.  It is a place where people can share cards they have pulled with others and at the same time create good friendships.

Yes, I think Hobby Stores can survive without the internet.  There are a lot of shops doing that very thing right now.  It is harder without the internet but it can be done.  I do a good portion of my sales through the internet now and I do appreciate all the business people give me.

  • What are some things you would like to see the manufacturers do differently to make The Hobby more enjoyable?

They need to send me a case of the new product a week before it releases so I can do a FREE group break for people :), just kidding.  Although that would be fun!!  Let me defend card companies for a second.  People always give card companies a hard time.  I don’t think they realize what a tight rope these card companies have to walk.  They have to produce a product with big names that everyone wants without flooding the market with big names.  For example, everyone wants a Michael Jordan autographed card.   Upper Deck could put one in every other box and guess what?  Pulling a Michael Jordan card has lost all of its luster and excitement.  Not to mention its monetary value.

But with that said, I think ALL card companies should always honor redemption cards PERIOD.  There is no reason what so ever that they should not do this.  The card should have been in the set before the product was released.  It is not the consumer’s fault that it wasn’t.  Sure the card companies would need a pretty big filing system, but if the card was made it should be filed away in the “Redemption Room” and should always be there until that card is redeemed.  If the card was never made, then they should give you equal value of the card at the time of it being pulled.  If they did it this way you can bet there would be a lot less redemptions, because card companies would get sick of storing all the cards when they are made.

It is very frustrating for a person to open a  box and pull a Cal Ripken/Derek Jeter Dual autograph #d to 5 and it be expired.  That one change would make the hobby a lot more fun and enjoyable.

  • Of all the products you have opened, which have been your favorite and least favorite?  Why?

Favorite is Exquisite and the reason is simple… it is so DAMN expensive that it makes you nervous to open it.  Anything that can get your heart going is exciting and Exquisite does that.

  • Which future product release are you looking forward to the most?

Not sure if they are doing it, but if they are, I am really looking forward to National Treasures Basketball.  I think it will be a very exciting product loaded with really nice looking cards.

  • What is the most valuable card pulled from your shop?

That depends on your definition of value.  The weirdest card I have seen pulled was a Neanderthal flint knife.   It was a redemption, but Jerry, the guy who pulled it, sent me a scan when he got it back. Very unique card.  The coolest looking card was pulled just the other week and that was a Felix Hernandez WBC full size logo patch.  As far as actual sell value goes, I pulled a Tiger Woods 2001 Sp Authentic GOLD version red shirt swatch #d/25.  I sold the card for $1,200 BIN, but I saw another one surface again during Tiger’s big run in 2007 or 2008 and it was bid up to $3,600 but didn’t meet reserve. I’m not sure what it would sell for now, but that is the most expensive card I have ever pulled.  I have had several $1,000+ cards pulled from my store though.  Always fun to pull a big valued card, but I am just as happy when someone pulls the person they collect and are looking for.

Photobucket

According to Upper Deck, there are only 9 of these Neanderthal Flint Knife relics.

  • What do you have in your personal collection, and what are some of your best pieces?

I really collect rookie autographs.  I have a lot of those.  My biggest cards are probably my Solomon Jones collection :).  I have a few of his Exquisite 1/1’s, Superfractors from Finest and Chrome rookie autographs.  I have quite a few MJD cards as well.  Terrence Williams is my new player to collect.

HOBBY INTERVIEW: Thomas Fish, President of Blowout Cards

Photobucket
Blowout Cards is one of the most popular online destinations for collectors to go when then feel that urge to bust open a box, learn about new products, or just want to see what other collectors are doing around The Hobby.  Recently I did an interview with Blowout Cards President, Thomas Fish to learn more about the company and his perspective on The Hobby right now.
  • What is the history behind Blowout Cards?

Blowout Cards was founded in 1998 by Chris Park.  It was a time when card shows were at their peak, Publications such as Beckett and Sports Collectors Digest were the dominant media source and card shops could be found on every corner street..(literally).  The marketplace for sports cards on the Internet was just starting to take off.  Blowout Cards began by specializing in breaking unopened cases and then sorting the singles into team Sets.  We had buyers lined up in each city waiting to purchase 500-1000 team sets of their team along with all the inserts associated with their home team.  Demand quickly overtook supply and Blowout Cards transitioned from selling single cards and team sets into wholesaling wax boxes & cases.

The turning point for Blowout Cards was in 2003 when Thomas Fish became involved.  Fish was already well established in the Collectibles & Gaming industry.  Soon after, Chris Park and Thomas Fish became partners in Blowout Cards Inc. and thats when the company began to expand to where it is today.

  • What would you say is the most difficult part of your job?

Keeping up with technology and innovation.  It’s amazing how quickly the marketplace can change.  You can’t sit back and hope that customers will find you.  We are constantly keeping up with technology.  Whether its our Blowout Cards Forum which currently offers tens of thousands of collectors a place to exchange ideas and product info.  Our Twitter profile updates daily which reaches thousands of collectors and informs them of spontaneous sales. YouTube sponsored box breaks is where collectors can get a discount on their boxes while breaking them on YouTube.  Blowout Blogs is where collectors can get some notoriety by posting original articles.  There are many other new features added this year alone such as:  Blowout Auction Tracker (B.A.T.) – tracks the highest dollar singles for new releases,  Blowout “Hot List”-tracks the hottest wax boxes on a DAILY basis, and Product Information Pages (PIP) offers collectors everything there is to know about upcoming products such as: checklists, sell sheets, videos, box breaks, and other collectors opinions.

  • Is there anything different you would like to see the major card manufacturers do with their products that would help attract new collectors to The Hobby?

A lot of what we would like to see are the same issues that collectors have. Solve these issues and collectors will buy more which in turn means distributors and wholesalers will order more from the manufacturers.

-Eliminate redemptions
-Stated print runs or print to order
-Additional content in products
-Better customer service.  Even simple tasks such as updated release dates, having employees who are knowledgeable about products, and updated web sites
-More social networking to keep collectors involved
-More accurate price points based on content
-Buyback program.  If the product does not sell or live up to its billing, offer to buy it back from distributors at direct cost.  Stand by your product.

This would be a start.

  • What do you think were some of the best products released in 2009 and why?

2009 football products from Panini immediately standout.  Almost every release provides collectors with bang for their buck, and prices have moved up steadily throughout the year.  Just look at Donruss Limited, Absolute, Rookie & Stars, Certified, ect…  2009 UFC from Topps was a huge hit.  Series 1 started off as a $50 box direct and trades for over $400 now.  The UFC has as much potential in the near future as any other sport.  Here’s a quick breakdown for the major sports:
– Baseball: 2009 Topps Triple Threads, 2009 Topps Allen & Ginter, 2009 Topps Unique, & 2009 UD Goodwin Champions
– Basketball: 2009/10 Topps & 2009/10 Panini Rookies & Stars
– Football: 2009 Topps Triple Threads, all the Panini football products, 2009 Topps Finest, 2009 Topps Chrome & 2009 Topps Magic

  • What future promotions can collectors look forward to in 2010?

We have a lot of promotions planned for 2010.  They will all have a common theme – giving back to our customers.   Some of our most successful promotions in 2009 centered around that core theme.  Our Columbus Day specials centered on boxes and cases as low as $14.92.  Our 09/09/09 promotion had boxes & cases as low as $9.99 and $99.  Collectors went nuts with over 60,000 hits.  Then came the most successful promotion in Blowout Cards History – BLACK FRIDAY 2009 – BE THERE.  It was a spin off of our 09/09/09 promotion but we decided to get other sites that we work with involved.  Beckett was a huge contributor offering many annual online subscriptions.  Pro-Mold donated supplies for orders shipped out.  We also had many of our partnership sites involved including COMC (Checkoutmycards.com), SCU (Sportscardsuncensored.com), SCF (Sportscardforum.com), and FCB (Freedoncardboard.com).  In the end, there were over 2 million page views that shattered all expectations.  So what do we have planned for 2010?  You will have to stay tuned to our Forums to find out….

  • If you went into your warehouse right now and busted a box, which product would it be?

Out of all the boxes we have had in our warehouse, my favorite one to watch being opened was the $2,500+ Razor Oval Office boxes.  Its the most expensive 5 second rip I’ve ever seen.  With only 99 boxes made, we sold out a while back, but was fortunate enough to see 2 boxes ripped.

Out of the current inventory, I would say 2006 Playoff National Treasures Football.  If you hit a rookie its a bonus, but this product was loaded with all the old school big hits that you can’t find anymore.

Interview With Sports Artist Monty Sheldon

Monty Sheldon is one of the better known sports artists in today’s hobby.  After graduating from the Joe Kubert School of Cartooning and Graphic Art in Dover, New Jersey, he went on to become one of the early employees at Dark Horse Comics.  After leaving Dark Horse Comics in 1998 he went on to pursue a career with his own artwork, specializing in popular sports figures.  Sheldon is mostly known for his famous Artballs that feature incredibly detailed paintings of some of baseball’s most popular players.  He also does artwork on cigar boxes, hockey pucks, and most recently he has been producing his own line of sketch cards.  Later this year you’ll see his work featured in 2009 Topps National Chicle Football too.  After seeing some of his awesome sketch cards, Mr. Sheldon was nice enough to answer a few questions about his artwork and what upcoming projects he is currently working on.

  • When did you learn that you wanted to approach being artist as a career?

I have drawn, sketched or doodled my whole life.  Being raised on a farm left a lot of down time during my youth to allow me to contemplate many a blank piece of paper.

  • What is the most difficult part of capturing an image on a sketch card, baseball, hockey puck, and/or cigar box?

It can be difficult to recreate the faces of popular atheletes and/or a specific pose that is etched into the public consciousness, such as Willie Mays’ 1954 World Series catch or Hank Aaron’s 715th home run.  In sketching or painting a famous event or sports figure you have to be very precise in capturing what they looked like.  If your off, even by a smidge, it will be obvious to the person who ordered the card or painting.

  • Growing up, who were some of your biggest influences in art and sports?

In my youth it was all about comic book art, I even went to the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art after high school back in the mid 1980s.  While attending that school, I was very close to New York city which allowed me to explore the many and varied museums and galleries it had to offer.  One of the greatest and most influential exhibits I witnesed was the Viennia 1900 show at the Modern Art Museum in 1986.  I was able to see close up the paintings of Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, & Oskar Kokoshka along with how art permeatted the Viennises society.  Art touched everything in their lives from their silverware, textiles, furniture, house design, you name the item and there art was.  In regards to sports, as a kid growing up during the 70’s in Ohio it was hard not to like the Big Red Machine which of course is still the greatest baseball team ever :).  No bias, of course.

  • Of all the pieces of artwork you’ve created, what is your favorite and why?

I don’t really have a favorite, there are of course pieces that I like better than others and I have always been partial to anything having to do with Rube Waddell. The first baseball, Helmar Card and cigar box I painted each featured “the Sousepaw”. The Moe Berg image I created for the series two Helmar set that shows him with his finger in front of his lips in the “shush” pose is one that I have always liked as it captures the mystery that was Moe Berg.

  • Who have been the hardest players to draw/paint and why?

I have always struggled to capture Roger Maris‘ likeness.  I think that it is in part because his hair and skin are both so fair and creating the contrast between features is really difficult to do and still maintain a good resemblance.

  • Who is the most requested baseball player(s) collectors ask you to paint?

When I first started painting the balls in 1998 it was Mark McGwire, but since then Mickey Mantle has outpaced any and all requests.

  • What is it like seeing your artwork on trading cards?

It was very similar to seeing my art show up in a published comic book. Comics and trading cards were both childhood passions and my ambition then was to create my own comic books and my own set of trading cards. It has been both humbling and gratifying to see childhood aspirations come true in my printed artwork.

  • Besides the new 2009 Topps National Chicle Football, what other artwork have you done for major card manufacturers?

I had a total of ten printed cards appear in the Helmar series 2 (2007) and series 3 (2008) card sets, mostly I create one-of-one pieces.  Currently I am finishing up with the hobby’s very first all hand-painted, 1/1 card set done in conjunction with Helmar(2006-09, 120 cards total), and I started what is believed to be the hobby’s first 1/1 sketch card set with this year’s Sheldon’s Sketch Card Champions.  I have been auctioning off 3-6 cards each week on eBay.  That set will be comprised of 240 cards by the end of this year.  I will be creating another set of sketch cards for 2010, the size of that set will be determined.

Photobucket

PhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucket

  • Do you do anything special to help prevent people from counterfeiting your sketch cards?

Like many artists I rely on the presentation and performance portions of copyright law.  Once a piece has been put on display as an original, one-of-one creation , the art is forever tied to me.  In terms of printed works, the corporations take care of that.

  • Do you have a personal collection?  If so, what does it consist of and what is your favorite piece?

As mentioned earlier, I like to collect all things Rube Waddell, which is easy because there isn’t much available–at least not in my price range.  If you ask my wife (and she would be glad to tell you), the ghosts of my misspent card and comic collecting youth still linger en masse in the studio.

Starting on October 1, Monty will be auctioning off his 8 Men Out Sketch Card Subset commemorating the 90th anniversary of the Black Sox Scandal.  Below you’ll find the schedule for when each card will go up for sale.

10/1 – 10/8: Eddie Cicotte 10/2 – 10/9: Lefty Williams 10/3 – 10/10Swede Risberg 10/4 – 10/11Buck Weaver 10/6 – 10/13Fred McMullin 10/7 – 10/14Chick Gandil 10/8 – 10/15Happy Felsch 10/9 – 10/16: Joe Jackson