Thursday, October 02, 2008

Sketch Cards Are Coming.

They're often labelled 1/1, they're relatively inexpensive to create and they've been around in non-sport cards for more than a decade. But after a brief and largely forgettable stint in baseball cards in 2005 Topps Gallery Baseball, sketch cards might be the next game-used jersey as Topps looks to be pushing these hard in the coming months.

In a nutshell, sketch cards contain a hand-drawn picture right on the card. They can range from doodles to pieces worthy of hanging on one's wall. Because they're drawn on the card, Topps has been marketing and labelling them in their non-sport sets as 1/1s. But beware. It's the sometimes the same tactic you see on eBay everyday with a knob listing their card serial numbered 100/100 as a 1/1 because it's the "last one printed."

Case in point: here's a sketch card I pulled earlier this year from Indiana Jones Heritage drawn by Ryan Waterhouse:

Now check out here, here, here, here and here. There's a few hundred (possibly thousand) Waterhouse monkeys out there. Thankfully as the bar has been raised in the last year by other non-sport manufacturers, doodles like these are becoming rarer. But with Topps entering a new realm in sports where many "collectors" go ga-ga over anything marked 1/1, I worry some might get duped. But if Topps' first promo shots are any indication of what's coming, I'm excited for something new. Here's the pictures I was sent (I'm pretty sure the artist is Brian Kong):

Topps' re-launch of sketch cards begins with 2008 Topps Updates & Highlights Baseball. They're a hobby exclusive falling two per case. They're also on tap for 2008 Stadium Club Baseball at a rate of one in four boxes.

There's plenty of aspiring artists out there looking to make a name for themselves. That's what makes sketch cards so appealing to card manufacturers. They can create gorgeous inserts for a relatively cheap price. The artist may not make a ton up front (they're taken care of, but not by much) but by getting their work out to the masses, the exposure can lead to more lucrative work, not to mention direct commissions to collectors that usually run anywhere from $10 for a black and white pencil sketch to $100 or more for a full-color piece.

Like most everything else in the hobby, sketch cards can be great or they can suck. Hopefully the quantities and quality will remain in check and they won't become overkill like they're quickly becoming in non-sports.


weasel-king said...

I alluded to "pulling a Waterhouse" as well. His ketches have become sort of a punchline of sorts, which it too bad considering the allure still surrounding sketch cards.

The Kong examples you show are great, but the companies always release the "best" ones in marketing material. If they are all of that quality, then great, but I'd still be cautiously optimistic.

I used to collect hockey (now I'm a full-time non-sport guy), and I see that the recent Masterpieces set has some hockey sketches in it. For the most part, I've not been that impressed with the few that have been pulled.

On one hand, they artists do much better with their eyes closed than I could with mine open, but a part of me hopes that the companies are just testing the waters and will leave the sketch cards to the non-sports community.

Matthew said...
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