Monday, May 14, 2012

Sketch Card Collector : Annie Williams

 Annie Williams is an established collector in the sketch card community. She has been collecting sketch cards since 2008. Collectors are essential for funding the industry. Without people like Annie, there would be no interest for companies to produce sketch card sets. 

1- How did you get into collecting sketch cards? And how long have you been a sketch card collector? Why sketch cards, what is it about them that you enjoy so much?
  •      I got into collecting sketch cards with the release of Rittenhouse's Women of Marvel set.  I saw a Storm sketch card by Joe Rubenstein, and I remember thinking that $30 was an awful lot to pay for one card.  However, it stayed with me, and I finally had to break down and buy it.  I've been hooked on sketch cards every since.  I think what I love most about sketch cards is the fact that they're miniature pieces of artwork - the only sort of original art I am able to afford, and easy to display.  For me, there is no rush quite as incredible as ripping open a package to reveal the sketch card within. 
2 - How big is your sketch card collection. Do you display your collection or are they kept in a folder. And if you were to choose one card as your absolute favorite...which one and why?

  •      My sketch card collection probably numbers around 600 or so.  I display my cards in different ways - the majority I keep in binders (which I flip through pretty much nightly) but some I keep in displays that hang on the wall.  I store my oversized artist proof cards in 4x6" photo albums, but I hope to get some of them framed someday.  If I had to pick just one card as my favorite (eek!), I think I'd have to say it's a Psylocke PSC from Renae de Liz, one of the first artists I ever commissioned.  The card is absolutely stunning, and I get goosebumps every time I look at it

3- Do you collect anything else? If so, what?
  •      I do indeed collect many other things.  In addition to sketch cards, I've become hooked on collecting larger pieces of original art (the core characters I collect are Rogue/Gambit, but I also like Storm, Psylocke, Phoenix, and Arwen/Aragorn from LOTR).  I also enjoy collecting press kits (both digital and older kits with slides and photos) from movies/TV shows.  I'm a voracious reader, and I love nothing more than picking up a special copy of a great book (Easton Press is one of the best) or an ARC (advanced reader copy).  I think that's about it!
4 - Do you follow certain artists or characters when you collect?....What is it about Rogue/Gambit that you like? =D
  •     In terms of collecting "official" sketch cards, my number one must-have is Andre Toma female sketches (I have over 60 total) and Rogue/Gambit cards.  As far as commissions go, Meghan Hetrick is my go-to must-have artist...I own over 15 pieces by her, and I intend for my collection to keep on growing and growing.  
  • Rogue and Gambit are, as most people who know me (and my collecting tastes) know, my favorite all-time fictional couple.  The story of why goes back to the early 90's, when I first got into collecting comic books.  A friend introduced me to the X-Men animated show, and I fell in love with Rogue and Gambit and their relationship.  Soon after I became a fan of the show, I saw Andy Kubert's iconic cover for X-Men #24 - featuring Rogue and Gambit in a torrid embrace.  It was love at first sight, and I picked up the comic immediately.  I was just as entranced by Rogue and Gambit's comic-book relationship as I had been by their TV romance; there is something so incredible about being so attracted to somebody that you can't touch for fear of dying.  While Gambit was always portrayed as something of a ladies' man, his love for Rogue never wavered (even though she certainly had her moments of infidelity) despite his inability to touch her.  To this day, I keep hoping that they someday get their much-deserved happily ever after.

5 - Do you find it difficult or get expensive when other people know what you collect? Do you limit yourself with a price range budget?
  •      I sometimes find that it can get expensive when people know what I collect...but sometimes it helps to have others looking out for you (with a big shout-out to Kevin, who hooked me up with a dream Jack Redd Rogue/Gambit sketch card).  I've noticed that Andre Toma sketches have certainly gotten more expensive over time, but I attribute that to the fact that others are  finally catching on to his incredible style.  I have a VERY limited price range and have never spent more than $300 on a single card (and it was an artist proof card).  I see some collectors spending $300+ on cards routinely, and I marvel at the prices they pay.  I'd rather commission an artist directly and have all the money go to the artist.
6 - Do you buy individual sketch cards from dealers or do you search ebay for cards you might be interested in? Or do you buy boxes or even cases in hopes for a card you'll be happy with? 
  •     I have bought one box of cards in the last 10 years, and while it was fun to open, it’s not going to become a habit.  I much prefer to buy individual sketches from eBay or members on Scoundrel, many of whom keep an eye out for cards they think I may be interested in.  I also enjoy commissioning artist proof cards, because I’m able to get exactly what I’m looking for – and the artist gets paid that money directly.

7 - Do you sell the cards you sometimes get or do you keep everything for yourself?
  •      I mostly keep the cards that I obtain, but I certainly have sold cards before.  When I sell a card, it’s usually because I know somebody out there wants it more (or will appreciate it more) than I do.  As corny as it sounds, I like to see any cards I sell go to good homes where they’ll be loved. 
8- What is your opinion in the regards to the never ending debate of quality vs pay rate for sketch cards? As someone who buys sketch cards, do you think card companies should do more quality enforcement for the cards artists work on? Or are they fine the way they are? 
  •      I think this debate is incredibly tough.  What makes it tough for me is that some artists (such as Meghan Hetrick) take up to 8 or 9 hours on a pack-inserted sketch card that will sell for $250 or more.  Other artists can create beautiful works in a fraction of the time.  Still other artists clearly put in minimal effort on their cards.  Somehow, though, each of these artists is paid exactly the same (piddling) amount of money per card.  Sketch card companies (and, to a degree, collectors) have some nerve paying artists peanuts for their work but expecting 100 Mona Lisas in a 4-5 week period.  It’s nuts.  You know it can be done right, though, as evidenced by the success of the recently released Classic Mythology set – artists got paid fairly, had adequate time to produce their sketch cards, and the finished product was of the absolute highest quality with no “weak” artists or slopped-together work.
9- Is there a noticeable change with what you see in today's collectors as opposed to when you first started , if any?
  •      If anything, I think that people have gotten meaner and ruder.  It’s not uncommon to receive requests from other collectors asking to purchase a card from your collection, and if you politely decline or say that said card is not for sale, you’re called names and made to feel that you’re somehow a jerk for wanting to hold onto it.  Guess what?  If you like it that much, chances are I do too!  Also, I have found that chats on community boards have gotten nastier and more personal.  Certain community members can go a long way towards ruining the whole experience for everybody else.  I’m known for being pretty willing to speak my mind, and on many occasions I have gotten flack for sticking up for artists and/or collectors who were thrown to the wolves by ill-informed board members who feel like making a splash.

10 - How do you feel about commissioning artists. Have you had any bad transactions with artists or collectors?  Has it been resolved to your satisfaction?
  •      I am a big fan of commissioning artists.  I can request exactly what I want, and my money goes to support artists I think are great and deserve to succeed.  I have had some very bad transactions in the past (some ongoing, actually), but it hasn’t turned me off of commissioning artists.  I like to think that I’ve gotten smarter about how I do commissions with artists, especially those I haven’t worked with in the past (setting expected completion dates, paying only half up-front, etc).   I am certainly more likely to do repeat commissions – there are a few principal artists that I commission over and over again because they do great work and are a pleasure to work with. 

11 -What do you think when you hear about artists who have overdue commissions yet are seen taking more work or are seen listing new cards for sale on eBay?
  •    It seriously pisses me off (pardon my language).  I certainly understand that artists have to eat (and keep a roof over their heads, and support their families), but there are a few infamous artists who manage to dig themselves into holes the size of the Grand Canyon and then just keep digging.  If I pay for something, I expect timely completion of the product I paid for (goodness knows I wouldn’t go to the grocery store and pay for groceries that would be delivered “sometime” soon).  That being said, I am very willing to be reasonable and work with artists – IF they communicate with me about what’s going on and why the project may take longer than expected.  I think 99% of collectors get angry because artists ignore their customers owed commissions - customers who just want an artist to take a few seconds to let them know what’s going on.  It’s very unprofessional to ignore communication from customers; can you think of a single business that could succeed with such behavior? 
12 - Does it help lessen the frustration if the artist is in constant communication with you? 
  •     Yes!!  This is the single best thing an artist can do to make for happy customers.

13 - What are your thoughts on the incredible prices some sketch cards actually sell for? 
  •     I think it’s ridiculous to pay some of the amounts I’ve seen spent on a single piece of cardboard (no matter how lovely).  I, for one, would rather take that money and get it directly to the artist/creator, rather than see it line the pockets of a middleman or card company.

14 - Are there too many sets out in your opinion and is it a good or bad thing?
  •     Goodness gracious, it seems that there is at least one new set every month.  I think the market is incredibly over-saturated, and I for one would love to see companies slow down the frequency of their releases.  This would make for increased demand and improved sketch quality.

15 - Is there any change in the hobby that you would like to see, if any?
  •      I really would like to see a sketch card auction site catch on big-time.  eBay stinks for sellers (and sometimes for bidders, too), and it would be nice to have a sketch-card oriented auction site where buyers and sellers could come together more personally.  I’d also like to see unfounded personal attacks (on artists and collectors) stop on chat boards.  It’s not right that people are allowed to make unfounded accusations and/or bully fellow chat members without serious repercussions.  

16 - Have you heard of the If so, have you tried it out or considered using it?

  • I have heard of it and dropped by a few times, but there didn't seem to be a lot up.  If it were to expand, I'd be all for it.  eBay could use some competition.

17 - Do you have an online gallery to display your collection? How do people contact you if they have cards they think you might be interested?

  • I keep my stuff in multiple different locations.  Most of my sketch cards are on (user name will1078 ) but I also have some of my pieces linked to my DeviantArt site.  I mostly hear from people on the Scoundrel forum with regards to cards, but I've gotten messages on, too.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Talk with Cryptozoic Entertainment's Scott Gaeta


1- What is your title/position at Cryptozoic Entertainment and how long have you been with them?
  •   My title is Chief Operating Officer. Basically that means I run the day to day business.  I touch pretty much everything from finance and strategic planning, licensing, marketing, and my favorite thing, product development.  I've been here from the start and am one of 4 partners who put this whole thing together. 
2- Can you give us a brief description of what Cryptozoic Entertainment is and how it might be different from other card companies? What are some of the products that Cryptozoic has produced in the past that people might be familiar with?

  • Well, we're probably a little more diverse than most of the other card companies out there.  We also produce a lot of games ranging from the World of Warcraft TCG to board games based on movies and television and then we also create our own original games and IP (intellectual property). A few of our recent releases are games for The Walking Dead and Big Bang Theory.  We also have games releasing later this year for The Hobbit.  You will also be seeing more of our games on iOS in the very near future. 
  • In addition to our lines of cards and games we also do custom comic book publishing and marketing for several movie studios and video game companies. 

3- Sketch cards have become pretty popular in recent years and is continually growing. As a card company, was that something Cryptozoic have been aware of and keeping track of? 

  •   Yes, definitely. I've been a collector my entire life so I've followed the trends from that perspective.  I also developed several trading card sets at another company before CZE.  Before CZE the one I'm most proud of was bringing Marvel Masterpieces back.  Marvel Masterpieces 1 back in 2007 was my set.  =) 

4- Do you collect sketch cards and what is it about them that appeals to you?

  •    I do.  I love original art and collect some comic art too.  I don't have as many as I would like but probably have more than I should. I think it's really special that a fan can own an original.  That's what I'm most excited about with our upcoming DC line.  Owning originals of your favorite characters is probably the pinnacle of being a comic book fan. 
5- What made Cryptozoic decide to finally produce sketch card sets? And how did you approach it?
  •  Well, there was never any doubt as to whether we would do sketch cards.  The question is what brands are appropriate for them and in what quantities.  I think we have to be careful not to flood the market…that never works out well.  For example with Walking Dead TV the sketch cards were very limited to 1 per case.  The main driver for a live action show is the photo imagery, autographs, and wardrobe but we though sketch would be cool too so we added a modest amount.  But then you have something like DC Comics and that's all about illustrated art so 1 sketch per box is more appropriate.
6- How was producing a sketch card set different than a "normal set"? And was it more difficult to do than you had thought?

  •  This wasn't the first time I had worked with sketch cards so it was about as expected.  As we've grown we've added more staff so hopefully the process should be easier for both us and all the great artist we work with.  We're constantly looking at how we can do things better. 

7- Your first sketch card set was a charity set created to help the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF). How did that happen?

  •   It really just came about one day when we were hanging out with Larry Marder from the CBLDF.  We think their work is very important to an industry like ours and wanted to figure out a way we could support them.  Trading cards with sketches seemed to be a great fit.  

8- Not only do you have an Art Director, David Barron  but also an Art Acquisition Manager, George Nadeau. What are their responsibilities in regards to handling sketch card products.

  •   George is really the main guy for sketch cards.  He's managing the booking of every project, approvals, and contracts.  If you're a sketch card artist you will be working closely with George.  The rest of the trading card team is Miranda Anderson, our brand manager for all trading cards.  She writes a lot of the sets and works with me on product configuration and marketing. Then there is Rachel Valverde, our project manager for trading cards.  She oversees all the manufacturing.  We also just recently hired Carmen, she has over 10 years experience working with wardrobe, autographs, etc.  She's in charge of QA and managing all that cool stuff.  Beyond all these folks is a team of very talented and experienced graphic designers who create all our card designs, marketing people, etc. 

9- Who should artists contact if they have questions about a sketch cards?

  •   George is your guy. 

10- What kind of expectations do you have for the sketch cards that artists produce for Cryptozoic? And what are your thoughts on the pay vs quality debate for sketch cards? Better quality usually requires more time and its really not financially rewarding for an artist to spend literally hours on each card. Are you fine with the cards produced for you as long as they meet Cryptozoic's contract requirements?

  • Quality is definitely something we care about.  Basically we just expect solid work.  Every artist is different and that's a good thing.  Some artists add great backgrounds to their cards, some airbrush, etc.  I would say as long as you are declaring something the fans would be happy with we will be more than happy to keep working with you.  In the end we all work for the fans. 
  • The one thing I like about sketch cards from the perspective of an artist is that it give you all the opportunity to work on some pretty major high profile character and that could lead to work on other projects.  At CZE since we do more than just sketch cards, we commission well over one-thousand pieces of art a year for game and comic projects.  We're also creating new base card art for some of our future trading card releases.  We've already found several artists in the sketch card community that we've been able to give other work. When we find people we like to work with we tend to stick with them. 

11- You have 2 upcoming sets from Cryptozoic. Walking Dead Comic set and the new DC set. 

 (a) - Walking Dead TV series set which included sketch cards was very successful for you. What made you decide to have the new set based on the comic book instead of the TV series as a "sequel'? 

  •   We thought it would be fun to explore the comics between seasons.  It allows us to do some things we couldn't do with the TV set like focus on sketch cards.  

 (b) - Not long ago it was announced that Cryptozoic Entertainment had acquired the DC license. How excited are you to be producing a sketch card set for them and what should fans expect from it?

  •   Extremely excited! This is something I've wanted to bring back to trading cards for years.  I've worked with the folks over at DC on other projects in the past and they are a great bunch of people to work with.  They really love what they do and care about their fans.  We're creating a lot of sketch cards for this set and have a great line-up of artists.  It's been a long time since the fans have had DC trading cards and I think these will be very well received. 

12- What do you think of the current market for sketch cards? And what do you think about all the smaller companies or artist created sets that have recently popped up? Is it a good thing for the market?

  • First of all I think it's great when creators have a medium that they can use to express themselves in.  Sketch cards are fairly easy (relatively speaking) for someone to produce on their own.  I mean if you have a passion for architecture it's a little harder for that person to go out their and do something on their own.  
  • I do worry a bit though about too many sketch cards on the market but I don't think the smaller creator owned sketch projects are an issue.  All we can do at CZE is try and be responsible with our own releases.  With DC for example I know based on past experience and demand we've been getting from distributors that we could probably sell almost twice as many boxes as we are going to produce for this first set.  But in the long run that's not good for the market.  It just creates a glut and the quality per average sketch would go way down. 

13- Cryptozoic Entertainment along with Versicolor Productions is sponsoring the upcoming Pop Art Con on June 10th at the Hilton Garden Inn in Ft. Washington, PA (outside Philadelphia). Also Cryptozoic Entertainment and Breygent Marketing has generously sponsored several artists to appear at the Pop Art Con. Do you see this as part of the evolution of the non-sports hobby and its interest in its artists? 

  •   Yes, I think it's great that sketch cards are being recognized as a high quality piece of art.  My biggest regret is that I'm going to miss this first show because of a previously scheduled family obligation.  Hopefully this one will be a success and I'll get to attend the next one.  

14- Basically all of the bigger known non-sports conventions are held in the east coast. With Cryptozoic being based in California, do you think there is enough interest in the non-sports hobby to have similar conventions developed here in the west coast? Would you like to have one here?....Perhaps even start one? *wink, wink*

  •   It's something I've definitely thought about and even mentioned to Harris Toser at NSU.  It's on my list of things to do in my spare time.  =) 

15- For artists looking to do some work for Cryptozoic. Who should they contact and how can they do it? Also what do you recommend they should send in as samples for their submissions?

  •   George is the right guy to start with for sketch cards.  Just send him some jpg samples, a link to your web page, and a rundown of published work you may have done.  

16 - Any upcoming projects people should look out for?

  •   DC is the big one right now and there will be another big sketch project releasing in the fall.  We're going to start booking that one in about a month so artists should have more time to work on their cards than they have had in the past with us.  

17- If anyone would like to know more about Cryptozoic and its products, where can they get more information?

Thank you for your time and I greatly appreciate you taking the time to answer these questions for me.

Any time!  It was fun!



Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Rachel Ahrendes is a sketch card dealer with over a decade of experience. She along with her fellow dealers play an important role in supplying and circulating the sketch cards into our community. Without dealers like herself, many people would have a much harder time finding the cards they want...if at all. You can find Rachel as an active member of the Scoundrel Art Community under the user name Blink AoA.

1 - How long have you been a dealer and how did you get involved with sketch cards. 
  • I have been a dealer for about 4 years but I have done hobby selling for 14 years.  I loved the idea of original art combined with the chase to find that special card.  It was a win/win combo to me.  I had collected cards for a few years previous to then.
2 -  What was the first sketch card set you sold?  
  • The first sketch cards I ever sold were from Marvel Creators Collection from 1998.
3 - Are sketch cards primarily what you deal with? Or do you work with other products as well? What would be your specialty?
  •   I specialize in sketch cards but I have also sold other types of cards including autographs. I sometimes sell other collectibles but not often.
4 - Do you collect sketch cards?  
  • Yes, but I keep it very selective.  I can't make money if I keep too much.  That is also why almost every card in my collection is for sale at the right price.
5 - As a dealer how different is it to work with sketch cards than your traditional trading card?
  •   I think mainly you just have to be very careful with them.  This would be the same with Autos and other expensive chase cards.  As for just regular cards, it drops the value of them to near nothing.  I end up donating most of my common cards to a children's hospital near me.

6 - Since each card is an original piece of art. How difficult is it to price a sketch card? And what are some of the factors that goes into the pricing?
  •   I price mostly on instinct.  I am wrong sometimes but mostly I'm pretty close to what they are worth.  Sometimes you can price using what cards have sold on other sets but not often.  Quality and amounts done can change with each set. 

7 -  How do you go about selling the sketch cards you have? Do you put cards up on ebay or do people contact you directly for them? Do you also go to card conventions to sell them?
  •   I sell them mainly on Scoundrel Art Forum and on eBay.  Paying convention fees and hotel would eat too much of my profit.  Maybe someday I can do something like that but not right now. 

8 - In your opinion (based on what you've sold), do you think collectors have a higher preference    for photo realistic sketch cards than the more comic book/cartoony style cards. Also does a        painting a card help increase the value of a card as opposed to something done with markers or color pencil?  
  •  No, I don't think so.  Some of my most valuable cards are comic style and I've seen photorealistic ones sell for relatively little.  I think detail is what sells a card, not the medium in which is used to produce it. 

9 - The hobby has grown tremendously in the last few years. Several new companies have popped up with sketch card sets. Also artists themselves are putting out independent sets. Do you think the market is being overcrowded? As a dealer, how does that affect you?
  •   Yes, the market is overcrowded.  I do my best to pick out sets that I think will do well.  If I lose money or only break even with a set, that is normally the last set of that type that I will buy.  The smaller artist sets are some of my favorites and I love seeing the artists get something back for their efforts. 

10 - Have people become more picky with what they collect due to the abundance of sets out? 
  •   Yes, they have.  It makes things much more difficult as this is happening.  The economy makes it even worse. 

11 - It must be difficult to compete for customers when the pool of collectors is so relatively small? Do you try to introduce people to sketch cards?
  •   Yes, it is difficult.  I can't compete with some of the bigger dealers but even they are having a hard time.  The lower prices are great ( especially for collectors) in the short term but in the long term, dealers are going out of business and are no longer buying.  That means a much smaller group of cases broken down.  So far, that has not really hurt the big companies but it will soon if it continues.  I do my best to introduce people to the hobby as often as possible. 

12 - With the price that people pay per box, do you think the expectations for the quality of a pulled sketch card fair? Do you think the complaint of pulling a poor quality sketch card is made by a minority of collectors?
  •   I think anytime someone gets $5 value after spending $60, they will be unhappy.  The more that happens, the more unhappy people you have.  The chase is also what makes it fun.  Unfortunately, when the value of all the cards starts dropping, even when they do get an amazing card, its much harder to be happier about it.  They've bought a case, lost money on every box but one and they have to sell that one, and hope to make some money back.  A profit is normally not even thought of.  This would be a good case that I am talking about.  Some, you lose money on every box.  So, people have less money to work with, they scrape together $120 for 2 boxes and get 2 cards worth $10.  Yes, they are going to complain.  I think the majority of collectors are looking towards just buying the cards they want rather then opening boxes.  They can only complain about prices then and prices are pretty reasonable. 

13 - Whats the highest amount you have seen someone pay for a sketch card ( not necessarily from one of your sales ) and are you surprised at some of the prices they sell for? 
  •  about $2500.  Yes and no.  These cards are beautiful pieces of art and art can so for so much.  The opposite is also true, when one sells for so little, that can be so sad. 

14 - Do you have a website people can go to if they would like to see what you have available? How can people contact you? 
  •  I can be contacted on Scoundrel as Blink AoA or by my email  Scoundrel and ebay tend to get the most views rather then a website with cards for sale.  

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