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 SketchCardAuctions.com? 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.
- I keep my stuff in multiple different locations. Most of my sketch cards are on sketchcollectors.com (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 sketchcollectors.com, too.