Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Review - Panini Beach Boys Trading Cards

I'm not even sure how a review works when it comes to something like this. I'm used to reviewing CDs, or books, or DVDs, and so on. In any event, following up on my previous post, I now have probably way too many of these cards on hand to give some impressions. Overall? A fun item for Beach Boys fans who haven't had much "merch" to purchase over the years. If you don't get caught up in the utterly ridiculous pyramid scheme that is card collecting, and just enjoy whatever cards you get, then this is pure fun.

First things first: As mentioned before, there are "Retail" and "Hobby" variations on these packs. Target stores are starting to get in the "Retail" packs, while most online sources are selling the "Hobby" variation. The two types feature the exact same set of cards. The main difference seems to be that each has one exclusive sub-set ("retail" gets guitar picks, "hobby" gets concert-worn clothing swatches), and the actual breakdown/makeup of packs may be different in terms of proportions of which cards you get.

While Panini offers no guarantee, buying a box does seem to easily yield one base set of 120 cards. The distribution of base set cards seems to be pretty good. I've purchased almost a box's worth of retail cards and got a full hobby box. I was hoping to pull two sets, but no such luck. I still ended up with only one #1 card, while some cards I have triples or quadruples on. This is normal of course.

The base set seems pretty random content-wise. Random photos of the group and individual members, from pretty much all eras. While there are a good amount of early shots, I was pleasantly surprised that they were not afraid to use some not-so-flattering 70's shots of the guys. I honestly never thought a company would make a trading card featuring a photo of 1979 Brian Wilson with the Grizzly Adams beard and "Help Me Rhonda" shirt. Some weird shots are here, in addition to some classic well-known shots. The card backs have random factoids, none of which are new information for hardcore fans. A few of the card backs surprisingly touch on solo activities; one even specifically mentions that Brian is now touring with Al and Dave.

The sub-sets are fun, but frustrating as there is no realistic way to amass much of any sub-set unless you buy numerous boxes. Some of the sub-sets aren't fancier, but simply themed differently. "Honors" picks on random honorably events, from Hollywood Walk of Fame stars to awards and so on. "In their Own Words" feature rather generic quotes from various band members. "Sounds of Summer" focuses on specific songs and singles. "Top 10" is obviously themed.

The more premium-looking cards include a series of album-themed cards that feature foily depictions of albums covers with a record popping out of the top. Some are "Gold" themed if they went gold, and so on. Some simply state "On the Record." We also have "Etchings" which are metallic-looking shiny cards that have a slightly raised head-shot of various band members. They picked some odd pictures for the cards I got, including the circa-1978 drunk-looking Carl. I got one "Artist Proof" which seems to be of dubious note. Apparently each card has a limited run of 99 "artist proofs" that are no different other than being stamped "Artist Proof" on the front and numbered on the back. They may be more rare than the "record" cards, but I frankly would have rather had another one of those, or one of the "etchings."

I did not manage a guitar pick in the loose retail packs I got. I did get the guaranteed two "Concert Gear" cards in the hobby box. I got one each for Brian and David. Interestingly, the card at least claims that these are actual "concert worn" bits of cloth. The cloth is included in a little square in the center of the thick card. The cloth is not covered,  you can touch it.

Other rare sub-sets I didn't get include metal stamping plates (more interesting to card collectors than Beach Boys fans I would imagine), and of course most sought after are the rare actual autographs from the five living members.

All in all, this is a fun diversion for Beach Boys fans. I for one simply have to divorce myself from the idea of "collecting" all the sub-sets, and divorce myself from being annoyed at the card collecting industry (both collectors and the manufacturers) for creating such an odd and manipulative market and style of marketing for these things. Frankly, I'd be happy to see a second "Series" of base cards with more goofy photos of the guys.

If you're interested in getting a full set, I'd say definitely buy a sealed box so statistically you're highly likely to get the full set. If you buy a box's worth through loose packs from different boxes, you will have a tougher time getting the full base set.

How collectible or rare will these be? Beats me. They seem to be selling well online right now, with the few retailers offering full hobby boxes slowly but consistently jacking up the prices. Rare (and not so rare) loose cards have already flooded eBay. I'd love to store an extra box of these away, but I'd rather get another box and open it all up!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

New Beach Boys Trading Cards

Announced several months back, and now apparently starting to appear for sale, is a strange item: Beach Boys trading cards. Panini, who I always knew more for their sticker books (which are essentially sticker versions of trading cards), are releasing this set of trading cards based on the band, following a slew of trading card sets out there pertaining to just about every TV show, music artist, comic book, and other media product imaginable.

Above all else, this sort of thing is interesting because the Beach Boys, unlike Elvis or the Beatles, have not released a great deal of “licensed” merchandise over the years. Especially once you discount merchandise sold at concert dates, they have had far fewer items available as far as the usual fare: mugs, plates, statues, and so on. There have been a few Beach Boys tree ornaments over the years I believe, there were the licensed die cast cars released back around 1999, and a few other odds and ends. But rarely something like a huge trading card set.

Unfortunately, Panini is also following the pattern of other sets in introducing a huge amount of “chaser” cards; sub-sets of special cards randomly inserted into packs. This phenomenon started quite a while back, but it began with perhaps one or two small sub-sets of chaser cards. Even in those cases, it was nigh on impossible to collect all the chaser cards unless you either bought cases and cases of cards, or bought individual cards on the secondary market for inflated prices.

I’m sure this new Beach Boys set is typical of other similar sets. But it’s still astonishing that, according to one comment on the Smiley Smile board, this 120-card set ballons to around 800 cards once you factor in all of the “chaser” cards. Apparently, you are either guaranteed or are strongly likely to get the full 120-card base set if you purchase a full box (consisting of 24 packs, with 8 cards per pack). The various chaser cards are allocated based on an elaborate list of ratios of cards-per-pack or cards-per-box. You are guaranteed some amount of these chaser cards in each pack and each box. Further confusing is that packs and boxes are offered in two variations: Retail and Hobby. The former style of packs will feature “collectible guitar picks” as one of the chasers, while the latter instead gets concert-worn swabs of clothing from the currently-living band members. Apparently all other chaser sub-sets will be the same.

Most enticing is the sub-set that includes actual autographs from the living members. We already see fans paying upwards of $200 for a Jardine autograph card (news bulletin: a nicer, larger Jardine autograph can be had for far less; he used to send them out for free when he had a fan club!), and one person is trying to sell a Brian Wilson autograph card for nearly $500. These autograph cards are apparently the rarest; you could conceivably buy boxes and boxes of these cards and not get an autograph card.

A bit of confusion is reigning among the sub-set of Beach Boys fans who actually have any interest in buying these cards. It probably has something to do with the fact that these cards have, in my view, an unclear target audience. The typical collector these days who collects non-sports cards like this usually skews a little younger than the average Beach Boys fan. It makes sense there are a bunch of young hipsters collecting “My Little Pony” or “Walking Dead” trading cards and chaser cards. But even presently it appears Beach Boys fans online are only moderately interested in these cards.
Who is going to stock Beach Boys cards? Hobby shops can obviously either stock them or order them. But they are at this moment not so easy to find. A few re-sellers have them, but are charging seemingly inflated prices for packs and boxes (and that’s not even getting into the strange flood of individual cards flooding eBay) online. Apparently, there are reports that Target stores will be stocking packs of these. How possible it might be to buy a whole box is unclear, but Target may be the best (or only) bet for finding these cards if you don’t want to order online.

I checked a local Target store last night, and they did not yet have these cards. I have a box on order, but how quickly they will actually materialize has yet to be seen. I’m not trying to be cranky about these cards; I actually have just the right amount of enthusiasm for them, for me personally. I’m excited to get my hands on them, but I feel not strong drive to start buying boxes and boxes trying to chase every concert shirt swatch variation.

I was going to post more pics of individual cards, and the breakdown of all the insert/chaser cards, but that information is readily available all over the web, much moreso than actual places to purchase the cards. There are some fun looking cards out there. The compilers apparently were no afraid to use some shaggy, wonky 70's photos. All eras appear to be represented, from the fresh, clean early-mid 60's, to the 70's shaggy era, to the flourescent 80's, and so on, up to 2012.