Topps Five Star is a new high-end gridiron offering. Each tin of 2010 Five Star includes four autographed cards, all hard-signed, and one jumbo Relic.

Check out the recent case break:

The product is quite heavy on rookie autographs while the veterans slated to sign included Mark Sanchez, Drew Brees, Art Monk, Howie Long, Junior Seau, Steve Young, Jim Brown, John Elway, Joe Namath, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, Adrian Peterson, and more.

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Sunday Fun-Day Fun Facts

27 February 2011

For many collectors, an advertisement which was often noticed in sports or hobby magazines were the ones for the Strat-O-Matic sports games. Being one of the forefathers of other fantasy games and mixing in the elements of card collecting and deck building, Strat-O-Matic celebrates a big anniversary this month. Below is an article about the game and the passionate following which it has.

Strat-O-Matic Devotees Celebrate Its 50th Anniversary by Stuart Miller

On July 15, 1990, Brett Carow, then 10 years old, and his father were killing time at a mall, looking at board games, when Brett’s father suggested he might enjoy Strat-O-Matic Baseball, the popular dice-and-cards game. That proved a serious understatement.

That day, Brett, using the Milwaukee Brewers (his favorite team), lost by 4-1 to his father, who had chosen the World Series champion Oakland Athletics. In an uncanny demonstration of Strat-O-Matic’s realism, the actual Brewers lost to the actual A’s by the same score that day. The youngster was hooked.

Carow, now a 31-year-old account representative with Enterprise Rent-a-Car in Wisconsin, has played nearly 11,000 games since, averaging 1.44 games a day, solo or with a friend.

The passion and dedication of players like Carow were the heart of a celebration of Strat-O-Matic’s 50th anniversary in Midtown Manhattan on Saturday. The company’s 75-year-old founder, Hal Richman, declared Carow the game’s Ultimate Fanatic.

Carow, who won a new set of Strat-O-Matic cards every year for life, beat out devotees like Jeff Fleischman of Colorado, who has played in the same league for 40 years, and the runner-up, Larry Fryer of Maryland, whose collection of Strat-O-Matic games is so extensive that the company had to borrow from it for the historical archives on its Web site.

“Definitely, after my second wedding, this is the most exciting day in my life,” Carow said. “This justifies, in my head, all those hours I spent playing over summer vacation, when my family would wonder what I was doing.”

The game’s hold on its followers was apparent after a panel called “How Strat-O Has Influenced Your Career,” which included Richman. When the floor was opened for questions, one man after another lined up, but few had anything to ask. Instead, they simply wanted to thank Richman for creating the game. One man said it “saved my life” when he was looking for escape from an abusive, alcoholic father.

Richman, who usually shuns publicity and who had a tempestuous relationship with his own father, was clearly moved.

“I was tearing up at some points,” he said. “Strat-O-Matic isn’t a religious experience for these people, but it does have tremendous meaning in their lives.”

Among the 600 aficionados was the former major league center fielder Doug Glanville, who spoke at the event.

“There’s a lot of pressure when you roll the dice on your own cards,” Glanville told the crowd.

He said that one year, he complained to Richman when his defensive rating dropped. Now an analyst for ESPN, Glanville said he sometimes studied players’ cards like scouting reports.

“I just saw an Ian Kinsler card today and saw he was an ‘A’ bunter,” he said. “I didn’t realize he was that good.”

Strat-O-Matic, in which rolls of the dice correspond to results on cards that mirror players’ real-life statistics, has survived in an age of high-tech video games.

“Like Othello or chess, you can learn the game swiftly, but you’ll never tire of the strategies,” said Glenn Guzzo, a former newspaper editor and the author of “Strat-O-Matic Fanatics,” who has been playing since he asked his mother for a set for his 12th birthday in 1963.

He said the game’s combination of playability (it can be completed in a half-hour) and realism were essential to its longevity. “There are also an infinite number of ways to keep your imagination fertile,” he added.

Carow plays in a league that uses players from 1920, 1924 and 1934 and has Zack Wheat of 1920 batting third and Zack Wheat of 1924 batting cleanup. “You can make the impossible happen,” Carow said.

Making the seemingly impossible happen has been the story of Richman’s career.

“Twenty-five years is a good lifetime for a business, but 50 years is rather shocking,” says Richman, who invented a primitive version at 11 and spent his teenage years refining the game.

In his 20s, after discouragement from his father and rejection from numerous companies, Richman borrowed money from friends and started the game on his own. He survived money-losing years, royalty demands from the players union and challenges from well-heeled competitors as his invention became the leading baseball board game. He added games for the N.F.L., the N.B.A. and the N.H.L., and created advanced versions for baseball that featured ratings for hit-and-run ability, outfielders’ throwing arms and pitchers’ endurance.

In the 1980s, Richman said, the arrival of computer and home video games scared him. “This was not my generation, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle it,” he said. “I thought my game had 5 to 10 years left.”

Richman said Bob Winberry, a computer programming expert and avid Strat-O-Matic player, saved the company, creating a computer version that enabled players to go head-to-head from separate locations or to recreate entire seasons in solitaire versions at far greater speed. (Many die-hard fans like Carow play exclusively with the board game; others, like Guzzo, use both.)

John Dewan, the founder of Stats Inc. and now the owner of Baseball Info Solutions and a co-publisher of Acta Sports, said studying the Strat-O-Matic cards in his youth inspired his career. He said his Plus/Minus System, an innovation in measuring a player’s defensive skills, came from having a Strat-O-Matic shortstop with a mediocre 3 rating that piqued his curiosity. (Dewan has played in a league since 1975. With his son in college, they now play via Skype.)

At the event, there was supposed to be a lunch break before attendees could pick up the 2011 baseball card set or head into a game room. But the break was ignored. In minutes, at least a hundred people were in line for the set, and dozens more sat at tables, rolling their dice and shouting after each roll.

Richman was not among those playing. Devoting 60 to 80 hours a week to Strat-O-Matic, Richman rarely has time to play.

“When I’d get home, I’d want to get away from it, plus my family would have revolted,” he said, adding that he also rarely got to watch baseball.

These days, Richman is semiretired on Long Island, but he still spends more time nurturing his creation than playing it.

“I always thought that if I stopped working altogether, I’d have time to play more,” he said. “But will I ever stop working at Strat-O-Matic? Probably not.”

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From Upper Deck:

For those collectors awaiting redemptions, Vince Carter signed this week, Oscar Robertson signed a variety of cards which UD had reprinted, and the Champ’s Museum Pieces have been completed and are shipping.

In Upper Deck Hockey news, word on the street from collectors, retailers, and wholesalers is that Upper Deck Series 2 Hockey has been short-printed. Rumour has it that based on lower pre-orders, UD cut production but not the ‘hits’. This would seem to be a fair assumption as prices for 2010-11 UDS2 continue to rise and that box breaks on various forums have been quite impressive.

From Panini:

Panini America is moving. As they finish their relocation process this week, there will be difficulties in contacting staff. The move should be completed by Monday morning.

From Topps:

Topps announced on Wednesday that it has entered into a publishing agreement with Abrams, a leading publisher of illustrated books. The exclusive multi-year deal may include non-fiction and fiction sports books, entertainment-themed books, and calendars. The first books will be released in spring of 2012.

The partnership will also include other platforms, such as electronic books. A fiction series geared toward boys ages 10 and under is planned.  The products are part of Topps strategy to expand its presence into film, TV, and other media.

“We welcome the opportunity to greatly expand our partnership,” said Ryan O’Hara, Topps President and CEO. “Abrams is a best-in-class publisher whose reputation for quality, innovation, and success is indisputable. They also have a profound appreciation of Topps’ rich history and our powerful impact on consumers today. They not only understand our past but are also aligned with our vision for the future.”

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One of the tough decisions during the 1990’s will once again appear this summer with the return of the Zenith Hockey brand. The product has been overhauled but the classic dilemma will remain… do you Dare to Tear?

Featuring more than 200 rookie cards, each box should contain three autograph or memorabilia cards, one Zenith Z-RC, four short-printed Legends, one Red Hot parallel, one Gifted Grinders, and a Crease Is The Word insert.

In addition, each box will include one Dear to Tear box topper, an oversized card with a hidden collectible inside, from a group that includes Epix inserts and never-before-seen National Treasures and Donruss Elite Rookie Cards.

“The key to making this work is to force collectors to make a tough decision,” says Al Muir, Panini America NHL Brand Manager. “Each Dare to Tear jumbo will feature either a true RC or one of hockey’s greatest legends and it will be fairly limited. If you tear one, you’re destroying a sure thing . . . but what you find inside might just make it worthwhile.

“Along with base cards and Epix inserts, we’re seeding in RCs you won’t find anywhere else, including National Treasures and Donruss Elite cards of Taylor Hall, Jeff Skinner and many more. We also have autographed versions of the unsigned RCs that are inserted in base packs, along with a number of other surprises.”

Typical case breaks will deliver one White Hot parallel, five autographed Rookie Cards, four Yours Truly autographs, and at least one insert each from the Gifted Grinders, Scraps, Rookie Roll Call Materials, Epix Materials, Z-Team, Team Logo Die-Cuts inserts.

“Obviously rookies have to be a compelling part of any modern program, but Zenith just developed into something else in a really organic way. We originally planned for 50 RCs, but there was a tremendous influx of first-year talent in December and January that forced us to reconsider the possibilities.”

“Eventually, we ended up with three tiers of RCs, both signed and unsigned, within the base set. Then we added more RCs as part of the Dare to Tear program, both as jumbos and as some of the elements that collectors will pursue within the jumbos. We knew we weren’t going to make National Treasures or Elite as full-on hockey programs this year, so we created mini-versions of these almost as extensions to our basketball or football programs of the same name. It’s a unique approach that’s really in keeping with the experimental nature of the original Zenith.”

2010-11 Panini Zenith will be released on May 11th, 2011 and will be available for pre-order soon at Canada Card World.

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In The Game Product Updates

24 February 2011

In The Game has just announced several product schedule updates for the 2010-11 trading card season.

The next release for In The Game will be 2010-11 ITG Between The Pipes scheduled to be released on April 14, 2011.

‘Decades – The 80’s’ will be released in June 2011 to coincide with the Summit Show in Edmonton.

“Decades has hard-signed autographs and we were having a challenge getting all of the players cards back for a March release” said ITG President, Dr. Brian H. Price “by releasing the product in June we will ensure collectors with a great checklist and no redemptions.”

‘In The Game – Canadiana’ will be released on July 1, 2011 – Canada Day. The release date will allow ITG to sign several more well-known Canadians for the project.

“This date is a natural for this product” Price said, “had I thought of it earlier, it would have been my first choice for a release date.”

‘ITG Enshrined’ will be released in time for the Spring Expo in late April 2011. This one of a kind product will feature hard-signed autographs from many of the members of the Hockey Hall of Fame along with stunning authentic game-used memorabilia cards.

In The Game products are available for sale and pre-order at Canada Card World.

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