Friday, January 1, 2010
Interview with collector Chris Inoue
How did you first get into sketch card collecting?
I had been a sportscard collector for a long time, and I dabbled in non-sport cards here and there. I was interested in the early sketch card products like Star Wars Heritage and Lord of the Rings Evolution, because I felt that the sketches were a fresh new type of insert.
Is there a specific genre/property/character you collect and why?
I'm a huge Star Wars fan, so Star Wars products are my favorites by far.
Do you prefer pencil cards over color (or color over pencil)?
I don't prefer one over the other; attractive art is what I like the best. Some artists work well with color, others can do amazing things with pencil.
What do you look for in a card that you want to own?
I would say a combination of the artwork, the artist, the medium, and the subject. It's hard to describe it exactly, but I know if I like a card or not when I see it.
Is there is a specific artist - or artists - you like to collect and what is it about their cards you prefer?
There are so many artists I admire, that I hope no one is offended if I accidentally leave them out. But my list includes (in no particular order): Katie Cook, Sean Pence, Otis Frampton, Randy Martinez, Denise Vasquez, Jeff Chandler, Renae De Liz, Amy Pronovost, Grant Gould, Cat Staggs, Kate “Red” Bradley, Tony & Elaine Perna, and Jessica Hickman. I have a tendency to follow artists who not only are great talents, but also who are great people and friends.
Which is why two artists whom I really collect are Leah Mangue and Jamie Snell. Leah's fine art background allows her to create work which is not only detailed, but also beautiful to look at. One of my favorite cards of hers is a still life of Indy's stuff from the Crystal Skull set. And Jamie is my favorite Star Wars artist. In my opinion, he draws the best clone troopers (and I love the Clone Wars era). But most of all, I have become very close friends with both Leah and Jamie, and that makes me want to collect their work even more.
How large would you say your collection is?
I haven't taken count lately, but I would estimate 150-200 cards.
How do your family/friends feel about your collecting?
My friends joke about how much of an obsession it's become for me. But overall, they are supportive.
Do you ever sell off portions of your collection? If so, why?
I have sold cards to help finance the purchase of unopened boxes or other sketch cards.
How do you feel about more sketch card sets coming out on a regular basis?
I think that once sketch cards became the “hot” insert, card companies flooded the market with sketch-based products, because they found that they could sell a large number of boxes with a small cost to them. I think that it has hurt the sketch card market, in that there are too many cards, and not enough buyers.
Would you say that affects collectability?
It doesn't much affect collectability, because collectors can afford to buy more cards for less money. What it does affect is the resale market, because people who open boxes/cases to resell the sketches are finding that they are not able to get the same prices as three or four years ago.
Do you purchase several boxes or cases of cards at a time?
I have cut way back on the purchase of unopened boxes in general, but for Star Wars products, I will buy several boxes, up to a case.
How do you feel about some collectors that buy several cases at a time?
I have no problem with it, as they are the major source of cards on markets like eBay. If they didn't break open so much product, there wouldn't be nearly as good a selection of singles. However, I also feel that these people should understand that they are taking a chance when opening such a large amount of product, and are not any more “entitled” to a high-dollar sketch card than a collector who buys only a single box.
Do you take artist popularity into consideration?
While it is definitely nice to pull a card from a popular artist, I am more excited to pull a card from an artist whom I collect.
What would you say is your favorite card you own and why?
I don't have a single favorite card, but I love my collection of Lion Jedi personal sketch cards (PSCs). I wanted to create a Star Wars collection that I could call my own, and I love what different artists have done with my theme.
How do you feel about an artist putting out several cards with the same image on them?
I understand that sometimes it is necessary, with large numbers of cards and fast-approaching deadlines. Plus, because they are all hand-drawn, there are slight differences which make them one of a kind. And some artists, like Randy Martinez and Grant Gould, will change up the cards a bit, like with different colors or slight variations, to make each card more individual.
What is your opinion on pencil sketches in a card set versus fully colored/painted cards?
I have no problem with them, as long as the artist is showing sincere effort.
On that note, how do you feel about some artists who state that sketch cards are just that, 'sketch' cards?
Personally, I have no problem with it. I understand that for many artists, it is a business decision, and I respect that. However, I think that it is dangerous for artists new to the business to go that route. The general opinion in favor of full color cards is skewed so much now that a new artist who does “only” pencil sketches may have a hard time getting commission work. I think that it is grossly unfair, but that's the way the market is right now.
Also, in art, sketching is part of the process from idea to finished piece. I find it very interesting to view an artist's sketches and to see part of his or her thought process and technique.
Or that they are not paid enough per card to create many (or any) color cards?
Compared to what the card companies pay for autographs and memorabilia from athletes, the artists are severely underpaid, even when return cards are taken into consideration.
Are there any sketch card sets you would love to see come out that haven't yet?
Definitely “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”
Do you contact artists for personal commissions, any return cards they may have, etc?
I am a big fan of commissions, because the most important thing to me is the artwork. I don't much care if the art is on “official” Topps, etc. card stock, or on an artist's personal cards. Plus, by commissioning artists, I know that the money is going directly to them.
How do you feel about artists charging more for return cards?
I support it, and I think that artists should get as much as they can for their return cards. They are part of their compensation package.
Some companies put cards out that vary in size (Topps' Clone Wars Widevision, for example). Does that affect whether or not you will collect from that set?
While I love the additional space that these cards give the artist, they are more difficult to display and store, so I don't put as much money or effort toward collecting them.
Do you enjoy the other cards, autographs, costume cards, etc., in a set as well as the sketch cards?
Yes, especially for the Star Wars sets. I'm excited that they included autographs from the voice talent for the Clone Wars Widevision set.
Have you had any bad experiences with sketch card artists?
Yes, I have had a couple of cases where I paid artists up front for commissions, and it took a lot of effort to get them to finish and ship the final work. I have no problem with waiting months for a commission, but only if the artist states the wait time up front and/or provides status updates in case of delays.
Thank you so much for your time, Chris!!