Wednesday, July 9, 2014

World Cup Stock - The Rise and Fall of Cards : USA Ratings

For all my year of contempt toward ESPN, their coverage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup has been pretty good. Its also safe to say that watching ESPN in the middle of the weekday cannot be more interesting than the live matches from this tournament.
As for the USA and their exit from the Cup, I've spared no words for the lack of progress of the USMNT. There were a few who did raise their stock in the Futbol world:
Coming on as a midfielder, Seattle's young defender YEDLIN did very well. He may yet win some medal (either the Open Cup or the MLS Cup, or both). Teams from Europe are knocking on the door. That's proof that you've made it on the scene.
Hoffenheim's Fabian JOHNSON did well enough in Klinsmann's revolving door defense. He may yet get a move to one of the bigger German clubs.

Howard already signed a contract extension with Everton. His milestone 100th cap and the goalkeeping bravery of a record 18 saves against Belgium solidified his place among US legends. 

Jermaine JONES evolved from a hard man to an offensive weapon for the USA. Sadly, he was one of only a few who did attack.

Omar almost suffered the same fate of being left out of the team. He got his start and shined. He'll go back to LA Galaxy, but the question is for how long ?
There were a number of Americans who will never return for the National Team and a few that may have a future. Those are the neutrals.
The losers to be called out:
Michael Bradley. Since his departure from German soccer its been downhill. At AS Roma he was benched and finally transferred to Toronto's MLS.  He had 4 bad games. It remains if he's goo enough to play for the USA again.

Jozy ALTIDORE. How can you be 24 years old and pull a muscle just running ?  I think he was overrated to begin with. Klinsmann brought no replacement for this average player. He has been a flop in the Premier League and only a matter of time before he takes the Fredy Adu express to obscurity.
Geoff CAMERON. See Altidore above. Pretty much overrated guy playing in England. Gone.
While Kyle Beckerman did MLS proud, Brad DAVIS and Chris WONDOLOWSKI choked at the big show. None of them will probably return.
Interestingly, the one player who did not play at Brazil 2014 and who's stock rose was Landon DONOVAN. His accomplishments made World Cup success look easy. The USA could have used him and  Klinsmann made a huge mistake leaving him out.  Like him or not, he is one of the USA's All-Time greats.

Friday, June 27, 2014

If Its Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium - 2014 World Cup

The chant "I Believe We Can Win" was transformed into "I Believe We can Advance" on Thursday as the US National Team qualified for the next round at 2014 World Cup.
Their opponent on Tuesday will be Belgium ...
I remember this comedy movie from the 1960's for one simple reason : DONOVAN !
No not the USA's all time leading goal scorer, but the psychedelic folk / rock singer.
Of his many hit songs like Sunshine Superman and Mellow Yellow were tributes to the times of free love and recreational drugs.  He also had a way of evoking an illusion of things being better than they appear to be - much like the US soccer team.
While searching for a clip from the movie, I came across something which I thought was even more interesting - a clip where a fan finds Donovan in a café and films the meeting which includes getting his email and invite to tour South Africa. Lucky fan !
Belgium were one of the teams that played at the 1994 World Cup in the USA. They trained only a few miles from my home at the time in Florida.
Here are a set of player portrait pins that were issued in Belgium. On the very bottom is the current manager, Marc Wilmots, of the Red Devils in 2014 World Cup Brazil.

Even without Donovan (both of them) Peace, love and let's get a win against Belgium. Go USA !

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Biting Insanity: 1998 France World Cup Marbles

Maybe it was all the talk of Uruguay's Luis Suarez seemingly biting Italy' Giorgio Chiellini, but it I scoured the collection for the objects that symbolize losing ones sanity. Voila, Marbles !
For some reason, these are my favorite non-card soccer collectible. France had issued standard size marbles with their French Ligue in the 1997-98 season. So when it came time for the hosts (and eventual Champions) to be featured, another marble set was made.
Apparently, there were 8 series of packs containing 3 marbles each. Although I do not have a complete checklist, I assume that this included all 23 players plus Manager Aime Jacquet.

Each set of 3 marbles came on a green rack inside a carded window package.

Current Paris SG Manager Laurent Blanc and former Manchester United Champion, Fabian Barthez.

Current France World Cup Manager Didier Deschamps and Arsenal Champion, Patrick Vieira.

Former FIFA World Player of the Year and World Cup Champion, Zinedine Zidane.
These are the ones I have -
Laurent Blanc
Stephane Guivarc'h
Fabian Barthez
Franck LeBoeuf
Zinedine Zidane
Alain Roche
Didier Deschamps
Patrick Vieira
Bixente Lizarazu
Christophe Dugarry
Christian Karembou
Robert Pires

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

2014 World Cup - The German - Klinsmann Factor

After Thursday's USA v Germany World Cup match, America's National Team Manager - Jurgen Klinsmann will fall into one category. Hero or Villain.
Klinsmann was a world class striker and a World Cup winner in 1990.
1990 Panini Germany Team sticker - missing Klinsmann
1990 Panini World Cup sticker - Klinsmann
Klinsmann appeared in Upper Deck's World Cup USA'94 set. However, none of the German players were in the regular issue, but only the limited edition hologram set of 5 cards.
Klinsmann (bottom left) in the strange Upper Deck hologram sub set.
Jurgen made his 3rd World Cup tournament in 1998 in France, but the German side was a shadow of its Championship caliber.
Klinsmann led Germany as Manager to a 3rd place finish when the nation hosted the 2006 Tournament. He took over the US National Team over 2 years ago.
He has recruited several German-born players who have American servicemen as fathers. The five that made this US squad -
Jermaine Jones
John Brooks (aka Johnny Futbol)
Fabian Johnson
Timothy Chandler
Julian Green
Brooks heroics in the first game - coming on as a substitute and scoring the winning goal was a dream (literally) and was dubbed "Johnny Fussball" by the German media.
Klinsmann's tactics have been successful to a certain extent (like Brooks sub / goal) but his insertion of a several defenders and a conservative line up against Portugal may have cost the Americans a victory.
He took criticism for stating that the USA could not win the world cup.
Just a thought to keep in mind - there were many British-born citizens that helped America win independence from England. Let's hope these "Das Yankees" can do the same on Thursday.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Keeping Up With The Jones - USA At 2014 World Cup

For all the gushing about Spain's Team and Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, it has added up to a big puff of hot air. The USA defeated Ghana and only a last minute (plus five minutes) lapse of sanity cost them a draw against Portugal.
Must of it was down to this man -  Jermaine Jones
The fact that 5 of the USA's squad are born and developed in German professional soccer, makes the American's last opening round match versus Germany all the more intense. Its not a "do or die" game, but nearly.
jones' heroics gave the USA a 2-1 lead until the 95th minute of added time where Ronaldo's cross was headed in for the tying goal.
Amazingly, the American players from this squad not only appear in Topps MLS soccer set, but also in card sets in Mexico, England, Germany, France, Turkey, Norway and Holland.
Next:  USA vs. Germany (ESPN) Thursday.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Netherlands World Cup: Money In The Bank

With the Orange goal machine ripping through Brazil 2014, we take a look back twenty years ago when the USA hosted the FIFA Tournament.  Many of the great collectibles come from sponsorship and its prevalent in most enterprising nations.
Holland were sponsored by Nationale Nederlanden Bank which were visible on all their training shirts and media adverts.
One of the more significant items produced were rubber erasers with the likeness of players  from the 1994 squad. These caricatures have been prominent since the 1930's in Holland.  The erasers measure about 4 inches by 2 inches.
Dennis Bergkamp

Ed DeGoey

Ronald Koeman

Marc Overmars

Frank Rijkaard

Jan Wouters
These were the only 6 players we know to have been featured.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Japanese WORLD CUP Soccer Cards

When it come to FIFA World Cup cards and collectables, I sometimes am very disappointed in what the USA produces - or in most cases, what it doesn't produce.
In a trade that was worth the wait, Ryan over at Japanese baseball cards sent over a reminder what other countries do for soccer's big event:
Limited Edition 2002 World Cup Panini boxed set
A numbered limited edition boxed set of Panini cards features the Japan National Team. Inside are cards of the players, high lights of the qualification games and special foil cards. 

Inside the box in a slotted divider for the cards and a numbered insert post card. Only 20,000 sets were issued. For a national population of 128 million, I'd say its pretty desirable.  

Also included were two sets of cards made by Cablee. A smaller pre-World Cup set from 2001 and a larger boxed set from 2002 when they hosted the tournament.  The 2002 issue is Limited Edition for some reason its numbered to 21,664 sets.

Few things go together better than beer and soccer. So the Japanese have smartly produced these bottle hangers of Japanese National Team jerseys. I have an example of the 2004 shirt and the 2014 shirt.
Japan has a wonderful record of marketing collectibles with drink products. Ryan threw in four bagged PEPSI STAR WARS caps. I need 3 out of the 4 of these for my collection.
Now its time to watch the World Cup with 3 games on tap today.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

BRAZIL - It All Starts Now ....

When Brazil play Croatia today (ESPN 4 PM EST) it will continue one of the longest consecutive runs in international sports. See, for many people in the world, football / futbol/ soccer is a religion.
For Brazil, th ONLY nation to play in EVERY FIFA World Cup, it is more important than life or death.
1950 Brazil Team that ended in tragedy
Brazil hosted the World Cup in 1950 only to lose to Uruguay in the final. It was a national tragedy still know as "Maracanazo", named for the 200,000 seat stadium where the loss took place.
The rest, as they say, is history. The nation rebounded to win 5 World Cup titles, three of which were won with PELE'. The great Pele was 8 years old when he saw his father weep from the Maracanazo incident. He promised his father he would win the World Cup for Brazil. (Could there be a better father's Day gift ?) 
Pele has appeared on more soccer cards and stickers than any other player in history. To my count, in excess of 3,000 imaged collectables.
1970 Panini World Cup - Pele
He has been featured in no less than 4 sets already in 2014 - 44 years after his last World Cup. That's star power.
For over the next 30 days, the planet will not care about much else but the World Cup and finishing their Panini sticker collection. I can live with that.

Monday, June 9, 2014

US SOCCER Fan-Fest Feeds World Cup Fever

The last stop for the US Mens National Team (USMNT) was in Jacksonville, Florida before heading to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Everbank Field has hosted several international matches in the past year and has set attendance records each time.  This occasion was not different as 52,033 packed in to send-off our American boys ad they beat Nigeria who is also head to Brazil.
The sign welcoming the Yanks to Jacksonville
There was plenty for the fans to do and see among the pre-game tailgating mahem - including a giant fan fest that had loads of free stuff from food to soccer souvenirs.

My view from the press box for the contest
In addition to the USA's 2:1 victory, fans went home with some great momentos.

I first read about these on Soccer Americana's blog -  where Nabisco, one of the better product supporters of US Soccer, have these hitting the store shelves.

Ritz Crackers box front

Ritz Crackers box back
One of the most popular give-aways at the Nabisco tent were these "big head" hand fans. There were 3 different players issued:
1. Clint Dempsey
2. Omar Gonzales
3. Alex Morgan

USMNT stars Dempsey and Gonzalez

USWNT starlet Morgan and reverse of fans
There were free cookies and crackers as well as sun glasses and wrist bands all depicting US Soccer.
For traditionalist, Allstate Insurance had a winning give-away with their colorful soccer scarf. Made of a light weight silk the two-sided scarf was part of a great chant and exhibition by the American Outlaws supporters group.

scarf front

scarf back

Among the other items that proved popular were the estimated thousand PANINI World Cup sticker albums that were given away. The albums includes 10 starter stickers.
All in all a great day !

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Chronicles of Fuji celebrates his 1000th blog post. That's more than most days I even think about blogging. He's an oddball, a school teacher and an all around interesting person to read. The beauty of blogging is getting to know someone through there interests.

Fuji's assorted interest and story telling gathers curiocity from many circles. That's why I think I've continued to follow his writing. My personal occupation with international things and a variety of interests can relate.

As my followers can tell by my lack of recent posts, I'm moving to the next phase of life. Still interested in the hobbies, with one foot in but also noticably absent. I've seen many bloggers run their course - tell their story and then fade away. The reason for quitting or ceasing operations, as it were, can range from a bad experience in the hobby to financial difficulties.  someties its just phases of life, marriage, children, moving or change of occupation.

Either way, we often look for the realiable and steady while all around us is spinning. Fuji has done a remarkable job in keeping us interested while things change around him and the hobby.

Thanks Fuji and hope you enjoy the future.

Here's one for you because you only live once ...
 ... or twice in cardboard.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Making Cards: Part 3 - Lord Of The Rings

I guess you could call it an anniversary, but to me its more than that. One of the first sketch card sets I worked on for TOPPS was the LORD OF THE RINGS. To this day, I get requests from as far as Asia to Australia to draw the characters, creatures and artistry of this story. And I love it.
I have had the privilege to be commissioned by some of the finest super collectors of this franchise. Many of these collectors have amassed artists rendered scenes from the movie trilogy at a great expense. I'm honored to be among their archives.
Here are my latest sketch cards:
The Great Hall of ROHAN

HAMA, the Captain of the Rohan Guard

GOLLUM's Peril

SARUMAN - Battle of the Wizards

There are almost infinite aspects of this saga to bring to life. I can't wait to start another installment. I hope you enjoy.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Making Cards - Part 2 : Legendary Lovecraft

Monsters, whether you believe n them or not, exist.  Because of writers like Edgar Allen Poe, Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft.
H.P. Lovecraft is one of the recent trends of horror writers that are getting a revival through their stories and their interpretations of artists. I am pleased to be one of the selected ones to depict Lovecraft's monster mind through the MONSTER WAX card company. The company also houses one of the finest collections of monster trading cards found here -

I wish I had more time to do these cards but I was in the middle of a deadline and got to do only a handful for the set. However, I was given some extra blank cards and will be putting some of those up for sale when the set is released.

If you have a favorite Lovecraft story or creature, and you want a nice investment in cards, shoot me an email and your request. A closer look at sketch cards and their rising values, you can check out  or or ebay for current pricing.