The original non-sports set with autos, you could say. That's obvious hyperbole, but if we want to look at animated shows and sets released post-20th century, there's no better place to begin. I've only been on a bit of a non-sport kick recently. It's become apparent from my plentiful posts on both Archer and Parks and Recreation that some of you watch the latter and even less of you partake in the former. Well, I think I know of an animated show that pretty much all of you have partaken in on some level, even if it's just the all-time classic "Homer at the Bat," featuring some of baseball's biggest names: THE SIMPSONS!
I don't recall how I came to learn about the existence of these amazing pieces of cardboard. My guess is one of them was in a seller's inventory I was perusing, as I've been focused on non-sports cards for the past few months. And of course, once I knew I could own Homer Simpson's auto and relive the glory days of The Simpsons, I had to act. I researched Inkworks and their Simpsons' releases -- both The Simpsons Anniversary Celebration (2000) and The Simpsons Mania! (2001) -- and realized the John Hancocks from both were pretty damn rare and hard to come by. Which, as you can guess, means big money when they do appear for auction.
An eBay search turned up few auctions. The Buy-It-Now
listings were very pricey, beyond what I could justify. There was
one seller though who listed the same autos each and every week, and multiples of them at that. Inkworks went out of
business about five years ago, so the well was not going to be refilled with product anytime
soon. The sets are so magnificent and the autos on-card to boot, with checklists that are deep in character and importance but short in quantity (5 autos from 2000 and 7 from 2001) which serve to make it a manageable task to complete. The design is simple, with the major characters voiced by the actors and actresses surrounded by a colorful and empty background. That is then contrasted with the bottom portion of the card in white and the actor's name entirely capitalized.
The 2001 Mania! signatures are definitely much more difficult to come by and thus fetch bigger bucks on the open market. Hank Azaria seems to be the most expensive of the 7 from '01, although I'm still kicking myself for missing out on his card when it sold at auction on eBay for about $30. It was the first card from either release I had seen, and I may never see one again (and if I do, it likely won't be so affordable). That seller I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, the one who consistently listed cards from Inkworks' 2000 Simpsons' set? I was able to secure the lot of three autographs you see above, and it breaks down to a very reasonable number per card (less than a blaster per sig).
Here are all three card backs. The design is once again great and colorful. The Shearer actually fits into another of my PCs: my UCLA collection, as the actor and comedian attended school in Westwood. I was determined to at least nab his auto should the lot of three exceed my budget. Thankfully, Harry arrived with friends. Oh, and the seller listed these as "The Simpsoms." It may not have affected the price, but it didn't hurt my case either as I landed Dan Castellaneta, Harry Shearer, and Yeardley Smith in one fell swoop.
The best example of the price disparity between '00 and '01 would be looking at the lower-end autos from Simpsons Mania!. Pamela Hayden, Tress MacNeille, and Russi Taylor aren't necessarily household names, but Simpsons' fans know them as the actresses who voice some of Springfield's supporting cast. Their autographs are only found in the 2001 issue from Inkworks and thus far have appeared on eBay at nearly $100. This lot of three autos -- with much bigger and more vital names in Simpsons' lore -- was less than half of that combined.
Oh, and speaking of "Homer at the Bat," Deadspin had a terrific feature on the classic episode, and the episode in its entirety can be viewed here. I had not seen it in probably over a decade, and I had yet to even turn three years old when it originally aired. These beautiful cards allowed me to take a wonderful view down memory lane.
It has become apparent to me that my love of non-sports cards is only growing more and more each day. I still need to acquire some hits from the various The Big Bang Theory sets released by Cryptozoic. Cryptozoic has also announced a future release for Sleepy Hollow. I'll probably just go the eBay route for everything from those shows unless boxes end up being remarkably cheap.
All that remains is for somebody to one day put out cards for both Frisky Dingo and American Dad. An R&B-themed Steve Smith variation would definitely necessitate money leaving my wallet.
If you're a fan of The Simpsons, do yourself a favor and go nab some of these amazing cards. Just leave my remaining needs available for me!