By Ethan Shippen aka TheBoxBreaker

Dear readers,

As fellow card collectors, I’m sure you guys have been in the same situation that I’m in regularly. People asking: “Why do you want to pay that much money for a card? It’s just a piece of cardboard.” I shake my head and laugh at those people, and even my best friends don’t understand why I collect hockey cards. I’m not surprised, though. Living in a small, non-hockey crazy country like Denmark isn’t exactly a hotbed for hockey like Toronto or Montreal, but it’s becoming a top 3 sport here. So why are people – who are very familiar with soccer cards – so ignorant when it comes to sports like hockey, baseball, basketball and football?

To me, cards have always been so much more than just pieces of cardboard. I started creating hockey card customs in 2007 when I was on vacation at my grandmother’s in Germany. It was a 7-card set, hand-drawn fronts and backs. The set consisted of some of the most popular NHLers from the 2000s, such as Dominik Hasek and Mats Sundin. The name for the set was inspired by two very special (for me at least) brands of hockey cards: 1990-91 Bowman and 2005-06 Upper Deck Ice. The set name was a fusion of those two sets, resulting in the Bowman Ice set. And so it began.

 

Mario Lemieux card from my first ever custom set, Bowman Ice.

Hockey card creating became a huge hobby of mine besides collecting actual Mask cards as well. Some months would consist of me sitting by my desk almost daily and creating new innovations. That’s also how my YouTube adventures started out, finally resulting in Upper Deck contacting me and offering to ‘sponsor’ me. Wow!

It was then in the Fall of 2008 that I received that package from Upper Deck. After having sent some of my YouTube videos to UD, they contacted me and we stayed in touch. Two very friendly employees, whose names I won’t mention here, made this an unforgettable day in my life. I had just come home from the doctor and found out that I indeed should not get a dog until adulthood because of risks for allergy. That was a hit in the stomach, but it was all forgotten after I saw the huge case Upper Deck had sent me. What was in it? A few inserts? T-shirts? Maybe even a box of cards? It turned out I’d be mightily and happily surprised. The case contained a total of five boxes (such as Trilogy and Hot Prospects), a tin of Sweet Shot and lots and lots of jerseys, autographs and patches. And they threw in some Upper Deck apparel as well for good measure. That was a day to remember, and I couldn’t believe how something as simple as doing what I loved to do could lead to something so extraordinary.

If you guys feel like watching the sponsor package video, here it is. Please bear in mind that English is my third language and, well… I was only 12 years old in the video, so my articulation in the video is… unique, eh?

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZimT0T6h398

I began creating customs on my computer in the summer of 2011, and ended up creating many more sets. Then I had a cool idea in the summer of 2012. I wanted to create a custom set, but taken to the next level, a bit better than the previous ones. Living in Denmark, there’s only one professional hockey league here, but it’s a pretty good one… and the goalies wear some great masks. I wanted to create a set of Danish masks, but there were almost no good pictures of those masks to be found on the internet. The solution? I could try to meet up with the goalies when they were in town playing for/against my local team. This would ensure the best possible angles on the photo as well. I also decided to bring transparent, measured stickers for the goalies to sign them while I took pictures of their masks. I could then later attach these sticker autographs to the cards after they had been printed out. Yes, even custom cards feature sticker autographs now, haha!

Fast forward to today, I had no idea how big of a success the whole project would be, a process I called ‘The Signature Masks Project’. The success rate was 13/13 goalies (some goalies didn’t make the final checklist) and 48 different pictures were taken.

 

The 2012-13 Signature Masks set.

So cards are just pieces of cardboard? Yeah, right. It’s more than cardboard. It’s card collecting. It’s in our hearts and minds because we love it, because we’re passionate about it. Whilst busting packs, trading some cards and expanding collections we meet new people who showcase generosity, happiness and fellow interests. We as collectors aren’t just part of a hobby, we are the hobby.

No one knows what the future is going to bring, but as long as we as collectors show passion and determination, well, the future of this hobby is going to be bright. Judging by the great amount of dedicated members on Sports Card Forum willing to be a part of the game, I think that the future of this hobby has never looked brighter.

Sincerely,

Ethan