I’ve always been a fan of the sports that have grown in to what is today the X-Games. Many of my grade school friends were into BMX, and I tried and tried — I wanted so much to be good at BMX, but truth be told I sucked. It didn’t help that my garage sale bike wasn’t up to the task. Eventually I got a bike from the store — probably Sears and I rode the crap out of that bike, but my trick repertoire was limited to jumping off of curbs. You could say I was more Napoleon Dynamite than Mat Hoffman, that’s fair. My attempts at any sort of trick riding ended the day I brought foot pegs home from Target. Somehow my step-dad managed to totally destroy my red and white Huffy’s rear wheel during foot peg installation. . . from then on I was riding his 10-speed, but I always retained my love for all things BMX (and skate for that matter, but my skating abilities are far more woeful than even my pathetic BMX abilities were).
When the X-Games started I was really stoked — finally the sports that I’ve loved had a legitimate platform, and in 2000 Press Pass and Fleer both jumped on the X-sports bandwagon with trading cards sets, and Rage and Adrenaline are excellent sets, the both have deep and exciting autograph lists and cool cards. Somehow even with great autographs neither on of these sets were well received. While dumped boxes were fantastic for the handful of people collecting the set it didn’t bode well for the future of action sports trading cards.
A few years later found myself working at the corporate offices of an enormous retailer. Undoubtedly the best perk of this job was the lovingly referred to junk room. The junk room was a teeny tiny store where all the product samples wound up for sale to employees. Most of the samples weren’t very interesting — candy and smalls sent to us by our suppliers to help determine shelf layouts, but we were also sent random stuff by manufacturers who weren’t in our supply chain hoping a random box of goodies delivered to the corporate office would somehow lead to orders.
One day I was scouring the junk room for interesting treasures and I found myself 2 promo packs of ‘2003 PRO CORE.’ The pack itself was a vinyl bag with a tear off strip and button snap sealing it. It boasted ‘Rider Autographed Cards,’ proclaimed itself as series 01, and explained there would be 4 sets of over 100 cards each for Motocross, Snowboarding, Skateboarding and Freestyle Motocross. For a card collecting X-Games fan this was the promise land in a vinyl pouch.
When I cracked open the packs the cards were everything I could hope for. The designs were awesome. Every card was die cut, foil stamping and matte UV finishes were made to excellent effect on each card. The chase cards were perfect, cards printed on wood, vintage style cards for old school legends, slide like cell cards, more foil, bigger die cuts. . . the package really delivered. The cards were slightly oversize which helped giving the set a larger than life feeling. Looking through those promo cards I thought about how awesome the set could be, and wondered who they would get for autographs. I was itching to add to my Rage and Adrenaline collections.
Ten years later I’d forgotten these cards until my memory was jogged one day as I spied the listing for Pro Core X-Games cards on my commons want list. Oddly there were three cards on my want list, but I couldn’t find the partial set anywhere. I remembered how much I loved these cards, and was just bewildered as to what happened. Then, as it often happens, I was going through an old box of random stuff and found them! Apparently at some point I picked up a box or so of these, cracked all the packs and unceremoniously stuffed them into a random box to be forgotten about for 10 years.
Excitedly I started going back through these cards, I even figured out they’d fit snugly in semi-rigid sleeves. Card after card I slipped them into sleeves trying to recapture that excitement from the day I plucked two packs from the junk room, but sadly before I got to the end of sleeving I started to realize why the set failed. . . the base and chase cards were devoid of all the awesome features that caught my eye in the promo packs. Sure the cards were die cut, and had foil and matte UV, but every base card had the same die cut, matte UV and foil. The chase cards weren’t even die cut, the designs were bland using the same bronze color foil in the base set. The Rock Stars chase set at least kept the slide like feature, but the radical die cut, vintage style, and wood printed cards were no where to be seen — worse — there weren’t any autographs in the set. The release was a tiny 46 card multi-sport set, so it didn’t even come close to the 4 100-card releases mentioned on the pack. The set did deliver what I believe are Shaun White’s first cards, so that is awesome, but in virtually every other way the actual release didn’t do justice to the promos — here is a scan of a base card, and each chase subset from the actual release:
Even today as I look through these cards I wonder what happened. The initial design was really awesome, and the goals of autographs as well as huge 100 card sets for 4 different action sports disciplines has all the hallmarks of what could have been ongoing action sports releases. It seems like costs or licensing may have gotten in the way of what could have been the greatest X-Games card sets ever released. The other thing that likely killed this series is the fact that very few card collectors will have ever even heard of this set, and that is due to the way it was marketed and sold. As far as I can tell these were only available through skateboard shops at a ridiculous $5 per pack. If you search around you can find packs and sets of these floating around, and it’s worth it for the Shaun White cards.
At this point I am not aware of any X-Games cards on the horizon, and that’s a bummer because there has been a wealth of talent at the games in the last few years. Occasionally we see some X-Games super stars sign cards for Allen and Ginter or Sportskings, but it seems unlikely we’ll see another Rage or Adrenaline set, but I’ll keep searching and hoping someone like Pro Core comes through to revitalize the action sports card scene.