Inkworks Shuts Its Doors

From the files of Sad But Not a Shock comes the announcement that one of the top non-sport manufacturers in the last decade, Inkworks, has "ceased regular operations." So for all intents and purposes, they've shut their doors, although the announcement comes with the caveat that they may not be gone for good.

The hints have been there for about a year. The Spiderwick Chronicles was cancelled. Same for Madagascar 2. Smallville Season Seven was put on hold. Most recently The Ghost Whisperer has seen multiple delays, even with Jennifer Love Hewitt having signed autographs for the set. One would also have to wonder if the sudden company about-face to sticker autographs was another hint, especially when Inkworks owner Allan Caplan had previously gone on the record as not being a fan of them.

Inkworks is responsible for some great cards over the years. Being a fan of autographs, the first ones that come to mind for me are Angelina Jolie signatures in both Tomb Raider sets, Tommy Lee Jones for Men in Black II, the perfect autograph line-up for Serenity that had all its major stars, the extensive Buffy the Vampire Slayer selection over the years and so on.

But since Buffy went off the air, things haven't gone so well for Inkworks. Over the past couple years they've made sets for several box office letdowns such as The Dark is Rising, Journey to the Center of the Earth and The Golden Compass. Sadly, The Spirit will go down as Inkworks' final set. While the set is very good, it turned out the movie was a huge bomb.

Ironically, Inkworks' second-to-last major release was the biggest new franchise in years: Twilight. Traditionally, new non-sport base sets run about $5.00. Less than six months after their release, Twilight sets are going for nearly ten times that amount. Boxes are selling for more than $200 each. All that with no autographs, just Pieceworks costume cards.

The loss of Inkworks leaves a huge hole in the non-sport end. It leaves in doubt the future of the Lost and Supernatural lines, not to mention the now-proven Twilight franchise. Already some of the company's excess stock has surfaced including a previously unreleased Sopranos autograph of Robert Iler who played Anthony Soprano, Tony's slacker son. Will more cards surface? Perhaps. How many of them? Who knows.

Inkworks will continue to honor autograph redemptions for The Spirit through their stated expiration date of June 30. Expired redemptions will no longer be honored though, something sports collectors might not find shocking but for those who've dealt with Inkworks over the years is another disappointment. Whenever possible the company would redeem expired redemptions as long as they still were allowed to by their licensing deals and as long as the cards were still in stock. An example of this was when I pulled an autograph redemption for Kirsten Dunst from a box of Small Soldiers cards. It was five years after the expiration date yet within a month I had my Dunst autograph, which was the one card I was hoping for when I bought the box in the first place. Inkworks has always been a model for excellent customer service, going above and beyond what could be expected from them. Unlike a lot of the bigger sports companies, the service could be personalized and they seemed to understand collectors. I experienced this when I was working on a master set of The Sporanos. I wanted everything for that set. Unfortunately I was missing a couple of the redemption cards. I had the autographs but I wanted the checked off cards good for the autographs. I sent a request for the ones I was missing and I received back a lot of all the ones I requested, with the redemption hole punch, of course, to show the redemption wasn't valid. Yes, Inkworks did return their redemption cards.

It truly is a sad day for me as a card collector. I've long been a fan of their sets, except maybe their monotonous base inserts. I do hope that they're able to make a comeback at some point in time, maybe under a different name, maybe with a new business model. Everyone who I dealt with, both as a collector and as a writer with Non-Sport Update Magazine, were great folks and I wish them all the best in these difficult economic times.

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