#AirMaxPax breakdown & Link to purchase.
If you're interested in the cards - you're gonna wanna read this.
OK…so…flipping through these cards and taking pics of them has me actually pretty excited about the release. I think y’all are really going to like them. I had to put out that last newsletter to get out of my own head and kick my ass in gear. It might not have made your life better (that’s a nod to the title), but it certainly made mine a bit better.
As I was saying, @sonsofblackmaria and I came up with this awesome idea around January 26th to have a set of cards ready for Air Max Day (March 26, 2021). We busted our asses to make it happen and we had all of our files ready by the time the manufacturer told us we had to have them ready. This was my *second go-around with the manufacturer, so I made sure to state - VERY clearly - that I NEEDED everything done by March 15th so that I had ample time to market everything and ship by the 26th. They agreed. Language barrier aside, the cultural barrier was a bit too much to handle - I had to create videos of a perfect ‘pack opening experience’ for them to understand what it was I was trying to convey - it’s actually kind of fun to flip the cards this way and that way and back over this way and that way as you’re opening…and it’s also kind of fun to find the insert card in a different spot every time. I created video after video of a perfect opening and, culturally, they had some trouble understanding the purpose. They insisted on putting every card the right way and in order and I had to explain that that’s just not as much fun. It was like ‘fun’ was almost a foreign concept. It was a point of contention for a while, but I ultimately won out. They promised to package cards as randomly as they could…at least a bit more random than the #dunkydunk set we worked on.
It looked like we were going to meet our date until I started getting basic questions back that I thought were already answered. Stuff about card stock and effects and whatnot. Just stuff that I sent over with the original requirements. The thing about working with someone on the other side of the world - it’s really difficult to get into a rhythm. They basically start work at the time that I start making dinner for my kids. 9am on Tuesday in Guangzhou is 5pm on Monday in California. So, a lot of times, if I had a question, I’d have to put that question to chat and walk away for 12+ hours before I got an answer, and then once I asked the follow-up question, it could be another 12+ hours before I heard from them again (and vice versa - sometimes my sleepy-time was their prime productive hours, so they’d have to stop until I woke up and was able to process their questions).
Anyway, that’s all behind us now. I wanted to send y’all the background on how @sonsofblackmaria and I came up with this set…I’m really proud of what we came up with.
The easiest cards were created first - the Air Max Attax cards, and QA for those was easy - they sent plenty of photos and I was able to see that it was exactly what we were looking for. I had already created a few of the insert sets when I asked @sonsofblackmaria if he had anything he wanted to throw in and he told me he was looking at a lot of old Topps Mars Attacks cards - these cards were as old as my parents! Sons was saying he really liked them but couldn’t figure out exactly how what to do. He sent me the whole batch and we brainstormed ideas for a few days. Finally, I thought, ‘there are a ton of outer space-related air maxes - maybe we can create a storyline where the Air Maxes are actually the UFOs.’ With some help from my buddy at Nike, we created a comprehensive checklist of space-related Air Maxes and I went to work. I chose 10 or 15 cards that I really liked from the original set, showed them to Sons, and told him to incorporate the shoes in any way he saw fit. I then wrote out the stories for the back. It was definitely a task but I think they came out really well. Esoteric indeed.
Mars Attacks card front:
Air Max Attax card front:
Mars Attacks card back:
Air Max Attax card back:
The next cards we went and back and forth a lot on - the base cards. Our initial idea was that they could do a 2-3 layer die-cut card that punched a hole and put clear plastic where the air unit is. They explained that the cost of this was going to be astronomical as the layering of the cards would make them really thick - we’d have to order more foil packaging to reflect the thicker cards, and then we’d have to order more booster box packaging to reflect the thicker packs. Not something I really wanted to do. So I asked them if they could, instead, add a holographic effect on just that section to make it look as if they were see-through units - that’s why the unit on the front and the unit on the back are lined up in the exact same position. What I really liked about these cards - Sons and I worked hand in hand on the design here. We collaborated like Ghost and Rae…it was just back and forth until we had something we liked and this is what we ended up with. We ran into some issue with bleed (some printing term that I still don’t fully understand) and the engineer in China ended up adding black borders to the cards. Not something I was super stoked about, and now having seen the physical cards in hand it’s apparent as to why I didn’t want black borders - flaws on black borders show up way more clearly than they do on textured or white borders. So you’re going to see some of these flaws on the cards (if you order them).
As for the models we chose - I tried to just pick 3 random pairs of each *verified* Air Max. The first of the three is probably the most recognizable of the bunch, and the other two are just ones that popped into my head while creating the checklist. The beauty is that there are probably tens of thousands of Air Max colorways so another version of this set can probably drop on Air Max Day 2022 (assuming Air Maxes don’t fly in and attack earth).
Once I started paying a bit more attention to what was going on in the Panini world, I realized everyone just loses their damn minds over parallels. Like orange bubblegum refractors and purple pyramid prisms and cardamon cracked ice…shit is dizzying - a million different versions of the exact same card. I asked Sons if we could try a slightly different colored refractor and he was in. And I also asked the manufacturer if we could get those made and he was really confused…eventually we figured it out and parallel base refractors are also randomly inserted. 1:4 packs.
I’ve had my eye on the ‘Masters’ Air Max 1 for years but feel like I missed the boat - I would have copped around $300 but they’re well out of my range now. Probably one of the coolest concept shoes I’ve ever seen, I knew I had to do an insert set for the Masters Air Max 1 as I’m assuming there are still PLENTY of people out there who have no idea what this shoe is about. So the ‘Masters’ cards were next - I used to collect ‘He-Man’ figures when I was really young and loved the cartoon. I was messing around with the idea for a while, Youtubed the theme and knew exactly what I wanted to do.
I sat there at the computer and painstakingly created card after card pulling in the inspirational ‘swatches’ from the various Air Max 1’s and I did have to look a couple of them up. I was so stoked for this set - and I think the cards came out great - but upon opening up the packs I noticed that one of the cards came back incomplete - the Air Max 1 ‘ANIMAL’ came back as a blank colorway. I VOW to get this card fixed on the next go-around.
Original design sent:
Actual card in packs:
One of my favorite under-the-radar-in-the-states Nike product lines is the Air Max Plus line. One of the first pairs of shoes I bought with a steady paycheck was a pair of Air Max Plus’ that I rocked till the soles actually crumbled. I actually had them delivered to my first corporate job ever - at The Associated Press at 50 Rock Center in New York (this is not a pic of those shoes, but a pair of a similar colorway I also owned - they were VERY similar but had a few hints of red).
My mom bought me a pair of Air Max Plus 1’s for my 18th birthday, and I found plenty of pairs of AM Plus 2’s and a handful of pairs of 3’s at thrift stores over the years - NEVER in my size. I copped a pair of 4’s but they were far too small.
The Air Max Plus 5 was sort of a big deal - I owned a couple of pairs, but the sizing was crap - they were a bitch to get on and I couldn’t bear to put them on more than once or twice before I got rid of them. The 5’s were semi-popular, mostly because 50 Cent wore it in the video for the biggest song of the early 2000s:
I never saw the 6’s nor 7’s in person. 8’s and 9’s I saw on a trip to London in 2007/2008 (but they didn’t have my size), and 10’s were ALL over New York - including EVERY SALES RACK - in 2008/2009.
It was a dope line with a sleek silhouette. I made some really questionable decisions in order to get my hands on various Air Max Plus’ throughout the years and NOTHING panned out. I once copped a pair of size 14 AM Plus 3’s just to have a pair in my possession (I wear a size 9). One time some dude on Niketalk swore he saw a pair of Air Max Plus 3’s at a Foot- store in South Carolina and I proceeded to waste a whole Saturday calling each and every store to see if I could purchase it over the phone. No dice. No one had any clue what I was talking about.
Anyway - I noticed that the further East I traveled, the closer to the source of the Air Max Plus well I was. Once I realized that living on the West Coast, I’d likely NEVER see any of the obscure Plus’ in person - I thought an old Western ‘Wanted’ style poster with sketches would suffice for my obsession. I created these with an old parchment-style background and put different gold stamping on each card. Although the stamping is a bit off on a few of them, I think they came out great.
The last cards created were a bit self-serving. I wanted to somehow incorporate my grading system/algorithm into cards while simultaneously taking a trip down memory lane. When I first started The Sneaker Savant I created these clear business cards that people really seemed to like…I thought… ‘ I should do that showcasing my preservation case, my original pairs, and an estimation of a grade.’ What’s dope about these cards - if you scan the QR code on your phone *for the first 4 cards* - it’ll take you directly to a grade report of the shoes with all of the original photos I saved of these shoes…here’s an example of what the QR code on card number 4 will take you to.
The first version of these cards they manufactured - I noticed they were scratched up and the color on the shoes was a bit off and the light parts of the shoe were almost see through. I asked them to re-do them and a couple weeks later they showed me the versions y’all have in packs. Corners and edges are a bit rough, and they look a bit cloudy when you pull them but you’ll see you can remove the protective file and they come out crystal clear, just like the #tssgrailbox.
TSS Graded Grails cards (pic taken on a piece of white posterboard - they’re crystal clear):
My goal with this post was just to let y’all know the impetus behind the design(s) and what we had to do to bring this set to fruition…I think this set has the best artwork (so far) and gives a lot of insight into where we can take this should we continue to do it.
I’ve opened about 20 packs and have had some time to give them a once-over. Other than the obvious error card - the ‘Animal’ Masters card - I didn’t notice any other errors. One thing I did notice - the black borders on the final cards have made the edges a bit rough and centering is certainly not perfect, so if you find a few perfect edges/corners you’re going to be in possession of some pretty rare cards.
As for the NFTs - we’re going to have to skip them for now. Sons and his brother put in a TON of work to get the NFTs all set up and blazin and we were all ready to go with the idea…I went out and hired a blockchain developer, worked with him for about a month and then the guy just went dark on me. After a couple of meetings and payments he was gone. Really disheartening, but I can’t let that hiccup stop me from getting the physical cards out there. We still plan on bringing in a digital experience, but as of right now I’m finna just give the people what they want: some good, old-fashioned sneaker packs to rip.
Same price as before. Get you some!