When Life Gives You TRISTAR, Dip It In Glitter

As a writer, I’ve produced over 3,000 articles about baseball cards, the card industry, and sometimes even Jose Canseco. At times, pieces simply wrote themselves. The words flowed and my hands magically moved across my keyboard with ease. Unfortunately, the past two weeks have been tough. Life is great but when it comes to #TheHobby, I just had absolutely nothing on my mind. My Twitter feed was as active as ever but I struggled to come up with new content. My trusty, worn out soapbox was gathering dust. Thankfully, inspiration hit me like a brick thanks to a Tweet:

It took me a moment but once my eyes registered the image, I knew exactly what to write about. It was a product by TRISTAR that haunted my entire life as a collector in 2008 and left me with a bad taste I can still remember to this day. How bad was Tristar Signa Cuts? Well, I’d rather go on a private flight with Cory Lidle as my pilot or party with Jose Fernandez on a speed boat in Miami than to ever look at this abomination again. What’s even worse is that I actually spent money on not one but TWO of these monstrosities attempting to pass themselves off as “baseball cards”. I don’t just feel shame but actual disgust for throwing my hard-earned cash down the drain.

When it comes to Tristar Signa Cuts, I don’t even know where to begin. At one point, the company had sponsored my blog, Wax Heaven, and provided me with several products for review purposes. I was intrigued by their TNA Wrestling releases even though the cards felt incredibly cheap and the parallels looked like they had actual glitter on them, I kid you not. No Refractor technology, just glued on glitter. It was sad but they at least were making an effort and their unlicensed baseball products were not half-bad. Unfortunately, they took a major wrong turn with Signa Cuts and never recovered.

What’s so bad about Signa Cuts, you ask?

  1. Cutting up an old baseball card to make a new baseball card is a mortal sin
  2. Possibly the worst “autograph” checklist in the history of baseball cards
  3. Seemingly 75% of cuts came from “Junk Wax”-era cards
  4. Many of the “cuts” came from index cards!
Here you can actually SEE the glitter …

I guess the real question is how much money went into this product? From the looks of it, they just bought huge eBay lots of in-person, non-certified autographs and paid Beckett Media, a company that is no longer reputable in the grading game, money to slab their Frankenstein-like baseball cards. Were these cards certified by Beckett Media to be “authentic”? The answer is probably YES. Does a company trying to survive in a dying industry (print media) want to ruffle feathers of a manufacturer doing major business with them by calling out fakes? I DOUBT IT.

My guess is 95% of those cut signatures are probably authentic but there’s a whole lot of wiggle room for forged and altered autographs that we may never know about. Clearly, most collectors could not care less because this product was pretty much DOA from the moment it hit card shops. It was at least until tonight, never to be seen or discussed again. I stopped collecting in 2009 but made a small comeback in 2017 only to see that Tristar had left the trading card business. All I can say to that is, T-H-A-N-K Y-O-U.


Looks like TRISTAR is responsible for those awful Hidden Treasures boxes you see at Walmart that gives you a chance for a Babe Ruth signed baseball but leaves you with a Mike Gallego auto and a kick in the nuts.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.


It’s Time for Collectors to Cancel PSA

Joe Orlando doesn't care for you

If ever there was a National Sports Collectors Convention to attend, 2019’s event was most definitely the one. With a huge scandal involving fraud and garnering attention from the FBI and non-hobby news outlets, you’d think the entire show would have been clouded by the controversy. Surely, someone would be out there ready to call out Beckett Grading Services, PSA, PWCC, Leaf Trading Cards, and known trimmers/shillers at the event, right? Well, from the looks of it, fair-weathered collectors have completely forgotten or flat out ignored the crimes committed against their own thanks to giveaways, free celebrity signings, a bizarre Gary Vee hero worship, social media selfie opportunities, and more.

Unfortunately, there are two groups battling it out over this card trimming scandal. The ones who have no investment and/or have accepted the truth and want JUSTICE brought to collectors who overpaid into the millions AND the suckers who have chosen to hide their heads in the sand in hopes that this scandal blows over quickly. That way, their trimmed and otherwise altered cards bounce back on the market and come close to being worth what they originally paid for. The latter group is currently busy defending PSA and other scammers like they are on these companies’ payroll, fighting it out on forums and social media or doing their best to change the story or distract from it with slow-pitch softball podcasts straight from the NSCC stage.

Recently, PSA Grading has taken to blocking dozens of collectors on Twitter who dare to call them out. This seems like a bad idea. If Beckett Media’s lack of response is now the norm, PSA’s silence should come as very little surprise. Clearly, these companies are counting on collectors having very short memories and moving on to whatever quasi celebrity has signed for Allen & Ginter and/or how many cards Vlad Guerrero Jr. used to pick out food from his teeth while signing. Simply put, many collectors just do not care about this serious case of fraud by multiple individuals and companies and I do not understand why. Instead of confronting the scammers at the National, collectors are more interested in finding below average deals and kissing Gary Vee’s multi-million dollar ass for almost an entire week.

Meanwhile, even though PSA is nowhere near making a public statement, they are being called out almost every single week on Blowout Cards Forum and now with this unbelievable letter from an alleged PSA insider. This leak comes at the very worst time possible for PSA because the feds and collectors are all scattered in one location at the National. Hilariously enough, PSA’s Twitter profile with over 12 thousand followers featured a trimmed and altered card for everyone to gaze at with the very unfortunate statement “When Cardboard Turns Into Gold”. The thing is, no truer words have ever been spoken.

You see, that Joe Namath card that was plastered on PSA’s Twitter (now removed due to public shaming) was once a PSA NM-MT 8 that sold for $149. Not quite gold, I know. After that sale, the card was altered and re-submitted to PSA’s “experts” and somehow came back a Gem Mint 10. Now, that $150 investment turned into a $19,135.20 sale! That’s gold if I’ve ever seen it. Just imagine how many times this scam has been perpetrated over and over again. Or even worse, imagine being the poor bastard who overpaid by almost 20k? Congratulations, you can afford to drop $20,000 on a trading card, clearly you have a much better life than I do buuuuuuut there’s something you should know.

You got robbed, man.

That’s gotta be a tough pill to swallow. I mean, if you can afford to drop 20K on a single football card you probably don’t care that you were ripped off but what if that purchase involved your life savings? Or if this purchase was your “dream card”? The trimming, card altering scumbags deserve to go down and so does PSA for running a scam that’s completely ruined a once innocent hobby. Sure, the “junk wax” era did a lot of damage but it’s nowhere near as bad as what PSA, BGS, and other grading companies have gotten away with. Bad people have gotten rich off collectors for way too long.

A perfect example is what I’m going through at this very moment. I need a 1999 Bowman Chrome Refractor of Josh Hamilton. There are graded versions selling from as low as $600 to as high as $2,000. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, I don’t need to tell you that a Josh Hamilton rookie card shouldn’t be in the 4 digits. Unfortunately, in 1999, Topps wasn’t overproducing cards like they do now so Refractors carried a lot more weight than they do today. Hell, I remember buying a box of 1996 Topps Chrome and pulling just TWO refractors. That was it. Today, you’d get several different versions per box, along with certified autographs because collectors won’t buy otherwise.

That is perhaps why most collectors and dealers want this controversy to disappear. People have invested quite a bit into graded cards and do not want to lose money. It makes perfect sense. After all, there is a maniac holding on to a Josh Hamilton rookie card who thinks because he has a perfect grade given to them by these so-called “experts”, that someone is willing to pay a premium price. He thinks that way because for years and years collectors have been doing just that. Overpaying for a low-pop grade is the name of the game and it is why no one is ready to denounce PSA, BGS, and the rest of these con artists.

So enjoy the fun times at The National. Get in all your selfies with Ivan and Gary but remember that there are real victims out there. Collectors who trusted companies like PSA and PWCC and spent millions and millions based off that trust and are now left looking like idiots. I hope that as many as possible come forward and get their money back so that some of these companies are finally held accountable and ultimately go under, hopefully never to be seen or heard from again.

Also, I’m hoping someone out there has a raw Hamilton rookie card for a decent price.

My Love/Hate Relationship with Topps

Today, Topps Company surprised #TheHobby with preview images of their flagship baseball release, 2020 Topps Baseball. As expected, Twitter flipped out at first because Topps chose a very awkward, horizontal card for their preview and later because once again we have no borders. For me, my biggest problem with Topps’ flagship is the design element. It looks like something a graphic designer could put together in just minutes. Furthermore, there is so little change that every year for me, a non-flagship collector, is starting to blend together.

Again, I am the last person to collect Topps’ flagship. It was among my least favorite box breaks during an era I busted one Hobby box of every single product per year. The only product I disliked more was, First Edition, which was identical to the flagship minus the few bells and whistles afforded to Topps Baseball. It’s been 12 hours since I got a look at 2020 Topps and to be perfectly honest, it has grown on me. I believe the design will mix well with Chrome and Refractor technology and if there is a big rookie autograph to be had, I will be first in line to grab a few to hold on to.

As always, a new Topps flagship release brought me back to my youth and the first year I ever bought a pack of baseball cards way back in 1990. In those 30 years I’ve been a very loyal collector and student of the baseball card industry. These days I think very highly of those Topps cards released in 1990. The sad thing is that in its time, they were the true definition of “junk” thanks to Upper Deck’s sophomore effort in 1990. Here’s an unpopular opinion: 1990 Upper Deck destroys their ’89 debut.

Not only did the photography in ’90 Upper Deck pop but the photos chosen have become beloved images for millions of us older collectors. Let’s not forget that in 1990, Upper Deck introduced the pack-inserted certified autograph. If that wasn’t enough for you, Leaf came out the gate swinging and also put a hell of a dent on our beloved (to some), Topps Company. If you were to compare ’90 Topps to what Upper Deck and Leaf Trading Cards were producing around the same time, Topps came out looking like a knockoff card product you’d find in vending machines.

The thing I remember most about 1990 Topps was the blurry photograph that tarnished so many cards. As a 10 year old, that’s something that should not even cross the mind of a young collector. That year, Fleer’s effort was perhaps the worst product of the 90s and Donruss also put in very little effort thanks to large, red borders and second-rate Dick Perez Diamond Kings paintings. Upper Deck grabbed the high-end market, Leaf had the “It” factor and Topps fell somewhere down the middle. Nowhere near as bad as Fleer but not close to being as good as Upper Deck or Leaf.

I guess the tide has turned, at least for me. These days, 1990 Topps weighs heavy on my collecting mind. The bright and colorful borders may look dated in 2019 but look at what Topps did in 1989 and 1988. Each design featured a dynamic change from the year before. This is a problem Topps Company has today. Their flagship, which for a company running a clear monopoly, should be their most important release of the year, is once again blending into a crowd that now features 35+ physical releases and even more online, “made to order” products.

Upper Deck ran themselves into the ground thanks to years of shady dealings and unnecessary shenanigans that in the end sealed their fate. Leaf Trading Cards died in 1998 when Pinnacle Brands went under and today are back but only in name. Their products, which feature athletes of all sports and well-known celebrities, seem to be geared more towards game-used memorabilia and autograph collectors. They do occasionally produce baseball cards but nothing like what they were doing in 1998 and also without the ability to use Major League Baseball logos.

Donruss, perhaps the main card company of my own youth, also went under and the property has changed hands a few times. It is currently owned by Panini America but to say their efforts have been underwhelming would be an understatement. Their customer service and redemption issues also make this company one of the least liked among many collectors, young and old. Fleer was purchased by Upper Deck and it too died at the hands of its owners when Upper Deck lost its license. In the end, only Topps Company survived the Trading Card Wars.

So if you see me criticize Topps Company it’s not because I am bitter or jealous or just feel like yelling on social media. To me, Topps Company has been a part of my every day life for 29 of my 39 years. That’s 10,585 days and counting of me shelling out my allowance and ultimately my hard-earned money on their products. I could possibly get that money back some day but I’ll never be able to reclaim the time I have invested in this company. Was Topps my first choice? No, Pinnacle Brands and Fleer were. Topps isn’t the hero we need but the one we deserve.

I understand the kids are the future but it is important for Topps Company to understand that a majority of its collectors are nostalgia-driven adults and middle-aged men who never gave up on them. Every collector is different, someone may purchase a box and not be happy and never spend another dime on cards. Others like me have been doing this for 29 years and live to spread the word. Has that word always been eloquent and professional? Nope. Still, no one can ever question my love for this hobby that I picked up what seems like another lifetime ago.

In case you’re wondering, my first pack came from Topps Company.