And So It Ends

6 10 2010

Author: Mario Alejandro

There was once a time when The Hobby ran through my mind 24/7. Here I was cranking out over 100 articles per month, recording box breaks to post on YouTube, scouring eBay for new cards I needed, and making online trades in every popular online forum available. Oh, did I forget to mention I had a full-time job and a wife and kid at home?

I guess you could say I was burning the candle at both ends looking for something I could never quite find. Was it the perfect Jose Canseco collection, a cover story on Beckett, or maybe those long-lost barrels of 1952 Topps buried at sea? I can’t quite say because I do not know the answer. I do know that my time at Wax Heaven, which unofficially ended in December when I shut the site down, is officially over as of October 4th, 2010, just a few weeks shy of the third anniversary.

Rather than let the site sit unattended and underappreciated except for the 700-800 random visitors who come through Google searches daily, I did the only thing I could do to ensure the Wax Heaven name would live on; I sold it. Everything, too, not just the WordPress blog. The Twitter account with 200+ followers and the YouTube account with over 500 subscribers as well. Everything Wax Heaven was, including the 2,000+ articles, close to 2 million visitors, and 25,000+ comments now belong to one man … and who is this man, you ask?

Well, his name is Austin and aside from being a true blue journalist like everyone’s favorite blogger, Chris Olds, he is also a collector from the 80’s and early 90’s who has just come back to The Hobby after a long absence and wants to write about his experiences coming back to a completely new scene none of us “old” collectors could have ever envisioned.

Sounds exactly like me, which is exactly why I knew he would be the best man to take over Wax Heaven. So expect a full return to stories, probably written much better than I ever could with an entirely new perspective on this wonderful hobby of ours that keeps us coming back for more even decades after our last pack of cards.

God bless you all for the wonderful support, emails, free cards and so much more. A special thanks goes out to Upper Deck and Chris Carlin for being the first to believe the “little guy” could one day compete and kick Goliath’s ass (and we certainly did). We had a great run and I’m very proud to see how immense the entire community has become since my arrival in 2007. See you all in the future and for those that want to keep up with me you can find me on Facebook.

Keep Collectin’,

Mario Alejandro Castillo





Taking Issue With Beckett Media

15 09 2010

Author: Mario Alejandro

No, it’s not what you think. I am not back to blogging full-time, nor is this another jab at Beckett Baseball’s editor, Chris Olds. Actually, since my departure from the blogosphere, Beckett’s blog has become a daily visit for me, believe it or not. While my days of collecting are behind me, I still have an interest in The Hobby, which is why I have become an avid reader of that site.

I no longer have time to keep up with the “inside” info great forums like Freedom Card Board provide, or from reading the hundreds of collector blogs so Beckett provides just the right amount of information for someone like me who wants just the facts sprinkled with the images and details. That way I can kinda sorta pretend like I know what I’m talking about on the rare occasion I log into my Wax Heaven Twitter account.

That being said, something Chris Olds said in a recent blog really irked me. Forget about the fact that I wrote about a very similar story well over a year ago. What really gets me is his assumption that many collectors “cringe” when reminded of Fleer’s Metal Universe line from the late-90’s. Yes, the cards were not as valuable as other releases from that year but are they any worse than today’s sets because it lacked relics and autographs and were a little, well, over the top? Absolutely not.

I challenge any collector to purchase a box of Metal Universe from the few years it was in production (I believe ’96-’98) and tell me what they think. First off, notice how much more enjoyable (and valuable) parallels are when they are actual tough pulls and not 10-12 per box. Second, look at the base cards and tell me when was the last time a card company put that much time and effort into their cards.

Just go out and bust a box of the uberhot 2010 Bowman and tell me how much fun you have if you don’t pull a Stephen Strasburg base or parallel. Yes, the cards are well produced, feature above average photography (most of the time) and the Refractor parallels are beautiful but how much time did you spend looking through your duds AKA commons?

With every card in Metal Universe, you had something great to look at and it didn’t matter if you just pulled a Ken Griffey Jr. or a Billy Ripken. In a day and age in collecting when parallels consist of an extra border or reflective film on a card, Metal Universe was a step in the right direction by a company that was clearly on its last legs.

No, I’m not calling for The Hobby to go back to the “good ole days” when base was everything, relics didn’t exist and autographs in packs were only done by Upper Deck; I’m just saying that a forgotten brand like Metal Universe deserves a little respect by Beckett Media since it is clear that collectors on eBay, browsing forums, and writing blogs already have plenty of respect for this unique brand from yesteryear.

For more coverage on Metal Universe, click HERE.





How To Put More Offenx into Topps Attax

11 08 2010

Author: Todd Uncommon

It does seem like there is life in the hobby for those under 15, and some gravity has accumulated around Topps Attax.  On June 26th, national championships were held for Topps Attax baseball at Citi Field.  Ike Davis was on site, as promised, but how cool was it to have Keith Hernandez be the emcee?  I wonder if that was a surprise for the contestants.  And their moms.

These championships are a good idea, and should be kept up, and expanded, as long as Topps Attax continues to live on.  Since the brand started last year with baseball, Attax has expanded to include Pucks, Slams, Matches, and well, NFL Football most recently.  Topps appears to be committed to promoting and expanding the sports card gaming brand for the foreseeable future.

There may be potential for Attax to be the sports-based gaming card that can add new life to sports card collecting in general, especially with the younger generation.  Even with console games, television, schoolwork (really?), and every other activity kids have available to them today, many still choose to collect and play Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Bakugan, and every other anime card game out there (Zatchbell, Pokemon, Digimon, Dragonball, and on and on…).  However, I think there are a few things holding Attax back from really competing on the same footing.

  • Round the corners, please.  The cards are a little schizophrenic; they’re not quite full baseball cards (no stats, numbering, etc.), but are expected to be used as game cards. Used as game cards = going to receive “wear”.  Sharp corners undermine its playability somewhat, like the card should be in a sleeve, case, or page only, and not play ready without wrecking its sports card “value potential”;
  • Durability! Every Magic or anime game card out there is more shaped like (rounded corners), and feels like (coated), a playing card than a traditional sports card.  They seem more durable and ready to play, rather than “will I ruin my card if I play with it?”  The Puck Attax game cards were made circular to avoid violation of the exclusive NHL license to Upper Deck.  If Topps didn’t make a [square sports card], but made a (round game piece) then they were in the clear.  Genius, really.  The got to make a card-like product with the NHL’s blessing, and also come up with a design that is, lo and behold, more durable to play with;
  • Add a greater element of the chase.  Every collectible card game (CCG) out there has a standard common, uncommon, rare, and super rare seeding process in every booster pack.  Make cards along that tier, and desirability goes up.  I’ve seen kids barter for rare anime cards (like I used to with baseball cards) with tactics that would make an Antwerp jeweler blush;
  • Make an easy checklist and number the cards, even on the front in mouse type, if that’s what it takes.  Attax’s ready-to-game status is hindered by the shape, but conversely, its status as a collectible also is hindered because you just don’t know what’s good to get, exactly, especially when a kid (and parent) is at Target, deciding whether to buy it or not, given neighboring alternatives. Yes, even those Bella Sara cards;
  • It’s the Attax UNIVERSE!  Now that there’s five different versions of Attax, it would be sweet to come up with rules to have a meta-game with their values.  Payton Manning vs. John Cena!  Vladimir Guerrero vs. Cristiano Ronaldo!  Given that the current releases have different backs (and shapes with Puck), that may be difficult.  However, that idea may open the door to plan ahead for cross-sport potential in future designs;
  • Use the sports property effectively!  Past editions of Attax with foil versions just aren’t going to cut it.  Let Panini do the foil thing; if they could coat LeBron James in foil and sell off slivers of him as relics, I think they might give that a try.  What about autos?  As far as I know, there’s no such thing as autographed anime cards.  Even artist-signed Magic cards are a yawner idea.  I was just thinking the other day, “If Topps has this fierce backlog of sticker autos they need to use, why not put them on a more budget “game” card like Attax, and add value and a chase factor to the product?  How much cooler would it be, as a kid, if you could slap down a Ryan Howard auto FTW?”

Topps Attax with autos! (But does it have a card number?) - image courtesy of dacardworld.com

It’s nice to see that there are some attractive autos in with the Attax NFL Football cards.  If we’re looking for innovation in the sports card business, some of it may be with Topps Attax.

So where’s the Keith Hernandez Topps Attax card with a Moustache hair relic?  I’m sure Keith’s ‘specialty’ value would be, like, 306.

“Say ‘hi’ to your mom…”





Chase the Base?

10 08 2010

Author: Todd Uncommon

Contained in responses to a “state of the hobby” thread today on SCU, the discussion largely turned again towards whether the hobby would do better to market directly to kids, or to just assume that someone older always buys the cards.  Is it true that kids today don’t buy them with their own money, and might get them only in some sort of trickle-down effect of collectibles?

It is very hard not to extrapolate personal experience as a kid too far into the present. The target market for cards had always been kids, at least until 1989. I think it is safe to say that Upper Deck’s debut with premium cards at premium prices started the end of the kid-budget era.

In 1981, whatever money I got as a kid–allowance, small job, gifts, recycling proceeds, even found change–easily would pay for a fistful of card packs at the counter of my local supermarket or drug store. 25, 35 or 40 cents didn’t take long to add up to buy just one.

Back when 30¢ could get you 15 best friends (and a sticker!). For a while. Maybe.

Today, “retail” options are pretty much limited to discount mega-chains like Target and Walmart, and that same fistful of packs basically come prepackaged in a blaster for $20. Even accounting for inflation, those prices (for arguably less desirable product than hobby edition) are out of reach for any frequency on a kid’s budget, so I am convinced that it is more often some adult’s money that really is the revenue source.

I have to give credit to the card makers for actually trying to make lower-cost products in an attempt to get closer to kids’ budgets: Upper Deck Victory, First Edition, Topps Total, Opening Day, etc. to name a few.  As much of a nostalgic note as it strikes with me to have 99 cent pack options on the store shelves, there is also one inescapable truth. Nobody wants these products.

Why?  Well, the allure of pricier brands is strong, and their lottery-style hits are glitzier than those from these budget brands, even if the cheaper sets have them at all.  Add the fact that with some of these lower cost products, you really can see the quality reduction to meet that price point. UD First Edition is an awful product; it’s basically the standard set, but with the attractive life in it sucked out so it could be sent back in time and sold into Cold War-era Bulgaria.

In trying to think as a kid, I can see why they might spend their three bucks on one pack of Yu-Gi-Oh! or M:TG with a guaranteed rare / shiny / powerful card in the mix, compared to three packs of stodgy, limp looking cardboard.

Hi! Magicians and clowns use me for flash paper at birthday parties!

Topps Total sometimes felt like it was printed on notebook paper, the cards were so thin.  Who wants these when somebody’s richer friends are getting at least flagship to high-priced and shiny cards from their mom, dad, or designated guardian?

I think the secret is not in finding a cheaper price for kids to afford.  What needs to happen, and I don’t know if it’s even possible at this point, is to make base cards desirable again.  Let’s face it, base cards are basically packing material for wide distribution of the hits these days.  Decoy support.  No better than gum, stickers, puzzle pieces, team logo holograms, or lenticular trivia cards used to be.

Now that overall populations of hits like autos and relics are in a glut, to the extent that you can get 4/$10 at your local card shop, the status of the base cards, even in the priciest of wax boxes, has fallen even further.

What "mojo hitz" looked like when your uncle was a boy.

To use my frame of reference as a kid in the 80s, finding the ’81 Fleer Fernand(o), the ’84 Topps Mattingly, or the ’85 Topps Gooden in a  40 cent pack *was* the hit.  Sure, that aspect of getting a lottery hit was present, even back then.  However, today, the lottery ticket appeal is actively marketed, rather than being a market effect of its own accord based on player or team popularity.

The last great base card?

Is making base cards the new chase cards even possible? I think the last time base cards were desirable on their own was 1990 Leaf.  If you got a 1990 Leaf Frank Thomas, you were doing really well.  Since then, chase cards, inserts, parallels, autos, and relics have all come and gone as gimmicks, taking our eyes off the mark of collecting “base” cards just because we like them, not because of what we think the inserts might be worth to someone else.





Here We Go Again

14 07 2010

Author: Todd Uncommon

Yeah, I know.  It’s been since the end of April, whether it’s Mario, Matt, or me posting on Wax Heaven.  What can we say?  At least we’re still here.

Although my team’s not doing very well at it this year, I still am enjoying being part of A Cardboard Problem‘s hobby blogger fantasy baseball league on Yahoo.  I just so happen to have Steepin Strapsborg on my roster.  Like a dork, I drafted the guy at the beginning of the season, and held him on my bench until the beginning of June.  At least I remembered to start him when the time came.

As it happens, I was making an early morning (Pacific Time) visit to my team page (Victorious Secret) today. Beside each player’s name is a folder icon, which sometimes has that little new-folder-bling version, meaning there’s recent news from the fantasy rumor aggregation mill.  Today, the updated news item about Strasburg included a tidbit about the Bowman Red Auto 1/1.  It looked a little something like this:

Sooprise, sooprise, sooprise.  Hot on the heels of an announcement that the 2010 edition of Strapsborg-a-thon might stop before the end of the season, now seems to be the time to sell one of the new important cards of the hobby. It’s hard for me not to smirk and be cynical about the auction, but at least you get the biggest images yet of the (curved) grading (just like middle school geometry, but with more money involved) that this specimen received from Beckett.  Its important-ness must have counted for 1.5 points of the total grade, at least.

Is this a sign of Strapsborgianism cooling off?  Is now the time to get in, or to get out?





Bummer, Topps …

30 04 2010

Some readers of Wax Heaven may have noticed that in the few instances that I have been blogging, more often than not it’s about wrestling. You see, having had a baseball-loving wife for four years meant that I spent 99% of my time following the sport with her by my side. Now, it’s just no fun doing it alone so rather than follow my Florida Marlins and Andrew Miller, I’ve begun watching WWE and TNA wrestling to pass the time.

Unfortunately, it’s just not as grand as it once was when I was a kid or even young adult. Quite honestly, it’s brutally bad and embarrassing at times, especially the shows being pumped out by Total Nonstop Action, unless your idea of entertainment is watching your grandparents battle it out in a steel cage till one is left bleeding to death over a piece of jewelry (WWE Hall of Fame ring).

Anyway, it’s not all bad. There are some wrestlers who I enjoy following. For example, Ted Dibiase Jr. is now sporting his daddy’s Million Dollar Belt, which is not only awesome for nostalgic reasons but it also makes up for his lack of any personality and skills in the ring. In the 80’s, that was without a doubt the coolest of all championship belts, even if it meant nothing.

Chris Jericho is also still a blast, despite not being anywhere near as cool as he was in the late-90’s and early part of this decade. That’s what he gets for doing all those VH1 “I Love” specials. Randy Orton is perhaps my favorite heel (AKA bad guy) today but without a doubt the only wrestler that keeps me tuned in week after week is CM Punk and his Straight Edge Society.

Unlike most WWE creations, Punk lacks the size and cartoon-like muscles to be the main guy at WWE (although he came close) but that’s just fine with me. Currently he’s playing the role of tormentor to Rey Mysterio Jr. and what he did to his family on the birthday of Mysterio’s young daughter will go down for  me as one of the best promos I’ve ever watched in over 20 years of being a wrestling fan.

You can watch the whole thing here.

Anyway, Topps has released an early preview of 2010 Topps WWE and while the autograph checklist is a huge improvement over 2009’s list, I think it’s time Topps finally scraps those loud & obnoxious holographic stickers once and for all. Yes, the sound you hear is that of me beating a dead horse but you gotta admit he had it coming.

In the past the stickers have worked with some releases like the futuristic Finest brand but really, enough is enough. Look at what Tristar is doing with their stickers. For the first time ever I can honestly say Tristar is doing much better work than Topps when it comes to the wrestling licenses. Yes, I know stickers suck but if you are going to do it, at least find a way to execute it without destroying the work of the design team.

Come to think of it, why are these even stickers in the first place? Unlike football, baseball, and other “real” sports … wrestling has no off-season. These guys bust their ass 365 days a year and none will ever see the type of money that a prima donna like Alex Rodriguez will get so why not have these hard-signed?

Below is a preview of what is most likely CM Punk’s first certified autograph. Aside from the terrible sticker autograph and the fact that he’s been paired up with someone who won’t be around in a year’s time … the card itself doesn’t quite live up to the expectations of this Punk fan.

You can see a full preview of 2010 Topps WWE here.





This Card Makes Me Sad

21 04 2010

Author: Mario Alejandro

Take a look at this dual game-used memorabilia card featuring the Bash Brothers from 2010 Famous Fabrics. While it’s the card several collectors have been waiting for, it’s an absolute FAIL on so many levels.

Let’s ignore for a moment that the two pieces of fabric, while larger than normal pieces you’d find in Topps and Upper Deck most of the time, is plain and boring. There’s not a single photo anywhere on the card.

Yes, there’s a little graphic of a hitter (a lefty no less) but it’s clearly something pulled from a generic image program and bears no resemblance to “Mr. Truth”, Canseco and “Mr. Denial”, McGwire.

This is exactly why so many of us are mourning the imminent death of Upper Deck. What other company had the balls, err … intestinal fortitude to give player collectors new cards of Pete Rose and Jose Canseco without fear of a backlash?

Topps certainly won’t touch those two despite strong sales on the secondary market for both players and a very strong demand as visible through card trading message boards and blogs.

For those interested in this card (and there are some desperate few), you can check out the eBay auction HERE. It’s currently up to nearly $30 dollars with three bids.

Hey, there’s a sucker born every minute …