Analyzing A Killer Autograph

7 11 2017

Let me start off by saying that I am not a fan of Chris Benoit. Obviously, I don’t condone or make excuses for what he did ten years ago. I was shocked but during that era it seemed like a notable wrestling death came monthly and wasn’t surprised to see Benoit join that group of wrestlers dying young. I remember attending a WWE PPV and sitting front row in 2002 while Benoit walked just feet from me and my sister. He was short but had the most impressive physique of anyone on that show. That includes young (at the time) wrestlers like Batista and Brock Lesnar. Simply put, it seemed impossible that his body was created naturally and as it turns out, it wasn’t.

I’m not here to talk about Chris Benoit, however. I simply want to analyze what is most likely his two best autograph releases. Unlike stars from the 80s who stuck around, Benoit died before The Hobby had a chance to absolutely destroy the value of his autograph. He may have 1 or 2 more certified autos on cardboard but essentially these are his two, main releases and believe it or not, they are still selling for respectable prices these days despite the horrific actions taken by Benoit in 2007.

First up we have this Heritage Chrome produced by Topps just a year before Benoit’s death and you talk about aging badly? Those loud, holographic sticker autographs that were all the rage by Topps during those years look absolutely awful today. For one, unless you have a bright, futuristic-style design … the holograms stick out like a sore thumb. Second, unless you have the most steady hands on the planet, the sticker won’t be centered/straight and it will be extremely noticeabled and distracting to many collectors.

While there’s no visible print run on these cards, odds are there can’t be TOO many considering that these sell for well over $100 on eBay. While, I have no idea exactly what Topps’ company is like, I wouldn’t be all that surprised to find out that there are still sheets of Benoit’s signature in a vault somewhere. I mean, I bought a box of band-aids 6 years ago and I still have half a box left in my medicine cabinet. There’s no way Topps used up every last one of these. Just don’t expect to see them appear on new cards anytime soon.

On a side note, this set also features a now very-hot autograph from Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, who succumbed to Cancer last month.

Now, when it comes to legendary sets in wrestling NONE comes close to the amazing. WCW/NWO release from 1998. With hands down the single greatest autograph checklist in wrestling trading card history, it’s no surprise that this set is still going strong on eBay nearly 20 years after its release. Featuring autographs from legends such as Sting, Hulk Hogan, Chris Jericho and Bret “The Hitman” Hart doesn’t hurt, either. However, it’s the deceased checklist that really hits home including autos of “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Eddie Guererro.

What really sets these cards apart is the ON-CARD autographs which means at one point or another, these wrestling heroes (not counting Benoit) actually handled these cards. As you can see from the sample below, these cards look 100 times classier than the 2006 Chrome versions. Turns out all you really need for a memorable set is a great checklist and “less is more” design. You don’t believe me? Check out this Bill Goldberg from the very same set which recently sold for $1,000 dollars. That’s a grand for a card with no serial numbers, no parallels, and no memorabilia shoved into it.

As for the Benoit in this set, one recently sold for $350 which goes to show just why this set is still King of all wrestling sets and don’t be surprised to see it in the news again when other notable wrestlers pass on. Yes, I’m looking at you, Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall and “Big Poppa Pump” Scott Steiner. I’m not wishing ill on these three but if you’ve seen any of them lately they all look incredible frail and broken down.

So there you have it. Two of the most notorious trading cards in our hobby. It’s not often you will find cards signed by killers. Drug addicts, cheaters, liars, and men who batter women are fairly common but these two cards take the cake. I’ve long suffered the stigma of collecting a player who was hated by many. I can’t even count how many times I’ve been mocked at card shows and shops for even asking if they have Jose Canseco cards. I can’t even begin to imagine going to a card show looking for a Chris Benoit card.

Advertisements




Aging Like Fine Wine or Moldy Cheese?

6 11 2017

Much like humans, baseball cards age. Not just physically thanks to creased corners, mysterious stains or that terrible cigarette odor you’ve likely encountered at one point or another as a collector. No, the card designs themselves age. Don’t believe me? Look at some late-90s releases from the likes of Pinnacle Brands and Pacific Trading Cards. It’s hard to find that perfect baseball card with a design that can live forever in the hearts of collectors and then of course, there are the players. Let’s just face facts, some cards could be created by Rembrandt himself but if the player on the front is, say someone like Chris Sabo  or Dan Uggla … you’re SOL.

Now, I’m not saying the player on the card has to look like (insert good-looking actor/model/whatever) but it helps if he’s easy on the eyes at least a little. The 80s weren’t exactly known for “cool” baseball cards but to me something about Fleer’s 1987 “Award Winner” set always stuck out in my mind. Especially now in a world of two dozen parallels, 10 versions of sticker autographs, and whatever piece of memorabilia that can be inserted. To me, nothing beats a plain, old GREAT-looking baseball card and this set had quite a few. Award Winners featured great action photography (Kirby Puckett, Roger Clemens) but also threw in some nice posed shots from Canseco (below) and Don Mattingly.

Yes, there were also some really BAD cards like this Mike Scott but again, he’s not very easy on the eyes to begin with. That’s where the Jose Canseco card below comes in. To me, it’s almost perfect. Notice how there’s no intrusive serial numbering or an ugly piece of chopped up wood ruining the overall look. And if you like sticker autographs, you will have to go elsewhere because this is a no-frills, no gimmick … as cheap as it gets in terms of baseball cards. Even back in 1990, these cards carried little to no weight when making a trade. Simply put, they were barely a step above a non-licensed, 7/11 or Wonder Bread release because they weren’t a major, flagship release. They were practically worthless and used as filler to add to your player collection so one could imagine their level of respect from collectors nearly 30 years later.

Basically, unless you have a gem mint graded copy … it’s worth almost about us much as a few plies of toiler paper. In fact, you can buy a case of 240 sets for $65.99 on eBay. That’s approximately 11,000 of these cards. Well, there you go. As for graded copies, the most expensive one recently sold was a Gem Mint Jose Canseco which came in at $35.99. I don’t know exactly how many Gem Mints there are of this card but I can’t imagine there are many. I’d venture to guess less than 10.

Last I checked, Fleer was a dead brand in baseball. It’s a damn shame because this set would make for an AMAZING buyback program. At least from the players who are still with us. Topps was making some god-awful cards for K-Mart and Walgreens during the same period and now they can be found as Buyback autos. In my mind and I’d imagine in the mind of other collectors out there, these now-forgotten gems put Topps’ best second-tier releases to shame and still deserve a better fate than eBay purgatory.

Here’s hoping Fleer has one final run in our hobby.





The Age-Old License vs. Unlicensed

6 11 2017

During Wax Heaven’s heyday an entire decade ago (yes, it’s been a long time) one of the biggest issues I had with trading cards was unlicensed releases. To me, everything had to be Upper Deck or Topps and 99% of unlicensed cards at best looked cheap and at worst were laughably bad. Well, ten years is a LONG time and while I have admitted to missing a LOT of time … it appears not much has changed in this hobby. There are tons of cards being produced with even more parallels. Bats, gloves, and other items are still being destroyed and inserted into cards and there is now an insane amount of autographs (on-card and sticker) that you’d think would have killed the hobby. To me, in 2007 a Jose Canseco on-card autograph was something rare and truly worth chasing. There have been so many autographs released since then that I’d be more interested in a nicely-designed card or a retro-style re-release of one of his old cards. I just have no interest in a signed Jose Canseco card when there appear to be literally a million out there.

As always, to me card design is still the #1 reason for me to shell out my hard-earned money for a baseball card. For the record, it’s been almost three years since I’ve made a purchase but I’ve been lurking eBay now for three weeks doing my usual searches so I know sooner or later I’ll pull that trigger and then before I know it I’ll be knee-deep in baseball cards again. It’s an obsession that has never truly died. I’ve been a card collector most of my life and nothing has permanently stopped that. Not kids, relationships, fast cars, women, nothing. When the smoke settles, I will always run back to my 1,000+ collection of that washed-up, crazy old man who I fell in love with, figuratively, so many years ago before video games were as advanced, before the internet, tablets, smart phones, and Donald Trump as the President.

Below are two examples of high-end Jose Canseco cards. One is licensed, one is not. Both have those high-end gimmicks that collectors love and love to hate. However, one thing for sure is certain … they were a lot more pricey ten years ago than they are now. Don’t know if that’s all across the board or just for Jose Canseco in general but it’s interesting how inexpensive the best baseball cards the Hobby has to offer (as far as flash) have come down. I should probably celebrate because I can now afford all those insane cards I was never able to a decade ago but to be honest as nice as they look, they pale in comparison to a late-90s, extremely rare insert.

So let the competition begin!

2017 Topps Triple Threads

This card has it all. It features Jose in his prime years with the Oakland A’s. The particular photo used is probably from 1990 or ’91. It has a piece of a supposed, game-used bat and a well-designed spot for a sticker autograph. At least, it looks like a sticker to me. I’ve never seen these cards in person. Oh, and let’s not forget the pretty low serial number (47/50) and of course the ability to use MLB logos. Surprisingly, this card has a Buy It Now price of $39.99 or Best Offer.

Personally, I love the entire look of this card. Everything about it is in perfect place and the photo itself is awesome. I’d love to see a more weathered bat piece and not something Jose probably used to swat away paparazzi with but beggars can’t be choosers. Not that I consider myself a lowballer but I wouldn’t offer more than $25 for this card. You see, Jose’s autograph is just not very rare and that bat piece does nothing for me. To be completely honest, it’s not even worth a $20 but just to TRY to stay on the seller’s good side I would bid a little higher.

***EDIT***

Holy cow, I still got it. I see a completed listing for this same card sold for $20.75. Also, the ones #’d to just 99 sell for LESS than $10.00. Wow, that’s pretty shocking. Guess I was right about Topps’ flooding of the autograph market. Personally, I’d love to have this card for under $10 any day of the week even if it means it being numbered to 99 instead of 50.

– – – 

2016 Diamond Kings

Here we have Diamond Kings from what I’m guessing is Panini/Donruss. This card features two, small bat chips which I’m sure are certified as being game-used or Jose-touched or whatever. It also features what I’m positive is a clear autograph sticker and not as nice as Topps’ placement. But what this card lacks in that part of the aesthetic I believe it makes up in the art-style photograph it used on the card. It reminds me of a 1996 or 1997 Leaf product that I can’t quite recall minus all the gimmicks, of course.

This card is serial numbered to 99 and is on eBay for $24.99 with no Best Offer option. Compared to the Triple Threads, this one is polluting eBay on a much smaller scale. There are currently only two available with the other being more reasonably priced at $20.25. It’s at best, another $10 card.

***EDIT***

Once again, I hit the nail on the head. One identical copy sold for $9.49. To be fair, one did sell for $15 a few days prior. The thing is, that Triple Threads is a new Corvette and this Diamond Kings is a new Camaro. No way the Camaro sells for more, not even the Z28. For the record, I drive a Camaro.

So there you have it. Two recent, high-end, gimmicked to the stars, Jose Canseco cards. If I had to choose, I would easily grab the Diamond Kings for its retro style, memorabilia and sticker and all for under $10. It wouldn’t be a memorable purchase by any stretch but it is a nice addition to any collection for that price. The Topps card is just too expensive and to be quite honest, all those high-end brands have the same look and feel (from what I’ve seen). I don’t know how to describe it so I’ll just say they look like futuristic, Marvel X-Men cards. I’d even be hesitant to pay more than $15 for the one #’d to 50. However, if I could grab both for under $20 I’d be the happiest collector of all time!





I Don’t Know Baseball Cards

3 11 2017

Man, a lot has changed. Or has it? I can’t tell. I know “my guy”, Jose Canseco, last played in a Major League game 16 years ago. That’s 3 times longer than any period I’ve ever collected baseball cards. Sure, my player collection started way back in 1990 but there have been very long gaps throughout my time as a collector. I can, however, still proudly say that I still own that very first Topps Ames Jose Canseco card my mom bought me as a happy, go-lucky 9 year-old kid.

Anyway, I’ve been browsing eBay lately looking at what “new” cards are being produced and while everything looks pretty cool to a once-again, now-aging card newbie, it is disappointing to see that most cards being released (and there’s a lot) feature recycled photographs. It’s unfortunately something I understand considering the last time my player played in an MLB game, George W. Bush was just entering office.

Jose Canseco is certainly one of the most photogenic players of all-time but having come up way back in 1985 before computers and other technology took over the world, I can’t help but think MOST of what I’ve seen on cards and magazines is about all that’s available from ’86-’93. I have a Samsung Galaxy S8 which I’ve owned for 6 months and it is currently holding over 1,000 photos and several dozen videos. Back in 1985, that feat would be impossible to carry around or even imagine.

For now, I’ll make do with all these fancy, new cards that bring me back (only a little) to my Golden Age of collecting in 1990 and I’ll appreciate the extra effort when Topps and whoever else is still around producing cards finds that one, special photograph to use that hasn’t been recycled over and over again for 30+ years. For example, like the Topps Tier One card featured in this post.

For one, it is from what I believe to be Jose’s 1987 season which would have been featured on cards released 1988. This puts this image on a pretty short list of companies that would have used it. For starters, Topps. Then of course, Donruss and Fleer. This was a year before Upper Deck entered the business and while there were lots of grocery store brand releases, I can’t say that I’ve seen this particular image ever used.

If I’m right about the year, it was before Jose really “juiced” up his, uhh … image. He had just put in a decent year of baseball but was hugely overshadowed due to the rookie sensation who hit 49 home runs out of the gate on Jose’s team, I believe his name was Mark McGrath or something. By 1988, Jose was the #1 player in baseball hands down but this was still a year away. I wonder if being forgotten and just hitting 31 home runs motivated Jose to take his game to the next level?

Kudos to Topps for digging this awesome photo up and slapping it on a new card.





The Only Baseball Card I Want

16 10 2016

It’s funny how things turn out. By the spring of 1992, Jose was a unanimous MVP, multiple time All-Star, two-time Home Run King, the highest-paid baseball player in the world and was even having an affair with the biggest pop singer of the times, Madonna. He was a young millionaire who owned a fleet of fast cars and mansions in multiple states. Unbeknownst to Jose, however, the tide was turning.

By 1992, younger and better baseball players were about to take over the game. In his home town of Oakland and pretty much every stadium Jose played in, he was being heavily booed. Hell, he was not even the best player on his own team anymore as the once quiet Mark McGwire added 30 lbs. of muscle mysteriously (and grew a wicked goatee). Jose struggled through the season until the A’s shipped him to Texas by the All-Star break.

When Jose was at his peak of stardom, it almost seemed like a bother to him. He ignored fans, didn’t sign autographs or pose for photographs and was rude to his own teammates and even his manager. The Atheletics clearly saw the writing on the wall because for the decade he played after his original trade, the greatness was for the most part gone. The game of baseball passed Jose by.

That’s why it’s so refreshing to see Jose Canseco still in the game, at age 52 and for a $2,500 dollar salary. That’s what the Diamonds paid him for his services this year. Of course, in typical Jose fashion … he didn’t complete his time there. I don’t know why and the few outlets that reported on his time in Pittsburgh didn’t even bother reporting on his disappearance. We the fans were promised a month, what we got was 5 games.

It’s clear that at 52, Jose can no longer play baseball. His .143 average as a hitter and his 0-2 record as a pitcher says everything you need to know. It is pretty awesome that the card below exsists. I don’t know its origins or if it is just someone’s idea of a custom card but I love seeing Jose on cardboard 30 long years after his debut in wax in 1986. I love cards of retired players but to me, Jose Canseco is still active, for now.

0815162





Analyzing A 2016 Baseball Card

14 10 2016

I have spent the past few days on eBay, looking at Jose Canseco baseball cards produced in 2015 and this year. I have seen a lot that I would consider “filler” and not worth picking up but this particular card (below) has caught my eye. It comes from Topps’ Tribute brand and features an early-year Canseco photograph, what appears to be an on-card signature, a late 90s’-style design and front and center serial numbering.

My only nit-pick for this card is that it celebrates Canseco’s ‘Ageless Accolade’ of his 1988 MVP season but features a photo of Jose from 1986 or 1987. However, only a Canseco nut would know the following worthless trivia. I don’t know how a casual fan would react to pulling this card of a still hated, very controversial figure. One thing that is unfortunate and Topps is mostly to blame, it is now a $25 card.

Years ago, this card would have booked for more than double that price but with the flood of Canseco autographs that have hit the market the past 3 years, to me … this is at best a card I would pay no more than $10 dollars for and that would be only for the neat design and aesthetics of the card and not the autograph itself. Simply put, Jose has destroyed the value of his autograph.

For a die-hard Jose Canseco fan, that’s actually a good thing because it saves you money in the long run but for the casual fan, it only brings Jose’s total worth down even more. Back in the early-90s when pack-inserted autographs hit the market (thank you, Upper Deck), $20 dollars would fetch the lowliest of journeymen not a former superstar, Rookie of the Year, and Most Valuable Player.

I haven’t quite started collecting Jose Canseco again but I am adding this card to my wish list of cards that I will eventually pick up on my journey of Jose hunting, which began in 1990 and somehow still keeps going 26 years after my first card hit my collection. To me, design trumps gimmicks and this card is about as eye-popping as a design as I have seen in a long time.

s-l500





Growing Old Sucks

11 10 2016

I remember bustin’ wax packs in 1990 and loving the card designs of the time. Occasionally, I’d pull something that would feature a design from yesteryear, be it the 60s or 70s and thought to myself how ugly these cards looked and how I wish they wouldn’t waste my time with them. I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like for a kid today looking for whatever crazy parallel or game-used-whatever is hot these days and instead find a base card from 1990 Topps. Just typing that out makes me feel a bit sadistic.

Come to think of it, I can’t even imagine a 10 -year old collecting baseball cards, period. Back in 1990, there was no Internet and the video games of the time left a lot to be desired. Baseball cards and toys were still part of the times. If I were 10 again in 2016 the last thing I’d want is a pack of overpriced baseball cards. No mom, I want an Xbox One game or a cell phone, which is now a computer/camera/video game system/TV, all in one.

The times have changed. A piece of cardboard with my favorite baseball player can never compare with 100+ hours of GTA V. Much like the Polaroid camera, this is one hobby that seems more obsolete with every year that passes. Still, here I am in 2016 thinking about baseball cards, even the old ones that didn’t have fancy cut-up pieces of jerseys and bats or stickers with autographs or a billion different colored versions, one more rare than the next. Just a photo, an awful 90s design and stats on the back.

My God, I have become an old man.

1990-topps-baseball-ken-griffey-jr