Things Were Different In My Day

Take a look at the card below. It comes from an overproduced baseball card era when card companies left their printers running full time and at full speed with hopes of artificially creating the next ’52 Topps Mantle. In the end, 30 years later, I can’t even say I blame them. No matter what these iconic, pieces of cardboard mean to us … to companies like Fleer, Donruss, and Topps, these cards were nothing more than a way to make as much money as possible. Business as usual. So if collectors were buying up wax at an all-time high, you can bet card companies wanted to benefit. The end result, unfortunately, is worthless “junk wax” that clogs up card shows, garage sales, eBay, and attics all over the United States.

The 1988 Fleer ‘Power Team’ card above isn’t anything special, as far as value is concerned. There are literally millions of copies that wound up in landfills, millions of copies in collections, and still many more millions of unopened boxes waiting to be busted open. However, to me it is special for a couple of reasons. First, it was one of the first baseball cards to feature the “Bash Brothers” and trust me, there would be several dozen more to come. Topps Company likely did it first with their ’88 Flagship but to me, the Fleer version had more style, color, and in my opinion, has aged much better. Dare I say, 1988 Topps was and always will be a bore.

Another reason it remains special to me is because it’s one of the ‘Original 10’, meaning one of the first 10 Canseco cards I owned in a collection that is now sadly is pushing 1,500 different cards. I picked this bad boy up in 1990, two years removed from Jose’s historic MVP season and at a time when ALL of Jose’s cards were extremely overpriced. I remember laying eyes on his 1986 Donruss Rated Rookie for the first time in a card shop that same year and being floored when the price tag read $165 dollars. For a 10 year old, those figures were astronomical. I finally did pick up my first copy of the Rated Rookie but in 1998 and for a whopping $8 dollars.

So even though it’s not a base card or a second year card, in 1990, this card was still worth a few bucks. As a kid, I spent countless hours looking at and organizing my collection and this was one card that got plenty of attention from a kid who idolized a player who would soon begin his descent into worldwide mockery. Sadly, even I couldn’t even begin to imagine what a joke my childhood idol would one day become. Still, I always wondered about the photo, which appears to have been taken at Fenway Park in 1987. Well, thanks to the power of the Internet, I now have a better understanding of one of my ‘Original 10’.

Photo courtesy of Mitchell Layton. Captured on July 19th, 1987 in Massachusetts. It’s not the exact photo used by Fleer but it comes from the same set of photographs, I am 100% certain. Just look at the stadium, Big Mac’s, 80’s-style gold chain and both player’s batting gloves with Jose’s green wristbands. Interesting to see a huge Marlboro billboard in full view of children and TV cameras. The decade of the 80s were a much different time. These days, you’d have protests, online petitions and more to have something like this removed from plain view.

If you ask me, I’d rather go back to 1987.

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The Exploitation of Fleer

I’m going to say something today that I’ve never said before in over 10 years as a card blogger. Despite being a die hard Pinnacle Brands aficionado, it was Fleer Trading Cards, not Pinnacle, that featured the best-looking designs and most unique inserts that have stood the test of time. Don’t believe me? Check out the recent Michael Jordan Fleer/Skybox PMG that sold for $350,000. That card doesn’t have a piece of game-used memorabilia embedded in it nor does it feature Jordan’s overpriced signature anywhere. It is just a marvelously beautiful and rare card from the 90s.

Last week, my Twitter timeline was flooded with Fleer cards featuring moments from Michael Jordan’s embarrassing Hanes commercials. I say embarrassing because in one of those clips, he actually sports a Hitler mustache and no one seems to bat an eye. At first, I figured some custom card maker had created these monstrosities and started spreading them around because to be completely honest, they looked like a dumpster fire, featuring mostly blurry screenshots of commercials. Surely, no company in their right mind would associate themselves with these cards, right?

Unfortunately, these are not custom cards but “official” Fleer licensed cards produced by the company that purchased Fleer in 2006 yet didn’t have a single clue what to do with the commodity. It wasn’t long before the Upper Deck Baseball brand suffered a sad, public death, which unfortunately swallowed Fleer Trading Cards as well. There was talk of a baseball comeback with Fleer being put ahead of their own Upper Deck brand, but according to many, that idea was ridiculed to the point of cancellation and has never been discussed publicly by Upper Deck again.

Well, Fleer is back, sort of. You can now find Fleer’s comeback attached to underwear. Sadly, I am 100% dead serious. There are 800,000 packs of these terribly cheap, Jordan Fleer cards sold with Hanes underwear in stores like Wal-Mart and Target. There are only ten autographs in the entire series meaning the odds of pulling one is over 1:100,000. More than likely, you’re going to end up with cards that not only are a disgrace to Fleer’s tradition of brilliant work, but also a reminder that some collectors are so addicted that they will literally buy anything.

If you go into a Walgreens or CVS, you will find a product of cards with a guaranteed hit often referred to as Fairfield Mystery Boxes. These boxes are filled with “junk wax” era singles that belong in a fire pit but with a $2 game-used relic or some never-was prospect autograph. I’ve seen several dozen boxes busted on YouTube and not once have I seen anything of value in them. This industry has someone found a way to repackage the same terrible “hits” you complain about in $150 hobby boxes and has managed to somehow sell it back to you again. Brilliant! Sometimes I get the feeling that collectors who are addicted to cardboard have zero standards.

For younger collectors who weren’t around in the 90’s or were simply too young to collect, let me show you the magic of Fleer / Skybox so you can see why an old fart like myself is once again on his 90s soapbox. Below are only a small sample of Fleer / Skybox Michael Jordan cards that were produced 20+ years ago. Unlike cards of today, many of these issues have become iconic and revered, to the point that the market has skyrocketed. It’s not just Michael Jordan. Tim Duncan hit $33K, Scottie Pippen, $22K, even a guy like Ray Allen hits $11K. Fleer was consistently producing top notch trading cards in the mid to late-90s that continue to break secondary market records.

… and ya’ll are going crazy over Hanes Jordan cards?!?

A Mysterious Broder Appears

As an exclusive Jose Canseco baseball card collector for 29 years, there is almost nothing I haven’t seen or know about. Frankly, as my collection pushes 2,000 different cards, there are three definite reasons why a card doesn’t make it into my collection.

The main one is, lack of funds. I have a nice job, a happy family, and baseball cards take up very little of my time and attention. If I have to choose between a trip to Disney or a $1,000 card, I’ll let Tanman splurge. It’s just cardboard.

The second is simply procrastination. This year, on my 29th as a Canseco collector, I finally registered with all three big sites (eBay, SportsLots, COMC) and went on a binge. For the longest, I just stuck to eBay and card shows. What’s the big rush?

Finally, the third is lack of interest in a particular card. Look, I love unlicensed, “Broder” cards as much as the next card addict but at some point you just have enough damn cards and the idea of buying another just doesn’t appeal to me.

That being said, this is not the case. Below is a “Broder” card from somewhere around 1988-1991 that I’ve never seen in my 29 years of collecting Jose. Big spender, Tanner, hasn’t either and he’s known for finding rare cards.

Unfortunately, the seller only states that her card shop gave them away in the early-90s. That alone is hard to believe considering how popular Jose was. It is standard size and has a blank back. Also, in case you can’t tell …  the card is made of metal.

Recently, one of these from the seller sold for $16+ and today another sold for $15 before I could buy it. With today’s technology, a card like this is probably easy to make but the question is why would anyone waste their time with someone like Canseco?

I believe this card may just be one of the most rare, unlicensed baseball cards of the “Junk Wax” era. When two Canseco-collecting juggernauts with nearly 60 years experience between them have never seen it, you know it’s something special.

So my question to collectors is: Have you ever seen a card like this? Surely if they made Jose, there is a Nolan, a Cal, maybe even a Ken Griffey Jr. So what is this card and its origin? The world may never know.

You can read more on MLB’s most-hated, Rob Broder, HERE.