How Topps Missed the Boat and Created an Underrated Classic

Like it or not, at one point in time there was no one in the game of baseball better or more popular than Jose Canseco. This is a fact that cannot be argued. HOW he became so good, of course was through the help of Steroids. Still, Jose took the baseball world by storm and crushed it out of the park in the world of trading cards, simultaneously.

Well, no matter who you ask, universally, Jose’s 1986 Donruss Rated Rookie was the end all, be all. I personally walked into a hobby shop in 1990 and stared at it behind a thick glass case with a very small sticker displaying a price of $160 dollars. This was a card that I wouldn’t be able to purchase for a decade, once Jose’s stock plummeted to Circuit City-type levels in the late-90s.

One card that I was able to afford was Jose’s 1986 Topps Traded, which was considered an XRC or eXtended rookie card. The highest I recall seeing the XRC in a card shop was for $25 in the early 90s. I was lucky to be gifted the card by my aunt around that period because otherwise it would have been out of my price range for a few more years.

Here’s the thing, unlike the iconic Donruss Rated Rookie everyone knows and at one point or another, loved, the Topps XRC actually captured Jose’s smug and unfriendly persona To A T. The much more popular Donruss card just featured an up-close photograph of Jose and his teenage-level mustache which still hadn’t filled in ten years later with the Boston Red Sox.

For once in their storied history, at least for a good 4-5 years while Jose’s career was booming, Topps had to play the role of underdog to Donruss. Of course, it didn’t last long and by 1992, Jose was beginning to show serious chinks in his armor all while younger, friendlier, and better players began to skyrocket to baseball fame (Griffey Jr., F. Thomas).

Ultimately, Jose’s stock never recovered and most of his fans moved on to other players after he was unloaded to the Texas Rangers. With every pit stop and injury along the way, eventually Jose faded into oblivion and was considered nothing more than a “wasted talent”, according to many baseball insiders and analysts.

Had Jose continued on his meteoric rise, eventually, his Donruss rookie card may have lost some luster after the company was stripped of their MLB license. In an alternate universe where Jose remained the King of Baseball from 1993 to the early 2000s, Topps’ underrated XRC may have passed the Donruss card in relevancy.

Unfortunately, the truth is both original cards are dead in the water unless you somehow have a pristine, graded version of either one. Topps, unlike Donruss, can continue to tinker with greatness and has produced painted-style tributes, as well as buybacks, Chrome & Refractors versions and even the card you see below.

Officially, as a Jose Canseco collector since 1990, the 2017 Topps Clearly Authentic is now my all-time favorite card of Jose. I shouldn’t be surprised that a new card that pushes all the right buttons of nostalgia would win the top spot but seriously, I’ve never seen a more beautiful, baseball card.

Thankfully, the card is numbered in the 100s which has placed its current value in the $50 dollar range (and dropping). If Jose can somehow keep out of the TMZ Breaking News death alarm, something which may prove difficult considering his 30+ years of Steroid abuse, I may eventually be able to pick this card up for a decent price.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One thought on “How Topps Missed the Boat and Created an Underrated Classic

  1. I grew up in the Bay Area and a big A’s fan… and saw first hand how crazy things got in the hobby when Canseco was at the top of his game. Good times.

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