For an 18-year-old collector going on 8 years in The Hobby, 1998 was a dark time for me. For one, my favorite company, Pinnacle Brands, suddenly ended their run in trading cards. My back-up favorite, SPx, who had produced two great hologram-filled products, disowned holograms that year. Suddenly, up was down and I was about to embark on a collecting break which would not end until 2007.
One of the big baseball card stories of 1998 was the debut of Topps Tek. This was about the most 90s set ever, as the cards were printed on acetate and featured only 90 cards in the set. The catch was, every card had 90 parallels. Having opened two packs of this stuff in 1998, I could tell the technology just wasn’t there. The cards looked bland and felt cheap, despite all the gimmicks involved.
The following year, the set looked better but the checklist shrunk to just 45 players. For the second straight year, Jose did not make the checklist and by this point, I didn’t really care as it had been several months since I spent money on cards by the release of ’99 Tek. I put my Canseco collection in storage and moved on from my life of collecting but not before a few visits to the card shop, you know, as a follow-up.
In 2000, Tek finally included Jose Canseco in their set and it was their best-looking effort in three years. Once again, the set shrunk to just 20 parallels for each card but unlike previous years, Tek had several different photographs available besides the changes in pattern and color to generate interest. I still didn’t “get” Tek and apparently collectors didn’t either as the product was retired in 2000.
Fast forward to 2014 and I was on my way out of The Hobby again. Nothing really major at this time, just life was pulling me every which way possible and I didn’t have much time for blogging or collecting. However, I did hear rumblings about a return of an old school Topps product. My first guess was Topps Laser, a one-off that looked absolutely stunning but failed miserably. Nope, instead Topps resurrected Tek.
My official return to blogging came in late 2017 when I had a month-long vacation and not much to do. That break turned into almost daily articles until a very cruel friend and fan of Wax Heaven sent me a 2017 Topps Gallery Jose Canseco. It was my first card in three years and within weeks I was all over eBay, CheckOutMyCards, and now SportLots. The itch has returned and is stronger than ever.
To me, Topps Tek gets a terrible rap because it unfairly became the reason I stopped collecting in 1998. The truth is, I had outgrown baseball cards and with my favorite company out of the business, I didn’t feel a connection to trading cards any longer. 1998 Tek was a huge gamble by a company who had fierce competition at every turn in that era and it didn’t quite pay off.
As a collector, I have been lucky because Jose has been featured in base cards and autographs from Tek in the last three out of four years. He didn’t make the 2017 cut, although I’d love more than anything to see Tek cards of Jose with the Boston Red Sox. No word yet on 2018 Topps Tek, including if it is even returning but as a new fan that took 18 years to catch on, I sure hope we see one more year of Tek.
While doing a sort of spring cleaning on my Jose Canseco collection, which sucked up 12 hours of my weekend, I discovered I had only ONE 2000 Tek card of Canseco. That has already been rectified as I have spent a very small fortune to pick up lots of 2000 Tek, as well as several parallels from 2014-2016. Hey, better late than never. With the memory of Pinnacle fading, Tek just may wind up being my all-time favorite brand.