The Strange World of Industry Celebrities

The other day while browsing Twitter at work one particular Tweet absolutely grabbed my attention. It was a photo of the Leaf Trading Cards booth taken by @PorterMan20 from the 2018 National Sports Collectors Convention. The photo featured what appeared to be cut signatures of Leaf’s head honcho, Brian Gray, with a selling price of $20 dollars. The Tweet was presented “without comment” but the overall gist was that it was absolutely tacky of Brian to have this particular card on display.

In the past I may have ripped Brian a new one but it’s 2018 and industry executive autographs seem to be “in” these days. One of Topps’ most well-known products, Allen & Ginter, is littered with Topps employee autographs. Below is one particular card of a Patrick O’Sullivan, who is listed as a Sports Editor for Topps on his LinkedIn account. He has literally been a Topps employee for three years. Previously, O’Sullivan worked as a construction laborer for half a decade.

I wonder if Construction Week Online paid tribute to his contributions?

I can’t tell you at what point the industry started sucking itself off and including their own autographs in very expensive products. I can however tell you when Pinnacle Brands did it and why it was done perfectly, much like everything else done by that company. The year was 1997 and Pinnacle was on the verge of introducing the first ever pack-inserted “one of one” card by including their printing plates into the debut of their New Pinnacle brand.

The printing plate was the “Golden Ticket” of 1997 and if you somehow found all 4 of one player, Pinnacle even offered a $35,000 bounty for them. Fun but technically impossible since eBay and social media was still not a thing, meaning you had better odds of winning the Powerball twice before finding all four plates of say, John Jaha. Furthermore, 1997 was Pinnacle’s last year in business so even if you did have the insane luck of finding all four, odds were you weren’t getting a penny back on them.

ANYWAY, Pinnacle’s final CEO, Jerry Meyer, hand signed every single printing plate in the set. That means he signed 800 plates for a brand that only made it one year in a company that was headed for a very untimely death. The difference is that Meyer wasn’t signing for attention. The plate was what mattered to every collector, the autograph on the back was just an added bonus and something that has become a bit of a collectible for us die-hard Pinnacle Brands fans and unofficial historians.

In the end, I don’t mind industry autographs JUST SO LONG as they are bonus “hits” in a box. 2018 Allen & Ginter is selling for upwards of $100 dollars per box and features some of the worst autographs and relics I’ve seen all year but in my mind it’s still better than a Susan Lulgjuraj certified autograph any day of the week. If a Topps employee autograph is my one autograph, I would be mad as hell especially if that employee has been with Topps less than five years. There’s absolutely no history there.

The Pop Century boxes are going for $150+ per box and feature just one pack and four cards. Again, if one of those cards is of Brian Gray, I am going to kick my own nuts and walk away from this hobby. That is, if I were foolish enough to still spend good money on hobby boxes. In Leaf’s defense, Pop Century looks amazing but it’s a product I would only purchase singles on eBay to make a killing off those poor souls who bought cases and cases of the stuff.

Card industry autographs are not a new trend and judging by collectors who defend and make excuses for certain ones by one particular company, odds are we will continue seeing Topps sneaking these in whenever they have an opportunity to do so, which I’m hoping is just once a year. Oh, and for all those Twitter ‘Stans” asking Susan and all these other industry people for an autograph at The National and on Twitter, this current predicament is all your fault.

That being said, still better than a Topps Rip Master autograph!

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