If you weren’t a collector in 1997, in many ways, I feel sorry for you. In my opinion, it was the absolute best year in The Hobby. On one side you had Pinnacle Brands and Fleer / Skybox producing unique, quirky and super high-end cardboard that had collectors going absolutely bonkers. On the other side, you had Topps coming into their own with Refractors by producing one of the greatest Finest releases ever, along with the genius debut of Bowman Chrome. Even Upper Deck was on top of their game as they finally perfected holograms with SPx and introduced the first baseball “memorabilia” card.
As great as the competition was back then, it was easy to get lost in the fray. After all, you had six card companies producing extraordinary products. With so many brands coming in at once, sooner or later something was going to get overlooked. One of those products is ’97 Fleer Circa, a brand that featured an over the top “90s” design with several different backgrounds. Circa also featured a very rare parallel (for its time) #’d to 150 and even had autographs seeded at approximately 1:1000. I had lots of card shop buddies in 1997 and I never met one who opened more than a pack or two of Circa.
Anyway, Circa was almost instantly forgotten upon its release. In 1998, Fleer / Skybox attempted one last-ditch effort to save the brand but ultimately, it was not meant to be. In 2006, Upper Deck purchased what was left of Fleer Trading Cards and produced some terrible “Fleer” baseball cards that had none of the style and personality of Fleer from the 90s. Ultimately, the entire brand was retired from baseball (again) even before Upper Deck lost the right to produce licensed baseball cards. With the Fleer name stuck in limbo, we may never see Circa in baseball again.
So that brings me to this week, when rumblings of Topps Fire hitting retail shelves began to hit Twitter. I have a few Fire cards of Canseco from a year or two back and I was completely underwhelmed. That’s why I was floored when I saw Jose in ’18 Fire. The base card is absolutely gorgeous and features a great image of Jose that Leaf or Panini could never use and those colors … boy, they sure do remind me of a brand from the past. For some reason I just can’t quite put my finger on it. Oh yes, they remind me of Fleer Circa, that’s right! Weeeeell, maybe Circa’s second cousin.
Turns out 2018 Topps Fire was designed by Tyson Beck, a guy who looks way too young to have been around collecting cards in 1997. Either way, this is yet another 2018 Topps card I will be chasing. I have to admit, when it comes to producing Jose Canseco cards, Topps is batting well over .400 for the year. There have been very few, if any, Canseco base cards and parallels I’ve avoided this year. It’s the relic and autographs which seem to be their weakness as it comes to design. I’ve only picked up 3-4 “hits” in 2018 as many of them simply look dull and uninspired.
Introducing @Topps Fire Baseball 2018 🔥 I’ve worked on over a dozen trading card sets for Topps but these latest @MLB cards are special to me as they feature my logo on the back of the cards. Huge props to Topps for continuing to lead the way in this industry 💪 pic.twitter.com/uS6zbwDRjP
— Tyson Beck (@tysonbeckdesign) September 1, 2018
All biases aside, I will say this … 2018 is one of the best years to be a Jose Canseco collector (if you’re not selling off). The Clearly Authentic ’93 Finest and Bowman NSCC exclusive are some of the best cards I have added to my collection EVER. That’s 28 long years of collecting and I haven’t seen cards this good in a very long time. It still doesn’t change the fact that I want to see competition but at the end of the day, if Topps keeps producing these type of cards, I really have no need for any other company.
I am a selfish player collector. Always have been.