Analyzing an Iconic Baseball Card

The Original

As far as iconic Jose Canseco cards go, there aren’t many greater than his 1987 Topps All-Star Rookie. Sure, ’86 Donruss was THE card to own from ’88-’91 and ’86 Topps Traded was the first Topps release to hit fans of the future MVP but that didn’t keep collectors from chasing what was arguably Jose’s second most-popular card. Sure, those wood grain borders are memorable but what really sets this card apart was Jose’s uniform, which was already considered “old-fashioned” by the time Jose became a bona fide superstar just two years later.

The Pretenders


After his Rookie of the Year campaign, Jose was immediately overshadowed by Mark McGwire’s 49-home run, rookie season. Topps reproduced his ’87 Rookie Cup with Gallery of Champions, which came in Aluminum, Bronze, and Pewter. Were these the first official parallels? Possibly. Topps also had Jose in mini form but the card lacked the rookie cup and featured a photo taken either seconds after or before the original. These cards were fun but also “gimmicky” and not highly sought after.

The Early Tributes

Shortly before his tell-all book, Jose was still being regularly featured in baseball cards and in 2005 we got several early tributes to his ’87 Topps Rookie Cup card. Three of them alone in Topps Gallery. One was an “artsy” version of the card, which today could be replicated on any free app on your phone. The other two superimposed the actual ’87 card in the design, along with a game-used relic or a certified autograph (in sticker form). Another tribute came from 2005 Topps Rookie Cup and featured chrome technology.



Cheap Tributes

By “cheap”, of course I mean, inexpensive. The 2005 Fan Favorites was almost the greatest tribute to the original because it clearly featured a photo from Jose’s ’85 or ’86 season and got the colors correct. The only problem? It’s just a lousy picture. Despite being a relatively inexpensive card, it hardly ever makes its way on to eBay.

The second comes from Topps’ new regime and as expected, FAILS hard. For starters, the wood grain borders don’t match the original and the photo used on the card comes from Jose’s miserable 1997 return to the A’s after equally terrible stops in Texas and Boston. There are several parallels of this particular card, as you would expect in today’s version of this hobby, as well as a sticker autograph version. There is also an “All-Star” version of the ’87 Topps but that one isn’t worth discussing.


The New Generation Tributes

In 1990, cards and magazines were still all the rage. In 2018, kids have smart phones and video game consoles with computer chips strong enough to have taken man to the moon a few times over in the 60s. These days, it’s not kids collecting but those chasing that nostalgia hit and high-stakes gamblers. The two cards below feature technology that would have blown my mind when I began collecting in 1990. Sure, that was the year Upper Deck introduced pack-inserted autographs but those were rare.

For starters, both feature pack-inserted, certified on-card autographs. One takes an original 1987 Topps card, adds a gorgeous stamp and serial numbering and resells it to us for a much higher price. There are a few versions of these cards from different brands. The other features acetate technology in what is likely the best representation of the gimmick. It works and extremely well, making any card from Clearly Authentic a must-buy for ANY serious Jose Canseco collector.

The sad truth is for anyone born past the late-90s, Jose Canseco is a forgotten man, mostly known for his Steroid abuse and an embarrassing error made in Right Field. His card values are sinking and player collectors are dropping like flies, as Topps continues to overproduce cards featuring his autograph and/or game-used memorabilia. This is great news for loyal Canseco collectors like myself as these two cards below are what I’d consider THE best Rookie Cup tributes ever produced.


The White Whale?

I’ve seen printing plates go as far back as the mid-80s so there’s a possibility that four plates of the ’87 Rookie Cup exists or did so at one point. Odds are, however, that they were discarded. Plates weren’t inserted into packs until Pinnacle Brands did it a whole decade later so my dream of seeing one is likely never going to happen. Besides, with the kind of money Tanner was spending on Canseco cards, if it was out there, TanMan would have bought it by now for sure.

Still, a man can dream ….

One thought on “Analyzing an Iconic Baseball Card

  1. I can still see myself sitting in my family room busting boxes of 1987 Topps (purchased from Price Club) and making players stacks of rookies which included Will Clark, Wally Joyner, Bo Jackson, and of course Jose Canseco. They never ended up paying for my college education or buying me a house, but they provided priceless memories.

    P.S. I absolutely love those Clearly Authentic rookie reprint acetate autographs!

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