How a $1.39 Brought Me Back to My Youth

Way back in 1990 when baseball cards ruled the world and magazines were still a part of weekly purchases by just about everyone in America, Topps decided to throw their ring into the hat of baseball card publications. If I told you I remember what Topps Magazine was like, I’d be lying to you. It was yet another card related magazine to compete with my beloved Beckett Price Guide. To this day, I never owned a single issue.

Still, I was happy about its release because Topps Company produced a huge run of advertisements targeting us kids opening ’89 and ’90 Topps products that plastered Jose Canseco’s picture on everything. It should also be noted that MLB’s exclusive baseball card manufacturer featured the Steroid whistle-blower and former MVP on the cover of their first issue and rightly so because no one was bigger in the game at the time.


There you have it for those too young to remember when Jose Canseco was a superstar. Unfortunately, I never saw this issue in newsstands. Frankly, I’ve never even seen a newsstand. During those days, supermarkets and pharmacies had extensive magazine isles featuring Cracked, MAD, Tiger Beat, WWF Magazine and so much more. I would cherrish those moments of running errands with my mom because sooner or later she’d give in and buy me a magazine or a pack of cards. If I was lucky, both!

Truth be told, I collected magazines long before baseball cards. One day, while wasting time at an Eckerd’s Pharmacy, I picked up a copy of Topps Magazine to browse and to my surprise saw a page of baseball cards to cut out AFTER you pay and go home. I wasn’t with my mom that day but wasn’t about to go home without a particular card featuring my “Bad Boy” here, Jose Canseco. I am ashamed to say that I ripped out the card, put it into my pocket and ran all the way home.

Look, it ain’t pretty and the design screams 90’s style but one thing that always stuck with me is the photograph. The picture, taken from the 1989 season shows Jose in what likely was an easy pop-up for the opposing team. This was the season he broke his wrist in Spring Training and missed the entire first half of the year but came back early to play hurt. One thing missing from the photo is Jose’s cocky, arrogant face which can be seen in so many other baseball cards of the time.

Interestingly enough, this photo was hands down the best one used of Jose in any Topps product that year. The flagship used an awful batting practice shot, factory sets from Ames and Topps TV made a decent effort and their ‘Big’ line was just a disaster. A card almost as embarrassing to own as the 1991 Score Dream Team shirtless wreck which destroyed my 11th birthday party. Let’s just say Topps dropped the ball on 1990 Canseco cards and move on.

Fast forward nearly 30 years. Just the other day on Twitter while organizing my collection I ran across the Topps Magazine card and began to reminisce not only on its origins but the fabulous photo Topps found for this throwaway set. I even went as far as linking Topps to my tweet in hopes of either giving them an idea for future products or at least getting them to divulge some information on the card, the failed magazine venture, or even the photograph.

As you can imagine, the man who outed the Topps Company/MLB renewal before anyone else did, causing me to get un-followed by Topps, was completely ignored. No matter, I continued with my day and even purchased a few Canseco singles on eBay, including one of those God-awful green bordered Star sets from the 80s and 90s. I have so many already but when I find a new one I’m missing, I usually tend to pick it up.

I didn’t have a preview of the cards in the set except one because it was still sealed in a plastic case but for a few dollars it was worth the risk. When I got the package a few days later and found out the set was serial numbered to 1,500, I was somewhat pleased. Each and every card of the 10-card set was new to me and brought me so much joy almost thirty years since I began collecting in 1990.

… and then I saw the final card and well, have a look.

This 1991 set, which now featured a 2-year-old photograph of Jose granted me new access to the photo and even the Ninja Turtle design kills Topps’ awful magazine cut-out. It is absolutely awesome to find something new after 29 years of collecting. It may not be some super rare Tanman prototype or a “one of one” bat barrel or Superfractor but this card brings me back to 1990, which is about the best thing cards can do for me in 2019.

I don’t collect baseball cards for the thrill of getting rich or the excitement of pulling something that will turn a profit even. I collect the same player I fell in love with as a 10-year-old kid because in the end, I’m chasing that nostalgia high that will magically transport me back to 1990 when I was a kid riding next to my mom in the car without a single care in the world. No bills, no job, nothing but my collection and my unspent youth.

This is why at 38, I still collect and will probably continue well into my golden years.


2 thoughts on “How a $1.39 Brought Me Back to My Youth

  1. A few years ago… I went on a mission and tracked down all sixteen issues. I’ve read most of them cover to cover. Probably should dig them up and reread them.

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