Enough articles have been written about Upper Deck’s introduction of the pack-inserted certified autograph in 1990. It was unfortunate that for baseball’s first autograph in baseball cards, they chose Reggie Jackson. Thankfully, Upper Deck remedied that faux pas by inserting Nolan Ryan autographs into their ’91 baseball release. Ryan, a 43-year-old legend, had reached the height of his popularity in the early 90s thanks to seemingly endless no-hitters, reaching 5,000 career strike outs, and beating the living day lights out of some punk rookie on the White Sox.
Today, a pack-pulled autograph numbered to 2,500 is worth about the price of a pack of Sharpies. Despite the fact that there are so many products and parallels, any given player’s autograph is completely overproduced and floods the secondary market. So yes, while Ryan’s Upper Deck Heroes autograph suffers from a high number of copies, there is a saving grace you may or may not have heard about. No, it’s not the on-card autograph, which today is becoming more and more rare as players are more difficult to deal with and card companies are working with smaller budgets.
Take a look …
As it turns out, The Ryan Express added an inscription (Strike Out King) to every 100th card, (100/2,500, 200/2,500, 300/2,500, etc.) essentially creating an autograph variation with just 25 copies in existence. Considering how many millions of cases Upper Deck printed of 1991 U.D. Baseball, finding one of the 2,500 Nolan Ryan cards was an astronomical feat but finding one of the 25 variations goes well beyond luck. I can’t even imagine the odds but you should probably head to Vegas if you’re not already a multi-millionaire by now.
To put it into perspective how valuable these 25 cards are just take a look at eBay completed auctions. Recently, one of the regular ’91 U.D Ryan autographs fell short of $200 dollars. On most days, you can find an ungraded copy somewhere between $200-$220, which will continue to drop as Ryan signs almost yearly for Topps Company. If you are a true Nolan super collector, now may be the best time to invest before the Hall of Famer’s health issues push this card back to early 90s Beckett price guide values, if you get what I’m trying to say.
It’s been several years since one of the 25 have shown up on eBay but the last one, sold in December of 2014, hit a mind-blowing $1,075. Sure, that’s nothing in today’s Hobby full of jersey patches, ultra-rare parallels, and the world-famous Superfractor, but this is a card found in 1991 Upper Deck. In case you forgot, ’91 UD is a product that regularly sells for less than $10 a box (and makes great firewood). Again, with Ryan’s age and past health problems … if we see another copy appear, it may be end up becoming one of the most valuable “junk wax” era cards of all-time.