Every singe day on Twitter I read collectors’ messages ranting about Panini America redemptions, complaining about Topps’ lack of quality control, or simply bitching about overpriced boxes that yield cards worth less than 10% of the investment. Still, no one seems to do anything about it. In 2007, I bought at least one Hobby box of every single Topps Company baseball release that year. It was an expensive experiment and also the last time I spent money on unopened product. Upon my return to collecting in 2018, I was hit by temptation frequently but ultimately only bought singles on the secondary market exclusively. I chose to stop spending my hard-earned money on “wax” but day in and day out, year after year, I see the same people complaining and ultimately, settling for less in order to scratch their collecting itch.
Most recently, collectors went GAGA over 2019 Topps WWE Transcendent, a $13,000 product that came with some of the hobby’s most embarrassing cut autographs in the history of collecting. You can read my scathing coverage here. The problem is that high-end breakers were heavily invested in this product therefor not a single negative word was uttered by breakers like LaytonSportsCards, HoudiniCollector, SteelCityBreakRoom, and others who were making money off the product. We are now in a new era of collecting where the actual card shop owners are the ones being honest with collectors, while high-end breakers do their absolute best to pull the wool over our eyes in order to keep their products moving day after day, all at your expense.
Here’s an idea. Instead of paying $3,000 for a Randy Savage card that looks like it was designed by a pre-school child making a collage, buy an actual, on-card Topps Macho Man signature. This card was licensed and produced by a much more respected version of Topps Company in 1998. Recently, a version Randy signed on both sides by mistake sold for just $650 dollars. That’s TWO Macho Man signatures on a well-designed card for much less than the awful cuts produced by Topps Company. What’s great about this hobby is that during the days of free competition, all card manufacturers were working on creating the best products around to compete for your business so there is so much from 20-25 years ago that is relevant even today in 2019.
In 1990, Upper Deck introduced the pack-inserted certified autograph with a ‘Baseball Heroes’ Reggie Jackson card that forever changed the game. BUT DID YOU KNOW … that in 1991, the company that would soon be known as Pinnacle Brands crushed Upper Deck’s innovation with on-card autographs of one of the greatest players of all-time, Mickey Mantle? Lazy card companies have been advertising awful Mantle cut signatures for more than a decade, which always sell for more than they are worth but these ’91 Score cards continue to fly under the radar and are way more “traditional” (full photo, MLB license, on-card auto) that modern cuts. Why anyone would want a cut autograph, usually plain in design and featuring cut-off signatures is beyond my understanding.
To me, Mickey Mantle had one of the most beautiful signatures known to man. I collect one player exclusively, but if I didn’t, I’d want to own a Mantle autograph. If I were in the market, I would choose a ’91 Score over ANY cut signature 10 out of 10 times. I am a baseball card collector first, not a cut signature collector. If my baseball card comes with a certified, on-card autograph or a non-intrusive sticker, I am all for it. Selling me the equivalent of a tossed out document with a scribble autograph and a fancy frame with a Topps logo is not something I will ever pursue. If that is something that is up your alley, more power to you. We can’t all collect the same. Collect what you love and how you love.
My advice to collectors, from a guy who has been doing it since 1990 is, DO NOT SETTLE. Do your research, buy vintage autographs and always remember, you get what you pay for. A 1997 Donruss Signature Tony Gwynn is one million times more appealing than the embarrassing 2018 Heroes of the Game tickets from Leaf Trading Cards. Google them if you must. I refuse to post there here again. It comes down to what type of collector you are so do as you please. To me, nothing beats the magic of 1997 Donruss Signature, which by the way was produced by Donruss’ new owners, Pinnacle Brands. In nearly 30 years of collecting, all I know is that you can never go wrong with Pinnacle Brands.