Enter the Junk Auto Era

It took a former Yankees #1 prospect, hobby social media darling, and fellow collector, Phil Hughes, for some to finally see just how oversaturated the sports cards market is. In the tweet above, you will see how many signatures Phil signed for the upcoming Topps Archives Signature Series Retired. Topps paid Phil $4,000 to sign 800 cards, including an astonishing 74 “one of ones”. That money is well worth it as Hughes, as he’s known to do, came up with some fantastic inscriptions.

The problem here is that there are 74 different 1/1s in one brand of just ONE player. If you’re not a fan of Hughes, who peppered in a couple of good seasons throughout his 12-year career, that could be a pretty disappointing box break. It harkens back to when Topps had Ken Hrbek sign more cards & stickers than he has likely ever signed in his lifetime for releases spread throughout the entire 2021 calendar year. Hrbek autographs became so common that pulling one became universally known as being “Hrbek’d”.

Hughes did collectors a favor by pulling back the curtain on Topps’ watering down of the 1/1 market, which I’ve been saying for years is a big problem. Today, you can pull a 1/1 Mike Trout and while it will sell for astronomical figures, just how special is it when there will be multiple 1/1s of Trout in that same product as well as multiple 1/1 Trouts spread throughout 40 different releases in 2022? I don’t even think his certified autographs are special anymore considering he’s been signing non-stop since 2009.

Collectors criticized players like Mickey Mantle & Pete Rose for signing thousands of items after their careers ended but will turn a blind eye at Topps’ overproduction. Topps pays these beloved athletes $5 per signature and will turn around and sell a box with a guarantee to pull it for $500. At card shows and private signings, these athletes were making much more than what Topps paid so good for Mantle & Rose. Millionaires or not, if it helps them pay their bills, then so be it.

Rose, Mantle and others devalued their signature by signing till the very end, some seemingly on their death bed. That’s no different than Topps having Shohei Ohtani sign over 15,000 different cards in 2018. Vladimir Guererro Jr. has just one full season under his belt and currently has over 2,000 certified autographs on eBay. Collectors have been using the word Junk Wax 2.0 to describe the current market, I believe what we are facing is the Junk Auto Era and for those who lived through the 90s, we all know how this ends.

Tears of a Flipper

Twitter was a shit-show yesterday. For starters, the most polarizing man on the planet, Elon Musk, became the new owner of Twitter, to the delight of the Right-wing and the many nasty human beings and bots that call Twitter their home. As one can imagine, the Left was up in arms, threatening to leave Twitter, with some prominent Twitter influencers keeping their word and immediately deleting their account. I for one do not care and will continue using my account for its intended purposes.

On the collecting side of Twitter, there was an even bigger storm brewing, followed by a full day of Retail Flipper tears raining down on us as perhaps the biggest card of 2022, a Topps Platinum 1/1 Wander Franco was finally pulled from a cheap hanger box purchased at a Walgreens in California. While I’m not big on Franco (or any modern player), I understand just how important this card is and going on secondary market value alone, this is what you’d call a life-changing baseball card.

I know what you’re thinking, how could anyone be upset that the biggest card of the year was pulled? Why wouldn’t collectors be happy for someone essentially becoming filthy rich overnight by doing something as fun as buying a pack of baseball cards? Most of us have done the same thing most of our lives, secretly chasing that same dream. Besides, with unopened Hobby boxes reaching an all-time high, someone beating the odds should be a great thing. Well, not always …

It appears that a certain element of Twitter, specifically “flippers”, are up in arms over this transaction. These greasy-haired, Mtn. Dew fueled, Hot Cheetos shirt-stained bozos who own more cargo shorts than underwear cannot handle that Topps put such an illustrious card inside a hanger pack at Walgreens. To these people, this card should have been included as a Hobby-exclusive so that that some popular group breaker with 25 cases of product could stream it on Instagram. To them, that’s the only way to do it.

Never should such a card be found in a value pack at a local drug store. To these people, spending $500 on a box of cards should promise the world to them. To breakers who hoard cases by dropping tens of thousands of dollars, this is a travesty. To that 25-year-old living with Mom & Dad, who just wiped-out Target of $5,000 worth of Panini product so that he can add an 80% mark-up, this is a slap in the face. Elon just bought Twitter and some nobody in California just struck oil on a Tampa Bay Rays rookie card. The world is coming to an end!

I for one will celebrate the underdog. So will all the other thousands of collectors who have been completely priced out of buying baseball cards in 2022. As will the long-time collectors who just can’t find cards to buy during what could be the hottest this hobby has ever been. You know who else will celebrate with me? That card shop owner who was only able to secure 8 hobby boxes of Topps Chrome to sell to his dwindling customers because Houdini and his clones purchased 80 cases for YouTube and social media video group breaks.

Need I remind these so-called collectors that if you are overpaying for Topps’ flagship product looking for a 1/1, you are doing it wrong. Topps’ flagship is a low-level, set builders product and has been for over 70 years. If you want big hits or colorful parallels, flagship is not for you. Flagship is a product that is meant to be affordable and attainable to anyone who wants to feel the joy of opening a back of baseball cards. It’s unfortunate that grading has polluted the hobby with greed and even flagship is a tough find during the first month of release.

I for one commend Topps. Thank you for looking out for the little guy.

Oh, How the Mighty Fall

I’ve been in the game a long time, 32 years to be exact. I’ve seen the birth of pack-inserted, certified autographs and the introduction of the game-used relic. I was on the ground floor for the debut of Bowman Chrome in 1997 and have spent thousands of hours of my life writing about sports cards for this site and others. In my collecting lifetime, I’ve never witnessed a greater, swifter fall than that of 2022 Panini WWE Prizm. Okay, maybe I called it with my title last week but the speed at which the WWE Prizm market has collapsed is something truly remarkable and one of a kind.

In the span of seven days, the same time it took “God” to start and complete creation, Panini America’s long awaited WWE debut came crashing down harder than a D’Lo Brown running power bomb on Darren Drozdov. Just a week and a half ago, boxes of 2022 Panini WWE Prizm were flying off shelves at near $1,500 a pop, if you were lucky enough to even find one. In group breaks, single packs were pushing $200, which was probably the most shocking part of it all and nearly all of social media, the collecting side anyway, was buzzing about the hottest wrestling trading card set to ever see the light of day.

The problem is that there are a few wrestling card influencers who spent the better part of 2-3 months pumping and pushing WWE Prizm. During the lone week Prizm dominated the hobby, these “influencers” were louder and more obnoxious than ever. As you can imagine, that same energy was nowhere to be found as Prizm began its descent. Suddenly the narrative went from “Prizm is the second coming of Jesus” to “Well, we all knew secondary market prices were going to tank”. Who knew, exactly? I certainly have never seen $150+ cards drop 98% a week after release.

There may actually be an exact event that broke 2022 Panini WWE Prizm. Something so symbolic of the greed in this hobby that possibly led to WWE Prizm’s downfall, and it came when an eBay user won a WWE Prizm John Cena Color Blast insert on eBay for $11,200 and refused to pay. Many speculate that the move was calculated to screw over the seller, Dary Rezvani. Shockingly, Rezvani, had to endure not only losing out on a major sale but the ridicule of fellow collectors who certainly appeared to be jealous of WWE Prizm’s week-long reign of dominance on the secondary market.

Below, you can see what the completed sales of the Cena Color Blast beginning with the first one that “sold” for $11,200 to the most recent sale just 9 days later for a more realistic $1,888. This is one of the more extreme cases but still a good example as pretty much all of WWE Prizm is facing a similar fate on the secondary market as we enter week #3. Another issue first-week WWE Prizm collectors are facing is the release of WWE Prizm retail, which will continue to devalue the product. Panini America is well known for printing into the millions so for those early buyers, my sympathies go out to you.

To me it appears the divide among wrestling card collectors is being driven by the age-old conflict of vintage collectors vs. modern collectors. To those who collected wrestling cards before it was “cool” to do so, 1982-’83’s Wrestling All-Star sets was the King of Wrestling Cards. For starters, the print run on these two sets is 2,000, which is lower than anything Panini America will ever produce. Second, the way the cards were shipped led damage so finding a “mint” copy is next to impossible. Third, the set was only available in a regional, obscure wrestling magazine as a mail-order special.

The WAS market has boomed since the pandemic era with raw, key issues demanding in and around the high 3 figures with mid-level, graded copies setting new records each and every week. Topps’ WWE cards, with their flashy Refractors and serial numbering was not able to make even a single dent to the WAS market but Panini’s Prizm tidal wave clearly ruffled many feathers. Furthermore, the company that printed the WAS cards 39 years ago didn’t anticipate on collectors one day demanding 35 shiny parallels, autographs, etc. The card market was a completely different business in 1983.

At the end of the day, it’s okay to collect what you please. Some like the new technology that Panini Prizm brings to the table, while other prefer the classic, more toned-down flavor of WAS. The world in general is already divided. It’s divided by political parties, pandemic guidelines, who to support in outside wars, and so much more. There’s no reason for collectors to be bickering online over something as silly as trading cards. Let’s face facts: 1982 WAS is truly a scarce and hard to find product but 2022 Panini WWE Prizm blows it out of the water, aesthetically speaking. There’s no denying each’s strengths.

So, can we all just get along?

A Set Only a Jackass Could Love

Nostalgia is a funny thing. It has the power to tug on your heart strings and make you emotional from even the slightest memory of your childhood. Depending on your age, the Jackass franchise was either the greatest thing on the planet or the absolute worst and the beginning of humanity’s decaying state we are currently dealing with in 2022. At the time of Jackass’ MTV debut in October 2000, I was a fun-loving, 19-year-old teenager and well, let’s just say I became an instant, diehard fan from that moment.

After watching the end credits of Jackass Forever last month, two things hit me hard. One, is how much Father Time has aged and slowed down the original cast members. The movie was fun but featured nowhere near the insane stunts from previous sequels. Also, missing from the mix was Bam Margera and his family and friends. The second thing that hit me as I was walking out of the theater is that to this day, 22 years after its debut, no one has created a proper Jackass trading card set.

Sure, certain cast members have been featured in official sets. For example, beloved little person and one of Jackass’ “biggest” stars, Wee Man, can be found in 2011 Topps Allen & Ginter. Jackass’ main star, Johnny Knoxville, was featured in 2016 Topps Series 1 throwing out the first pitch of a Los Angeles Dodgers game. After that, there’s really not much else. All that changed when Fanatics Collectibles, through a company called ‘zerocool’, produced what will be the definitive Jackass trading card set.

Unlike Topps & Panini, who would never DARE to release print runs on their brands, zerocool laid it all out on the table for collectors. 10,000 total boxes produced, and 500 boxes held back for promotional and replacement purposes. What that means is that there are less than 3,000 of each base card in the set and with only 8 parallels, this product has a chance to explode on the secondary market. I’ve never seen that type of information available directly from the source and it’s likely we never will again, but I am loving every second of it.

As for the checklist, you will find all the main characters minus Margera. The main cast is all represented, including Johnny Knoxville, Chris Pontius, Steve-O, Wee Man, Preston Lacy, Dave England, creators Jeff Tremaine & Spike Jonze, and perhaps the MVP of Jackass Forever, Ehren McGhehey. Other notable autographs include skating legend, Tony Hawk, Matt Hoffman, actor/comedian Eric Andre, Rob Dyrdek, and the King of the 4 Rounders, Butterbean. All cards appear to be hard signed with no stickers.

One has to wonder if we may one day see a zerocool Bam Margera autograph. Word is Bam is doing great in rehab and has another six months to go. He’s even been getting emotional support from fellow Jackass cast members. One possibility is a Jackass Series 2 set with all new images featuring Wild Boyz, Viva La Bam, CKY, previous Jackass films, Bam Margera autographs, and even rare Ryan Dunn cut signatures. There’s still a lot of material for zerocool to explore. Here’s hoping this is not a “one and done” deal.

Panini’s Shocking & Temporary Coup

Even a broken clock is right twice a day. This week, Panini America managed to rule the entire world of sports cards with the debut of 2022 Panini WWE Prizm. I cannot remember the last time a sports card debut had this type of impact since 1997’s top rookie brand, Bowman Chrome. WWE Prizm carried that type of hype and so much more thanks to social media. Is 2022 Panini WWE Prizm the biggest sports card brand debut of all-time? A case could be made to just that and sadly, this will be only be temporary as WWE kicked Panini to the curb even before their first release in favor of Fanatics.

As of Friday, unopened boxes of 2022 Panini WWE Prizm, which were just under $1,000 at the time of its release, hit as high as $1,300. That’s a box that comes with just 12 packs, a total of 144 cards (two sticker autographs) and a small sample of parallels. If you think that price is crazy, 1-pack group breaks were pushing as high as $200 earlier this week. The hype is absolutely insane but like most things, it can’t last forever. However, if you are one of the lucky ones with a sealed box, WHATEVER YOU DO, do not ever open it. You’re likely to make a fortune once the dust settles on this storm.

Panini America has flat out bested Topps Company and soon Fanatics in just one single try, at least in the wrestling market where MLB logos don’t come into play. Topps created $14,000 super high end products for WWE but ultimately failed the WWE market. To me this has to give Fanatics every possible sign that Panini’s brands, at least in WWE & NBA, cannot die out. If ever there was a shred of fear in my heart that Panini America would survive Fanatics’ monopoly, it is right now. Thanks to the enormous success of WWE Prizm, Panini America has now got to be on Fanatics’ $$$ radar.

Don’t get it twisted, the WWE Prizm market will crash and come back down to Earth but the hype of this debut will live forever and if Panini isn’t purchased by Fanatics and Topps takes over the license again, every collector will be dying to ride the Prizm wave once more. WWE’s decision to sign an exclusive deal with Fanatics could lead to WWE trading cards once again gathering dust on retail shelves all over the country. Here’s hoping, UGH … I can’t believe I am about to say this … I hope Fanatics purchases Panini America. There. I said it. I feel so disgusting. I need a shower.