The Exploitation of Fleer

I’m going to say something today that I’ve never said before in over 10 years as a card blogger. Despite being a die hard Pinnacle Brands aficionado, it was Fleer Trading Cards, not Pinnacle, that featured the best-looking designs and most unique inserts that have stood the test of time. Don’t believe me? Check out the recent Michael Jordan Fleer/Skybox PMG that sold for $350,000. That card doesn’t have a piece of game-used memorabilia embedded in it nor does it feature Jordan’s overpriced signature anywhere. It is just a marvelously beautiful and rare card from the 90s.

Last week, my Twitter timeline was flooded with Fleer cards featuring moments from Michael Jordan’s embarrassing Hanes commercials. I say embarrassing because in one of those clips, he actually sports a Hitler mustache and no one seems to bat an eye. At first, I figured some custom card maker had created these monstrosities and started spreading them around because to be completely honest, they looked like a dumpster fire, featuring mostly blurry screenshots of commercials. Surely, no company in their right mind would associate themselves with these cards, right?

Unfortunately, these are not custom cards but “official” Fleer licensed cards produced by the company that purchased Fleer in 2006 yet didn’t have a single clue what to do with the commodity. It wasn’t long before the Upper Deck Baseball brand suffered a sad, public death, which unfortunately swallowed Fleer Trading Cards as well. There was talk of a baseball comeback with Fleer being put ahead of their own Upper Deck brand, but according to many, that idea was ridiculed to the point of cancellation and has never been discussed publicly by Upper Deck again.

Well, Fleer is back, sort of. You can now find Fleer’s comeback attached to underwear. Sadly, I am 100% dead serious. There are 800,000 packs of these terribly cheap, Jordan Fleer cards sold with Hanes underwear in stores like Wal-Mart and Target. There are only ten autographs in the entire series meaning the odds of pulling one is over 1:100,000. More than likely, you’re going to end up with cards that not only are a disgrace to Fleer’s tradition of brilliant work, but also a reminder that some collectors are so addicted that they will literally buy anything.

If you go into a Walgreens or CVS, you will find a product of cards with a guaranteed hit often referred to as Fairfield Mystery Boxes. These boxes are filled with “junk wax” era singles that belong in a fire pit but with a $2 game-used relic or some never-was prospect autograph. I’ve seen several dozen boxes busted on YouTube and not once have I seen anything of value in them. This industry has someone found a way to repackage the same terrible “hits” you complain about in $150 hobby boxes and has managed to somehow sell it back to you again. Brilliant! Sometimes I get the feeling that collectors who are addicted to cardboard have zero standards.

For younger collectors who weren’t around in the 90’s or were simply too young to collect, let me show you the magic of Fleer / Skybox so you can see why an old fart like myself is once again on his 90s soapbox. Below are only a small sample of Fleer / Skybox Michael Jordan cards that were produced 20+ years ago. Unlike cards of today, many of these issues have become iconic and revered, to the point that the market has skyrocketed. It’s not just Michael Jordan. Tim Duncan hit $33K, Scottie Pippen, $22K, even a guy like Ray Allen hits $11K. Fleer was consistently producing top notch trading cards in the mid to late-90s that continue to break secondary market records.

… and ya’ll are going crazy over Hanes Jordan cards?!?

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A Mysterious Broder Appears

As an exclusive Jose Canseco baseball card collector for 29 years, there is almost nothing I haven’t seen or know about. Frankly, as my collection pushes 2,000 different cards, there are three definite reasons why a card doesn’t make it into my collection.

The main one is, lack of funds. I have a nice job, a happy family, and baseball cards take up very little of my time and attention. If I have to choose between a trip to Disney or a $1,000 card, I’ll let Tanman splurge. It’s just cardboard.

The second is simply procrastination. This year, on my 29th as a Canseco collector, I finally registered with all three big sites (eBay, SportsLots, COMC) and went on a binge. For the longest, I just stuck to eBay and card shows. What’s the big rush?

Finally, the third is lack of interest in a particular card. Look, I love unlicensed, “Broder” cards as much as the next card addict but at some point you just have enough damn cards and the idea of buying another just doesn’t appeal to me.

That being said, this is not the case. Below is a “Broder” card from somewhere around 1988-1991 that I’ve never seen in my 29 years of collecting Jose. Big spender, Tanner, hasn’t either and he’s known for finding rare cards.

Unfortunately, the seller only states that her card shop gave them away in the early-90s. That alone is hard to believe considering how popular Jose was. It is standard size and has a blank back. Also, in case you can’t tell …  the card is made of metal.

Recently, one of these from the seller sold for $16+ and today another sold for $15 before I could buy it. With today’s technology, a card like this is probably easy to make but the question is why would anyone waste their time with someone like Canseco?

I believe this card may just be one of the most rare, unlicensed baseball cards of the “Junk Wax” era. When two Canseco-collecting juggernauts with nearly 60 years experience between them have never seen it, you know it’s something special.

So my question to collectors is: Have you ever seen a card like this? Surely if they made Jose, there is a Nolan, a Cal, maybe even a Ken Griffey Jr. So what is this card and its origin? The world may never know.

You can read more on MLB’s most-hated, Rob Broder, HERE.

My War Against Unnecessary Cut Autographs

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.