The Age-Old License vs. Unlicensed

6 11 2017

During Wax Heaven’s heyday an entire decade ago (yes, it’s been a long time) one of the biggest issues I had with trading cards was unlicensed releases. To me, everything had to be Upper Deck or Topps and 99% of unlicensed cards at best looked cheap and at worst were laughably bad. Well, ten years is a LONG time and while I have admitted to missing a LOT of time … it appears not much has changed in this hobby. There are tons of cards being produced with even more parallels. Bats, gloves, and other items are still being destroyed and inserted into cards and there is now an insane amount of autographs (on-card and sticker) that you’d think would have killed the hobby. To me, in 2007 a Jose Canseco on-card autograph was something rare and truly worth chasing. There have been so many autographs released since then that I’d be more interested in a nicely-designed card or a retro-style re-release of one of his old cards. I just have no interest in a signed Jose Canseco card when there appear to be literally a million out there.

As always, to me card design is still the #1 reason for me to shell out my hard-earned money for a baseball card. For the record, it’s been almost three years since I’ve made a purchase but I’ve been lurking eBay now for three weeks doing my usual searches so I know sooner or later I’ll pull that trigger and then before I know it I’ll be knee-deep in baseball cards again. It’s an obsession that has never truly died. I’ve been a card collector most of my life and nothing has permanently stopped that. Not kids, relationships, fast cars, women, nothing. When the smoke settles, I will always run back to my 1,000+ collection of that washed-up, crazy old man who I fell in love with, figuratively, so many years ago before video games were as advanced, before the internet, tablets, smart phones, and Donald Trump as the President.

Below are two examples of high-end Jose Canseco cards. One is licensed, one is not. Both have those high-end gimmicks that collectors love and love to hate. However, one thing for sure is certain … they were a lot more pricey ten years ago than they are now. Don’t know if that’s all across the board or just for Jose Canseco in general but it’s interesting how inexpensive the best baseball cards the Hobby has to offer (as far as flash) have come down. I should probably celebrate because I can now afford all those insane cards I was never able to a decade ago but to be honest as nice as they look, they pale in comparison to a late-90s, extremely rare insert.

So let the competition begin!

2017 Topps Triple Threads

This card has it all. It features Jose in his prime years with the Oakland A’s. The particular photo used is probably from 1990 or ’91. It has a piece of a supposed, game-used bat and a well-designed spot for a sticker autograph. At least, it looks like a sticker to me. I’ve never seen these cards in person. Oh, and let’s not forget the pretty low serial number (47/50) and of course the ability to use MLB logos. Surprisingly, this card has a Buy It Now price of $39.99 or Best Offer.

Personally, I love the entire look of this card. Everything about it is in perfect place and the photo itself is awesome. I’d love to see a more weathered bat piece and not something Jose probably used to swat away paparazzi with but beggars can’t be choosers. Not that I consider myself a lowballer but I wouldn’t offer more than $25 for this card. You see, Jose’s autograph is just not very rare and that bat piece does nothing for me. To be completely honest, it’s not even worth a $20 but just to TRY to stay on the seller’s good side I would bid a little higher.


Holy cow, I still got it. I see a completed listing for this same card sold for $20.75. Also, the ones #’d to just 99 sell for LESS than $10.00. Wow, that’s pretty shocking. Guess I was right about Topps’ flooding of the autograph market. Personally, I’d love to have this card for under $10 any day of the week even if it means it being numbered to 99 instead of 50.

– – – 

2016 Diamond Kings

Here we have Diamond Kings from what I’m guessing is Panini/Donruss. This card features two, small bat chips which I’m sure are certified as being game-used or Jose-touched or whatever. It also features what I’m positive is a clear autograph sticker and not as nice as Topps’ placement. But what this card lacks in that part of the aesthetic I believe it makes up in the art-style photograph it used on the card. It reminds me of a 1996 or 1997 Leaf product that I can’t quite recall minus all the gimmicks, of course.

This card is serial numbered to 99 and is on eBay for $24.99 with no Best Offer option. Compared to the Triple Threads, this one is polluting eBay on a much smaller scale. There are currently only two available with the other being more reasonably priced at $20.25. It’s at best, another $10 card.


Once again, I hit the nail on the head. One identical copy sold for $9.49. To be fair, one did sell for $15 a few days prior. The thing is, that Triple Threads is a new Corvette and this Diamond Kings is a new Camaro. No way the Camaro sells for more, not even the Z28. For the record, I drive a Camaro.

So there you have it. Two recent, high-end, gimmicked to the stars, Jose Canseco cards. If I had to choose, I would easily grab the Diamond Kings for its retro style, memorabilia and sticker and all for under $10. It wouldn’t be a memorable purchase by any stretch but it is a nice addition to any collection for that price. The Topps card is just too expensive and to be quite honest, all those high-end brands have the same look and feel (from what I’ve seen). I don’t know how to describe it so I’ll just say they look like futuristic, Marvel X-Men cards. I’d even be hesitant to pay more than $15 for the one #’d to 50. However, if I could grab both for under $20 I’d be the happiest collector of all time!


I Don’t Know Baseball Cards

3 11 2017

Man, a lot has changed. Or has it? I can’t tell. I know “my guy”, Jose Canseco, last played in a Major League game 16 years ago. That’s 3 times longer than any period I’ve ever collected baseball cards. Sure, my player collection started way back in 1990 but there have been very long gaps throughout my time as a collector. I can, however, still proudly say that I still own that very first Topps Ames Jose Canseco card my mom bought me as a happy, go-lucky 9 year-old kid.

Anyway, I’ve been browsing eBay lately looking at what “new” cards are being produced and while everything looks pretty cool to a once-again, now-aging card newbie, it is disappointing to see that most cards being released (and there’s a lot) feature recycled photographs. It’s unfortunately something I understand considering the last time my player played in an MLB game, George W. Bush was just entering office.

Jose Canseco is certainly one of the most photogenic players of all-time but having come up way back in 1985 before computers and other technology took over the world, I can’t help but think MOST of what I’ve seen on cards and magazines is about all that’s available from ’86-’93. I have a Samsung Galaxy S8 which I’ve owned for 6 months and it is currently holding over 1,000 photos and several dozen videos. Back in 1985, that feat would be impossible to carry around or even imagine.

For now, I’ll make do with all these fancy, new cards that bring me back (only a little) to my Golden Age of collecting in 1990 and I’ll appreciate the extra effort when Topps and whoever else is still around producing cards finds that one, special photograph to use that hasn’t been recycled over and over again for 30+ years. For example, like the Topps Tier One card featured in this post.

For one, it is from what I believe to be Jose’s 1987 season which would have been featured on cards released 1988. This puts this image on a pretty short list of companies that would have used it. For starters, Topps. Then of course, Donruss and Fleer. This was a year before Upper Deck entered the business and while there were lots of grocery store brand releases, I can’t say that I’ve seen this particular image ever used.

If I’m right about the year, it was before Jose really “juiced” up his, uhh … image. He had just put in a decent year of baseball but was hugely overshadowed due to the rookie sensation who hit 49 home runs out of the gate on Jose’s team, I believe his name was Mark McGrath or something. By 1988, Jose was the #1 player in baseball hands down but this was still a year away. I wonder if being forgotten and just hitting 31 home runs motivated Jose to take his game to the next level?

Kudos to Topps for digging this awesome photo up and slapping it on a new card.

The Only Baseball Card I Want

16 10 2016

It’s funny how things turn out. By the spring of 1992, Jose was a unanimous MVP, multiple time All-Star, two-time Home Run King, the highest-paid baseball player in the world and was even having an affair with the biggest pop singer of the times, Madonna. He was a young millionaire who owned a fleet of fast cars and mansions in multiple states. Unbeknownst to Jose, however, the tide was turning.

By 1992, younger and better baseball players were about to take over the game. In his home town of Oakland and pretty much every stadium Jose played in, he was being heavily booed. Hell, he was not even the best player on his own team anymore as the once quiet Mark McGwire added 30 lbs. of muscle mysteriously (and grew a wicked goatee). Jose struggled through the season until the A’s shipped him to Texas by the All-Star break.

When Jose was at his peak of stardom, it almost seemed like a bother to him. He ignored fans, didn’t sign autographs or pose for photographs and was rude to his own teammates and even his manager. The Atheletics clearly saw the writing on the wall because for the decade he played after his original trade, the greatness was for the most part gone. The game of baseball passed Jose by.

That’s why it’s so refreshing to see Jose Canseco still in the game, at age 52 and for a $2,500 dollar salary. That’s what the Diamonds paid him for his services this year. Of course, in typical Jose fashion … he didn’t complete his time there. I don’t know why and the few outlets that reported on his time in Pittsburgh didn’t even bother reporting on his disappearance. We the fans were promised a month, what we got was 5 games.

It’s clear that at 52, Jose can no longer play baseball. His .143 average as a hitter and his 0-2 record as a pitcher says everything you need to know. It is pretty awesome that the card below exsists. I don’t know its origins or if it is just someone’s idea of a custom card but I love seeing Jose on cardboard 30 long years after his debut in wax in 1986. I love cards of retired players but to me, Jose Canseco is still active, for now.


Analyzing A 2016 Baseball Card

14 10 2016

I have spent the past few days on eBay, looking at Jose Canseco baseball cards produced in 2015 and this year. I have seen a lot that I would consider “filler” and not worth picking up but this particular card (below) has caught my eye. It comes from Topps’ Tribute brand and features an early-year Canseco photograph, what appears to be an on-card signature, a late 90s’-style design and front and center serial numbering.

My only nit-pick for this card is that it celebrates Canseco’s ‘Ageless Accolade’ of his 1988 MVP season but features a photo of Jose from 1986 or 1987. However, only a Canseco nut would know the following worthless trivia. I don’t know how a casual fan would react to pulling this card of a still hated, very controversial figure. One thing that is unfortunate and Topps is mostly to blame, it is now a $25 card.

Years ago, this card would have booked for more than double that price but with the flood of Canseco autographs that have hit the market the past 3 years, to me … this is at best a card I would pay no more than $10 dollars for and that would be only for the neat design and aesthetics of the card and not the autograph itself. Simply put, Jose has destroyed the value of his autograph.

For a die-hard Jose Canseco fan, that’s actually a good thing because it saves you money in the long run but for the casual fan, it only brings Jose’s total worth down even more. Back in the early-90s when pack-inserted autographs hit the market (thank you, Upper Deck), $20 dollars would fetch the lowliest of journeymen not a former superstar, Rookie of the Year, and Most Valuable Player.

I haven’t quite started collecting Jose Canseco again but I am adding this card to my wish list of cards that I will eventually pick up on my journey of Jose hunting, which began in 1990 and somehow still keeps going 26 years after my first card hit my collection. To me, design trumps gimmicks and this card is about as eye-popping as a design as I have seen in a long time.


Growing Old Sucks

11 10 2016

I remember bustin’ wax packs in 1990 and loving the card designs of the time. Occasionally, I’d pull something that would feature a design from yesteryear, be it the 60s or 70s and thought to myself how ugly these cards looked and how I wish they wouldn’t waste my time with them. I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like for a kid today looking for whatever crazy parallel or game-used-whatever is hot these days and instead find a base card from 1990 Topps. Just typing that out makes me feel a bit sadistic.

Come to think of it, I can’t even imagine a 10 -year old collecting baseball cards, period. Back in 1990, there was no Internet and the video games of the time left a lot to be desired. Baseball cards and toys were still part of the times. If I were 10 again in 2016 the last thing I’d want is a pack of overpriced baseball cards. No mom, I want an Xbox One game or a cell phone, which is now a computer/camera/video game system/TV, all in one.

The times have changed. A piece of cardboard with my favorite baseball player can never compare with 100+ hours of GTA V. Much like the Polaroid camera, this is one hobby that seems more obsolete with every year that passes. Still, here I am in 2016 thinking about baseball cards, even the old ones that didn’t have fancy cut-up pieces of jerseys and bats or stickers with autographs or a billion different colored versions, one more rare than the next. Just a photo, an awful 90s design and stats on the back.

My God, I have become an old man.


…and so it begins (again)

10 10 2016

It’s been 6 long years since I wrote a blog on the original Wax Heaven. A lot has happened since then. I am not here to bore you with the rise and fall, that’s for another day. Instead, I am writing the first post to say that, I really don’t care about baseball cards anymore. I barely even care about Jose Canseco. Yeah, I still have my thousands of cards but I have finally moved on. Well, I guess not really because here I am at Midnight writing a post about, you guessed it, Jose Canseco and a baseball card.

Just when I thought I was out …

Below is a card of Jose Canseco that belongs in my collection. No, not the insanely awesome Buyback Autograph but the orginal worthless Topps Ames card produced in 1989. Does anyone reading this even remember Ames? I do. I purchased my first Jose Canseco from one of their stores in South Florida in 1990. I thought I was buying a pack of playing cards but instead found a pack of Ames All-Stars and one card in particular stuck out to a 10-year old kid who never watched a game of baseball or knew who Jose Canseco was. I was more into wrestling but Jose’s bulging muscles looked better suited in the WWF (now, WWE) than in MLB, anyway.

The card below was released a year before my baseball card (and Jose) obsession began. It was worthless. This was the type of card you’d get in a trade or something you’d buy if you couldn’t afford a product like Upper Deck. The glossy finish was nice, if I remember correctly and the design is actually kinda neat 17 years later. Keep in mind I haven’t seen a baseball card design in about 2 years. Sometimes less is more. In this case, this card actually looks awesome despite the lazy photograph.

As for the 2016 version with Jose’s worthless signature. I mean, c’mon, he signs all the time …. I really don’t want or need it. I’m happy with my 1989 version for now. I used to be a “completist” but with the amazing custom cards being produced by Tan Man and the insane amount of parallels and rare cards released in the past 5 years, that mission is 100% impossible.

For now, I am back. I wrote 145 posts in October of 2008. That’s an insane amount of time to devote to baseball cards, which is why my ex left me. I now have a very good life and a beautiful daughter so don’t expect numbers like that ever again. I may post once a month, maybe more but for now, Wax Heaven is back yet again.

-Mario A.


And So It Ends

6 10 2010

Author: Mario Alejandro

There was once a time when The Hobby ran through my mind 24/7. Here I was cranking out over 100 articles per month, recording box breaks to post on YouTube, scouring eBay for new cards I needed, and making online trades in every popular online forum available. Oh, did I forget to mention I had a full-time job and a wife and kid at home?

I guess you could say I was burning the candle at both ends looking for something I could never quite find. Was it the perfect Jose Canseco collection, a cover story on Beckett, or maybe those long-lost barrels of 1952 Topps buried at sea? I can’t quite say because I do not know the answer. I do know that my time at Wax Heaven, which unofficially ended in December when I shut the site down, is officially over as of October 4th, 2010, just a few weeks shy of the third anniversary.

Rather than let the site sit unattended and underappreciated except for the 700-800 random visitors who come through Google searches daily, I did the only thing I could do to ensure the Wax Heaven name would live on; I sold it. Everything, too, not just the WordPress blog. The Twitter account with 200+ followers and the YouTube account with over 500 subscribers as well. Everything Wax Heaven was, including the 2,000+ articles, close to 2 million visitors, and 25,000+ comments now belong to one man … and who is this man, you ask?

Well, his name is Austin and aside from being a true blue journalist like everyone’s favorite blogger, Chris Olds, he is also a collector from the 80’s and early 90’s who has just come back to The Hobby after a long absence and wants to write about his experiences coming back to a completely new scene none of us “old” collectors could have ever envisioned.

Sounds exactly like me, which is exactly why I knew he would be the best man to take over Wax Heaven. So expect a full return to stories, probably written much better than I ever could with an entirely new perspective on this wonderful hobby of ours that keeps us coming back for more even decades after our last pack of cards.

God bless you all for the wonderful support, emails, free cards and so much more. A special thanks goes out to Upper Deck and Chris Carlin for being the first to believe the “little guy” could one day compete and kick Goliath’s ass (and we certainly did). We had a great run and I’m very proud to see how immense the entire community has become since my arrival in 2007. See you all in the future and for those that want to keep up with me you can find me on Facebook.

Keep Collectin’,

Mario Alejandro Castillo