The Best & Worst Certified Autograph of All-Time?

Let me just start by saying that the people involved with creating the Beach Boys’ trading card set in 2013 are nothing short of geniuses. Simply put, aside from Sir Paul McCartney, there is currently no one more important to music than Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. Sure, he may not be a household name but to fans of his music and media critics, Brian is right up there with Beethoven and Mozart. Unfortunately for Brian, due to 30 years of bad decisions, lawsuits, awful ideas and more … the name of the Beach Boys has lost all its luster and when compared to the Beatles, looks like a cheap, unlicensed baseball card from the late-80s.

I don’t know the story behind Panini’s creation of this set but I can imagine it didn’t cost MUCH to get the remaining Beach Boys to sign a few thousand stickers. For starters, Mike Love, the second-most famous Beach Boy around has spent the past 15 years playing free shows at baseball stadiums and local carnivals with a smug smile on his face. Word is that before the 2012 Beach Boys reunion, he was taking in less than $10,000 per performance and that money was split between himself, the band who performs with him and the road crew. One has to wonder just how much Mike would demand from Panini to sign a few trading cards.  Whatever Love charged, subtract 2/3 of it for Al Jardine, David Marks and Bruce Johnston. There is little demand for any of their signatures at the moment.

The true “white whale” of this amazing set is the several hundred autographs Brian Wilson scribbled on. From the looks of it, Brian signed approximately 700 stickers. This is just a guess, judging by the checklist I’ve seen. Despite how badly Brian signed most of these stickers, when the day comes that he passes on to the big gig in the sky, these autographs will SKYROCKET simply because they are certified. Almost half a decade since their release, they still sell all day long for nothing less than $200 on eBay. Despite the high print run, I can imagine these pushing $500 when that sad day comes.

As for the very sloppy signature found on these cards, Brian tends to sign a bit nicer when you catch him in person with ONE item. Once you hand him several hundred, like the Smile Box Set for example, you’re going to get illegible, awful-looking autographs. Also keep in mind the man is 75 years old and has battled through more demons in his lifetime than 5 or 6 of the most notorious rock stars, combined.

If you’re lucky enough to pull one of these cards from a pack or if you find one at a show for a reasonable price you will literally have the opportunity to own what is truly a piece of rock and roll history … even if it doesn’t look like much.

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The Age-Old License vs. Unlicensed

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.

***EDIT***

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.

***EDIT***

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!

Panini Elite Basketball Review

I would have to find a magic scanner to properly show off the shine that 2009/’10 Panini Elite Basketball gives off. The base cards as you can see, feature an old, familiar design element which you either love or hate.

Some of the highlights of the brand include hard to find die-cut parallels (pulled two), and some great inserts including ‘Clutch Performers’, which looks like something from the mid-90’s.

The legendary Elite Series inserts makes a return but unlike 1991 when a card numbered to 10,000 was unheard of, in today’s hobby scene it just doesn’t work. There are different versions but in the end it’s just not the same.

Unlike other Panini releases, the relics seem somewhat out-of-place in this brand. Instead of separate designs for relics, Panini just used them in existing cards including the great ‘Clutch Performer’ insert. As you can see from the scan, it ruined the design.

Elite Basketball is pre-selling for nearly $100 dollars. At that price, I’d have to recommend other less expensive basketball releases including their flagship. Elite has proven to be a strong performer for Donruss but the design is one of the reasons I am looking forward to Studio so much.

If you love Donruss’ futuristic designs, with four “hits” per box and lots of serial numbered cards and parallels, you will love Elite Basketball. If the price drops $10-$15 per box, it should be a must-buy for basketball collectors and “MOJO-hunters” alike.

Information:

Current price – $94 pre-sell at DaCardWorld.com

Guarantees – 100 cards with four autographs or relics

Look for – Die-Cut autographs, Elite patch/autographs

The Good:

Strong design on inserts and parallels

Lots of serial numbered cards

The Bad:

Relics feel really out-of-place

Elite Series missing magic of 90’s original

Results:

Relic – Lebron James #’d to 99

Relic -Paul Pierce #’ to 299

Autograph – Jonny Flynn #’d to 499

Autograph – DaJuan Summers  #’d to 499

Final Grade: B-

Panini Resurrects Studio!

As a long time collector, it’s not often I get too excited about the happenings in The Hobby. Today, I can say I am truly happy after finding out that an old school favorite is back and looks pretty damn good.

Take a look at the return of Donruss Panini Studio. It officially makes its return in late February of 2010 and has a $4 dollar per pack SRP. Furthermore, each pack contains five cards and a full box carries 24 packs.

Some notable names in the autograph checklist includes “Magic” Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Isiah Thomas, and Blake Griffin. No word yet on whether the autographs are labels or hard-signed.

Along with bringing back the Studio brand, Panini also brought back popular 90’s inserts ‘Skylines’ and ‘Master Strokes’, two insert sets I’ve written about at Wax Heaven in the past year.

Maybe the companies read the card blogs more than I thought …

2009 Donruss Gridiron Gear Review

At least they’re consistent.

While bustin’ through packs of Donruss Gridiron Gear I was surprised to see the design on the base cards. They didn’t look Donruss-made. For starters, no foil or weird borders.

It wasn’t until later that I found some more Donruss-style cards in the box. Thankfully, the foil was left on the cutting room floor and collectors have been left with some of the classiest football cards I’ve ever seen from Panini … well, almost.

Everything in this box was great until I pulled a very strange autograph. The card in question, a Willie Brown sticker autograph, looks great but something is just not right. There is a plastic helmet embedded into the card but unlike 2007 Sweet Spot helmets, it’s cheap plastic and looks like something you’d get for a quarter from a grocery store vending machine.

The other “hits” in the box look great, though. I especially like the Miami Dolphins Patrick Turner autograph/ dual patch relic numbered to 10. It’s thick, well-designed, and a knockout. Unfortunately, the legal language on the back doesn’t specify whether it’s game-used or event-worn.

Judging by some of the huge hits in the sell sheet and the $85 dollar price tag at Dave & Adam’s Card World, it seems like this is one product that many football collectors will gamble on. If it hits eBay for around $70+, it’s an absolute must-buy … just be careful with those plastic helmets.

Information:

Current Price – $85 dollars at Dave & Adam’s

Guarantees – 3 game-used memorabilia or autographs per box

Look for – Mark Sanchez Mania, Joe Namath, Dan Marino autographs

The Good:

Classy, elegant design

Lots of potential big “hits”

The Bad:

NFL Teams Plastic Helmet inserts

Sticker autographs

Results:

Dual relic – Jeremy Maclin #’d to 50

Autograph / Helmet – Willie Brown #’d to 350

Autograph / Dual relic – Patrick Turner #’d to 10

Final Grade: B

2009/’10 Panini Rookies & Stars Review

A few months ago, Scott Prusha, Marketing Director for Panini America discussed how he wanted to have all of Kobe Bryant’s autographs on-card rather than a sticker.

He told Beckett Media that it was important to Kobe that he get a chance to touch and feel the card he signs. While Panini has kept true with on-card Bryant autographs, I really wish they would do it for an entire basketball release sans stickers.

Rookies and Stars is an interesting product with a very unique base design that looks like something out of 1995. In case you’re wondering, that’s a good thing in my eyes. It’s always good to get something different once in a while, even if it’s a re-hash.

The memorabilia cards and autographs are very well-done and there is no issue with the labels being hard to pick up. My only issue with this product is that it lacks personality. It may be popular but I’d much rather bust a box of Panini Basketball which has many more cards and inserts.

Of course, if you’re just interesting in “hits”, this box does come through. I pulled two relics (including a dual) and two autographs. The Team Patch Signatures look very impressive, especially in person. Yes, they are manufactured but in this particular case, it works.

Information:

Current price – $77 on Dave & Adam’s Card World

Guarantees – 120 cards, with 4 autographs or relics

Look for – Blake Griffin, Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul autographs

The Good:

Unique designs

Team patch signatures look great

The Bad:

More stickers …

Results:

Relic – Dirk Nowitzki

Dual relic – Tyler Hansbrough / Ty Lawson

Autograph – A.J. Price

Patch Signature – Jonny Flynn

Final Grade: B-

2009/’10 Panini Basketball Review

Just when I was about to give up on Panini’s design team, a product like this is released. While it may not have all the flash of a typical Panini release (foil, etc.), it actually matches well against Upper Deck’s final basketball flagship.

I have to say, the biggest surprise from the box was the return of stickers. In case you didn’t know, Panini’s introduction to baseball in the 80’s was with sticker albums, many of which I still own.

It’s good to see a throwback to a time when collecting was done for fun and not for profit and an era when collectors didn’t send their cards away to be encapsulated and free from the human touch.

Another positive with this release is the huge line-up of inserts. There are tons of different options to choose from. My favorite is ‘The Franchise’ insert as it is clearly some of Panini’s best design work of 2009.

I believe Panini is doing well with the basketball license. While it may be a while before collectors forgive the NBA for stripping Upper Deck of the licensing rights, I believe Panini will keep going forward with their releases.

It will still come down to creating a product to cater to the Exquisite crowd but as far as low-end releases go, this one is a must-have for basketball collectors and a surprisingly fun yet cheap product to bust.

Information:

Current Price – $45 on Dave & Adam’s Card World

Guarantees – 400+ cards plus one autograph

Look for – Black Griffin autographs

The Good:

How often can you get a box with 400+ cards for under $50 dollars?

Great designs, especially on inserts like ‘The Franchise’

The Bad:

Base design a little dull

Results:

Autograph – DeJuan Blair

Final Grade: A-