It’s clear that 2018 is the year of Shohei Ohtani, a lanky home run-hitting pitcher who has won the hearts of all baseball fans and collectors alike. His autographs in Heritage and Bowman have pretty much ruled The Hobby for the past two months and with his numbers improving every day, don’t expect his autograph prices to drop much on the secondary market any time soon.
Despite having 6 career home runs and 3 wins as a pitcher, people continue to call Shohei the “Next Babe Ruth”. That’s about the biggest comparison to live up to in the history of baseball. Todd Van Poppel didn’t turn out to be the next Nolan Ryan and Ruben Rivera, wasn’t anywhere near the next Mickey Mantle. That’s just a lot of pressure to live up to for a 23-year-old rookie.
Still, that hasn’t stopped collectors from purchasing his red ink Heritage autograph for well over $5,000 dollars, while his base autograph in Bowman regularly hits $1,500+ on eBay. There’s also a very active and well-known “bounty” for his 2018 Superfractor, which appears to not have been pulled yet, surprisingly. Like I said, collectors have gone absolutely ape-shit over this new sensation.
Meanwhile, there is a legend and Hall of Famer, that has been pushing daisies for 22 years, who has an extremely low amount of pack-inserted autographs in The Hobby and his name is Mickey Mantle. Sure, there’s this beautiful dual autograph with fellow Hall of Famer, Ken Griffey Jr. but there is another card that has flown well under the radar of most collectors since its release nearly three decades ago.
It’s a card from a company who first started producing baseball cards as ‘Sportflics’ until putting out their underrated debut as ‘Score’. In 1992, Score would produce their first “high-end” set as Pinnacle Brands and the rest was history. But a year earlier, the company that would one day become Pinnacle released into the world an 893-card set with 2,500 Mickey Mantle autographs to be found.
Yes, those numbers are astronomical in today’s hobby of 1/1s and fifty something parallels all numbered down starting from 500 (or whatever). However, in 1991, the trading card landscape looked a lot different and every single company was producing millions of each of their brands. We now refer to these years as the “Junk Wax’ era because of how worthless many of these cards have become.
Pinnacle knew what they were doing, though. Upper Deck introduced pack-inserted autos the prior year and had Reggie Jackson signing for them but Score definitely one-upped them with a player who not only was more popular and beloved, but was a part of Americana. Reggie was a player better known for being a malcontent and wasn’t anywhere near as popular as “The Mick”.
Mickey Mantle will forever be known in our hobby for his 1952 Topps card but it’s ironic that his first time signing officially for a card company was for Pinnacle and later, Upper Deck. Topps missed the boat big time and when it came time for their first pack-inserted certified autograph, they went with “can’t miss” prospect, Brien Taylor, who by the way missed by about 1,000,000 feet.
That could never happen again, right? A highly touted pitcher who everyone (including America’s baseball card brand) banked on and one that had collectors spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for, not living up to the hype? Today, that first embarrassing Topps card sells for less than $3 dollars. I guess it doesn’t matter because Topps is exclusive and Pinnacle has been dead for twenty years now.
Now, back to the matter at hand. For those in the market for a Mantle autograph, check out those 1991 Score inserts. Don’t be scared by the high BINs because in auction format, they have sold for as little as $242.50 and that’s graded. People rag on the junk wax cards of our childhood but hidden in those seemingly endless supply of still unopened wax boxes, there is still treasure to be found.
Never Stop Collecting,