The Hobby Penny Pincher IV

In the Hobby Penny Pincher, I will be displaying a modern “hot autograph” available on the secondary market and then I’ll point you to a usually cheaper but just as beautiful alternative to help make your purchasing decision. I don’t use eBay affiliate links and have no way to make money off my work, it’s just a free service for those deep into collecting. I know at times in my collecting life I have been left disheartened due to price gouging and would hate to see someone walk away because they feel like they aren’t able to keep up with the Joneses.

Well, 2022 is lurking just around the corner but that hasn’t stopped Topps Company from pumping out one final baseball product for the calendar year. Allen & Ginter Chrome is now live, in demand and completely unnecessary. Allen & Ginter, a brand that was once a set collector’s dream that was known for being fun & quirky has descended into just another release dominated by Chrome/Refractor madness and chased by young flippers looking to make some quick money.

One of the bigger hits so far, available on eBay, is a wonderful Reggie Jackson Orange Refractor, on-card autograph numbered to 25 with a $999.99 price tag. Let the record show that not even one week ago, a 2021 Topps Finest Reggie Jackson autograph sold for $30.00 and most of his 2021 Topps autographs regularly sell for well under $100. Seems to me that the Allen & Ginter Chrome is a bit inflated at the moment. Thankfully, I have a much better Jackson autograph and unlike the Ginter Chrome, this one is HISTORIC.

Look, I have absolutely no idea why you’d even want a Reggie Jackson autograph. Perhaps he’s your uncle? Maybe he’s your stuck-up neighbor yelling at kids to stay off his freaking grass? There’s plenty of Reggie Jackson on-card, certified autographs available to choose from and like most of his 2021 checklist, you can find hundreds for under $100 if you are smart and patient. While there are many flashy versions that will include gimmicks, the one you really want comes from way back in 1990.

You see, Upper Deck, in only their second year, inserted Reggie Jackson certified autographs in packs of their flagship. Let that sink in for a moment … their SECOND YEAR. Meanwhile, Topps, as usual, asleep at the wheel, was still learning to use gold foil (read about their test run here). This Reggie Jackson card is not rare by any stretch of the imagination, but it is truly the FIRST pack-inserted, certified autograph to hit the market and truthfully, it is absolutely glorious in every way. Ungraded copies can be had for under $300, again with patience.

You will easily find flashier Reggie Jackson autographs featuring Refractor technology, low numbered serial printing, and even game-used memorabilia but nothing beats 1990’s Upper Deck REGGIE card. This was a time when Upper Deck was years ahead of its time and truly innovative in an industry full of lame ducks like Donruss, Fleer, Score, and Topps Company. Upper Deck’s reign wouldn’t last long, as Topps Refractors were just three years away but in 1990, there was no greater baseball card manufacturer.

Look! A Rare ‘Cy You’ Autograph!

For a guy who died nearly 70 years ago, Cy Young sure seems to appear often in Topps products. I’ve seen his cut signatures in Triple Threads, Tier One, Five Star, and Dynasty (see below). I’ve even seen his cut signature in products from Leaf and Upper Deck. There’s even more available if you’re searching for a non-card autograph. Still, a Cy Young autograph is 100 times more rare than anything from the modern era, which is why it’s such a big deal when you see them coming from a modern release.

For the most part, most Cy Young cut signatures have been well done and aesthetically pleasing. Sometimes a little piece of the signature is cut off but never anything as bad as the 2020 Topps Dynasty card, which missed two letters from his last name when there is only five total letters to include. It’s great to be able to find a card like this in a modern, albeit way overpriced product like Dynasty but sometimes a better judgement needs to be exercised when deciding what cards get made and what gets cut. Pardon my pun.

At the moment, you can find boxes of 2020 Topps Dynasty anywhere from $700-$800 per box. That box contains just one card. The ‘Cy You’ cut signature is currently sitting on eBay with a $6,000 price tag. While it is extremely unlikely that this card will ever sell for anything close to that asking price, it’s fair to say the collector is almost guaranteed to make back the money he paid for the box with lots of room for profit. With soaring prices on unopened products, this is a card that must be sold at any opportunity.

The problem is that Topps seems to have completely thrown their arms up and given up as a baseball card manufacturer. Take a look at the half a booklet below featuring Home Run King, Henry Aaron. I’ve already documented how Hammerin’ Hank signed stickers and cards way too deep into his life that tarnished his hobby reputation but this here isn’t even completely his fault. First off, Hank signed his name as ‘Hai’ but Topps then cut off the last name. It is mind-boggling that this card made it into production.

I haven’t written a new Hobby Penny Pincher in a couple of weeks but folks, there are plenty of on-card, Hank Aaron autos going back as far as 1991 Upper Deck. I am not a fan of that card due to a hardly visible autograph from the dark background but Aaron also has several more autographs in 1997 and 1998. That doesn’t even count the thousands and thousands of autographs he signed for Topps from 2010 through 2020. There are over 400 of those sloppy autographs alone on eBay right now. We as collectors need to start rejecting these now common, half-assed efforts from Topps Company.

Unfortunately, sticker autographs in modern products is a necessary evil. If a product is considered high-end, there should be more of an effort made to obtain hard-signed cards by the manufacturers. The only way we can combat the spread of these cards is to not spend our money on it. If these cards fail to sell on the secondary market, eventually, more collectors will decide that maybe a $700 box of 4 cards isn’t the best idea if you’re planning to make at least some of your money back.

eBay is littered with players who have signed WAY too much, cards with stickers that have signatures that went outside the alloted area, cut signatures that are either a disgrace or cut-off like the ones I wrote about today, and cards that have forged and/or auto-penned autographs. There’s a lot of garbage to wade through and that can frustrate even the most passionate collector. As always, your best bet is to look to the past and not spend a penny on cards that fail to meet you and almost every other collector’s most basic requirements.

The Hobby Penny Pincher V.3

In the Hobby Penny Pincher, I will be displaying a modern “hot autograph” available on the secondary market and then I’ll point you to a usually cheaper but just as beautiful alternative to help make your purchasing decision. I don’t use eBay affiliate links and have no way to make money off my work, it’s just a free service for those deep into collecting. I know at times in my collecting life I have been left disheartened due to price gouging and would hate to see someone walk away because they feel like they aren’t able to keep up with the Joneses.

2021 Topps X Mickey Mantle is a fine product. Released as an online exclusive, Topps sold boxes of X Mickey Mantle for $10 a pop. With no guaranteed hits or even parallels, it harkens back to the late-90s era of collecting when “hits” were a “golden ticket” and not a guarantee. There are of course 11 parallels because it is Topps after all, as well as lots of Yankees autographs from the likes of Derek Jeter, Reggie Jackson, Mariano Rivera, as well as B-level guys like Gossage, Guidry, and Posada.

I can’t forget Mantle, of course. There are 7 Mickey Mantle cut autographs in this product. Supposedly, at least 2 of the 7 have already been pulled yet surprisingly have not been placed for sale. It’s only a matter of time before one of these cuts hit eBay and when that happens, you can expect an outrageous $10,000+ price tag due to the nature of the card (HOF + deceased + low numbered) and because there’s so many new eyes on cards again that someone may be dumb enough to pay that price.

So there you go. The card above is one of the seven. Basically, what Topps did is buy a certified Mickey Mantle signed photograph to cut up so that it can fit into a baseball card. What some new collectors may fail to realize is that Mantle, who died 25 years ago, signed more than two lifetime’s worth of signatures. The man spent most of the 80s and 90s signing for pennies on the dollar to make ends meet. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that just keep that in mind when you see one of these “cards” hit eBay.

What’s even more amazing is that two different card companies had the foresight to have Mantle sign actual baseball cards for them before his untimely demise. One of those card companies was Upper Deck, of course. They have always been ahead of the curve. The other was the “little card company that could”, Score, which eventually became Pinnacle Brands. So there are actual, on-card Mickey Mantle autographs that were once held by the Yankees legend and they still go for well under $10,000.

To give you an idea of just how common Mantle autographs are, Score itself released 2,500 of them alone in 1991. They literally released an entire series of Mantle on-card autographs. Think back to when Oprah gave away cars to her studio guests. In 1991, if you bought a box of Score, “you got a Mantle, you got a Mantle, YOU got a Mantle, EVERYONE GOT A MANTLE!” That’s why it’s so unbelievable to me that collectors are buying up these cut signature monstrosities in favor of real baseball cards.

In some cases, cut signatures are a necessary evil. I for one don’t collect signed photographs so if that is my only option, yes I’ll take a cut signature. However, for me to take cut signatures of Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle when both signed thousands of cards before their demise, that to me is a crime against baseball cards. Don’t be a criminal, give the past a chance and if you feel like there’s a possibility of getting ripped off by a fake, which is a real problem, find yourself a graded copy. It will still cost you less than 10K.

Further reading:

Pinnacle Brands and God? YES!

My War Against Unnecessary Cut Autographs

Topps is the Latest In A Long Line of Cutters

You Get What You Pay For, Even If It’s $13,000

The Hobby Penny Pincher V.2

In the Hobby Penny Pincher, I will be displaying a modern “hot autograph” available on the secondary market and then I’ll point you to a usually cheaper but just as beautiful alternative to help make your purchasing decision. I don’t use eBay affiliate links and have no way to make money off my work, it’s just a free service for those deep into collecting. I know at times in my collecting life I have been left disheartened due to price gouging and would hate to see someone walk away because they feel like they aren’t able to keep up with the Joneses.

Ah, Mike Piazza. Who doesn’t love Mike Piazza, well, besides liberals? Former Los Angeles hero, Mike Piazza, can be found in boxes of 2021 Topps Transcendent, which you can buy for around $25,000. No, that’s not a typo or my idea of a sick joke. The 104-card box comes loaded with autographs, cut signatures, multiple one of one’s, and other goodies. I’m not here to discuss the irony of a $25,000 dollar box in a supposed children’s hobby. We can have that discussion another day.

The Mike Piazza below is an on-card, one of one Superfractor that’s currently sitting on eBay with a $1,995 price tag. It features every gimmick collectors obsess over, including a certified autograph, Superfractor swirl pattern, and serial numbering on a classic Topps design. I’ll be honest, it’s kind of my thing and if I were a Piazza collector, I would absolutely want to add this piece to my collection. That being said, Piazza has rubbed me the wrong way for years since his retirement and wore off any type of respect I once had for him.

If you absolutely, must have a Piazza on-card autograph, you’re in luck. Mikey signed quite a bit during the later portion of his career and can be found in several products from that era. My pick would be the wonderful, 1999 SP Signature Edition, which features a brilliant, late-90s Y2K-style Upper Deck design, signed with a blue marker that matches Piazza’s digs. As usual with earlier autos, the signature is much fuller. You could buy this card graded, today, for $349.98 but my advice is to set a notification on eBay and wait till it surfaces raw.

Mike Piazza was a great baseball player and Hall of Famer but let’s be completely honest, his autographs should easily fetch around $200 or less. There are much cheaper options from the early-2000s but for me, Upper Deck’s late-90s offerings were as good as it ever got and a must-have for any serious Piazza collector. Forget the hype of Transcendent and the now overused flash of the Superfractor and save yourself a headache trying to explain to your wife why you spent $2,000 on a photo of a hairy man sporting a mullet.

The Hobby Penny Pincher V.1

At the Baseball Card Blog, I try my best to showcase both the good and bad in the world of sports cards. I spend a majority of my time writing about brands from 1993 through 1999, as those are what I consider to be a seven year stretch of excellence. Don’t get me wrong, I cover all eras of baseball cards but those are the years I am most passionate about. For modern collectors, things can get complicated if you’re just starting out. Prices of singles and unopened product have hit all-time highs and it’s easy to get frustrated when you can’t afford to purchase that dream card you found on eBay.

In the Hobby Penny Pincher, I will be displaying a modern “hot autograph” available on the secondary market and then I’ll point you to a usually cheaper but just as beautiful alternative to help make your purchasing decision. I don’t use eBay affiliate links and have no way to make money off my work, it’s just a free service for those deep into collecting. I know at times in my collecting life I have been left disheartened due to price gouging and would hate to see someone walk away because they feel like they aren’t able to keep up with the Joneses.

I’ve written well over 3,000 articles on baseball cards and one name that has never come up is Steve Garvey. Garvey, a former M.V.P and 10-time All-Star has lived a pretty inconspicuous life in and out of baseball. Thanks to Topps Company, his name has made a return in 2021 along the likes of superstars like Mike Trout, Juan Soto, and Shohei Ohtani. In Gold Label, a 35-card per $120 box product, you can find several Steve Garvey framed autographs. One of them, a true “1 of 1”, is currently sitting on eBay with a $400 price tag, 1 auction day left and 0 bids.

If you are a lifelong Garvey fan or just like to collect Dodgers autographs, there are much better alternatives than $400 dollar, 2021 Gold Label cards. For example, check out 2003’s Team Topps Legends, which features a much fuller Garvey signature and sells regularly for under $20, which leaves $380 left in your bank account. If you want something a little fancier, Garvey is also in 2002 Upper Deck Sweet Spot & Sweet Spot Classic, which didn’t have any of the fading issues from 2007. These Sweet Spot cards are incredibly undervalued and also sell for less than $20.

At the end of the day, the choice is yours. As a Jose Canseco collector for 30 years, one of the hardest lessons I had to learn was that no matter how amazing a recently released card is, there will never be a shortage (unless it’s a 1/1). The new Canseco cards are always in high demand and in the spotlight, especially thanks to evangelical super collectors with money to burn. Deciding on waiting 1-2 years after release dates has saved me $5-$10 per card on average, which in turn leaves me more money for cards in the long run. That’s a win-win, if you ask me.

I’m currently ending my 2019 run on Canseco cards and next year will begin 2020. I won’t touch a single 2021 card well into 2023. It may sound bizarre or not your cup of tea if you like to show off your cards on social media, but for me personally, it has worked wonders, as my Canseco count is deep into 2,500 different cards. Some times, it pays to let the rabbit wear himself out so you can slowly and methodically win the race. I’ve been collecting Jose Canseco cards since 1990, when you start getting into three decades you have to do whatever it takes to continue.