Tears of a Flipper

Twitter was a shit-show yesterday. For starters, the most polarizing man on the planet, Elon Musk, became the new owner of Twitter, to the delight of the Right-wing and the many nasty human beings and bots that call Twitter their home. As one can imagine, the Left was up in arms, threatening to leave Twitter, with some prominent Twitter influencers keeping their word and immediately deleting their account. I for one do not care and will continue using my account for its intended purposes.

On the collecting side of Twitter, there was an even bigger storm brewing, followed by a full day of Retail Flipper tears raining down on us as perhaps the biggest card of 2022, a Topps Platinum 1/1 Wander Franco was finally pulled from a cheap hanger box purchased at a Walgreens in California. While I’m not big on Franco (or any modern player), I understand just how important this card is and going on secondary market value alone, this is what you’d call a life-changing baseball card.

I know what you’re thinking, how could anyone be upset that the biggest card of the year was pulled? Why wouldn’t collectors be happy for someone essentially becoming filthy rich overnight by doing something as fun as buying a pack of baseball cards? Most of us have done the same thing most of our lives, secretly chasing that same dream. Besides, with unopened Hobby boxes reaching an all-time high, someone beating the odds should be a great thing. Well, not always …

It appears that a certain element of Twitter, specifically “flippers”, are up in arms over this transaction. These greasy-haired, Mtn. Dew fueled, Hot Cheetos shirt-stained bozos who own more cargo shorts than underwear cannot handle that Topps put such an illustrious card inside a hanger pack at Walgreens. To these people, this card should have been included as a Hobby-exclusive so that that some popular group breaker with 25 cases of product could stream it on Instagram. To them, that’s the only way to do it.

Never should such a card be found in a value pack at a local drug store. To these people, spending $500 on a box of cards should promise the world to them. To breakers who hoard cases by dropping tens of thousands of dollars, this is a travesty. To that 25-year-old living with Mom & Dad, who just wiped-out Target of $5,000 worth of Panini product so that he can add an 80% mark-up, this is a slap in the face. Elon just bought Twitter and some nobody in California just struck oil on a Tampa Bay Rays rookie card. The world is coming to an end!

I for one will celebrate the underdog. So will all the other thousands of collectors who have been completely priced out of buying baseball cards in 2022. As will the long-time collectors who just can’t find cards to buy during what could be the hottest this hobby has ever been. You know who else will celebrate with me? That card shop owner who was only able to secure 8 hobby boxes of Topps Chrome to sell to his dwindling customers because Houdini and his clones purchased 80 cases for YouTube and social media video group breaks.

Need I remind these so-called collectors that if you are overpaying for Topps’ flagship product looking for a 1/1, you are doing it wrong. Topps’ flagship is a low-level, set builders product and has been for over 70 years. If you want big hits or colorful parallels, flagship is not for you. Flagship is a product that is meant to be affordable and attainable to anyone who wants to feel the joy of opening a back of baseball cards. It’s unfortunate that grading has polluted the hobby with greed and even flagship is a tough find during the first month of release.

I for one commend Topps. Thank you for looking out for the little guy.

Saying Goodbye to the Bad Guy

I knew something wasn’t right last week when I logged on to TikTok and was met by a video of WWE Hall of Famer and wrestling legend, Scott Hall, doing a private signing at a comic book store. In the video, Hall appears to be under the influence of heavy sedatives while an endless stream of memorabilia is being shoved in his face. Watching the former slick, “Razor Ramon” struggle with Sharpie markers was truly a sad sight for someone who grew up watching this troubled icon on WWF television.

A couple of days after this TikTok hit the web, news broke that Scott had suffered a serious fall and needed emergency hip replacement surgery. Originally, it was believed that Scott’s injury, while serious, would be something easy to recover from considering that Scott has been a fighter and survivor for most of his life. Unfortunately, over the weekend things took a turn for the worst and it appears the end is near for the 63-year old, after suffering 3 heart attacks and being placed on life support.

While most fans and friends of the legendary Scott Hall are choosing to remain optimistic publicly, Hall’s best friend and business partner for more nearly three decades, fellow WWE Hall of Famer, Kevin Nash, pretty much guaranteed that time has all but run out for the Bad Guy judging by this tragic Facebook posting (see below). It appears that at some point this week, Scott’s life support will be removed and his life will hang in the balance and will continue only if Scott can manage to kick out one final time.

As it relates to trading cards, Scott Hall’s signature appeared on multiple Topps products from 2015-2016 after a career resurgence thanks to Diamond Dallas Page’s help getting Scott healthy and ready for the WWE Hall of Fame induction in 2014. As late as 2019, Scott appeared to be in the best shape of his career but clearly the pandemic and aging, not to mention years of abuse took its toll on Scott. As for Scott’s most desired autograph, it comes from 1999 Topps WCW/nWo Nitro, a now legendary and pricey set.

As for the now pivotal 1999 Topps WCW/nWo set, it is filled with legendary wrestlers no longer with us (Macho Man, Mr. Perfect, Eddie Guererro), wrestlers who are about to exit stage left (Hall, Scott Steiner, Hulk Hogan), and icons of today’s world of wrestling (Chris Jericho, Ric Flair, Bret Hart). In reality, this set hands down features the best wrestling checklist ever put together and no amount of $13,000 overpriced and overhyped modern Topps sets can come near it.

Should Collectors Expect More?

The other day on Twitter I ran into a tweet by CheapFunBreaks showing off a Chadwick Boseman cut signature. My immediate reaction was to point out that the cut autograph was too small for the designated window. This is something I’ve address many times. I understand really rare autographs pre-1960 aren’t always catered to fit the traditional trading card formats but for someone who died in 2020, there’s just no excuse to pull a card like this out of a box that retails for well over $20,000.

In case you didn’t know, 2021 Topps Transcendent is the cream of the crop in ultra, high-end baseball cards. For starters, there are only 95 boxes available, and most are immediately gobbled up by big name breakers like CheapFunBreaks and rightfully so, as there’s not many collectors who are going to have the resources to spend $20,000+ on one of these boxes alone. Breaking it up and selling slots is the way to go and has turned quite a bit of profit to those breakers who can afford it.

When I tweeted my disappointment that the cut didn’t fit the window, I was immediately blasted by Topps apologists who were quick to defend their beloved company. My take is that yes, I can accept this from a rare autograph but again, Boseman passed in 2020 and looking online it appears he signed just about ANYTHING handed to him with the exception of trading cards. Upper Deck even released a licensed, Black Panther set in 2018 but failed to obtain autographs of the biggest stars, including the biggest one, Chadwick.

I can understand a cut autograph of Roberto Clemente not fitting a window because Roberto died way back in 1972 and it’s fair to assume most of his autographs are safely stored in private collections and/or have been destroyed by now. Even someone like Andre the Giant, who signed quite a bit in his day but died in 1993 is someone I’d consider rare because he missed the trading card autograph revolution by a few years. Boseman was a star, arguably for nearly a decade before his untimely death two years ago.

Call me crazy but if you are going to release a product with a $20,000+ price tag on it, you had better damn well make sure every card in the product is immaculate (and they mostly are). What breakers won’t tell you is that no matter what 1/1 or cut signature you pull from one of these products, it’s nearly impossible to ever make your money back on any box produced. I’d be okay with that sad fact from a $200 box of cards but when I drop enough to get into a 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer, I need some ROI.

So, I did a little digging on CheapFunBreaks and found his 2021 Topps Transcendent break details. He charges $374.99 for one spot. If you hit a 1/1, you are penalized and have to pay extra for shipping. There are 57 total spots available, which means he clears $21,374.23, plus extra for shipping. It’s clear he receives some kind of kickback and/or rebate from Blowout Cards but I would imagine it’s not that much. Plus, he likely earns money from YouTube. Come to think of it, I really don’t know how these guys are making any profit on these.

My advice, buy some singles on eBay and get yourself a new car.

My White Whale & the Sad Story Behind It

I remember 1997 like it happened last month. It was hands down my favorite year of collecting baseball cards and sadly also my last, at least for a while, as relationships and employment began to consume my time as a 17-year old. That year, Bowman Chrome made its debut and easily became one of the best and fastest selling baseball products of the year thanks to a one-game performance from Kerry Wood.

At my local card shop, I watched the owner proudly run through two cases of the product one particular night as he was blessed with 4-5 men in suits who were buying pack after pack of Chrome. By that time, packs of ’97 Bowman Chrome had run up to $13, which was astounding considering the product featured zero autographs and carried just 4 cards per pack. With gas at .98 cents per gallon, a single pack could fill up my entire car. I passed.

I was shocked to discover that Bowman’s Best, was for the most part, complete ignored. Unlike the overrated Bowman Chrome, Best really lived up to its name that year with the gorgeous Atomic Refractors and on-card prospect autographs, which are officially the first Chrome Prospect Autographs ever produced. Bowman Chrome’s debut had none of these luxuries but collectors still turned their nose at Best.

At $4 dollars for a pack of 6 cards, Bowman’s Best seemed like a much better deal so I splurged on 4 packs. With all the madness of the card shop that night, I took my packs home and chose to open them in my room. I wish I could tell you that I pulled a Kerry Wood Atomic or even a Derek Jeter Prospect Auto but pack after pack I kept pulling duds like Mark Kotsay and Chili Davis. Nothing at all to write home about.

In my last pack, something unbelievable happened. I actually beat the odds, for the first and possibly last time in this God-forsaken hobby. I pulled a Mirror Image Atomic Refractor insert of Ken Griffey Jr. with stated odds of 1:192 packs. I screamed like a little girl not because I was a fan of “The Kid” but I knew someone who was and had a gigantic stack of Jose Canseco cards I desperately needed.

Craig Zimmerman had the perfect life. A mother and a father, as well as a great home life. Craig was an excellent student and his dad rewarded him each week by buying him a box of every Topps, Upper Deck, Fleer, and Pinnacle baseball product released going back to 1994. By 1997, Craig kept his clothes in a portable drawer because his closet was filled with well over 100,000 baseball cards all neatly organized by teams and stars.

I was a fan of Jose Cruz Jr. and expected big things from him but knew that I could trade the insert for 20-30 Jose Canseco cards I needed. I spent an entire day in Craig’s closet (no jokes, please) and pulled out a monster stack of Canseco cards. At the end of the long day, we made a trade for 36 different Jose Canseco cards from 1994 to 1997 and he in turn got my rare, 1997 Bowman’s Best Mirror Image Atomic Refractor, which had a book value of around $150.

There was one little problem. When Craig saw the card I brought him he immediately said, “Oh, I already have that one”. I guess he just felt bad that I rode my bike all the way to his house and proceeded to start the trade anyway. When I took a peek into his collection, I found the card he said he had but there was something different about it. Everything was the same except for the photos, which were reversed. Instead of Griffey Jr. being in the larger spot, this one had Jose Cruz Jr in it. I don’t think Craig even cared to notice.

When I got home that evening, I immediately began to wonder exactly why the images were reversed. Keep in mind this was early 1997 before social media, message boards, and even eBay. I had to wait a couple of days to hit my local card shop but the owner also had no idea what the card was. I picked up the latest issue of Beckett Baseball but it too made no mention. I started to think this was possible a very rare error card and Craig probably had the only copy in the world.

As I stated earlier, 1997 was my last year as a collector for an entire decade and by 1998, I moved and lost track of Craig. By the time I decided to start collecting again in 2007, I created this blog to document my journey and eventually discovered the card Craig owned was the original SSP, the “Inverted” Mirror Image Atomic Refractor. These cards are so rare, there is still no stated odds or print run available. Atomic Refractor autographs have a 1:6,107 stated odds but these Mirror Image cards are way more rare.

So naturally, I spent the next decade looking for Craig on Facebook with very little luck. Finally, late last year I pulled up some addresses online and drove down to our old hometown in Weston, Florida to see if I could track him down. Craig and I had some unfinished business to take care of. Unfortunately, my visit would be the start of a sad, downward spiral to this story.

After speaking with Craig’s mom she informed me that Craig’s father passed away the very same year I moved away (1998) and that Craig never really emotionally recovered from it. She gave me an address in Winter Park, Florida where Craig, now 39, resides. The next morning, I made my way to Fairview Mobile Court to speak to Craig for one final trade, this one involving cash money for the two Mirror Image inserts that I’ve obsessed about for 25 years.

To say Craig had seen better days is an understatement. Craig’s mobile home looked welcoming enough from the outside but inside it was filled with trash, way more trash than I have ever seen in my life. Under and around that trash was yellowing boxes of baseball cards. Craig, now well over 300 lbs and suffering the effects of diabetes (missing part of his left foot) was unemployed and living off government benefits. His dad’s old Monte Carlo sat rusting away in his car port, along with a large tricycle with three flat tires.

I didn’t want to spend much time in that trailer, so I explained to Craig that I was still collecting baseball cards and wanted to make him an offer on two particular cards in his collection, if he still owned them. He told me he had every card his dad ever bought him, but he could always use some extra cash. I spent about 20 minutes rummaging through his collection before finding the two Mirror Image cards. Craig asked me how much he thought they were worth because he stopped collecting in 1999.

Craig said he wanted to get his dad’s old car running again but needed around $200 for an oil pump (plus labor). This is where the story takes another turn and may not leave me in the best light. I remember seeing an Inverted Atomic Griffey selling for $330 dollars way back in 2016 so I offered him $400 for both cards. It was an incredibly low offer considering he had the inverted plus the regular version but his face lit up and he immediately accepted the offer and I went on my way with my White Whale in hand.

By the time I began doing my research earlier this year I was shocked to discover that the last sale of the inverted Griffey Jr. was in 2021 for $1,400 and the regular version last sold for $499. Granted, both these copies were graded but I definitely short-changed Craig, by a lot. I spent the last two months calling and texting Craig but couldn’t reach him. I found out last week why that was. Craig died on Valentine’s Day of Covid-19. As tragic as it is for someone to die so young, I’ll never forget that very special year in 1997 when I was able to search through Craig’s unbelievable collection to make the trade of a lifetime and how I got to do it once more before his passing.

Below are the pride and joy of my collection, 1997 Bowman’s Best Mirror Image Atomic Refractor and the mythical Inverted version. Although neither player lived all the way up to their hype, it’s still a very important card from what is my favorite year of baseball cards ever, 1997. A couple of years ago I wrote a countdown of the best products from 1997 which I think deserves a second look, or first if you are new to the site. Stay tuned!

Too Much Tribute?

Like many fellow collectord, I couldn’t wait to get a look at 2022 Topps Series 1 for that small chance that Jose Canseco may show up somewhere on the checklist despite being retired for two decades. I didn’t purchase a single 2021 Topps Canseco card but I went into the new year with high hopes that Topps would finally scale back on having to rely on classic designs from the past to milk the nostalgia teats and/or continuing to recycle the same images seen in their products year after year.

Unfortunately, Jose Canseco does show up in 2022 Topps but it’s in the form of a redemption with an autograph on a … you guessed it, a 1987 “throwback” design. For those who may think all I do is complain, let me show you why I hate throwbacks, speaking only as a Jose Canseco super collector of more than thirty years now. Below you will find a list of some of the Jose Canseco 1987 “throwbacks” I currently own. I say some because I stopped updating my spreadsheet in 2019 but continued buying Canseco cards well into 2021.

2004 Topps Originals Signature Edition /99
2005 Topps All Time Fan Favorites
2005 Topps Rookie Cup Reprints
2005 Topps Rookie Cup Reprints Chrome
2005 Topps Gallery Heritage
2005 Topps Gallery Bat
2014 Topps Future Stars That Never Were
2014 Topps Future Stars That Never Were
2014 Topps Future Stars That Never Were Autograph
2015 Topps Archives Signature Series Autograph
2016 Topps 65th Buyback
2016 Topps Archives Signature Series Autograph
2017 Topps All Star Autograph
2017 Topps 87 Autographs
2017 Topps Archives Signature Series Autograph
2017 Topps Update All Rookie Cup Reprints
2018 Topps Clearly Authentic
2021 Topps Archives Signature Series

I know what you’re thinking … you fool, why buy so many retreads? Isn’t that just encouraging Topps to keep producing them? Yes I am a fool but no on the second part. Trust me when I say Topps does not give one ounce of fuck on what they produce because year after year, no matter what they mock-up, it is guaranteed to immediately sell out thanks to online breakers. In the large scheme of things, do you think Topps cares about one unhappy Jose Canseco collector who spends less than $1,000 dollars a year on cards?

When it comes to throwbacks, Topps did it best way back in 2005 with All-Time Fan Favorites, a now extremely rare card especially in Refractor form. For this tribute, Topps added the Chrome & Refractor technology which wasn’t even a twinkle in Michael Eisner’s pool boy’s eye in 1987. In 2018, Topps added the signed acetate reprint. Unfortunately, Topps has produced buybacks of ’87 Topps Canseco in Archives Signature Edition five years in a row, ultimately watering down the secondary market.

As for the 2022 Topps Series 1 redemption, the ONLY way Topps can save itself from another verbal lashing here at the Baseball Card Blog, is if the card features an unseen/unused photo of Canseco from ’85-’88. There’s nothing worse than using a photo of jacked-up Canseco from his time with the A’s in 1997 in an ’87 throwback. It just does not work for me. This was done with Topps’ ’87 Tribute from 2017 featuring 1997 Juiced Canseco and 1990 Still Juiced but Not As Much Canseco. The picture must be from the same era as the design!

You can expect Part Two of the 2022 Topps Canseco Redemption once the card hits collectors.