The Mythical Elite Lives On

Love him or hate him (most hate him), Jose Canseco was the biggest name in baseball and baseball cards by the time 1991 Donruss introduced serial numbered trading cards to the pre-internet world. Donruss Elite was as close to Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket as anything had ever been and much like the Wonka Chocolate Factory, there were seemingly an endless supply of ’91 Donruss boxes to rummage through.

Make no mistake, at the time of its release, Jose’s Elite was the most sought after, and easily the most valuable Elite card available, even more so than the only Elite of 1991 to feature a signature, that of a Cub named Ryne Sandberg. Today, the idea of a card serial numbered to 10,000 is almost laughable but in 1991, the number seemed tiny. From 1991 through 1999, my life was baseball cards and I visited more baseball card shops and shows than I can remember and never saw a single copy.

It wasn’t till 2002 that I was able to find an Elite Canseco, thanks to the amazing world of eBay. Even after three decades, these readily available cards can pull in ridiculous numbers. In December 2022, a raw copy sold for $104.50, while another hit $125. I am a collector who hates paying $20 or more for a card without a signature so I am thankful that I bought my copy in 2002 for around $25 dollars.

That brings us to 1994 Donruss Elite, which again featured Jose Canseco but to much less fanfare by this point, as a trade to Texas and injuries had derailed his career and popularity. I picked up that Elite in 2017 through Sportlots for a whopping $4 dollars. I immediately slapped some protection on it and proudly placed it into my collection. Unfortunately, sometime between 2018 and 2022, the card was misplaced, something that is not uncommon for a player collector.

I jumped on Sportlots but found none available so I was forced to get on eBay and begin my hunt. After two failed attempts in auctions, I found a guy asking $19.99 or Best Offer and sent over a $16 offer that was thankfully accepted. This continues the shocking trend of Jose’s recent uptick and popularity that a card someone couldn’t give away 6 years ago now has 10+ bidders going after it in each and every auction.

Either this hobby is thriving more so than ever despite a looming recession or there is some secret underground group of collectors driving up the prices of Jose Canseco cards just to spite me. Whatever the truth is … and I know it’s out there somewhere … I have learned my lesson and will be more careful with my cards because in this day and age, losing a card from the mid to late 90s almost guarantees that I won’t be able to find it again at reasonable prices.