And So It Ends

6 10 2010

Author: Mario Alejandro

There was once a time when The Hobby ran through my mind 24/7. Here I was cranking out over 100 articles per month, recording box breaks to post on YouTube, scouring eBay for new cards I needed, and making online trades in every popular online forum available. Oh, did I forget to mention I had a full-time job and a wife and kid at home?

I guess you could say I was burning the candle at both ends looking for something I could never quite find. Was it the perfect Jose Canseco collection, a cover story on Beckett, or maybe those long-lost barrels of 1952 Topps buried at sea? I can’t quite say because I do not know the answer. I do know that my time at Wax Heaven, which unofficially ended in December when I shut the site down, is officially over as of October 4th, 2010, just a few weeks shy of the third anniversary.

Rather than let the site sit unattended and underappreciated except for the 700-800 random visitors who come through Google searches daily, I did the only thing I could do to ensure the Wax Heaven name would live on; I sold it. Everything, too, not just the WordPress blog. The Twitter account with 200+ followers and the YouTube account with over 500 subscribers as well. Everything Wax Heaven was, including the 2,000+ articles, close to 2 million visitors, and 25,000+ comments now belong to one man … and who is this man, you ask?

Well, his name is Austin and aside from being a true blue journalist like everyone’s favorite blogger, Chris Olds, he is also a collector from the 80’s and early 90’s who has just come back to The Hobby after a long absence and wants to write about his experiences coming back to a completely new scene none of us “old” collectors could have ever envisioned.

Sounds exactly like me, which is exactly why I knew he would be the best man to take over Wax Heaven. So expect a full return to stories, probably written much better than I ever could with an entirely new perspective on this wonderful hobby of ours that keeps us coming back for more even decades after our last pack of cards.

God bless you all for the wonderful support, emails, free cards and so much more. A special thanks goes out to Upper Deck and Chris Carlin for being the first to believe the “little guy” could one day compete and kick Goliath’s ass (and we certainly did). We had a great run and I’m very proud to see how immense the entire community has become since my arrival in 2007. See you all in the future and for those that want to keep up with me you can find me on Facebook.

Keep Collectin’,

Mario Alejandro Castillo





Taking Issue With Beckett Media

15 09 2010

Author: Mario Alejandro

No, it’s not what you think. I am not back to blogging full-time, nor is this another jab at Beckett Baseball’s editor, Chris Olds. Actually, since my departure from the blogosphere, Beckett’s blog has become a daily visit for me, believe it or not. While my days of collecting are behind me, I still have an interest in The Hobby, which is why I have become an avid reader of that site.

I no longer have time to keep up with the “inside” info great forums like Freedom Card Board provide, or from reading the hundreds of collector blogs so Beckett provides just the right amount of information for someone like me who wants just the facts sprinkled with the images and details. That way I can kinda sorta pretend like I know what I’m talking about on the rare occasion I log into my Wax Heaven Twitter account.

That being said, something Chris Olds said in a recent blog really irked me. Forget about the fact that I wrote about a very similar story well over a year ago. What really gets me is his assumption that many collectors “cringe” when reminded of Fleer’s Metal Universe line from the late-90’s. Yes, the cards were not as valuable as other releases from that year but are they any worse than today’s sets because it lacked relics and autographs and were a little, well, over the top? Absolutely not.

I challenge any collector to purchase a box of Metal Universe from the few years it was in production (I believe ’96-’98) and tell me what they think. First off, notice how much more enjoyable (and valuable) parallels are when they are actual tough pulls and not 10-12 per box. Second, look at the base cards and tell me when was the last time a card company put that much time and effort into their cards.

Just go out and bust a box of the uberhot 2010 Bowman and tell me how much fun you have if you don’t pull a Stephen Strasburg base or parallel. Yes, the cards are well produced, feature above average photography (most of the time) and the Refractor parallels are beautiful but how much time did you spend looking through your duds AKA commons?

With every card in Metal Universe, you had something great to look at and it didn’t matter if you just pulled a Ken Griffey Jr. or a Billy Ripken. In a day and age in collecting when parallels consist of an extra border or reflective film on a card, Metal Universe was a step in the right direction by a company that was clearly on its last legs.

No, I’m not calling for The Hobby to go back to the “good ole days” when base was everything, relics didn’t exist and autographs in packs were only done by Upper Deck; I’m just saying that a forgotten brand like Metal Universe deserves a little respect by Beckett Media since it is clear that collectors on eBay, browsing forums, and writing blogs already have plenty of respect for this unique brand from yesteryear.

For more coverage on Metal Universe, click HERE.





This Card Makes Me Sad

21 04 2010

Author: Mario Alejandro

Take a look at this dual game-used memorabilia card featuring the Bash Brothers from 2010 Famous Fabrics. While it’s the card several collectors have been waiting for, it’s an absolute FAIL on so many levels.

Let’s ignore for a moment that the two pieces of fabric, while larger than normal pieces you’d find in Topps and Upper Deck most of the time, is plain and boring. There’s not a single photo anywhere on the card.

Yes, there’s a little graphic of a hitter (a lefty no less) but it’s clearly something pulled from a generic image program and bears no resemblance to “Mr. Truth”, Canseco and “Mr. Denial”, McGwire.

This is exactly why so many of us are mourning the imminent death of Upper Deck. What other company had the balls, err … intestinal fortitude to give player collectors new cards of Pete Rose and Jose Canseco without fear of a backlash?

Topps certainly won’t touch those two despite strong sales on the secondary market for both players and a very strong demand as visible through card trading message boards and blogs.

For those interested in this card (and there are some desperate few), you can check out the eBay auction HERE. It’s currently up to nearly $30 dollars with three bids.

Hey, there’s a sucker born every minute …





Examples of Pinnacle Backdoored Cards

19 04 2010

Author: Mario Alejandro

While my latest article talks about the possibility of Upper Deck cards being backdoored if the company goes under, I didn’t have a chance to show readers examples of some legendary and very expensive backdoored cards from the final days of Pinnacle Brands.

Unlike Upper Deck, which in my opinion had an average year in 2009, it’s clear that Pinnacle Brands were in their prime when the doors closed and the printers were shut down for good. While these cards may be a little “busy” to some, I can attest that in person they are as breathtaking as Elaine Benes.

You can read more about these cards and see more images HERE.





Is Upper Deck Headed to ‘Wax Heaven’?

19 04 2010

Author: Mario Alejandro

As a collector of trading cards, it’s now almost impossible to not read about the almost guaranteed demise of the Upper Deck Company. Beckett Media and the New York Times are reporting on it, bloggers are having a field day, and even card shop owners can’t avoid the subject.

Alright, before we throw a sympathy party it should be noted that Upper Deck brought this on themselves. From the crazy stories in the book ‘Card Sharks’ to the Konami and MLB lawsuits, the more you play with fire the better your chances are of getting burned and boy are the flames high in Carlsbad, California right now.

While I would hate to see U.D. go, what happens if the company officially closes shop? Could we see a boatload of backdoored cards hit the secondary market much like in the final days of Pinnacle Brands? What if 2010 Goudey cards of Derek Jeter mysteriously hit eBay one day? What kind of demand would that card bring?

If Upper Deck doesn’t survive this storm (and it’s looking bleak), we could realistically see some unlicensed cards hit The Hobby at an alarming rate. Much like Dick McWilliams gave MLB the middle finger when U.D. lost the MLB license, a move to release cards through the backdoor could be Upper Deck’s final “F-U” to Major League Baseball.

Of course, this is just speculation from a Hobby outsider. For all we know, U.D could make amends with Major League Baseball, sit out for a couple of years and make a triumphant return someday but what if …?

How much would YOU pay for a Derek Jeter autograph from 2010 Goudey, assuming one exists? I know if the Goudey Jose Canseco ever hits eBay, it will easily hit $500+ dollars thanks to the insane Canseco collectors out there.





Picking Up Where I Left Off

12 04 2010

Author: Mario Alejandro

It’s been a really long time since I’ve had any desire to collect. I’ve sat back waiting for the first Jose Canseco/Upper Deck card to show up, and every once in a while checked eBay for Andrew Miller cards to see what the 2010 issues were like but really felt nothing every time.

It wasn’t until this afternoon that I decided to start again, at least with my fallen Florida Marlin, Andrew Miller. Unfortunately, for the third year in a row, Andrew has found himself in the Minors. While I hate to use a word like “bust” for a guy who was nice enough to sign for me several times and even took the time to remember my name, it’s not looking good for Mr. Miller right now.

As for cards, it appears that he’s only been in a couple of releases thus far. The Heritage card below, a sweet-looking, no license Upper Deck release, and a Topps Team release which looks pretty nice as well. As for which of the three I think looks best? It’s easily the Heritage brand pictured below.

You can expect a full report and review on the cards once they start showing up. As for Wax Heaven, I am working on bringing one final exclusive to the site. Although I’m not looking to step on Beckett’s toes (Tracy and I are buds again), this one would be a very special exclusive that would mean a lot to me.

Stay tuned …





Topps Heritage: The Review

8 04 2010

Author: Matt Warburg

To start with, I should thank Mario & Topps for arranging for me to receive a free box to review. Although I have collected Heritage on and off since its inception (2001-2005, 2007, 2009), for reasons which will become clear later in the review this is the first box I have ripped since 2005.

To start with, the base cards and checklist are good but unspectacular. My only quibble would be the fact that both Tim Lincecum and both David Wright cards are SP’s. Being an issue based on a previous release, you know exactly what you are getting in terms of design, although I have to say that I find the player photographs to be rather uninspiring due to the fact that almost all of them are posed shots rather than action photos in keeping with the original design. The only photo that struck me as being particularly horrible was the one of Jim Thome, and the airbrushing was done very skillfully for those players who changed teams during the offseason.

The main problem I have with Heritage, and the primary reason I do not buy boxes any more, is number of SP’s and how they are seeded. With 75 SP’s in the set, and only eight per box, you are looking at 10+ boxes (assuming near-perfect collation) costing $600-700 to acquire enough SP’s to complete the set by ripping wax and trading, something that is both patently ridiculous and decidedly unaffordable. So Topps: either reduce the number of SP’s and/or increase the seeding ratios!!! If you want to continue having 75 SP’s per set, then seed them 1:1 so that three boxes would get you 72 out of the 75 SP’s. Alternatively, reduce the number of SP’s to 50, but seed them 1:2, so that four boxes would get you 48 out of the 50 SP’s. Either option would make it much more affordable for collectors to complete the set solely through buying wax boxes, which would then encourage collectors to do so and increase sales. Given that it currently takes only $200-300 to complete the set using Ebay versus about $1000 using wax boxes alone, many collectors such as myself don’t even bother to buy any boxes when building the set.

The other issue I have with Topps Heritage are the inserts, which I find to be rather boring and uninteresting. Given that most Heritage collectors buy the product primarily to complete the set, there is really no need to have seven different insert sets (Baseball Flashbacks, News Flashbacks, Then & Now, New Age Performers, Chromes, Dice Game, and Babe Ruth 61) plus relics and autographs. I’d get rid of everything except the Chromes, which are fairly popular, and make the Baseball Flashbacks and Then & Now inserts subsets within the regular set (like the Baseball Thrills subset), instead. News Flashbacks have no place in a baseball set, and the New Age Performers not only look virtually identical from year to year, but seem to be an insert set without a theme (the two I got from this box were Tommy Hanson, a hot rookie, and Albert Pujols, a nine-year veteran superstar, two players with absolutely nothing in common).

As to the relic and autograph cards, the less said the better. The autograph checklist is absolutely horrible, with only four HOFers, only eight current players, and twenty-four retired nobodies, and let’s face it….nobody buys Heritage for the relics. Mine was a swatch of Kevin Millwood’s pants, which I’m not sure I could give away even if I tried. So Topps…if you are going to do relics in Heritage, at least limit them to HOFers whose jerseys/pants/bats are actually scarce and somewhat valuable. As the owner of my local card store put it, “…nothing quite beats the thrill of pulling a 1:367 autograph except discovering that the guy you pulled (Bobby Malkmus in his case) was a career .215 hitter with a whopping 8 career home runs and 123 lifetime hits.” And enough with the seat relics…those got boring about two weeks after the first one came out ten years ago.

As to the “dice game” cards, my comment would be that while they are an interesting idea, it was poorly executed. At eighteen cards, and seeded 1:72, there is no hope of completing the set, and the fronts would have been much more interesting had they used different photos than each player’s regular card. The fifteen-card Babe Ruth insert set is pathetically lame, as evidenced that completed sets are going for about $1 each on Ebay, if they even sell at all.

The bottom line is this: out of the 192 cards in the box I opened, only 170 of them helped me to accomplish my primary goal of completing the set. As good as the cards often look, that doesn’t change the fact that Topps Heritage makes it way too difficult and expensive for collectors to complete the set. This is why both I and many other collectors choose not to buy Topps Heritage wax boxes and instead choose to complete the set via Ebay, where a base set can usually be had for about $20-30, and the SP’s for about $2-3 each. Right now, Topps Heritage is a good base product cluttered by too many pointless insert sets, lousy relics/autos, and overly numerous and stingily seeded SP’s. Make it easier and more affordable for collectors to complete the set, and it becomes the best set out there.

Grades:

Base set – B

Inserts – D

Cost of completing the set solely through buying wax – $600-$1000

Overall grade – C