Enter the Junk Auto Era

It took a former Yankees #1 prospect, hobby social media darling, and fellow collector, Phil Hughes, for some to finally see just how oversaturated the sports cards market is. In the tweet above, you will see how many signatures Phil signed for the upcoming Topps Archives Signature Series Retired. Topps paid Phil $4,000 to sign 800 cards, including an astonishing 74 “one of ones”. That money is well worth it as Hughes, as he’s known to do, came up with some fantastic inscriptions.

The problem here is that there are 74 different 1/1s in one brand of just ONE player. If you’re not a fan of Hughes, who peppered in a couple of good seasons throughout his 12-year career, that could be a pretty disappointing box break. It harkens back to when Topps had Ken Hrbek sign more cards & stickers than he has likely ever signed in his lifetime for releases spread throughout the entire 2021 calendar year. Hrbek autographs became so common that pulling one became universally known as being “Hrbek’d”.

Hughes did collectors a favor by pulling back the curtain on Topps’ watering down of the 1/1 market, which I’ve been saying for years is a big problem. Today, you can pull a 1/1 Mike Trout and while it will sell for astronomical figures, just how special is it when there will be multiple 1/1s of Trout in that same product as well as multiple 1/1 Trouts spread throughout 40 different releases in 2022? I don’t even think his certified autographs are special anymore considering he’s been signing non-stop since 2009.

Collectors criticized players like Mickey Mantle & Pete Rose for signing thousands of items after their careers ended but will turn a blind eye at Topps’ overproduction. Topps pays these beloved athletes $5 per signature and will turn around and sell a box with a guarantee to pull it for $500. At card shows and private signings, these athletes were making much more than what Topps paid so good for Mantle & Rose. Millionaires or not, if it helps them pay their bills, then so be it.

Rose, Mantle and others devalued their signature by signing till the very end, some seemingly on their death bed. That’s no different than Topps having Shohei Ohtani sign over 15,000 different cards in 2018. Vladimir Guererro Jr. has just one full season under his belt and currently has over 2,000 certified autographs on eBay. Collectors have been using the word Junk Wax 2.0 to describe the current market, I believe what we are facing is the Junk Auto Era and for those who lived through the 90s, we all know how this ends.