Have Signature Cards Become the Base Cards of Today?

1990 Upper Deck Reggie Auto

Have signature cards become the base cards of today? If we travel back in time to the first in-pack signatures cards, they would be of course in 1990 when Upper Deck included Reggie Jackson signed Baseball Heroes cards in their High Series boxes. At that time the hobby was leaving the Error Craze behind and entering the Insert Craze.

1992 Fleer Rookie Sensations F. Thomas

Signature cards were popular but they were not as popular as your basic inserts. For a time collectors left collecting a player’s rookie card as their card of choice and pursued the player’s rarest insert, even if occasionally that insert card was released two or three years after the player’s rookie card.1992’s Fleer Rookie Sensations inserts was a prime example. Many preferred Frank Thomas’ Rookie Sensations card over his Leaf rookie card from two years earlier.

Slowly though, the basic insert began to lose ground to the more popular signature and game used cards that were inserted into packs since Jackson’s was released in 1990. The signature card itself, whether as an insert or a redemption began taking over the collecting world until it seems that now, it is the card that everyone pursues. Base rookie cards seem unimportant to the modern collector who much prefers a card of a young star player that includes his signature, a game used bat or uniform piece, or both. They now sometimes pay thousands of dollars for these cards, and if not, it is usually at minimum in the hundreds.

2013 Bowmaqn Chrome Draft Aaron Judge Auto

2013 Bowmaqn Chrome Draft Aaron Judge Auto

Has the signature card replaced the base rookie, or base first card, of a player as the card that best represents him in a collector’s PC? Has the signature card become the modern day’s basic insert card of the 1990’s? It seems so. The craze for inserts in the ’90s eventually fizzled out and the rookie, or first card (with Bowman becoming a staple in the collecting world there are lots of first cards that don’t qualify as rookie cards) gained prominence once again. But not for very long it seems as today everyone is trading and talking about the latest signature card, not the rookie or first card of a player. Collectors now buy cases of product to increase their chances of hitting a nice looking rare signature card, leaving the thousands of base and insert cards aside to try to get rid of later.

Are base cards even important anymore? Does anyone try to complete base sets at all? Is doing that too boring for the modern collector? It seems PCs involve only the collector’s favorite players or favorite team. With the thousands of rare cards release every year, to the point where if you wanted to complete a master set of a certain set, you would need to find and buy literally over 10,000 cards, of which many will be numbered to under 5 or even 1/1’s, it is easy to see why most collectors gave up on set collecting and reduced their ambitions to players or teams. It is less frustrating and, in a way, more enjoyable (you actually have a better chance of completing you PC of a player or team than you would a set).

2016 Bowman Chrome Connor Green Auto

2016 Bowman Chrome Connor Green Auto

I, personally wonder why collectors aren’t more frustrated with collecting today. If they pursue signature, relic, game-used cards of prospects, which is what they need to do if they wish to even have a reasonable chance of getting the player’s card at an affordable price, they still set themselves up to have a worthless PC in the future as 99% of these prospects never make the major leagues, of if they do never have a HOF-type career which would justify their inclusion in a majority of collector’s PCs. Budget-minded collectors must spend hundreds of dollars so that they don’t spend thousands of dollars later on the few cards of prospects who actually make it and succeed spectacularly. They think they are saving money in the long run but most of the time they actually aren’t. Depending on how expansive the prospect collecting is, and for many it is quite wide so they don’t have some falling through the cracks and succeeding without them in their collections, a collector can expect to see 100s of the cards they spent $100.00-plus on become $5.00 throw-aways in bargain bins at their LCS or on eBay within a few years.

Is it all worth it? I guess so because the behavior continues. Personally, I don’t have the wallet to act in this way. I gave up long ago on modern signature/relic cards and am stuck back in the 80s and 90s completing sets I collected in my youth. For me, that is much more satisfying and a lot less expensive.

Got an Extra $15,000.00 Hanging Around…

Upper Deck All-Time Greats Master Collection Logo

Upper Deck All-Time Greats Master Collection Logo

If you are not going to buy a car, why not spend it on a box of baseball cards. Why the disbelieving face? Yes, yes I’m serious. It launches early this year, and it’s care of Upper Deck. Called 2016 Upper Deck All-Time Greats Master Collection, it’s UDs way of sticking it to the regular Joe. Another in a long list of cards that will hit the market which will be out of reach for the average consumer, 2016 Upper Deck All-Time Greats Master Collection will have some amazing collectibles inside it, but wasn’t it always better when a card gained its high price tag through time. It meant that when it was released everyone had a shot at having it in their collection. Sports Cards, once the patches and swatches and 5/5’s and 1/1’s entered the market, began their journey into the realm of social class.

According to Beckett Media, here is what 2016 Upper Deck All-Time Greats Master Collection is:

Limited to just 200 boxes and with a five-figure price point, Upper Deck proclaims that it will be “blurring the boundary between trading cards and artistic collectibles” with this product. Each box will contain over 50 cards and the roster of signers could be one of the most impressive ever assembled. Even the box itself is being touted as a collectible as each one is numbered and has an autographed acrylic box topper in the lid.

For starters, 2016 Upper Deck All-Time Greats Master Collection has a 25-card base set where each card is signed by a notable or legendary athlete. As expected, longtime Upper Deck spokesmen Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, LeBron James, and Tiger Woods are featured. They will be joined by the likes of hockey’s Bobby Orr, Mark Messier, and Mario Lemieux, football’s Joe Namath, Jerry Rice, Peyton Manning, Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, and John Elway, baseball’s Ken Griffey Jr., Mark McGwire and Nolan Ryan, and basketball icon Larry Bird. Rounding out the checklist are golfers Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus along with boxers Oscar De La Hoya and Mike Tyson, NASCAR driver Danica Patrick, tennis star Maria Sharapova, retired UFC star Georges St-Pierre, and skateboarding legend Tony Hawk.

The autographs are split into several tiers (Silver, Gold, Red, Copper, Green, Blue, Purple, Sonic Blue, and Clear) and are limited to just 20 copies each.

There will be dual autographs called Masterful Pairings that are seeded once per box. The regular version these pair up two living athletes which are produced in varying quantities while the one-of-one Masterful Pairings Autograph & Cut Signature takes one of these talents and combines them with a vintage cut of a sporting icon from the early 20th century.

As a throwback to old-school trading card sets, 2016 Upper Deck All-Time Greats Master Collection has a Master Collection puzzle made up of 30 cards. Depicting multiple athletes together, there are three tiers to collect with the basic Logo Collection puzzle being numbered to 125 while the Silver version is limited to 50 and just 25 Gold puzzles will be made.

Upper Deck’s long-standing relationship with Michael Jordan has produced many desirable cards over the years, but this time, their Jordan Diamond Legacy cards are an instant classic out of the box. Every set will have one of these cards and they will have three (/30), four (/15), five (/5), or even six (one-of-one) diamonds embedded into them. Every 2016 Upper Deck All-Time Greats Master Collection box also contains a one-of-one Artistic Renderings card, which features autographed original art.

Perhaps the most compelling inserts of all are the Mystery Redemption cards. These cards can be exchanged for some hobby treasures such as game-worn uniforms, championship rings, autographed uncut sheets, game-used equipment from Hall of Famers, and premium signed items from Upper Deck Authenticated or even a motorcycle signed by Michael Jordan.

I’m trying to figure out the point of this product. Is it trying to further create a niche market for collectible cards? Is that niche even create-able? If I were a rich man, and liked to collect memorabilia, are there not things much more desirable and not in anyway artificial than this product? Let me see if you follow my logic…

Except for the redemption cards which will get you some great memoriabilia, the rest is just added fodder to an already crowded marketplace for autographs and patches and game-used equipment cards. If you are an autograph collector, what is the difference between an auto in this set and one in another? Nothing really, even if it is a 1/1 or 5/5 etc. If you want a Griffey Jr. auto, that’s what you want, Where it comes from doesn’t really matter as long as it authenticated.

Here is a Griffey Jr. auto sold on eBay for less than $60.00:

Ken Griffey Jr. Signature

Ken Griffey Jr. Signature

There are many others selling in the $50.00 to $1000.00 range. A Griffey Jr. signature is not a rare thing. I’m not sure why anyone thinks that just because the signature is put on a card that is a 1/1 or 5/5 it changes value. It is still a Griffey Jr. signature. It’s very sad yet quite humourous that people are spending money on these gimmicks. Let me give you a hypothetical example to prove my point.

Let’s say I’m a card company, and I’m thinking up a way to sell my boxes of cards for more money. Not because they will cost much more to print, but because I want to make more money per box or per card I print. Let’s say my budget is 1 million cards. And let’s say there are 500 players to print cards for. The simplest way is to print 1 million cards of 500 players. But the sales point for this set in a box might only be $30.00.

I want a higher price. Well one way is to add specialty cards inside. So let’s hire Griffey Jr. to sign 1000 of the 1 million cards. we take 1000 of his base cards and have him sign them. Now we can sell a box for $50.00. But wait, how about we change the border of 10% of the 1 million cards to a gold colour. Now we just made our cards tiered at no extra cost in printing (it’s just changing the amount of colour of the inks in the same process).

Now the Griffey Jr. auto is two-tiered as well. The gold parallel signature is now only 10% as common as the base card signature. It will be worth theoretically ten times as much, which means I can market that in the sale of my boxes: “Find the Griffey Jr. Gold Parallel signature card” and now sell the box for $100.00. Yet the gold or regular version of the card cost exactly the same to print. Now what happens if I change 1% of the 1 million cards to a border colour of platinum, now the Griffey Jr. signature is worth 100 times more that the base signature again at no extra cost.

Do you see where this is heading? Now add a print run number to the card (costs nothing as you have the different images on a computer, the printing stays the same, the image just changes). Now for a tiny tiny change where the print number is stamped… and so on and so on.

These gimmicks which in the creation of the cards cost nothing or very little, turns cards that were once worth $30.00 a box to $100.00 a box. Wow you now have a Platinum parallel Griffey Jr. signature card and I have the base signature card. Dude it’s the same card, but not even that, Dude it’s the same signature for God’s sake.

If I was rich, and wanted true memorabilia, I would hunt down signed bats, signed balls, game-used equipment and uniforms myself, I wouldn’t need Upper Deck to give me a lottery chance at getting it. Because essentially that is what this product is, a $15,000.00 lottery ticket with some cards thrown in in the process. I’m not sure of the cost of the diamonds they will be using in some of the cards, but I’m sure they aren’t going to be worth what it cost to the buyer in getting them, if they did it would be much easier to sell the diamond itself than the card with the diamond embedded in it. It’s why, back in the day, the Mint stopped minting silver and copper coins because people were melting them down to sell at a price higher than the face value of the coin itself.

Memorabilia is memorabilia, Card companies do not need to artificially create it in their cards. Players will be wearing uniforms, using bats and gloves, without card companies involvement. Card companies already have memorabilia, it’s the cards themselves. There is no need to complicate the process by mixing the two together.



The Most Elusive Roberto Alomar Signature

1992 Donruss McDonald's MVP's Alomar Signature Card

1992 Donruss McDonald’s MVP’s Alomar Signature Card

1992 Donruss McDonald's MVP's Alomar Signature Congrat. Letter

1992 Donruss McDonald’s MVP’s Alomar Signature Congrat. Letter

If you are an autograph collector, especially for autographs on baseball cards, and you also like Hall of Famers, then the 1992 Donruss/McDonald’s Roberto Alomar signature card is something you may want to pursue. Not only is it Alomar’s first signature card, it is also one of the rarest. Back in 1992, Donruss and McDonalds teamed up to distribute four card packs of “MVP” cards. This set consisted of 26 regular cards (one player from each MLB team), a checklist card, and 6 “Blue Jays Gold” insert cards.

Randomly inserted into these 4-card packs was one of 1000 redemption cards good for an Alomar signature card. Only 1000 of these signed cards exist. They are very rare. In the last 5 years on ebay I have only seen the card appear three times. the back of the card has a hand written number beside a printed 1000, so the cards are serial-numbered.

1992 Donruss McDonald's MVP's Alomar Signature Card Encased

1992 Donruss McDonald’s MVP’s Alomar Signature Card Encased

It is hard to gauge a proper price for the card as I said due to it rarely showing up. But also because it is a Canadian card. Like O-Pee-Chee cards, many American buyers avoid cards printed outside the USA because of their thinking that they are all odd-ball cards.The first time I saw the card (2011) it sold for $100.00. The second time I saw it (2013), it listed at $300.00 but went unsold. The third time I saw it (presently), it has a list price of $499.95. Myself, I would think it’s worth around $100.00-$150.00. What would you pay for it?

The 90’s Master Set Builder Destroyer

1990s Signature Cards

1990s Signature Cards

Anyone who collected cards back in the late junk wax era will know the cards pictured above. Manufacturers had just started paying serious attention to how insert cards were affecting the marketplace. Once the 90’s hit and Upper Deck included a Reggie Jackson signature card in their High Series Boxes, all hell broke loose and it seemed every new issue had to include a famous player limited signature card.

Master set builders were just getting used to finding those elusive inserts, by either buying many more boxes than sanity would dictate, or look for ways to trade or buy from others the cards they needed. The worse inserts, speaking in an “ease to find and pay for” context were the signature cards. Every one, was offered and sold in the multiple hundreds of dollars. It made a master set builder on a budget cry because they saw the death of their style of collecting coming on them like a break-less train.

For me, it was when I stopped buying new boxes and began looking backward in time for my collecting fun. I focused on Hall of Famer cards and sets going back to 1981. I wasn’t going to pay 500 dollars for a card that was found in a pack of cards issued a few weeks earlier. Why do that when I could buy a nice rookie card of most Hall of Famers for the same or less of a price. I asked myself if I would rather have a Reggie signature card from 1990 (in 1990) or buy a nice copy of his ’69 rookie card. The decision was stupidly easy to answer. All my sets from the early 90’s are still incomplete because of the signature insert. Who would’ve guessed that that period of time was actually the calm before the storm. Soon relic, jersey, game-worn, 1/1. 5/5 cards would become the norm and the master set builder would disappear from the card collecting landscape, much to my chagrin.

2015 Topps Archives Signature Series Baseball

2015 Topps Archives Signature Series Box Top

2015 Topps Archives Signature Series Box Top

I’m not much for recent cards. In my searches locally I have purchased cards from the early 2000s and I personally bought boxes of 2006 and 2007 Topps and Fleer products when I returned to the hobby at that time from a 15 year absence. But my concentration has been from 81-93 for set collecting and then good cards of HOF players during that era and earlier.

But when Topps came out with their first Signature Series boxes last year I was intrigued. I’m not much into collecting auto cards either, if I happen to pull one that’s cool, but I don’t chase after them. This product was Topps first buy back issue that was not used as inserts. It meant that you were guaranteed a signature card. Which for me, made a signature card more attractive.

2015 Topps Archives Signature Series Rollie Fingers

2015 Topps Archives Signature Series Rollie Fingers

For those of you not knowing much about this product here is a short description. Topps went out and bought back a bunch of their cards in the secondary market. Then they got a bunch of players (retired) to sign these cards. They sent the cards to the printer to stamp on a gold foil “Topps Archives 2015” logo and a serial number ranging from 1/1 to around 99/99. The players who signed these cards range from HOF players like Sandy Koufax (the main attraction for collectors), Ken Griffey Jr., John Smoltz, Rollie Fingers, and other non-HOF stars like Carlos Delgado, Shawn Green and Andres Galarraga. They then took the cards and sealed them in a plastic container (slabbed as it were) and attached a Topps Archives gold colored sticker wrapped front to back at the top right of the container.

2015 Topps Archives Signature Series Fred McGriff

2015 Topps Archives Signature Series Fred McGriff

Once Topps got the card together (signature, foil stamping, plastic encasement) they then put one of these cards in each box of the product. You buy a box, you get just one card. You buy a case, you get 20 boxes, or 20 signature cards. You will see a range of Topps and Bowman cards in the product ranging mostly from the 80s, 90s, 00s. Pulls I have seen have come from 1987 Topps, 1992 Topps, 1991 Stadium Club, 1994 Bowman. All these cards are actually worth pennies until Topps stamps and players sign them. You will not get any rookie card signatures here, not that you would actually want them as many would say the rookie cards are defaced with a signature on them.

2015 Topps Archives Signature Series Sandy Koufax

2015 Topps Archives Signature Series Sandy Koufax

When this product was released it was understood to be quite limited. When you pulled cards that were 1/1s at a rate of 2-4 per case you could see why. The SRP, to my understanding was 40.00, but many dealers held back the product from its initial release in order to raise the price later (I see greed still pervades the hobby). But I’m not sure why. Because in the end, I decided not to purchase a case or even a box of this product.

I waited and watched some case breaks on you tube and the pulls were nothing spectacular. I would have difficulty paying 40.00 or 50.00 on a 1992 Topps card of Andres Galarraga. In fact all the cards I saw pulled from cases, whether from HOF players or not are cards I already have sans-signature. For me it’s hard to get excited for a 1987 Topps star card even if it now has a signature and gold foil stamping on it. I have seen the card already for over 15 years already. It’s like dressing up a rat in a tuxedo. In the end it’s still a rat.

2015 Topps Archives Signature Series Nolan Ryan

2015 Topps Archives Signature Series Nolan Ryan

Probably the people who eventually pulled or will pull a Sandy Koufax or Nolan Ryan Signature might think the purchase was worth it, but my guess is everyone else will be yawn-struck.