Friday, March 27, 2015

Aliens, Junk Wax Variations and White Whales

In January, we had a pre-teen Bible study at our house, and I was talking to the kids about how vast the universe is.  As I'm sure you can imagine since it was a Bible study, we then went from how incredible the universe is to how awesome God is who created it all.

If you disagree and are rolling your eyes, don't worry - I'll get to the baseball card bit here soon, and it will all tie in together shortly, I promise :)  

Here are some interesting points: 

- The earth is huge, right?  The sun is huge...er.  So massive that if earth were melted down, 1,300,000 earths could fit in our sun. 
- The sun is crazy tiny compared to the biggest of stars (check out this quick video for comparisons  )  


- We have an estimated 400,000,000,000 (400 BILLION) stars in our galaxy
- We have an estimated 100,000,000,000 (100 BILLION) galaxies in our solar system

Jaw dropping, right?!  If they taught this stuff in school, I must have been asleep, because this stuff is now INSANELY fascinating to me.  

I'm not sure if many folks don't believe there aren't aliens out there anymore, but it seems to me that it would be highly unlikely no other intelligent life exists anywhere else.  That would be kind of like me finding a grain of sand that is green on a beach and proclaiming that it is preposterous to believe there is not a single other green grain of sand on any other beach!  

Being the baseball card nerd that I am, I began thinking about cards.  The junk wax era AND those gorgeous 90's inserts in particular.

You may recall the one million sports card acquisition I made at the end of last year - they were all shoe horned into one 850 square foot house.



Wall to wall, they were stacked ....


Even in the bedroom ...



Heck, even the kitchen!  (Note the nook where the fridge should go.)


It was absolutely ... dare I say ... amazeballs.  (No, I was not able to secure the hamburger buns in the picture above as a part of the deal!)

Needless to say, one million cards is huge.  It is insane.  It is massive.  Did I mention that even the car port was used as card storage?

Now, could you imagine every single one of those cards being the exact same?

Back in the junk wax era, that is what they did.  Some sources say that 1991 donruss printed 3 million and 1991 topps printed 4 million ... of each and every card!

Can you imagine four small houses being stuffed to the gills with the exact same card?  Better yet, let's extrapolate that out to all 792 cards in the set ... can you imagine about 3,168 houses filled with 1991 Topps?

Sit back and think about that for a while.

When I was a kid, I bought a lot of baseball cards.  A lot.  We are talking maybe 20 boxes of everything.  That is a ton for a kid.  After all of the ripping was done, you are talking about close to two monster boxes full of cards.  That's it!  Not one time did I hit anything crazy.

Not a single Donruss Elite card.

Not a solitary vintage Topps card they randomly inserted into packs of their 1991 product.

But when you think about it, how feasible would it have been?  Sure, it would have been cool to get *any* card out of the norm (such as an Elite autograph) but for me, I would have been looking for a Canseco Elite.  #'ed out of 10,000.  By today's standards, that number would be utterly ridiculous.  Could you imagine a card being #'d to 10,000?  Heck, they probably make some regular cards with that type of a print run nowadays!

But think about it for a second - how difficult would it be to find a card #'ed to 10,000 in a product that had over two BILLION cards printed?  Sure, there were factory sets that probably accounted for a good chunk of it, but lets say it was *just* 1.5 billion.

If memory serves me properly, there are 15 cards per pack, so that means perhaps 100 million packs.  Divide that by 10,000 and you have 10,000 packs.  The odds of hitting the Canseco Elite were one in 10 thousand packs.  (Yes, I know they had jumbo packs and other types most likely, but HOLY COW!)



10,000 packs is about 278 boxes of donruss.  Back then, boxes were $15 each, so if I had about $4,500 burning a hole in my 11 year old pocket, I too, could have near-assurance of having the Canseco of my dreams....and enough '91 donruss to keep my house warm for 427 winters.

Nowadays, you can pick up one of these dudes for $20-30 off of ebay.  Everyone complains about how the internet made the house of (baseball) cards crash, since everyone now knew that their "rare" cards weren't exactly so rare.

I've mentioned this before, but the growing up, the big time collectors may have had 5 autographs of the guy they collected.  Nowadays, it is not unheard of for a guy to have 100 autographs of their favorite player.  Think that could have ever have happened without the internet?  Not a chance.

The most rabid of collectors would have been stuck on house #4 of the 1991 Topps neighborhood trying to find that one card they were hoping to get, after 12 years of search through the previous 3.

True, card shops are on life support, and card shows seem to be going the way of the buffalo too, but isn't that how life is right now anyway?  We pay our bills online, deposit checks via smart phone...heck, black friday and the "Christmas rush" *can be* obsolete at any moment, because it can all be done online!

After having over 4 to 5 million cards go through my fingers in the past 6 years, I had always set aside the Canseco cards.  My philosophy was this:  I knew I was going to be buying up inventories and collections, so I would get all of the Canseco cards I ever wanted and needed.

I was wrong.  I dug up a picture of my old collection from childhood up until a few years ago, and here is what it looked like:



I knew that "one day", I would go through them, organize and put in a checklist, etc.  As it grew, I ended up simply not knowing that I did and what I didn't have, so it got frustrating.  With no time or desire to go through and make a checklist, I decided to sell it all.

Sure, a lot were different, but there were also a lot of duplicates scattered throughout the collection as well.  Close to 3,000 cards, but quite possibly over half were doubles, and *maybe* one of them could fetch over $10.

I took the funds from the collection and found a guy who was selling a lot of his Canseco.  I ended up buying a ton of early refractor cards, donruss press proofs, collector's choice gold signature cards and jersey cards, etc.  These types of cards simply were cards that I never could find.  Logically speaking, it makes sense, too.

Remember the math exercise we braved through a few short paragraphs ago?  I can speak from personal experience - figuratively speaking, I was on house #28  in the 1991 Topps neighborhood and had yet to find one *really* special card.  Sure, I'd find a 1994 bowman's best Canseco ... but the refractor? fuhgettaboutit.  A 1995 Collector's Choice silver signature?  *Maybe*.  But a gold signature?  Not in a million years!

I decided to continue on, slowly but surely, to intentionally pursue my collection.  To maybe, hopefully one day become a featured collector in Beckett or something.

After finding a few big-time Canseco collectors selling their collection, I ended up buying a ton from them.  I found myself spending the time (and I mean hours upon hours) pouring over my checklist and theirs to see what I did not yet have.

The end result (up to this point) is over 2,700 different cards - something that would not have ever come close to happening if I just kept rowing through collections and inventories I was buying.

If you were to come into my office today, this is what you would see...


But upon closer inspection, you would see that every single card has a holder, and I am doing something that I had not done previously:  I am organizing them.  (Yes, I am *that* sick to put a 1990 Topps send-in advertisement w/Canseco on the front in a holder...and salivate over any variations it may have!)


As my checklist now has more x's next to each line than not, I have found myself going into full obsessed mode.

You know what I'm talking about.  If you are a hardcore PC collector, you probably do the same thing.  Here are some possibilities:

- Wake up in a cold sweat, remembering the card that got away because you got out-sniped.
- Search for various mis-spellings of your PC guy's name
- Hit up ANYONE AND EVERYONE you can find that may have cards you need
- Secretly open the ebay app on your phone and discretely check what new listings ... 800 times a day.  "Me?  Oh, I'm just checking my email...."

That is where I have found myself.  For the better part of a month, I don't know if a day has gone by where there hasn't been something in the mail for me or where I haven't purchased something.  It is a full.blown.sickness.

Here are a few things I just got in today:



I threw in a few from yesterday as well since they were still on my desk:



The most expensive of the group is the 1987 Topps card - it is actually a buyback autograph #'ed to 99.   It holds special meaning to me, in that the 1987 Topps Canseco is the first card I remember having.  Being autographed from Topps and hand numbered is extra special for me.  You also see a holo gold Donruss Greats #/100, a dual auto of Canseco/Eckersley and a buyback 1991 Leaf auto #/33.

This brings me back to my point - the odds are slim to none that I would have ever been able to have come across any of these cards in any collection or inventory I purchase in the future.  Heck,

The autographs are nice and all, but don't throw out your "junk" commons just yet.  The other day, I did the unthinkable.  I bought a lot of 1988 Topps Canseco.  Yes, you heard me right.  The card that they probably made one to four million of:  I bought 12 of them!

Here is what one looks like, if you don't recall off-hand.  A young Jose in his early 20's about to become the charter member of the 40-40 club.



Did you know that this card has a variation?  I didn't either, but take a look ....



Note the discoloration in the bottom left.  See it?  Here it is side by side.


At first, I didn't buy it being a true variation.  I am not one to say that all cards with printing flaws are to be marked a variation.  For me, it has to be more than just one.  After seeing one for sale, I searched high and low for a duplicate copy of this variation on all the usual suspect websites, and simply could not find one!

Then I found this listing:



In a sea of non green streak variations, someone was selling a small cache of them!  So now, I have my green streak variation.  It is things like this that make collecting so fun.  Junk wax all of a sudden now has new life breathed into them for me.  Here is another.

The 44 card boxed set 1990 Fleer Baseball MVP's is not a highly sought after product.  It is known by many player collectors that this set has a variation of its own.  It is the "top line" variation.

The clean version does not have this.  Here is a close up:



However, did you know that there was also a bottom line variation?  I did not know this until I saw a McGwire super collector's checklist.  Then one day, while cruising on ebay, I found one!



Here are all 3 variations together:



Not all variations like this happened during the junk wax era.  The 2011 Goodwin Champions mini black Canseco had a "white dot" variation.  I cannot find this listed anywhere, but when I bought a Canseco collection, it had an unsightly blemish  on it in the upper right hand corner.

When attempting to replace it with a clean copy (from someone's checklist w/no picture) I was sent yet ANOTHER with the white dot in the same place!  Thankfully, I was able to secure one without the dot.



All of this has certainly been fun chasing down different variations, but my favorites ... the ones I desire the most ... are still out there.

1989 Donruss (and Leaf versions) Blue Chips
1990 Donruss Aqueous
1996 Select Certified Gold
1997 Pinnacle Totally Certified Gold
1998 Donruss Crusade Red

There are others, but those are the ones that keep me up at night.  I keep thinking to myself, we live in an age where we have the internet for crying out loud!  How can it be that difficult to come across one of these?  There are probably 100 total copies combined of all of those cards above.  100 versions out there - not one person can come forward with information on one, or one for sale?  Granted, I haven't been actively searching for that long, but jeesh...

There are some cards that I would LOVE to have that are numbered to between 100 and 200, and I have never ever seen before.  It really makes me wonder if the serial numbers are truly reliable or not.   Seriously, with the internet at our disposal, how can 200 copies of one card exist, and I can't put my hands one a single copy?  Perhaps it is just buried in house #158 of the Topps neighborhood.

I guess it makes sense though.  I mean, if Topps did create 4 million copies of each card, and if Donruss, Fleer, Score, Upper Deck, Leaf, Stadium Club and Bowman all produced just half of that, that is roughly 13.5 BILLION cards produced ... just for that year.  Just for that year!

As collections get mixed together, it is no wonder why some cards can be down right impossible to locate.  Perhaps it can be likened to finding life on another planet.

With all that said, if you have been a player collector for any amount of time, you know how hard it is to get the cards you want that are rare.  When you get started, you may be like me and thought that it was merely a matter of having the money to purchase the cards you want.

Wrong.

You literally have to hunt.  I guess that is what makes collecting so addicting.  The thrill of the hunt, and the thrill of landing a card that you otherwise wouldn't have found in a million years.  That kind of thinking is right up my alley.  I guess it wouldn't be nearly as exhilarating if the hunt weren't a piece of it.

Case in point, I found a few iced tea food issue prototype disc squares that are coming in. They wouldn't mean nearly as much to me had I been able to just go onto some website with all cards ever made listed to purchase them.  No, it took a while to track them down.  Ahh, the feeling of conquering something for $15 bucks.

There is so much more I have to say, but I'll go ahead and stop it here.  The dinner bell is about to ring, and mrs. mouschi doesn't like me staying up here in my office tapping away at my keyboard when some good venison chili is on the table.

In the mean time, good luck to all you player collectors, and for anyone reading this - you know what cards I dream of, so let me know if you have any leads!



3 comments:

  1. Not sure what's more epic... this post or the huge 87T signed Canseco you have. Is it a card or a photo?

    ReplyDelete