Leaf’s Response to Wax Heaven #100

Yesterday, I wrote a piece on Leaf’s Heroes of Baseball product line which features questionable Stan Musial sticker autographs. Unexpectedly, it caught fire on Twitter which caught the attention of Leaf Trading Card’s #1, Brian Gray. The piece was also my 100th post on Wax Heaven 2.0 in just four months so to those who didn’t think I’d stick around, keep reading. I got many more plans in the works!

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The Rebirth of Stan Musial (and why it is GOOD for the Hobby)

Let me start by saying that I am a fan of Mario’s column. It is refreshing to see someone passionate about the hobby. This can sometimes lead to forgetting the business side of the equation, but even then I see Mario making major strides to adapt to the realities of the hobby.

Today, I read a column by Mario and frankly I felt very strongly that it was a one-sided view of a release that unarguably presents a more than one-sided reality.
Leaf released exclusively through Target, 2015 Leaf Heroes of Sport Boxes. This release was designed to do two things: (1) provide the market its most inexpensive way ever to collect the autograph of the man that was the last of the golden era and (2) to supply an opportunity for collectors to collect legends products inexpensively in blaster form.

Why does the hobby need inexpensive Musial autographs? After all, the man signed for the hobby for nearly 20 years. The fact is that the only collectors who realistically had a chance of ever obtaining a Musial autograph from a pack are those collectors in the hobby who buy $60-500 “HOBBY” products. We sometimes forget that the “HOBBY” consists of far more people than those collectors purchasing non-retail products. In fact, I would argue that the growth of our industry will be directly driven by the collectors who transition from “RETAIL BUYERS” to “HOBBY BUYERS”. Like our Rose release before this, this set is a HUGELY positive thing for those “RETAIL” buyers who will never get value like this from a retail product.

I think it’s about time , as an industry, we accept the fact that we will not be fans of everything released. That is why we get to vote with our wallets. However, for many less advanced collectors, this is the PERFECT chance to enjoy a GUARANTEED opportunity to acquire the autograph of a true legend at the best price ever available to these customers.

With all this being said, I additionally disagree about the implication that these were reject signatures. Stan was a very sick man the last several years of his life. FOR COLLECTORS, he continued to sign despite the great difficulty he had. What the original post fails to recognize is that this is the same Musial autograph you would have pulled out of a $100-400 box of cards during his last few years as well! The attached images show exactly why these signatures are typical (not atypical as the implication was made). Moreover, we made the decision not to use over 1000 signatures that we found unacceptable.

My personal opinion would be to recognize the good heart of the man willing to sign despite his illness, rather than essentially criticize, berate and insult him for not being able to sign any better due to illness.

If Leaf had not acquired and utilized these as it did, they very well may have been acquired elsewhere and ended up in your favorite $60-500 hobby box instead. Maybe Leaf did the hobby a second service (in addition to value at Retail)?

In summary, I appreciate those who support our brand. In making an item like this, we do carefully consider the result of our efforts. The item has been VERY successful at retail and I have every confidence it will achieve its end game of bringing more people to buy “HOBBY” products in hope of finding desirable autograph cards.

For these reasons, I believe Leaf has done the hobby a service that deserves applause for its good for the “Hobby” rather than unfair criticism based on a far too narrow perspective of the product and its reason for existing.

Brian Gray,
CEO, Leaf Trading cards


Categories: Leaf Trading Cards, The Hobby | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Leaf’s Response to Wax Heaven #100

  1. Exceptional work Mario. Really well written. And I appreciate the response from Brian Gray. It’s great to hear two very passionate views both with respect and critique. It made me think about this topic for a while.

    What are your thoughts towards say the autos of Muhammad Ali – who has had a definite falloff in his signature quality? I’ve seen autopen (I believe) products which don’t have the same appeal as “the real deal”. But at the same time, I’m torn at the desirability for a signature that leave the collector with less than “happy thoughts” when looking at the card.

    Many players getting up in age (Gordie Howe for example) has had his team of people say that it’s time to stop – and I can appreciate that. But ultimately who should be responsible to make the call? The individual signing? The company? The consumer?

    So many questions.

    Great job!

  2. Always great to see a genuine response from one of the manufacturers. I remember when Brian Price of ITG asked me to post his response on my blog.
    This kind of interaction shows that despite any differences of opinion, both parties do care about the same thing. The hobby.

    My take on the whole thing though, is from a different standpoint. Not the alleged devaluation of Mr Musial’s auto, but with exclusivity.

    Let’s say I agreed with Mr Gray. I would then toddle myself down to the only place where I could buy this product. But it’s a retail exclusive with Target.


    I’m Canadian. And the nearest Target is 3200 miles away.

    You’d think if anyone, the boss at Leaf would understand the negative aspects of exclusives.

    I know I do.

  3. Bamlinder, thank you for the kind words.
    My feelings on autographs of older athletes is that we already have WAY too many. For example, there is already way too much Nolan Ryan (Topps, Panini). I would much rather purchase one of his early autographs (92 Upper Deck, for example) than some 2015 bastardized auto like the one below:


    There are just way too many autographs of our favorites, sometimes I wish companies would go after more reclusive former players. It looks like 2015 Archives is doing just that from the looks of it on Twitter. I can’t wait. 🙂

  4. I’ve always admired Mr. Gray’s interaction with collectors. So kudos to him and of course kudos to you Mr. Mario. You are one of the bloggers that inspired me to start my own blog.

    Now back to Mr. Gray… just curious… what did you do (or what do you plan to do) with the 1,000 signatures you deemed unacceptable?

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