The Hobby

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

The Hobby Death of Stan Musial

Not long ago, I wrote about Stan “The Man” Musial signing way too long into his life and tarnishing his hobby legacy, not to mention the value of his autograph. You can imagine my shock when I discovered 2015 Heroes of Baseball, featuring a Stan Musial sticker autograph per box for around $30-$40 a piece. The problem is that if you think you’ve seen bad Musial autographs, you haven’t seen anything yet.

Do a quick search on eBay and see for yourself. These look like Topps rejects that Musial’s estate likely sold off to the highest bidder. Much like the awful sketch cards they have done in the past, Leaf should be ashamed to put their company’s historic name on these things. What’s sad is that the other cards in the set look great, including photographs and design. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t make a sale without the autos.

When I returned to collecting early this year, I was ecstatic about Leaf after purchasing my amazing ‘Q’ Jose Canseco card and then I started seeing nothing but negative comments. My opinion was saved by Gregg Kohn of Leaf after he divulged that his company had some huge plans for the next two years. We already know they made a deal with the Babe Ruth estate, could a similar Ruth set be in the works? Probably.

The problem is that much like Jose Canseco and Pete Rose autographs, prices are hitting an all-time low due to mass production from companies like Leaf and Panini America. There are already WAY too many Musial autographs and these less than stellar stickers have basically killed his value moving forward. Was it worth it? I don’t think so but I’m also not aware how business runs in the card world.

Much like Panini America has hit their stride with the resurrection of Donruss Baseball and what’s going to be a huge hit in 2015 Prizm, I expected the same from Leaf Trading Cards. I’ve already given up on Upper Deck ever again competing in baseball but I was looking for a challenger to Topps’ throne but it appears that I was wrong by expecting Leaf to be “the one”.

Obviously, I trust Gregg’s word and what he says but someone should have stopped this disaster of a product. Don’t get me wrong, I love these kind of sets and still have ‘The Jose Canseco Story’ set from the late 80s which came with a mini Canseco binder, 20 unofficial but licensed cards, and a record to play featuring an interview with the still green Jose ripping up the English language. This, however, is different.

Surely, someone at Leaf would have known that these autographs were in no shape to use for any product. Surely someone, maybe even Gregg went to Brian Grey and pleaded with him not to release such a shoddy autograph sticker set with their name plastered on every card? Someone must have known these autographs would bring the value of all Musial autos down, right?



Categories: Celebrity Death, eBay Treasures, Leaf Trading Cards, The Hobby | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Why Bowman’s Best Will Topple Bowman Chrome

Yes, I said it. I’m also going on strictly speculation because despite my repeated efforts to get some information from Topps about Bowman’s Best, its 2015 return is top secret for the time being. However, I am an original Best junkie so I truly believe this year will be Bowman’s Best’s year. Here are some reasons why: The First Chrome Prospect Card We all know that Finest introduced the hobby world to chrome cards and Refractors, while destroying the competition in one fell swoop. Despite their immediate dominance, some collectors complained about the lack of rookies and prospects, thus Topps created the Bowman’s Best line in 1994, bringing into the market the very first chrome prospects cards and Refractors! The First Parallel Above the Refractor By 1996, Topps was in the process of flooding the market with Refractors by going from a Finest exclusive to Topps Chrome and Bowman’s Best. They knew collectors would soon tire of plain Recractors so they came up with the very first parallel of a parallel in the Atomic Refractor, introduced where else but 1996 Bowman’s Best. Now, take a look at the card below. That sure does look like a brighter Superfractor, doesn’t it? The First Chrome Autograph This one is huge. By 1997, Chrome had been used in Finest three years, Bowman’s Best two years, and Topps Chrome was about to turn two. They also had Bowman Chrome’s debut just months away and despite how huge that debut was, they forgot all about certified autographs. Guess what product was the first to include autos on chrome stock? Bowman’s Best! That’s right, every time there is something new to try out, Best is where Topps goes. The Future is Bright There are zero details on the return of Bowman’s Best at the moment. I do have one tiny exclusive … we will see the line return at the tail end of the baseball season. I have no details on product breakdown, design, checklist, or anything else but if we know Topps Company, we can expect Bowman’s Best to be a huge product in 2015 much like Topps High Tek was a product of the year candidate in 2014. Besides, how much longer will Bowman Chrome and Bowman Draft stay fresh? Perhaps forever. Stupid question . Okay, how big will Topps push to make Bowman’s Best the premier Bowman product of 2015? If my examples tell you anything it’s that you should expect big things from Bowman’s Best. I for one cannot wait as it has always been a favorite of mine since I pulled my very first big pull of my life, seen below. I pulled that card in 1995, not knowing what I had. I sold it at the end of the 1996 season for $50 dollars and two boxes of 1997 Ultra, which was an amazing deal for me being that I was 16 and in love with bustin’ wax. As you can guess, I used the other $50 to buy even more wax.

Categories: The Hobby, The Topps Company | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

On-Card Autographs Only A Luxury in These Times

You may call this a flip flop. At one point, long ago, I was a die-hard anti-sticker collector. I hated everything about them and felt that cards should be held and signed by my favorite players. Well, my feelings have changed and for many reasons all within the last four months.

For starters, thanks to @Celebzdirect’s Twitter account, I am witnessing something I suspected all along, our baseball heroes HATE signing cards and might as well hate us collectors who buy baseball cards. For more proof, look at players’ disdain for Topps’ photographer, who by the way, was a total sweetheart. Simply put, fuck you and your overpaid, prima donna attitudes. You guys are being payed ridiculous money to play a game, you should kiss the fans’ asses every moment you are alive, instead, you shun us for collecting cards.

Secondly, as we have seen with the disaster that was 2015 Topps Tribute, on-card autographs can smear and at that point the entire card is ruined. With stickers, if they are CLEAR, you have options on what stickers to use rather than having to pay some asshole to re-sign all new cards, thereby delaying your entire product or forcing the use of redemptions, which are 1,000 times worse than Hitler.

Finally, and bare with me … sticker autographs don’t look all that bad anymore. Long gone are the days of those bright silver stickers that only looked decent on 2007 Bowman’s Best and ultra futuristic products like Finest and Moments and Milestones. So long as the stickers are clear, small, and classy, I don’t mind one way or another. At this point, on-card autographs are a luxury in this hobby and are not to be expected with every release. However, any product that delivers less than 20 cards and costs $200 or more should be exclusively on-card. PERIOD.

What’s your opinion on stickers? For the record, the card below is a 2015 Topps Museum Collection of Roger Clemens. Clearly, this was a Topps leftover and not the normal stickers being found in this product. The card itself is amazing and should bring in some big money but I can’t help wonder how much nicer it would have been with a different style of sticker autograph.

Categories: The Hobby, The Topps Company | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

And THIS is Why I Love Topps!

No disrespect to the rest of the card manufacturers but nothing beats licensed, Topps cards. Below is a card pulled from the great @BrentandBecca Twitter account. It’s just one of three Canseco cards that have surfaced from 2015 Museum and all three cards feature different photos. In this day and age, that is impressive!

These three cards, which I’ve only posted 1 due to the WordPress app on my phone being difficult, are the best Canseco cards of 2015 and the one card below is hands down one of the prettiest Jose Canseco cards I’ve ever seen. What’s great is that it’s low on gimmicks, simply relying on a great design, autograph, and cool photo. My only beef is that it’s the same photo from ’14 Allen & Ginter and Archives. The other two cards use completely unseen photos, however.

Some collectors complained about 200+ Jose Canseco cards released in 2014 but after a decade-long absence due to scandals, these cards are a welcome to this long time collector. Keep up the great work, Topps!

Categories: The Hobby, The Topps Company | Tags: , | 3 Comments

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