After a three-year hiatus, Mario Alejandro returns with Wax Heaven.

  1.  

    Mission Accomplished

    During Wax Heaven’s heyday, I had three goals as a sports card blogger; bring attention to the magic of 90’s Pinnacle Brands releases, create nostalgia for the greatest insert of all-time in Crusade, and to save Jose Canseco’s name in The Hobby.

    The original Wax Heaven blog ran from 2007 to late 2009, hit a million views, and had a huge following among collectors and hobby insiders. Unfortunately, I never got to personally witness many of my own crusades as I was long gone BUT …

    Pinnacle Brands made a comeback, so did Crusade. Now, Jose Canseco is FINALLY back where he belongs, in LICENSED MLB products. Sorry, but all the unlicensed crap I’ve had to “collect” since Jose’s final logo card was trash. This 2014 Topps Tribute is a beauty.

    The autograph is on-card and the photo features Jose in the peak of his greatness. My guess is this photograph comes circa ‘90 because in 1989 Jose’s mullet was shockingly long and by ‘91 his head had grown at least 25% in size.

    Thank you, Topps Company, for finally bringing Jose Canseco home.

  2.  

    Behind the Card - ‘88 Topps #370

    There was a time shortly after the 1988 baseball season ended that Jose Canseco was seen as the second-coming of Babe Ruth. As ridiculous as that may sound today, it was a real thought put out by real journalists who had seen Jose Canseco play the game since late-85.

    I remember seeing a magazine in the late-80s with Jose swinging for the fences. The headline? “Ruth, Mantle, Canseco?”. The truth was that while Jose hadn’t yet had his huge Ruth/Mantle like season (and never would), he appeared to be better than both those guys at least after his unanimous ‘88 season.

    Not only did this guy look and play like a baseball God, he also had the swag and lived the rock n’ roll lifestyle of fast cars and faster women including a drop-dead gorgeous Madonna in her prime before she got all wrinkly and annoying. This man literally had the world in his finger tips and all before reaching the age of 25.

    Fast-forward to 2013. The man is STILL a baseball pariah, is dead-broke, and pretty much lives off his Twitter fame. Sadly, the man doesn’t realize that more people are laughing at him than with him. What is even more sad is the fact that at age 50, Jose still thinks he can play professional ball.

    Now, let’s look at this 1987 Topps baseball card of Mr. 40-40. It is a very iconic photograph of the then 22-year old Jose after he smacked 31 home runs for the Oakland A’s. Much like most of what Topps put out that year, it is pretty much worthless but is a must-have for any of the 6 Canseco collectors left out there.

  3.  

    Otis Nixon Arrested for the Least Surprising Offense

    Okay, if we played a game called M.L.B’s ‘Name that Crime’, there would be some easy answers on the board. For example, say Jose Canseco. I’d immediately name stalking or aggravated battery. Back in the days he was known for speeding in his custom Jaguar XJS-V12 but it’s 2013 and with Jose’s only presence being Twitter, it is likely he is riding down the highways of California tweeting out selfies of himself on a Huffy.

    To me, Otis Nixon was always that guy. Collectors know what I’m talking about. Not quite a common (close, though) but nowhere near a mid-level semi-star.The guy had a knack for stealing bases but really, that was about all he did in his 17 years of playing the greatest sport on the planet (next to boxing). Well, now his name is back in the headlines for getting busted with a crack pipe (and the rock, too).

    His fool-proof excuse? That pesky son of his owned it all and he was just being a good daddy and disposing of it. No word yet on how he was planning on disposing of it, although the weaving in and out of traffic lends itself to a theory on the matter. I remember one time I caught my daughter sneaking Oreos into her room and having to confiscate it and dispose of it, just like Otis did.

    Can’t quite remember what I did with them, though …

  4.  

    Can We Finally Forgive and Forget?

    C’mon, guys. We get it. You are upset, resentful even, because this guy single-handedly took on the “MLB Mafia” and outed beloved cash cows like Mark McGuire. It’s time to move on. I’m not here to talk about the past.

    It’s been over a decade. I don’t expect to see Jose Canseco in anything MLB-related for the rest of my life and quite honestly, I am okay with that. What I am not okay with is non-licensed baseball cards.

    I don’t want to age myself too much here BUT … I started collecting in the late-80’s.Back then, unlicensed cards were considered junk next to Upper Deck, Topps, Donruss, etc. Unlicensed = oddball = JUNK.

    For the past 5+ years, all Canseco collectors have been given is junk. Furthermore, with the exception of Leaf’s buyback card released last year, there has not been one single memorable item for Jose fans to pick up.

    Sure, put anything fancy on a Canseco card and there will always be collectors with too much money to burn picking it up but how about something great, something one of a kind, something OFFICIAL?

    I know many collectors have their beef with Topps Company right now and in some cases, I most certainly agree … but if your favorite player was relegated to Tristar, Upper Deck, and Leaf for the past half a decade you’d be itching for a little Refractor goodness.

    Don’t get me wrong, licensed is sure as hell better than nothing at all but for a casual collector like myself who owns over 1,000 different cards, none of these releases with the exception of the buyback has piqued my interest enough to pull out my wallet.

    Look

  5.  

    1992 Bowman, “Home of Bad Photography”

    1992 was the year Bowman became an elite product in The Hobby. Topps, resurrected the vintage brand in 1989 but didn’t do much for them with their over-sized debut and somewhat bland efforts in ‘90 & ‘91.

    By 1992, Bowman became a big player thanks to a smaller than usual print run, some BIG prospects, and a great design. Still, not everything was perfect. Some of the player photographs were unusually cheesy, even by 1992 standards.

    Below is one such card, featuring former closer, Ugueth Ulysses Urbina. Baseball cards should never, ever look like this. For starters, Ugueth looks more like a model for Cuban Vogue on this card then a guy who would lead the league in Saves in 1999.

    In case anyone is wondering where Urbina has been the past few years, he’s been in prison. You see, one day Ugueth came home and began chasing his employees with machetes and attempting to light them on fire.

    Well, in case any team is looking for pitching … Urbina was just released from prison for “good behavior” and is planning on making a comeback. Hey, if Manny Ramirez can do it, why not “Uggy”?

  6.  

    Have You Found Card Board Gold?

    Be honest, you probably didn’t buy a lot of packs of Select Certified in 1996. Select had been around a few years by then but never really caught on, despite being the brand to debut the legendary Dufex technology.

    Select Certified was as high-end as you could find in 1996. I found a few shops that carried the packs, which would run you about $8 dollars. In return you were rewarded with arguably one of the best-designed cards of the year.

    Pinnacle, who produced Select Certified, knew collectors wanted parallels and included 6 in the product, an unheard of number at the time. The Mirror Gold (pictured below) were the toughest to find at a 1:300 pack ratio.

    Take a guess at what the card below sold for. There is no serial numbering. No certified autographs. No cut-up pieces of memorabilia. The card below, which has a print run of 30, sold for an astonishing $1,236.11!!!

    That’s a pretty big score. Unfortunately, unopened wax of ‘96 Select Certified is tough to find but if you do run into some, pick it up. Not only will you find some of the nicest looking cards of 1996, you just might strike Card Board Gold.

  7.  

    The Wax Heaven Card of the Year

    I have been watching trading cards all year long, even when I went months from blogging at the now deceased, Wax Morgue. I see a lot of the same coming from manufacturers. Autographs, Swatches/Patches, Parallels, Bat/Barrell relics, etc. 

    There is just not a lot of new innovations in The Hobby but there is one card that has caught my eye and I am giving it the non-existent ’Card of the Year’ award to. None other than Mike Tyson’s 2012 Leaf Inscriptions “I Want To Eat Your Children” card.

    Epic doesn’t begin to describe the pure awesome this card oozes. For one, you have an autograph of a true boxing and pop culture LEGEND. Two, you have a moment perfectly captured on card board without the unnecessary and ridiculous “video card” technology.

    Want to make Panini’s video cards obsolete? Click this link from your computer, Xbox360, smart phone, or any other device that has access to the Internet. This Leaf card shows that you can still capture greatness with nothing more than a photograph and an autograph.

    As for that crazy moment from Tyson’s storied career; it came immediately after a knockout victory, days after the death of a close friend, and while Mike was on medication to battle depression and anxiety. What did you expect?

    Since then, Mike Tyson has gotten his act together, appeared in two hilarious comedies (well, just one really), and is even doing speaking tours. Many predicted an early death for the former Heavyweight Champion but things have turned out pretty nicely for Mike.

    This card in question, released just this month, sold for $375 dollars on eBay a few days ago. To see some of the other crazy, funny, and outrageous autographs from 2012 Leaf Inscriptions, click HERE.

    My personal favorite is Jose Canseco signing “The Chemist”.

    Oh, and Rickey Henderson’s “Man of Steal”.

  8.  

    Leaf’s Not So Big Reveal

    Brian Gray of Leaf Trading Cards has a long track history of making huge announcements. That is why I was so excited when I read on Twitter that he had a big one coming this past Friday. I waited around all day, letting my imagination take control.

    In case anyone is in denial, it’s pretty obvious that there is a nostalgia movement in The Hobby, something that I feel I began pushing when Wax Heaven was a voice for the collector. Pinnacle Brands is back, 1990 Leaf has returned, etc.

    It was a safe bet that Brian’s big announcement was some old school acquisition of sorts. My guess, hope, and wish was that Brian found the mysterious, missing Crusade printer that created the most beloved inserts of all-time.

    You see, while Crusade has been brought back several times (to no success), the original cards have never been properly recreated thanks to the company who made them losing the only printer that could make them, or so the legend goes.

    Here I was on Friday night, expecting Brian to announce that he found the mythical printer or at least a few of the manufacturers who built the damn thing and that 2013 would be the official debut of Leaf Krusade (due to copyright stuff).

    Nope. Instead we got tennis.

    No offense to tennis but it’s not Crusade.

  9.  

    Why Jose Cruz Jr.? Because God Damn It.

    A lot of people asked me about my trading card obsession with Jose Cruz Jr. during the first run of Wax Heaven. I fell for Jose Canseco as a 9-year old kid during the peak of his fame and never gave up on the guy. But what about Jose Cruz Jr.?

    The reason why I chased after every Jose Cruz Jr. card and continuously blogged about him is because of the lasting impression he made when I gave up on collecting in 1997, as a burnt out, 17-year old, sick of baseball cards.

    At that time, Bowman Chrome was THE product to collect and packs were going for $11 bucks a pop (for 2-3 cards per pack). Life was just moving too fast for me to spend what little money I made to toss it away on wax.

    At the time, the premier player to collect was Jose Cruz Junior. He had just been called up by the Mariners and absolutely tore the cover off the ball, taking the spotlight away from another “Junior”.

    On the very final day I collected, I pulled a 1997 Bowman Chrome Refractor of Cruz Jr., easily one of the hottest cards at the time. It booked for $40+. I should have been the happiest collector in the world but I wasn’t.

    I looked at the dealer, who looked thrilled as he handed me a penny sleeve and top loader, and asked him for $20 dollars. After some negotiating, I walked away from the card shop (and The Hobby) and didn’t return for another decade.

    Jose Cruz Jr. was the final image I had of collecting. I sometimes pondered about what happened to the guy during my ten-year absense. Did he become a monster slugger? How many MVP awards did he win by now?

    When I returned in 2007, I checked on Cruz Jr. and found out that while he did have a few good seasons, things didn’t work out the way I had imagined. By then, he was nearing the end of his career after bouncing around from club to club.

    Still, I wanted that 1997 Bowman Chrome Refractor again. Along with all the other parallels and ‘97 Bowman releases of Cruz Jr. Little by little I began picking them up until I had about 22 of the 37 cards needed and then just like that, Wax Heaven closed its doors.

    It took another few years for my return. This time, I Googled Mr. Cruz Jr. and found out that he is now an analyst for ESPN and somewhat of a fixture on Twitter. I passed on a story I wrote a few years back. A conspiracy of sorts to see what he thought.

    The Jose Cruz Jr. Conspiracy

    I figured at best he’d laugh about it, at worst he’d call me a nut. His response was “interesting view”. Not exactly terrible but also kinda vague. Was he just trying to be nice? Satisfied with the response, I told him I was a fan and thanked him. This came next:

    There you have it. Jose Cruz Jr. is a class act all the way! Now, after losing my 22 of 37 cards of his from the ‘97 Bowman, Bowman’s Best, and Bowman Chrome series, it is time to start all over again. I tell you what, this is one tough hobby to walk away from.

  10.  

    2013 Leaf Memories?

    If it seems like I am writing a lot about Leaf it is simply because I love everything about 2012 Leaf Memories. Their other products I still am not a fan of but Brian Gray did everything right with Memories.

    Like every other collector, I am hoping that Memories gets a sequel. Basing a set of 1990 Leaf is a logical first step but what comes next? Both 1991 and 1992 Leaf stunk up the place. Where do we go from here?

    The simple answer is one of the best early 90s baseball products of all-time, the beautiful and ridiculously underrated 1993 Leaf. Not only did 1993 Leaf have some of the best photography of the year, it also featured some other forgotten gems.

    For starters, you had a special pack-inserted certified autograph of Frank Thomas you could find if you were extremely lucky. Many collectors don’t even know it exists because of how rare it was at the time (serial numbered to 3,500). Take a look at it HERE.

    Having collected every product from 1993 IN 1993, I can honestly say that aside from the debut of Topps Finest, no other product came close to matching the classy design, beautiful photographs, and inserts that came from ‘93 Leaf.

    Buybacks from this product would look amazing, especially autographs and while there are no big rookies like ‘90 Leaf’s Frank Thomas, the checklist is filled with legendary and iconic players, along with some forgotten fan favorites to boot.

    Brian Gray, if you are reading this, please consider 1993 Leaf for 2013 Memories.