Unopened Case And Box Sale At The National In 1990

Here’s some unopened hobby history from the 11th Annual National Sports Collectors Convention Official Program, including a photo of three 1986 Fleer basketball wax cases!

I shared the pictures on the Facebook Vintage Wax and Packs group, and one collector noted that “$160 seems cheap for a 1986 Donruss box in 1990. Canseco was still $100+ and McGriff and Fielder rookies were $20-25 each.”

And while that’s interesting, another collector highlighted the picture with the early Fleer basketball cases.

The picture isn’t very detailed, but it looks like three 1986 Fleer basketball cases are on the bottom of the stack, with three 1988 Fleer basketball cases sitting on top.

The dealer threw me off a bit at first since, just above the picture, he said they would have a limited amount of 1986-7 Fleer Basketball and 1987-8 Fleer basketball wax boxes available at the show. FYI, the 1987 Fleer basketball print run was smaller than the company’s inaugural print in 1986.

The 1987 Fleer basketball case is white with a basketball outline on it and I don’t see the distinct design in the stacks of cases.

And if you’d like to add this article to your Hobby Library, here’s the 11th NSCC Official Program cover for reference.

A Brief Discussion About 1986 and 1987 Fleer Basketball Print Runs

1986 Fleer basketball cards have become some of the hobby’s most popular collectibles, driven by Michael Jordan’s iconic card #57. 

But many people don’t realize that the 1986 Fleer basketball set was a bit of a dud on release and was treated as “junk wax” for its first few years. Because of this, many deduce, the inferred evidence supports, and some conversations lead us to conclude that Fleer printed the 1987 basketball cards in far lower numbers than the 1986 cards. In the following paragraphs, I’ll share the current thoughts in the hobby about 1986 and 1987 Fleer basketball print runs.

Let me start by saying that all I’m trying to do is piece together some hobby history; Fleer never released print run information directly. No one documented this sort of information, and the people who worked for Fleer or other card companies weren’t necessarily collectors who saved this data; it was just a job for a lot of people.

Earlier in the decade, in 1981, Topps stopped making basketball cards because they were so unpopular, and boxes of Fleer’s 1986 release didn’t sell well either, often not even going for $10 at retail locations, despite being sold directly to dealers for $9 ($108/case).

A collector on a forum noted that a shop owner offered him the 10 1986 Fleer basketball boxes collecting dust on his shelf for $5/box. And I’m told that Fleer also offered full-value refunds for unsold cases. Other collectors and dealers stated you could get them inexpensively in high supply at shows over the next few years.

Reed Kasaoka said that in the late 1990s, a Fleer executive told him that they printed 250k of each card in the 1986 Fleer set (~6400 cases), but based on really disappointing sales numbers, they cut the production rate in half for the 1987 set. And most dealers from this time believe something similar. 

1986 Fleer Basketball Wax Case

Additionally, PSA’s population report is a solid guide as there have been nearly 5x as many 1986 Fleer as 1987 Fleer cards graded. Of course, some of that disparity is based on value after grading, but that’s a huge difference. Plus, at times over the past few years, high-grade 1987 Fleer commons have commanded >$100 prices (when you could grade these cards for $6/each).

In an article about the 1987 Fleer set, Steve Taft noted that there always seemed to be more 1986 Fleer around. One of the set registry collectors agreed, saying that for every box of 1987 Fleer, he saw a lot more 1986s for sale. I also see a lot more 1986 Fleer cards and boxes for sale than 1987 Fleer. A while ago, I searched for “1986 Fleer Basketball” (with some filtering) on eBay, and it returned almost 14k items, while a search for “1987 Fleer Basketball” returned under 8k items – knowing there is some overlap based on people writing “1986/87” in the title.

I don’t think the ‘people are hoarding Fleer product’ argument holds much water here. The hobby, as a whole, was booming by 1986, and there have been a lot of times when the 1986 set was pushing higher in price that would have induced people to sell (Beckett’s first guide, the Bulls championships, Jordan’s retirements, and comebacks, etc.). If a collector had the wherewithal to hoard 1986 Fleer, they probably would have saved some 1987 Fleer, too.

1987 Fleer Basketball Wax Case

In the end, we won’t ever really know how many of each set Fleer printed or how many were returned, thrown out, or saved. However, the stories from dealers and collectors support the notion that Fleer made a lot fewer 1987 basketball cards than 1986. The print run also tells us that the popularity of the 1986 set is primarily demand-driven (no surprise, Jordan is the GOAT). We also shouldn’t be as surprised with 1987 Fleer basketball’s ascending prices over the past few years since they’re more supply-limited.

If you’ve heard stories about the 1986 or 1987 Fleer basketball print runs, please share them in the comments.

A PSA 2 Graded T206 Wagner’s History

I’ve highlighted the history of a few T206 Wagners on the blog. Here’s another, graded 2 by PSA, with an interesting history from raw to Mastro to Memory Lane.

The picture above is from Mastro’s September 2000 catalog; the card sold for $74,918. Here’s the card and full description.

Note the reference to the PSA 8 Wanger I highlighted in a post called Memorabilia Madness.

The T206Resource, which numbers this particular Wagner card as number 28, includes this photo of it in raw form (though it could be a cropped scan of the graded card), so it was likely graded around the time of the Mastro auction.

Update from the original post (based on my note in the comments) later in the day on July 19, 2024: The PSA Flip type (design) with the Collectors Universe hologram on the back didn’t come out until around 1999/2000, no more than a year before the Mastro Auction.

This Wagner was then consigned through Memory Lane, who tried to sell it for $775k via an eBay Buy-it-Now listing in January 2012 before selling it in May 2012 for $654,500 and again in May 2017 for $600,000.

PS, the other T206 Wagner that has been highlighted on the blog is Frank Nagy’s (Wagner 12 on the T206Resource).

If anyone has any more pre-graded historical information about Wagner 28, please let me know.

The New York City All-Star Baseball Card & Sports Memorabilia Show

Check out this advertisement for the February 1983 New York City All-Star Baseball Card & Sports Memorabilia Show: Gaylord Perry, Juan Marichal, and Orlando Cepeda as signers at a “regional” show!

Here’s what’s interesting about this show from over 40 years ago. First, tables were $70 each or three for $200, so there’s been very little inflation, on a regional level, for dealers to set up at shows. Second, three Hall of Famers at a regional show (ok, ok, it’s New York City), signing for just $2, $3, and $4! Third, the organizers offered mail autographs with personalization. Fourth, doesn’t highlighting their May 1982 show having 1800 admissions for 96 dealers seem a little…underwhelming?

PS, I scanned this ad from the January 1983 edition of Trader Speaks.

1934 Goudey Lou Gehrig Goudey Advertising Poster

Are you looking to decorate a man cave? I recommend a 1934 Lou Gehrig Goudey Advertising Poster.

This particular matted and framed copy was available in July 2000 when Robert Edward Auctions (then a division of MastroNet Inc.) and eBay presented ‘The Wagner Card’ as the featured item in their internet/telephone auction of baseball cards and memorabilia.

Here’s the 1934 Goudey Poster and full item description as presented in the catalog:

Interestingly, the poster was unknown to the collecting world until 1995. They highlighted that Gehrig’s portrait on the poster is the same as on his card #61, that’s a mistake; card #61 has him with a bat, but #37 shares the image.

Also, how about that wrapper redemption? Just 20 Big League Gum Wrappers and a 3-cent stamp for some “swell” prizes.

24 GAI-Graded 1966 Topps Lost in Space Wax Packs

Another incredible Carpet o’ Wax Packs from Mastro’s April 2004 catalog of incredible non-sport material. This time, 24 GAI-Graded 1966 Topps Lost in Space Wax Packs.

The lot came with the wax box, too.

Here’s the lot’s full description:

A 24-Count display box of Topps’ Lost In Space cards is presented, and all of its original, tightly sealed packs have been graded and encapsulated by Global Authentication. Still enjoying a cult following of devoted fans almost 40 years after the show first aired on prime time television, this issue is a perennial favorite among non-sport collectors. The set traced the Space Family Robinson’s exploits, as shown in black-and-white photographic format, in a very desirable 55-card set. A tough issue, with sporadic distribution at the time of release that’s had a pronounced “ripple effect” on the modern hobby’s supply, demand for this set has always been quite strong. As a complete, unopened box, availability of Lost In Space is an almost unheard-of event, and one that almost demands a special news release! This 8″ × 3-3/4″ x 1-7/8″ display box boasts nearly impeccable condition. It presents at the Near Mint level, with a crisp, dark blue color scheme and bright graphics that have successfully avoided the rigors of handling. The superlative array of 5¢ wax packs reveals sharp, untouched character throughout. The packs’ grades include: Graded GAl Gem Mint 9.5: 1 pack; GAI Mint 9: 3 packs; GAI NM-MT+ 8.5: 10 packs; GAI NM-MT 8: 6 packs; GAI NM+ 7.5: 4 packs. This very rare box and its exceptional contents deliver pure Lost In Space nostalgia in its finest, most highly prized form!

The minimum bid was $1,000. Unfortunately, I don’t know what it sold for. However, it looks like Robert Edwards Auctions re-sold the exact same lot in their Fall 2022 auction for $8,700.

That $8,700 price seems like a bit of a steal. Since then, REA has sold a pair of PSA 8-graded individual wax packs for $900 and $840.

1973 Topps Juan Marichal Orginal Artwork

Ron Oser Enterprises offered this framed and matted piece in April 2000, featuring the original “artwork” (more like a photograph) used for Juan Marichal’s 1973 Topps card, an example card, and Marichal’s autograph.

They described the original artwork as being 3 1/4” x 5”, and the total framed and matted piece as being 10” x 12”

Here’s an example of a PSA 9-graded 1973 Topps #480 Marichal card; there are no 10s in PSA’s Pop Report. You’ve gotta love 1973 Topps photography…