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.

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.

The 10 Items from the Topps Vault VIP Exclusive Auction Held at the 2011 National in Chicago

Back in 2011, at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago, IL, Topps held an auction exclusively for VIP ticket holders on Wednesday, August 3, at 2:30 PM. It featured “10 magnificent TOPPS items direct from the Vault!” In this article, I’ll share the paragraphs describing the lots exactly as Topps advertised them on the National’s website leading into the show.

1957-58 Topps Basketball Card Bill Russell Cancelled Check

1957-58 Topps Basketball Card Bill Russell Cancelled Check – Topps Vault Auction

Direct from Topps’ legendary vault comes Hall of Famer Bill Russell’s very first Topps basketball card canceled paycheck. Mr. Russell was the key card in the celebrated 1957-1958 Topps basketball card set. The 1957-58 Topps basketball card set was the first basketball card set issued by Topps and is the most important of the three major basketball sets issued prior to 1969 (the other two are Bowman’s 1948 set and Fleer’s 1961 set). The reverse is endorsed by Mr. Russell in bold black ink. Overall condition is very-good-plus. PSA/DNA Certified Authentic. A Topps Vault certificate of authenticity accompanies this one-of-a-kind piece of Topps hoops history. 

1968 Topps Final Baseball Card Color Transparency – 1968 Nolan Ryan Rookie Card

1968 Topps Final Baseball Card Color Transparency – Topps Vault Auction

For each baseball card created by Topps, there exists one color transparency used as the original artwork from which the proof sheets were made. Offered here is a unique opportunity to own the only artwork used to create the 1968 Topps Nolan Ryan Rookie Card. This original color transparency was trimmed down in the production process in order to fit into the duel-player Topps Rookie Card design. Nolan Ryan has long been regarded as one of the most popular and sought after names in the hobby which makes this transparency one of the most unique items a card collector could possess. Transparency measures approx. 1 1/4″ X 1 1/2″ in size and is in its original state. The original hand-inscribed Topps file envelope is included. Lot is accompanied by a Topps Vault certificate of authenticity. 

The bidding on this item was reported as fierce and ended at $3500. The Ryan Transparency had been listed for sale on eBay for a long time, apparently by the original buyer, for $89,995. Here are a few more items they have shared for the item.

1968 Topps Final Baseball Card Color Transparency – eBay Front
1968 Topps Final Baseball Card Color Transparency – eBay Reverse
1968 Topps Final Baseball Card Color Transparency – eBay COA
1968 Topps Final Baseball Card Color Transparency – eBay Evenlope Side 1
1968 Topps Final Baseball Card Color Transparency – eBay Evenlope Side 2

1977 Topps Uncut Proof Sheet with Rare Reggie Jackson Orioles Error Card

1977 Topps Uncut Proof Sheet – Topps Vault Auction

Every once in a while, a rather significant Topps error card will find its way to auction. This is one of those times. This incredible uncut proof sheet contains several error cards, most noteworthy, the 1977 Topps Reggie Jackson Orioles card. Printed early in the production process, this proof sheet contains Mr. October donning his 1976 Baltimore Orioles uniform. In subsequent proof printings, Mr. Jackson was outfitted in Yankees pinstripes. Barely a handful of these Reggie error cards has ever surfaced making it one of the most important Topps boo-boos in history. Other slips include Don Baylor in an A’s uniform, Dave Duncan (Orioles), Steve Stone (Cubs), Wayne Garland (Orioles), Gene Tenace (A’s), Pat Kelly (White Sox), Gary Matthews (Giants) and Rollie Fingers (A’s). Proof sheets are made by the engraver, usually from the final set of separations. Proofs show what the product will look like when it is printed. Topps staffers use them to check color and registration. Proofreaders will also check them for content. This extraordinary find is professionally matted and framed and is accompanied by a Topps Vault certificate of authenticity. 

More recently, the Oriole’s Jackson cards have sold for almost $60k, so while the $10k price for this sheet was considered a lot at the time, in retrospect, it was a steal!

1987 Topps/Nestles Baseball Card Set – Mickey Mantle Signed Agreement

1987 Topps/Nestles Baseball Card Set – Mickey Mantle Signed Agreement – Topps Vault Auction

The 33-card 1987 Nestle set features players from the golden era as well as the games modern era. The biggest of these baseball greats were the late Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth. The 1987 Nestle set was produced in conjunction with Topps and was offered inside specially marked six-packs of select Nestle candy bars. In order to include retired players in the set, Topps entered into an agreement with each individual athlete or the estate. Offered here is the original hand-signed agreement between Topps and Mickey Mantle himself. Original 8 1/2″ X 11″ archival document comes professionally matted and framed and features a bold blue ink signature. Lot is accompanied by a Topps Vault certificate of authenticity. 

Here’s an example of a hand-cut Mantle 1987 Nestle set.

1987 Nestle #17 Mickey Mantle

1979-80 Topps Hockey Uncut Proof Sheet – Wayne Gretzky Rookie Card

1979-80 Topps Hockey Uncut Proof Sheet – Topps Vault Auction

Wayne Gretzky is regarded as the greatest hockey player ever and his 1979-1980 Topps Rookie Card is one of the pre-eminent trading cards ever printed. Featured here is a blank back production sheet containing the “Great One’s” very first bubble gum card. Original proof sheet is professionally matted and framed (26″ X 32-1/2″) and overall is in near-mint condition. Proof sheets are made by the engraver, usually from the final set of separations. Proofs show what the product will look like when it is printed. Topps staffers use them to check color and registration. Proofreaders will also check them for content. Lot is accompanied by a Topps Vault certificate of authenticity.     

While not a proof sheet, a 1979 Topps Hockey sheet with the Gretzky rookie card was listed on eBay for ~$5k a year or two ago.

1979 Topps Hockey Uncut Sheet

1980 Topps/Pepsi Unissued Two-sided Final Uncut Sheet

1980 Topps/Pepsi Unissued Two-sided Final Uncut Sheet – Topps Vault Auction
1980 Topps/Pepsi Unissued Two-sided Final Uncut Sheet – Topps Vault Auction

The unique 1980 Topps-produced Pepsi baseball card set features many of the era”s greatest diamond stars. In fact, half of the ballplayers incorporated into this 22-card set are enshrined in the hallowed halls of Cooperstown. This prized Topps relic comes professionally matted and framed (12 3/4″ X 33″) and is in tip-top condition. The reverse side of the sheet is also viewable. Some of the more notable subjects include; Rod Carew, Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Reggie Jackson, George Brett, Mike Schmidt, Jim Palmer, Dave Winfield and Steve Carlton. This is the first and only time this seldom-seen and un-catalogued Topps baseball product will be offered in uncut sheet form. Lot is accompanied by a Topps Vault certificate of authenticity. 

1968 Topps Uncut Proof Sheet Nolan Ryan Rookie Card

1968 Topps Uncut Proof Sheet – Topps Vault Auction

Rare 1968 Topps uncut 44-card uncut blank-back proof sheet. Direct from the Topps Vault archives, this blank back proof sheet measures 21″ X 28″ and overall, is in excellent-plus condition. What makes this cherished Topps production item so special is that it is not crafted from the usual cardboard stock but rather a vinyl-like material. Proof sheets are made by the engraver, usually from the final set of separations. Proofs show what the product will look like when it is printed. Topps staffers use them to check color and registration. Proofreaders will also check them for content. The principal card featured on this highly sought-after piece is the Nolan Ryan Rookie Card. Also included are the 1968 Topps cards of Hank Aaron, Tony Perez, Joe Morgan and the late Elston Howard among others. For instant viewing pleasure, this lot is professionally matted and framed. A Topps Vault certificate of authenticity is included. *This lot will be framed.”

Memory Lane Inc. sold a sheet matching this description in their Spring 2013 auction for $1583. REA has also sold blank-backed vinyl-like sheets but unframed in a few past auctions; one sold for $1778 in the fall of 2013, and another sold for $2160 in the spring of 2017.

Framed 1968 Topps Uncut Proof Sheet

1957 Topps Basketball Card Set – Bill Russell Signed Agreement  

1957 Topps Basketball Card Set – Bill Russell Signed Agreement – Topps Vault Auction

Direct from Topps’ legendary vault, this auction lot features Bill Russell’s Rookie basketball card contract. The 1957-1958 Topps basketball card set was the very first basketball card set issued by Topps and remains today the greatest of all Topps basketball card sets. Original hand-signed document measures 8 1/2″ X 11″ in size and overall, is in near-excellent condition. Contract is signed and dated by Mr. Russell as well as Topps’ Sy Berger. This extraordinary slice of Topps history is professionally matted and framed for your immediate viewing pleasure. A Topps Vault certificate of authenticity accompanies this Topps archival relic.

1974 Topps Test Issue The Six Million Dollar Man Unopened Box  

1974 Topps Test Issue The Six Million Dollar Man Unopened Box – Topps Vault Auction

1974 Topps “The Six Million Dollar Man” Full 36-Count Wax Pack Box. This seldom-seen Test Issue wax pack full box originates directly from the Topps Vault archives. The plain white Test box contains 36 firmly sealed packs. Each pack contains seven cards and a slab of bubble gum. The original plain white box is in top-flight condition. Topps failed to get the U.S. rights to this 1970’s pop culture television series. After its limited test run, a small quantity of the remaining Test boxes was sent to the UK for distribution. This rare pack box was unearthed during a recent visit to the Topps warehouse and now becomes one of only a handful of Topps Six Million Dollar Man full wax pack boxes ever offered for sale. A rare find indeed! A certificate of authenticity accompanies this spectacular auction lot.

I saw a few GAI-graded packs sell for a little over $200 a few years ago, and a few PSA-graded packs have been listed for sale on eBay over the years. One of them had the words “Topps Vault Collection” written on the flip and was listed for $1429. 

1974 Topps The Six Million Dollar Man PSA Pack

1985 Topps Garbage Pail Kids Series One Uncut Sheet  

With its madcap gross-out humor, Topps Garbage Pail Kids stickers took the country by storm in 1985. Kids were plastering the hip gross stickers everywhere. Seldom offered, this stunning 132-sticker full sheet measures a stout 28 1/2″ X 43″ and overall, is in excellent-plus-plus condition. Sheet shows only the usual wear associated with uncut sticker-stock sheets of this size including very-very-very mild surface and edge wear. This colossal collectible is suitable for framing and much, much more! Each of the 132 finished stickers is scored. Sheet contains two complete “B” Series’ and one complete “A” series sticker sets, plus a few doubles. Sheet code is 4-494-05-01-5. A Topps Vault certificate of authenticity accompanies this fabulous pop-culture collectible.

The only item I don’t have an original photo of is this Garbage Pail Kids sheet. However, a sheet with the same serial number was listed on eBay for $5400 a while ago. 

Garbage Pail Kids Series One Uncut Sheet

Also, the Six Million Dollar Man box and the Garage Pail Kids Uncut Sheet were announced as the final two auction items a few weeks after the first eight items were.

While this auction didn’t have the breadth of Guernsey’s Topps Auction from 1989, its depth was incredible. Happy collecting!

Going To The Trading Card Show

Joan Rubenfeld’s article about the 1991 Anaheim National in Allan Kaye’s Sports Cards News & Prices Guides premier issue in October/November 1991 is a wonderful piece that still holds up today!

Here are a few of my favorite lines:

  • “The first impression one gets on entering the convention hall is of the people- thousands of people – old, young, in carriages, toddling, serious looking, smiling, intense.”
  • “Despite the long lines for everything…”
  • “Strangely, many of the people seem to be dressed alike…”
  • “The majority of those attending the convention was older adults.”
  • “The array of merchandise for sale was mind boggling.”
  • “Among the stars in attendance the day I was there were Warren Spahn, Pee Wee Reese, Reggie Jackson, Billy Herman, Duke Snider, Lou Brock, Y.A. Tittle, Paul Hornung, Monte Ervin, and Emmitt Smith.”
  • “Nostalgia flooded me…”
  • “By this time, I was worn out, and spying a vacant chair…”

And finally, “Next time there is a sport card show in your neighborhood, and particularly if there is a ‘biggie’ like the National Convention, go to it!”

A Truly One-of-a-Kind 1990-1991 OPC Premier Hockey Vending Case

In July 2009, Dave and Adam’s Card World purchased an item that neither they nor anyone else in the hobby had ever seen or believed existed: a 1990-1991 OPC Premier Hockey vending case.

1990 OPC Premier Hockey Vending Case
1990 OPC Premier Hockey Vending Case

1990 OPC Premier hockey was the first high-end hockey product. The release had a great rookie class, great design, and limited availability, so they were hot out of the gate. Boxes went from $30-40 to over $250 pretty quickly.

However, two significant developments in the hobby affected the O-Pee-Chee Company at the time. First, 1990-1991 OPC hockey cards showed up at a few shows before their official release, and second, there was a big wave of counterfeiting of OPC products at the time, as their simple paper stock made them easy targets for forgers who were printing runs of star cards.

The original owner of the case of 1990 OPC Premier vending boxes had been assisting OPC with their investigation, so as a thank you, Gary Koreen, the President of OPC Company Limited, sent him a vending case of approximately 10,000 Premier Cards. In his correspondence, Gary mentioned that they did not produce vending cases of this product. 

Case Correspondence Page 1
Case Correspondence Page 2

And it’s true, OPC only made their premier cards available through foil packs in boxes and via a factory set. They did make vending products for the base product, though.

Also, the date of the letter, February 22, 1991, made it clear that the case could not have been a later release; it had to be 1990-1991.

Case Correspondence Letter

The case was factory sealed, brought to the National Sports Collectors Convention in Cleveland for the July/August 2009 show, and slapped with a $6k price tag. Reed Kasaoka mentioned, in an interview with Beckett at the show, that the collector may have missed the case’s peak value, potentially over $20k, had he sold it when the cards were selling for over $200 a box. 

1990-1991 OPC Premier Hockey Vending Case at the 2009 National
1990-1991 OPC Premier Hockey Vending Case at the 2009 National

Dave and Adams sold the case back then, and to this day, no one has any reason to believe it’s not legit; the correspondence helped remove a lot of doubt.

What price do you think this unique 1990-1991 OPC Premier hockey vending case would fetch at auction today?

—— Update Since Original Posting ——

I originally posted this story here on the blog in August 2022; shortly after that, the dealer who sold it to Reed Kasaoka contacted me to share a few more details, which I published in The Post War Cards Newsletter #27 (the newsletter is now defunct) in March 2023.

The person who sold it to Reed (let’s call him Owner 3 so as not to use real names) wasn’t the original owner; the 1st owner was Ronald Mastro (whose name is written on the case pictured above), who sold it to Owner 2 who was Owner 3’s business partner.

When Owner 2 bought the case from Ron, Ron said that OPC President Gary Koreen hired him (Ron) to investigate and deal with the ongoing theft problem at OPC. Ron was to figure out who and how people were stealing numerous cases without any trace. Ultimately, Gary was pleased and thankful for Ron’s help in controlling the theft problem. So besides Ron’s compensation, Gary decided, as a courtesy, to give Ron the 1-of-1 vending case of 1990-91 OPC Premier Hockey Cards, which no one knew existed, and Ron promised never to get rid of.

Well, Ron sold it to Owner 2 for $10k, who then sold it, for unknown reasons, to Owner 3 for $5k. After about 12 years of owning the case, someone in the sports card world told Reed that Owner 3 had this one-of-a-kind item that no one knew existed, so Owner 3 got contacted by Reed. At the time, hockey cards had hit an all-time low, so the vending case didn’t have much value, no matter how rare it was. So, Owner 3 wanted to get the case out of his safe. First, he contacted Gary Koreen to let him know he possessed the vending case and asked if it was really a 1-of-1. Gary wasn’t happy to find out Ron sold the case but confirmed it was real.

Owner 3 offered the case to Reed for $3k, but they settled on $2k since that was approximately the break-up value of the 10k cards in the case. It had a $6k price tag at the 2009 National, but I don’t know what it sold for or who has it now.

The 1982 New York City Superstar Baseball Card Show

The following advertisement for the 1982 New York City Superstar Baseball card show is one of the best I’ve ever seen.

It was published in Trader Speaks’ March 1982 issue, and the handwritten style stood out among many mechanical-looking ads. Plus, Monte Irvin and Pee Wee Reese were signees!

I’ll also mention that dealer tables were $85, which is more than many regional shows charge today.

Happy collecting!

St. Louis Cards Sports Collectors Club 8th Annual Spring Sports Collectors Convention

Here’s another morsel of card show history, this one from the April 1983 edition of Trader Speaks. It’s an advertisement for the St. Lous Cards Sports Collectors Club and their 8th annual spring sports collectors convention, held May 20-22, 1983, at the Cervantes Convention Center, four blocks from Busch Stadium.

I’d love to see that Lou Brock painting in color; if anyone knows what it is, please leave a comment. I’d also love to time travel back to some of these early ’80s card shows, meet some legends of the game, check out cards before grading, and see what was popular at the time.