Upper Deck brought the first premium product to the hobby with their 1989 baseball set. They backed that release up in 1990 with another innovation, the first major chase card. Topps inserted 2500 copies of a signed and numbered Reggie Jackson card in the 1990 Upper Deck baseball high series. They called the promotion Find ‘”The Reggie.”‘ The card was like a myth!
First, Topps inserted a header card into packs explaining the chase. The header card has the Baseball Heroes logo on the front. The back said that Upper Deck inserted a 9-card Reggie Jackson Baseball Heroes set in packs and that he signed 2500 cards that baseball artist Vernon Wells created. The header also explained that the signed cards had a unique hologram to differentiate them from the other Wells’ drawn Reggie cards.
Next, here are photos of the front and back of a 1990 Upper Deck Heroes Reggie Jackson Checklist 1-9 Autographed Card.
You can see that he both signed and numbered each card. Also, on the back of the card, notice the diamond-shaped hologram near the top. Unsigned Checklist cards (card 9 of 9) have circular holograms.
I’ve read from a pair of sources that Jackson added the inscription “Mr. October” to every 100th card; meaning that 25 of these special variations should exist; cards 100, 200, 300, etc. However, I read on a forum that he added the inscription to every 50th-numbered card. I found the following photo of a card sold back in July 2016, serial 850/2500, with the inscription. So, I’m not sure which is true, every 100th or every 50th inscription; if you have any insight, let me know in the comments.
Collectors have discovered two other fun card variations: Harmon Killebrew also signed card 573/2500 (he had 573 career home runs), and Willie Mays also signed card 660/2500 (he had 660 career home runs).
In terms of forgeries, indeed, some exist. No one thinks Reggie signed any circular hologram cards in person, so I wouldn’t risk buying one that doesn’t have the diamond-shaped hologram. It is possible that Upper Deck printed a few replacement cards that would have a diamond hologram but no serial numbers, as Upper Deck probably kept a few if a collector pulled a damaged card and wanted a replacement.
Now, 2500 autographed cards may sound like a lot, but companies printed A LOT of cards during this era. Folks have estimated that Upper Deck printed about 200M cards for high series boxes making the odds of hitting a Reggie auto about 1 in 148 boxes.
But as the guy who runs the Unopened Archive, I have to talk about the products you need to find if you want to try and pull your own Reggie Jackson Heroes Autograph. As I wrote, the cards came in the 1990 Upper Deck High Series product, and high Series cases sell for around $650 these days, despite some sellers listing them for well over $2k on eBay.
Factory-sealed wax boxes generally sell for around $35.
For completeness, here’s a photo of the front and back of a foil pack.
Now, back to the individual cards. There are 2500 of these cards out there, though some have probably made it to the garbage dump. The PSA Population report can be a little weird to interpret for autographed cards, but it looks like they have encapsulated 86 cards with their dual grading service (DG) and another 36 that aren’t dual graded. Additionally, under the regular PSA Tab (not the PSA/DNA certified tab), there are 37 graded Checklist 1-9 Reggie Jackson cards, but these are, presumably, unsigned. So, 86+36 = 122 PSA encapsulated signed Reggie Jackson Heroes cards.
Regarding cost, graded samples sell for between $550 and $600. Serial 1221 sold for $565 in June 2022.
Serial 2337, a BGS-graded card, sold for $605 in July 2022.
A slew of raw examples have also sold for between $325 and $455 in the past few months.
Upper Deck had a lot of success in its early days, partially thanks to the Heroes Chase series that they continued in subsequent years and sports, and they were all numbered to 2500. 1991 Upper Deck baseball had “Find the Nolan” (Nolan Ryan). 1992 Upper Deck baseball had autographed Ted Williams cards and dual autographs of Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan. And 1991 Upper Deck football had chase cards for both Joe Namath and Joe Montana.
While companies overproduced their base cards at this time, Upper Deck set a new path for what the industry would become. Upper Deck’s heroes series gave them the edge for a few years until another innovation emerged; the first refractors from the 1993 Topps Finest baseball set, but more on them another time. Happy collecting!