When I was 12 years old, I was at a card show in our local shopping mall and almost quit collecting forever.  I remember breaking down and crying on a bench and my dad had to console me as I realized things were getting way too expensive for me.  The year was 1992 and at the time I started to move more and more towards basketball exclusively.

That year, Shaq hit the scene in a very big way.  The man who broke backboards multiple times in games was the best thing to happen to hobby dealers.  Stadium Club was also hitting in a very big way.  That was THE premium product, with Ultra behind it.  The combination of the two meant that a single pack of 1992 Stadium Club with a small chance at a Shaq rookie was $8.

$8 was a fortune to a kid.  I was used to packs selling for $1 or less from other products.  It was the first time I felt like I was priced out of the hobby.

It’s happened a few times since, without the tears, but I’ve also come to get a better sense of the hobby as a whole.  When the price of the package is too high, but you only want a couple pieces of it, then buy those pieces independently.  You also usually get a better idea about when the best time to buy could be.

Enter Topps Transcendent.  For the price of a new car ($27,000), you could have one of only 65 briefcases full of cards containing a couple sets and a slew of autographs, some limited and I think one guaranteed 1/1 auto.  Clearly this stuff was way out of my price range.  But, I didn’t want the whole set anyway.  I don’t know if anyone who opened a case did.  Welcome to liquidation station.

Your standard base card

I knew that if I wanted to get this at a decent price, then I had a pretty small window to work with before the well started to dry up and I only saw overpriced BINs due to no competition.  I monitored several auctions and set my limits and tried my luck.  As you can see, I’ve still got a few more to go, because I haven’t found a sketch card hit my price range yet.  Maddux also tends to be cheaper than Frank Thomas in everything except autographs (due to overall prevalence, I believe).

These base cards have a silver metal frame – the kind of thing you’ve seen in some of the 2014 rookie reprints from Topps Series 1 or the recent Gold Label reboot.

The picture may look blurry, but that’s because you’re not looking at a photo.  That may have been obvious to most of you, but the quality is high and appreciated (although maybe it’s a photo run through a painting photoshop effect?).  What doesn’t come across is the sheen that’s on these cards.  The whole diamond has a light glow to it, assuming it’s from metallic particles in the printing paper or something.  There’s also that same subtle effect on the silver rays in the corners.

Ebay 1/1

This is the highest numbered version of the autograph.  Each suitcase came with 65 autos.  You can see this is numbered to 52.  Not every subject is in each case, and there were parallels out of 10 in there and each case had a 1/1 as well.  This is the only version I care about and it honestly wasn’t much more than many other Maddux autographs with similar numbering.  I’m pretty sure it’s still the most expensive card in my collection at this point, but that’s because I haven’t gone heavy into the autos yet.

This card follows the same metallic shine as the other, but goes with a circle to give a nice, large area for the on card signature.  Something that is different here is that the inside of the circle is raised and curved to the slightest degree.  It’s pretty fancy.

Not an ebay 1/1

I also will mention that the autos have a gold metallic frame instead of silver.  At the time, my Frank Thomas win was the lowest price anyone had paid. I think I could get it for a little cheaper now, but I’m still very happy with the result.

So, that’s three down and three to go (both sketch cards and the Frank set). There’s also some Bryant and Schwarber cards, but I’m not paying more for them than what a bonafide HOFer goes for.

That’s part of the learning experience.  That $8 pack of 92-93 Stadium Club is basically now an $8 box and the Shaq rookie is really nothing special.  Card print runs may have gone down since then, but the odds are in my favor that I can wait that out on people like Bryant and let the craziness run it’s course, because even legitimate superstars usually have their cards fall down to earth at some point.  Only a few…transcend.

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