What lies below is the unveiling of some cards you have likely never seen before. In addition to this is the absolute craziest deal I have ever been a part of!
If you ask seasoned hardcore collectors, they will tell you the 1990s inserts/parallels are where it’s at. The best of the best? Across the board, you will likely hear about 1996 Select Certified Mirror Gold, 1997 Pinnacle Totally Certified Platinum Gold, 1998 Donruss Red Crusade, among others. These are *true* white whale cards for collectors. With only 25-30 of each having been printed, some of these cards have been dreamed about on want lists for nearly 2 decades. Coupled with their absolute beauty, these cards can potentially go for a lot of money, and even surpass today’s ultra high-end 1/1 auto patch cards.
But what about the cards that aren’t supposed to exist?
Cards that were on sell sheets and were never made, due to bankruptcies and such. The beautiful inserts/parallels that could have been, but weren’t … unless for some strange reason they actually were made AND not destroyed. (How many employees were actual collectors and had the foresight to NOT use the cards as coasters?)
So that, boys and girls, is where we start our story.
My introduction to Prototypes
Back around 2013-14, a good friend and fellow collector showed me this beauty in his collection:
What you are looking at is a 1998 Pinnacle Certified Red Jose Canseco. The odds are, you probably have not seen this before, or any other type of card like it. Whenever I see it, I hear angels singing. This, among others like my 1992 Ultra Boardroom prototypes, 1989 Topps Gold border and others are what really started to get me passionate about owning cards that shouldn’t exist.
We have done many deals together, where 1/1s have come to me and been sent from me to him, but the 98 Pinnacle Test card was never on the table. Not for 1/1s, not for anything. I have always dreamed of owning that card, but knew it would be impossible as it was seen as a unicorn, white whale (insert whatever term you want for untouchable card here).
The mystery surrounding these types of cards add to the desire, and with it come many questions. How did they come to market? How many are there? The market can be incredibly strange with these, as nobody really knows how to price them, since they aren’t even supposed to exist. The checklisted rare inserts & parallels have enjoyed an established value which has been trending upward for the past several years. The mystery surrounding them has kept many a collector up at night trying to research them, only to walk away from their computer with nothing to show for their efforts. Because of the lack of data and history, this can cause people to hesitate pulling the trigger with the kind of money a checklisted rare 90s card would fetch.
For the 1998 Pinnacle Certified cards, this is about to change. They are about to be checklisted in Beckett AND I have the story 🙂
Not only do I have the story, but the turn of events for what I’m about to tell you is the absolute CRAZIEST thing I’ve been a part of.
The Craziest Deal I’ve Ever Experienced
Lets rewind back to last Friday. I was about to check out of the office for the week from where I spend my days saving the world from bad web design, and checked eBay. What popped up caused my heart to skip a beat. Over, and over, and over….
It was NOT the 1998 Pinnacle Certified Red.
It was the 1998 Pinnacle Certified MIRROR Red. The seller had listed most, if not all the cards from the set.
Folks, this card has never been seen before, and in spite of my NUMEROUS attempts to reach out, the seller was not responsive at all, which was very frustrating. I had so, so, soooo many questions. This card was on my mind more times than I care to admit over the next few days. It truly occupied more brain space than any other card that I can remember in recent history! To me, this was a BETTER card than the one I had held in such high regard, and it was right in front of me, on eBay.
And then Sunday came.
The Let Down
I checked eBay to see what the bidding was up to and it was nowhere to be found! I looked all over the place, and saw the dreaded listing ended post.
Upset, (again, more than I care to admit over a piece of cardboard), my mind was racing with what had happened, and how I could get in touch with the seller to know more, when he was clearly too busy to contact me. (Before I go any further, please don’t take my retelling of the story as the seller being a jerk or shady. I was able to finally talk to him and he seems like a nice/pleasant fellow with fantastic cards.)
As you can see, the seller is in Texas. After driving to pick up my son from church in the evening, I was racking my brain over how I can figure out this guy’s phone number, email address, etc. just so I can somehow open up dialogue. As I pulled into the church parking lot, I had an epiphany. I will call a guy I know who is also in Texas (about 4 hours away from me) to see if he knows the seller & has his contact information.
Throwing a Hail Mary
Have you ever had someone from out of state find out the state you live in, and they say “You live in Texas? I know a guy named Mike from there! Do you know him?” Uhhhmm…there are like eleventy billion Mikes in Texas.
This felt like the same thing to me. I *almost* felt foolish asking, but desperate times, desperate measures, right? Please keep in mind this person I texted for the contact information is someone I had not spoken to in about two years, which was only a brief text or two. The last time I’ve seen him was over three years ago. He would buy hundreds of thousands of cards from me. As a matter of fact, I wrote about that here back in December of 2014.
The pic above shows the carnage of after he left 🙂 Part of the deal is he did not want ANY box tops, so I had a literal mountain of them in my garage for a while. The weird part about this is I was JUST telling this story to someone I picked up a collection from the day before I wrote him! (Here is what I picked up this past weekend, by the way!) This is the first deal I have picked up to re-sell in quite a while. I am very excited about going through it all, but this deal caused me to push pause on it for a while. #thecardboardmobileridesagain!
So needless to say, I knew the text to this guy I hadn’t talked with in forever was a long shot, but as it turns out, he knew the guy personally and deals with him from time to time! (What are the odds?) The spark of hope that I could obtain the card was fairly quickly snuffed out, but the very next day I received a text from the guy that came over years back.
“Tanner, shoot me a picture of the card you were asking about.”
I thought this was an odd request, but went ahead and did it.
“I have that card.”
I stared at my phone for a while, with my mind racing. He has that card? Is he messing with me? No, he wouldn’t do that. He probably means he has a card like it. Maybe the ’97s where they made several of them. No, he doesn’t have this card. There. is. no. way.
A Needle in a Haystack … Factory
To give you an idea of how outlandish this is, I have gone many times to the largest annual card show to search for Canseco cards I don’t have, and simply put: none of the hundreds of dealers have ANYTHING I don’t have. Heck, eBay seldom has anything I don’t have these days, aside from the latest and greatest release at any given time.
For this person to have THE card I was looking for (a card that shouldn’t exist, mind you) – a person that I just decided to reach out to on a whim … what are the odds?
Now, people. Let me explain something to you. I have folks coming up to me every now and then telling me they have something amazing, and I either don’t hear back from them again or they apologize and tell me it isn’t what they thought. I figured this was going to be a prime example of the latter. You know me – whenever my dreams are dashed, I tend to create fantasy custom cards that don’t exist. I did these last year of 1998 Select. (The set was never released, and Jose was never in it anyway, but it was a fun project to work on!)
Another one I made recently was this 2016 Finest Superfractor Canseco I missed out on recently. It is spot on. The only difference between mine and the real one is mine doesn’t have serial numbering on the back and the back explicitly states that it is just a custom card meant for my own collection, and not real.
The guy told me to call him on Friday, because his cards were at Beckett, and about to be graded, so he would have to drive over there to take a picture for me. I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to make it until Friday, but I made it abundantly clear that I would be on pins & needles waiting for a picture. As we spoke on the phone, I told him about the deal I had made over the weekend, and he mentioned he may just drive down to make a trade. To entice him to come down with the mirror red Canseco card, I sent a few pictures, including this one to entice him further:
Great cards, right? I didn’t hear back. This made me nervous, but I stayed patient.
The very next day, my phone vibrated and dinged. Every time my phone did anything, him reaching out to me was on my mind. I had wondered what was going to show up on my screen. Was it going to be someone else? Was it going to be the guy answering me? What would he say? Would it be an apology – that he didn’t actually have the card he was telling me about?
Nope, it was a picture. A picture with the mirror red!
If you don’t think I’m lying or stretching the truth here, then you haven’t been paying close enough attention. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. How on earth is it possible for me to have a thought in my head to text a guy that I haven’t talked to in a few years? How is it possible that he had any Canseco available that I didn’t yet have? Last but not least, how is it possible that he had *THE* card I was hoping for? This is absolutely mind boggling.
Here is a pic of the card he sent:
IMPOSSIBLE. How did this happen???? I don’t know, but guess what?
It gets better.
Not only did he have the card I was so upset about being taken down from eBay, but he also had the red base I had held in such high esteem. And the black base. And the mirror blue. And the mirror gold! NONE of these have ever been seen or even confirmed to exist.
These just came in earlier today, and I am still giddy about even looking at this picture! Let me tell you what you are looking at:
The Black card is the base card. It is beautiful and elegant, because it is simple. Its shiny black and mirror silver surface is definitely a thing of beauty. It’s one thing to own a card that only 30 were to be made of in the first place. It is quite another to own a card that, if produced like it should have been, may have found its way into nearly every person’s collection. Simply put, it is smoooooth.
The Red card is a parallel of the base, and is the only one I had seen of this run up until a few days ago. This is the one that I was in love with. Its stark red contrasts the blue jersey perfectly.
The Mirror Red was a real treat to see on eBay last week. It was like knowing there was a T-Rex already, but finding out there was something much bigger. You know, like Indominus Rex.
The Mirror Blue is drop dead gorgeous, and matches the jersey color beautifully. Absolute perfection.
What is better than perfection? GOOOOLDDD! While these all theoretically may have the same rarity, there is something about the gorgeous refractive beauty of gold. It was meant to be seen as baseball card royalty. Had this card been released, it would have been on want lists of pretty much everyone for years and years now.
*VERY FEW* of the black, red and mirror red have ever surfaced of ANYONE, but to my knowledge the mirror blue and gold have never been seen before … of anyone.
So here I am presented with an impossible RAINBOW of unicorns that aren’t supposed to exist. In fact, I have the PERFECT t-shirt to represent my new treasures. (I cropped a funny face pic of myself wearing this shirt at a party with my friends and family – I promise everyone else is making goofy faces as well!)
The shirt depicts an astronaut riding a unicorn on a rainbow. My son bought me this shirt when he was 10 or so, and I still wear it. Heck, I’m actually wearing it now (not on purpose, either!) So this shirt is ABSOLUTELY the perfect representation of not only these cards, but how the deal worked out. I feel like I had to really shoot for the stars to find the most beautiful rainbow of unicorns I have ever seen.
Cards You’ve Never Seen, and the Back Story of Them
So, now that I have my crazy unbelievable story out of the way, allow me to unlock part of the mystery for you if you ever wondered where some of these crazy runs of unreleased cards have come from. Here is the story, as the seller has told me: (along with some pictures that he is allowing me to share with you.)
Several months ago, a former Pinnacle employee came forward with several cards they had for years and years. They basically had entire set runs of stuff that was not released, but typically only one set, and perhaps a few extra singles. These cards were in boxes labeled as the “Pinnacle Library”.
As the story goes, each Pinnacle employee may have gotten a box of stuff, but only those employees who stayed until the very end. They knew the owner, so it may not be out of the realm of possibility that those who knew the owner were given some of the “better” stuff. The seller did mention that the Pinnacle ex-employees threw away several cards because they were “sticky”. How heartbreaking is that? WHAT DID THEY THROW AWAY???
All of the cards from this deal were not in sheet form; they were factory cut.
So, are there 1-2 of these cards out there of each player? 20? We may never know, especially given the fact that many of these could have been thrown out and/or lost with time. We are talking nearly 20 years ago, so who knows? A 45 year old employee back then would be in their mid 60s now, and have absolutely no desire to do anything but throw out the stuff they had, if they hadn’t yet already done so.
Now that I have purchased this run of Canseco cards from the seller, his sets are all broken. The funny part about it is that none of this stuff may have ever surfaced (in the near future anyway) if it weren’t for me picking up the Canseco cards. Look for the cards in the pictures above to surface on eBay soon. He only has one copy each of the vast majority of these, so good luck and may the force be with you! I’ll be watching these auctions with popcorn in hand.
Some of these, such as the blac, red, mirror blue and mirror gold are not even recognized by Beckett, but that is soon to change. As you can see from the pic above, his pickup wasn’t limited to Pinnacle Certified. There were various other types in there as well. As a matter of fact, he also has a complete run of 1998 Leaf Rookies & Stars Longevity XX/ Executive Samples, which I was able to pickup the Canseco in it as well. I’m very curious to see how well these perform when compared to the big boys like the 96 mirror golds, 97 totally certified platinum golds and 98 crusade reds.
With as much as I like the 96 Select Certified Mirror golds, 97 Totally Certified Platinum Golds & 98 Red Crusades, it is quite possible that we are looking at an impossible set that just might trump them all.