I never pulled a Jose Canseco Elite card from a 1991 pack, but my wife did recently buy me one for Christmas. This card was the most in-demand of the original 8 Elite cards in ’91, overshadowed only by the lower quantity Ryne Sandberg and Nolan Ryan cards. It didn’t matter that his hat didn’t fit on his head in the photo, just that this was the most popular player of the day.
Of course, Jose’s popularity began to fall as he racked up run-ins with law enforcement and was eclipsed by guys like Frank Thomas. This card fell back to the middle of the pack for much of the next 20 years, only gaining when nostalgia brought collectors back to sets like the inaugural Elite issue.
What I Pulled From a Pack
While I never found a Canseco Elite card, I did come across multiple inserts over the years. I always liked odd writeups and found the annual release of cards from the Studio brand to be full of semi-useless facts not found on other cards. Opening packs in 1992, I found this green and copper colored Heritage Series insert.
The Heritage Series featured sepia-toned photographs of modern stars wearing the classic uniforms of their teams from previous eras. Canseco is shown as a member of the 1929 Philadelphia Athletics. The back of the card calls Jose “…a slugger out of the same mold as Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx who batted .354 in 1929.” It seems Studio’s bio writer was even more of an optimist than I as Canseco’s batting average through 1991 was a full 55 points lower than Foxx’s career average. Putting it in perspective, Mario Mendoza’s infamous .215 career batting mark is the same distance away from Canseco as Canseco is from Foxx.
Today the Studio card can be readily found for less than the cost of a pack of inexpensive ’92 Studio cards. At the time I pulled the card it was considered a much better find, probably equal to the cost of two or three packs.
Another pack-pulled insert seems to have eclipsed the Studio card in terms of hobby demand. In 1993 I started seeing packs of Pacific hit store shelves. Pacific had sold commemorative sets in the late 1980s featuring retired players and followed up this effort in 1991 with a massive 220 card release featuring only Nolan Ryan cards. The company produced its first “real” set of cards 1993 with a focus on current players. The checklist was heavy on Latino names and Spanish text interspersed throughout the set.
From one of these packs came the above prism insert, Pacific’s answer to Donruss’ Elite cards with foil backgrounds similar to 1992’s Elite set. Pacific and its Prisms largely stayed in the background of the hobby mainstream (this one was worth about a buck at the time), though increasingly tough versions of these cards kept up interest in the product late into the decade. They have made a resurgence of late with the “prism” name effectively supplanting Topps’ refractors in sports where Topps has largely disappeared. Crossover interest from collectors of basketball cards and a chase of lesser known 90s inserts has rekindled interest and now made this the best Canseco card I ever pulled. Today it could be readily traded for two or three packs of Pacific cards, effectively flipping the ratio initially enjoyed by the ’92 Studio Heritage card.