Allen & Ginter and Axl Rose: One redemption card I’ll have plenty of patience for

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By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor | Commentary & Opinion

If there’s one brand I have obsessed about as a collector more than any other through the years, it’s Topps‘ revived ode to the world champion of 1800s tobacco cards, Allen & Ginter.

When I first saw the sellsheets for the debut edition of this new (but old) baseball card brand back in 2006, I instantly knew I would be digging in for a case in advance — and even more upon arrival — and I did. I knew it would be among the year’s most-popular lines and I was right, though my days at Beckett were still a few years away. One card, among many, was on my sights and I knew it wouldn’t be easy to pull. It was an autograph of a childhood icon — not idol, but icon — Hulk Hogan, sporting his Hulkamania red and yellow among a sea of top-tier Hall of Fame baseball players, superstar athletes, sports legends and others. It a crop that makes that 2006 set one of the landmark releases of the last decade.

The framed minis carry a Victorian aesthetic unlike much within the hobby these says and they struck a chord with me — one that still does to this day. At the time, Hogan only had a single wrestling auto from his “Hollywood” days and a Topps Heritage sig that I had not yet landed, so his Ginter card stood out as one on my collecting radar.

Logic went out the window and I bought pack after pack after pack, clearing Central Florida retail shelves, shredding my Hobby case ordered in advance to find quite a few sigs and more, and driving the price up at an Orlando hobby shop by buying as much as I could where it was no longer fruitful at its pumped-up, replacement price. After countless packs, autos and more, I was without a Hogan, who signed just 200 cards. I finally caved and spent more on getting that one card than I had ever before. (The cost was a hobby box or two if I remember correctly — meanwhile I’m probably still paying for all that wax.)

All these years later, this year another iconic autograph for myself — and many others — arrives in Ginter, and it’s an autograph of someone who, until the last few months, has never appeared on a licensed trading card or signed a single autograph for a card company. And technically he still hasn’t as his four cards found in 2013 Topps Archives and 2013 Topps Allen & Ginter were issued as redemptions.

It’s Axl Rose.


The Guns N’ Roses singer who was always in the headlines for one thing or another years ago has never been a prolific signer of any kind — even before his well-embellished reclusive years or his 15 years of working on Chinese Democracy. PSA- or JSA-certified autos of Rose can command serious cash in online auctions — enough that I had never imagined him signing for a card company or adding Rose to my collection in any way, unlike other sports icons of the past who sign often and do shows on a regular basis. These days, the only shows Rose does are with his revamped GNR lineup as part of his recently completed tour.

When Archives arrived earlier this year, the skeptics emerged as quickly as the redemptions for Rose’s autographs did.

“I wouldn’t get too excited. It will probably be a redemption and you will never get it.”

“Call me a skeptic. A better poll would be asking whether he will actually sign the cards.”

“I’ve been to a show where he didn’t show up, so I wouldn’t definitely not buy a redemption of this dude.” 

“That’s a redemption that will never be filled.”

Those comments and more echoed around and elsewhere as auctions came and went — many of the cards selling for a fraction of what I and others expected. Why? Considering his place in pop culture — an undeniable icon of the late 1980s and early 1990s — the only thing that makes sense for a soft market for his certified autos is one thing.

Because they’re redemptions.

I watched the Archives auctions come and go — a couple dipping down low enough that I coulda-woulda-shoulda dug in but I played it safe and didn’t. At the same time for my own curiosity (and perhaps a story), I occasionally asked Topps officials whether there was anything new for this one, whether there was any inkling of how soon some inking might take place. And, naturally, with a few other musicians — actually, several — appearing on this year’s Allen & Ginter checklist, I openly speculated that Rose would be among them. Why? Because it wouldn’t make sense for such a big name to only be used in a single product.

Turns out, he was.

It’s no secret that many collectors have had their issues with redemption cards in the past and Topps’ recent attempts at clearing back-logged redemptions with new, unique cards to clear out a backlog has left some unhappy of late. (And that might be an understatement at times.) On the other hand, in my personal experience, I’ve never been burned on any redemptions from Topps in all my years of collecting — and I have had my share. Sure, I have had cards replaced, and in a few instances they were upgrades. In others, they were for replacements for cards I had little interest in and merely pulled from packs. (In the recent wave, I’ve actually had cards upgraded to better players, though I have seen some instances where that wasn’t the case.) I also have several I am still waiting on — just like many of you do.

Out of curiosity, I discussed the Rose redemption issue — I’d so love to call it “The Spaghetti Incident” but it’s not sounding like it’s going to be like that — with a Topps brand manager at the recent National Sports Collectors Convention. As part of a in-depth chat about that card and other goings-on for the company, I was once again assured that a pricey deal was in place, a key portion of it completed, and they were just awaiting a phone call for a finish. (I’d offer more details, but it wasn’t an on-the-record chat for a story — just one to humor my curiosity.)

When Allen & Ginter arrived last week, I knew that Rose would be a redemption, but I knew it would be one that should have a bit more interest than Archives’ Heavy Metal Autographs — a first-time offering from a popular but not-yet-landmark kind of brand. Ginter and its framed mini autos on the other hand? A no-brainer and one I figured, knowing the deep-pocketed devotees of the brand, that would reasonably be out of my price range from the get-go.

Turns out, at least thus far, it wasn’t — and while the new-ripping arrivals continued to pile up on eBay (for now) I made one offer online and got a reasonable (but perhaps still high) counter. Then, I asked a big-volume case breaker whether he could beat it. He could. For the price of less than two hobby boxes, the redemption card was mine. And as of today, it is in my hands.

For another childhood icon in a Ginter frame, I broke one of my own routines and set the wax aside (this time) and purchased a redemption — something I have only one once before for a somewhat-meaningless card of Nick Swisher that, as it turns out, was never made and I got some forgettable replacement. (Remember those Swisher Turkey Red auto redemption cards in 2006? Never happened.)  Once my Rose card was removed from its envelope, I didn’t quite give it the kind of staredown or obsessive multi-minute look that something like my T206 Christy Mathewson got. It didn’t get anything even close to the stare-and-hold pattern that happened with Hogan and Ginter seven years ago.

Why? It’s not that simple this time. This song’s not quite done just yet — it’s half-complete once I scratch off its back panel and enter my code online. One more future trip to the mailbox will make it reality and between now and then all I’ll need is a little patience for a finish that will be written by Axl and Topps.

I’m confident it will be a hit.

Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball and Beckett Sports Card Monthly magazines. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an email to him at Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.


  1. bill
    Posted August 12, 2013 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    I waited 2 YEARS for Bret Michals from 2011 Topps American Pie. But good old Topps didnt make the cards. Instead they sent a worthless Don Sutton Autograph. The Axl Rose will be the same way. So get ready to thank Topps for the common the send in place after you pay almost $500 for the Axl. Topps needs to stop crapping on people.

  2. Trammell3
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    “As part of a in-depth chat about that card and other goings-on for the company, I was once again assured that a pricey deal was in place, a key portion of it completed, and they were just awaiting a phone call for a finish.”

    so the deal with axl wasn’t 100% finalized before topps started putting the redemption cards in their products? again, you will never see the card chris!! the dude skips out on meet n greets before his concerts, that’s how much of an a-hole he is

  3. chrisolds
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Trammell: You’re 110 percent wrong there. The deal is done — and more — just waiting on signing date.

  4. Andrew
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Have you noticed that there a lot more redemption cards of current players that in the past have been included as inserts (Darvish, Hamilton, Fielder,etc.)
    Any theories on why this may have happened.

    Speaking of redemptions, finally received my 2011 A&G N43 Cliff Lee auto. Never thought I would see that, but it completes my set.

    I was disappointed the N43 has not returned, and dislike the oversize box loader autos (much too prone to damage)

  5. Richard
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Redemption cards exist for several reasons.
    The legitimate reason is when there was a delay in getting all of the cards signed or because it is for
    a player yet to be decided on (say a yet to be announced award winner) or the player could not be
    included yet because of contract issues, etc.

    The slimy reasons are because they get to use the autograph as a selling point without having to put up
    the money in advance. I keep thinking back to the Fleer bankruptcy and all of these “great” redemption cards
    floating out there that, quite frankly, Fleer had no expectation they would ever fulfill.

    I accept that sometimes a player will not sign for one reason or another, at least accept it as something
    that does happen. But what they really need to do is assign a point value and allow you to “shop” with those
    points from a selection of what they have. It would not be that hard to do and Topps already has the
    infrastructure in place via E-Topps. Upper Deck and others could easily come up with something with a
    small investment. Redemption cards could be sold as point cards to others and combined to get a higher
    tiered item, etc.

    Points would be assigned at the start based on expected cost of acquisition, not some “market” price,
    and would be printed on the card reflecting odds and product costs. People would buy the cards knowing
    the fixed base value and take the risk accordingly.

  6. Posted August 13, 2013 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Axl is overrated, give me a Black Francis auto any day over him.

  7. robert
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    you should start a religion Chris because you have a lot of faith! (“The deal is done — and more — just waiting on signing date”).

    As long as the money hasn’t changed hands yet until the signing is done, I still say you’ll end up getting a Don Sutton or Gary Carter replacement auto, considering the history of Topps who it’s been reported in the past that contracts are a done deal yet the signing never happens and Topps never sues the athletes or celebs for breech of contract.

  8. chrisolds
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    Robert: But … what if it … aw, nevermind.

  9. Brian
    Posted November 10, 2013 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Hey, Chris olds, how are those Axl Rose redemption’s coming?!?!?!

  10. Michael Shick
    Posted April 23, 2014 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    Hey Chris. No bull. I just pulled an Axl Rose framed auto redemption card today from a A&G box from Walmart no less. AGA-ARO. Any idea where the $$ is sitting on these cards and is there still an interest for buyers?? Let me know I’m willing to move this card. Thanks. Just e-mail me

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