We can almost guarantee that you know some guy who enjoyed sifting through his monster boxes of Topps, Fleer, Score, and Upper Deck — and maybe even a few mega-dorks that had Magic: The Gathering cards.
While the trading card business started off pretty innocently, it became a booming market in the 1980s and 1990s; and by the time the Overproduction Era had ended, all of the collections that you thought were going to be worth something were actually worth about as much as a side of dick with a sprig of parsley.
Some trading cards, however, have held their value decently well. A nice chunk of them are error and variation cards, many of which are hilariously vulgar and in turn, highly collectible. So we’ve processed this list of the top 9 greatest errors and variations in trading card history for you. You will not be let down. We can almost guarantee it.
1989 Fleer Bill Ripken ‘Fuck Face’ Bat (pictured above)
Back in 1989, Philadelphia-based baseball card company Fleer produced one of the most notorious modern-day errors in history — when it released the rookie card of Baltimore Oriole Bill Ripken (brother of superstar Cal) holding a baseball bat, with the words “Fuck Face” scrawled across the bat knob in black ink. It spawned a feeding-frenzy in the hobby that year and launched Fleer headlong into damage-control mode: They printed numerous corrected versions, some of which command tremendous values at auction. In an ironic twist, Ripken later admitted to writing “Fuck Face” on the bat himself. If you’re wondering what’s become of him, he’s now an analyst on the MLB Network. We gather they don’t allow him to ever use the Telestrator.
Current Value: $20-$25
1990 Pro Set Fred Marion ‘Anaconda’ Buckle
For any football card collector, you’ll know that the 1990 Pro Set series is absolutely riddled with errors — whomever the copyeditor was for the long-since out-of-business company must’ve either been a 5th grader or the most careless wretch on the planet. One major goof the company caught early on — but didn’t come to light until recent years — was actually not the copyeditor’s fault; it’s simply a trick of photography. In the picture on former Patriots’ safety Fred Marion’s card, an unidentified 49ers player is falling in the background, with his belt buckle protruding out from his waist. At the end of the day, it’s just a loose belt, but it sure look an awful lot like some giant Mississippi black-snake, if you get our drift. Pro Set wanted nothing to do with that and later airbrushed it off. Copies of the error can cost you an arm-sized third leg, too, in mint condition.
Current Value: $40-$100
2006 Bowman Sign of the Future Leon Washington Double-Bird
On this autographed insert card from the 2006 Bowman set (produced by Topps), former Jets running back Leon Washington posed for the photo on the front giving a twin-bird salute, appearing to be sticking up both of his middle fingers. However, Washington claimed he was just making an “E” for “East Side” for the area he grew up — the rest of his fingers obscured by his armpits. Either way, Topps was not impressed and sent out an apology. We’d like to think Washington was actually gesturing at his future self, whose career hasn’t amounted to much of anything.
Current Value: $20-$25
1990 Pacific Senior League Jim Nettles ‘Asshole’ Bat
Piggybacking on the infamy caused by Bill Ripken’s 1989 Fleer card, former major league outfielder Jim Nettles, now playing in the senior leagues — sort of the glue factory for ex-ballplayers — decided he was going to one-up Ripken. The photographer didn’t notice that Nettles’ bat knob had “Asshole” scrawled across it, and the card made it to print. Nettles was none-too-pleased. We know several people who that bat would fit perfectly for!
Current Value: $80-$250
1989 Score Paul Gibson Junk-Adjuster Extraordinaire
Tigers relief pitcher Paul Gibson got a major league surprise when he saw his 1989 Score card, we can imagine. In the background, one of the infielders is doing a right-handed sack adjustment. Score quickly corrected the error, but young children all over the U.S. still have what one may know as “the claw” emblazoned on their memories.
Current Value: $3-$5
1966-67 Topps Claude Raymond Barndoor Double-Take
Houston Astros pitcher Claude Raymond holds the record for potentially being the dumbest person on the face of the earth — when the camera bulbs are flashing. Because on both his 1966 and 1967 Topps issues, it appears that his fly is open. Whether or not it was just a coincidental printing error, we will never know. We’re just glad we didn’t have to see the depth of his salesman as well.
Current Value: 1966: $10-$200 (depending on condition); 1967: $1-$20 (depending on condition)
1977 Topps Star Wars C-3PO Droid Boner
This may be our favorite card of all time. It’s right up there with the Fred Marion trick-dick-pic — but 10-times funnier, when you imagine C-3PO talking dirty in a British accent. Han Solo would’ve been so proud! As such, it features the gold-plated droid of Star Wars fame in a position that we can only describe as “highly aroused.” That’s pretty much priceless, in our opinion.
Current Value: $50-$60
1990 Pro Set Final Update Dexter Manley ‘Substance Abuse’
Dexter Manley, who failed a quartet of drug tests and got himself banned for life from the NFL, has one of the modern era’s most expensive and sought-after error cards. Released in the factory-set-only “Final Edition” of the 1990 Pro Set series, early copies of Manley’s card back featured a sentence about his reinstatement “after suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.” The company struck the reference from future cards — but apparently, it didn’t help Manley’s cause much.
Current Value: $200-$500+
1995 Topps Traded Carlos Beltran and ‘The Other’ LeBron
One of the New York Yankees most recent offseason purchases, Carlos Beltran is the not-so-proud owner of an uncorrected error card in the 1995 Topps Traded set — his first official rookie card. Beltran must’ve been mad annoyed to find out that his first baseball card actually featured the face of teammate Juan LeBron (Beltran’s face appears on LeBron’s card). To make things even more difficult, the Beltran card is more valuable than the LeBron. But unlike Carlos, who’s made his mark in the majors, Juan will forever be known as that other, not-so-talented LeBron. Oh well.
Current Value: $1-$3 (for card featuring LeBron’s name); $10-$50 (depending on condition)