THE SPECIALISTS COLLECTIBLES COLUMN: Evaluating Top 10 WWE Stars's Trading Cards
Aug 26, 2015 - 3:30:08 PM
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By Michael Moore, PWTorch Collectibles specialist
In 2005, Topps returned to the pro wrestling hobby for the first time since the late 1990s, when the company produced historic WCW trading cards. Topps’s first WWE offering in 20 years, 2005 Topps WWE Heritage, was in many ways the first modern era wrestling set since it included a variety of certified autographs and memorabilia cards.
Over several years Topps toyed with several designs and themes, such as 2007’s WWE Action and 2008’s Ultimate Rivals. It was around 2009 that Topps settled into a pretty successful formula that continues to this day: traditional profile trading cards of individual wrestlers, insert sets and guaranteed autograph and memorabilia cards in hobby boxes.
Topps has expanded its WWE line over the last couple years, and in 2015 will release five different WWE sets. The basic Topps WWE, Topps WWE Chrome and Topps WWE Road to WrestleMania are already out. A Topps WWE Heritage product will go live this fall, followed by a high-end product called Topps WWE Undisputed that will deliver one autograph or autographed relic card per pack.
Here’s a look at ten current or recent top WWE stars whose autographs have helped drive sales of Topps products. Keep in mind that WWE Legends (Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, and Bret Hart) and newer wrestlers (Paige and Charlotte) are not included in this list because many of them have not yet had a significant number of autographed cards.
(1) John Cena. Number of Topps Products with Autographs: 16. First Autograph: 2005 Topps WWE Heritage. Most Recent Autograph: 2015 Topps WWE. Best Value: 2015 Topps WWE ($30-35). Cena has been WWE’s top guy for the last decade, and as such, Topps has made him a key part of its products.
Cena’s autograph has been included in more sets than any other top star. His signature isn’t terrible, but he frequently signs off the sticker. This results in part of the signature missing when the sticker is affixed to the card, which is less visually appealing and can hurt the value of the card. Cena’s only on-card autograph is from the 2005 Topps WWE Heritage set.
(2) Randy Orton. Number of Topps Products with Autographs: 10. First Autograph: 2006 Topps WWE Insider. Most Recent Autograph: 2014 Topps WWE. Best Value: 2013 Topps WWE ($20-25). Like Cena, Orton has been a top star for a long time and a big part of Topps’s WWE products.
Orton's signature is a fairly simple “RKO” that is usually pretty well centered on sticker autographs, and he has no on-card autographs. Orton’s signature hasn’t been a part of any 2015 sets so far, but Topps is advertising him for its high end 2015 Topps WWE Undisputed due out at the end of this year.
(3) C.M. Punk. Number of Topps Products with Autographs: 7. First Autograph: 2007 Topps WWE Heritage III. Most Recent Autograph: 2012 Topps WWE Heritage. Best value: 2010 Topps WWE ($35-40). Punk got hot in 2011 when he cut his famous pipe bomb promo, and has been one of the most collected WWE wrestlers ever since.
Most of Punk's certified autographs are from products that were released from 2007 to 2010. Many Punk fans who have bought his autographs over the years have held onto them, so there aren’t usually more than a handful up for sale on eBay at any given time. Punk has one of the nicer autographs of the wrestlers on this list, with a mostly legible signature and an X through it.
(4) A.J. Lee. Number of Topps Products with Autographs: 6. First Autograph: 2011 Topps WWE Classic. Most Recent Autograph: 2015 Topps WWE. Best Value: 2013 or 2014 Topps WWE ($50-60). Mrs. Punk’s departure from WWE certainly hasn’t affected the value of her trading cards in any sort of negative way.
A.J. has been one of the most collected wrestlers since her first Topps cards showed up in 2011, and she still consistently outsells any active WWE wrestler. Her autograph is a simple “A.J.” and varies little from one card to the next.
(5) Roman Reigns. Number of Topps Products with Autographs: 5. First Autograph: 2013 Topps Best of WWE. Most Recent Autograph: 2015 Topps WWE Road to WrestleMania. Best value: 2015 Topps WWE Road to WrestleMania ($30-35). There was no one hotter than Reigns during the first half of 2014.
Reigns's 2013 Topps Best of WWE Autograph skyrocketed to more than $100, and his 2014 Topps Chrome Autograph was the hottest card in the set. But an abundance of Reigns’ autographs in Topps products since then - coupled with negative crowd response this year - have brought the values of his cards down. His lazy, sloppy “RR” autograph doesn’t help. But Reigns’s autographs continue to sell at pretty consistent levels that are in line with other stars like Cena and Orton.
(6) Daniel Bryan. Number of Topps Products with Autographs: 5. First Autograph: 2011 Topps WWE Classic. Most Recent Autograph: 2015 Topps WWE Road to WrestleMania. Best value: 2013 Topps WWE ($20-25).
For some reason, Bryan never caught on with collectors the way he did with fans during his white hot run of 2013 and 2014. His cards sell well, but not at spectacular levels. His signature is simple and mostly legible.
(7) Nikki Bella. Number of Topps Products with Autographs: 5. First Autograph: 2011 Topps WWE. Most Recent Autograph: 2015 Topps WWE Road to WrestleMania. Best value: 2015 Topps WWE Chrome ($25-35). The reigning WWE Divas Champ doesn’t sell at the level of women like A.J. Lee, Paige, or Charlotte, but she certainly has her fans.
Most of Nikki's autographs pretty consistently sell in the $25-35 range, excluding low numbered parallels and rare dual signatures with her sister. If you’re going to spend the money, pick up Nikki’s 2015 Topps WWE Chrome Autograph. It features a clean on-card signature and a “Besos” inscription.
(8) Brie Bella. Number of Topps Products with Autographs: 4. First Autograph: 2011 Topps WWE. Most Recent Autograph: 2015 Topps WWE Road to WrestleMania. Best value: 2015 Topps WWE Chrome ($25-35). Nikki and Brie may not look much alike anymore, but sales of their cards are nearly identical.
The Bellas appeared mostly in the same sets (Nikki one more than Brie) and tend to sell for about the same. Like Nikki, Brie’s best card is her 2015 Topps WWE Chrome autograph, which features a clean on-card signature and a peace sign inscription.
(9) Dean Ambrose. Number of Topps Products with Autographs: 2. First Autograph: 2013 Topps Best of WWE. Most Recent Autograph: 2015 Topps WWERoad to WrestleMania. Best value: 2015 Topps WWERoad to WrestleMania ($20-25). Ambrose has been one of the most popular wrestlers with the diehard, anti-Reigns crowd over the last year.
Prior to the recent release of 2015 Topps WWE Road to WrestleMania, Ambrose’s autograph was tough to find because it previously appeared in just one set. Ambrose’s autographs have never really taken off in value, which may be due to his awful signature. He signs with a very small “DA” and nothing more.
(10) Seth Rollins Number of Topps Products with Autographs: 2. First Autograph: 2013 Topps Best of WWE. Most Recent Autograph: 2015 Topps WWE. Best value: 2015 Topps WWE ($25-30). The current WWE World Heavyweight Champion made his made his Topps trading card debut with fellow Shield members Reigns and Ambrose in the 2013 Topps Best of WWE set.
Since then, Rollins's autograph has only appeared in one other product, the basic 2015 Topps WWE set from earlier this year. His autograph is slightly better than those of Reigns and Ambrose, as he at least tries on his last name and doesn’t give up at just two initials.
PWTorch Collectibles Specialist Michael Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MMooreWriter.
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