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Classic Cardboard: 1994 Action Packed WWF
In the grand scheme of things, 1994 wasn’t exactly a banner year for the World Wrestling Federation. Business was down, Vince McMahon spent his summer defending himself against steroid distribution allegations in a federal courtroom and Hulk Hogan was on his way to WCW.
Likewise, 1994 wasn’t the best year in the world of sports cards either. Years of overproduction, a Major League Baseball strike and several other factors soured many fans on the idea of collecting trading cards.
But somehow, two WWF trading cards from 1994 ended up becoming two of the most iconic wrestling cards in the history of the hobby, and remain two of the most sought after wrestling cards 24 years later.
Action Packed was a small company founded in 1988 that set out to produce a different type of trading card product: small sets, premium cards and, for the time, premium prices. Action Packed initially produced a set of six baseball cards while trying to woo MLB into giving the company a chance. The cards were thicker than traditional baseball cards, with rounded corners and an embossed photo on the front that popped off the card.
Major League Baseball didn’t bite, but Action Packed was eventually granted licenses by the NFL and NASCAR. In 1994, Action Packed added the WWF to its portfolio and released what could be considered the first premium wrestling trading cards.
For its wrestling debut, Action Packed produced a pretty standard sports card product: five cards per pack, 24 packs per box, 20 boxes per case. The basic 42-card set included the top stars of the WWF from 1993 and 1994, such as Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Diesel, the Undertaker, Lex Luger and the Steiner Brothers.
In addition, 24KT Gold Leaf Chase Cards were inserted one in every 24 packs (or one per box). These cards feature an embossed color photo of a wrestler against a gold background; they look similar to cards 37-42 in the regular set, but with “24KT” printed under the Action Packed logo on the front, and the cards are numbered 1G-6G.
But what set this product apart from virtually all others – including most major league sports cards – was the inclusion of two certified autographs. Inserted one in every 480 packs (or one per 20-box case), Action Packed produced autographed cards of Randy Savage and the Undertaker that are still among the most popular wrestling cards of all time.
Both cards are limited to 500 copies. The Savage card resembles his 24KT Gold Leaf card but with his signature across the bottom of the card. In most cases the card was just signed “Macho Man,” but there are a few rare copies out there where Savage signed his entire name. The word “autographed” is printed at the top of the card, along with each card’s serial number out of 500.
The Undertaker autograph remains one of the most coveted wrestling cards to this day. It looks similar to his basic card (#12 in the set), with a gold facsimile autograph across the bottom. Undertaker’s actual signature appears in gold ink on the left side of the card. Unlike the Savage card, the serial numbering for the Undertaker card appears on the back.
Most of the base cards in the set today can be found for no more than $1 or $2 each. The 24KT Gold Leaf Chase Cards can sometimes be very tough to find, but if you’re patient, you shouldn’t have to pay more than $10 per card.
The value of the autograph cards depends on a variety of factors, most notably the quality of the signature. Because the cards are embossed, the flow of the pen was often broken as the wrestler was signing, leaving gaps or smudges in the ink. Undertaker, for example, usually ends his signature with a devil’s tail; on many of the Action Packed autographs, this part of Taker’s signature comes up over his embossed leg, leading to a less than perfect signature. The Savage autograph is even more sensitive, since he signed over the top of several layers of an embossed fringe jacket.
In the past the Undertaker autograph had sold for upwards of $300. However, because of the recent influx of Undertaker autographs from Topps products in 2017 and 2018, prices have softened somewhat. Recent sale prices have ranged from $130 to $200.
The Savage autograph is somewhat more valuable since there are fewer certified autographs on the market. His Action Packed autograph typically sells for around $150, but sometimes exceeds $200.
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PWTorch Collectibles Specialist Michael Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MMooreWriter.