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“The Prequel: The Hunt For Mona Lisa—The 1986 Donruss Jose Canseco Rated Rookie Card.”

My Hobby Blog/Vlog Story of the Month is the prequel to a hunt/chase for my version of the 1980s Mona Lisa Rookie Card. This chase/hunt was inspired by a National Vlog created by Brian Pirrip during the 43rd National Sports Collectors Convention. 

In my 40 years on Earth, I have heard the name Mona Lisa used a million times in movies, magazines, and general conversations about art history. As a bystander in all those moments, I never understood how everyone became so enamored with a slight smirk and dull background painting—no harm intended. Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa is seen as “an archetypal masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance and described as "the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, and the most parodied work of art in the world” per Wikipedia. Despite these monumental accolades about the Mona Lisa and being a teacher/fan of history, I never felt the desire to Google Mona Lisa’s painting or buy one of the parody t-shirts you see on East Coast Boardwalk beaches. However, the only times I have ever paid homage to or enjoyed the lure of this marveled 16th-century piece of art is when the name Mona Lisa was used in a rap song and associated with sports cards. 

It was the summer of 2013, and everyone and their mama was listening to Jay Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail album; when I heard Jay Z’s Mona Lisa reference in Picasso Baby, I played the song on repeat for a week. I replayed this song and rapped the Mona Lisa reference out loud so much that my wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, got so tired of this song that she hid the Magna Carta Holy Grail CD from me for about two weeks. Jay Z incorporated the name Mona Lisa in the song's second verse; Jay Z said, “Aw fu*k it I want a trillion. Sleeping every night next to Mona Lisa. The modern-day version, With better features.” If you were like me, a person not moved or enamored by the Mona Lisa painting, how could you not love or even like the Mona Lisa painting after Hov put a modern twist on the world's most “renowned” painting?

Now, on to the sports cards—I mean, it's the reason why you are reading this hobby article. 

As an avid collector, I wholeheartedly believe a person’s collecting experience should consist of individualized experiences such as: 

  • organizing your collection

  • ripping packs

  • buying packs 

  • visiting local hobby stores

  • going to card shows

  • sharing your collection 

Also, I believe it's equally important that a person’s collecting experience should consist of them participating in the collecting experiences of others by:

  • Listening to their cardboard stories.

  • Asking them questions about their collecting experiences.

  • Celebrating their collecting achievements or milestones.

  • Encouraging them during their collecting woes.

Since I returned to the hobby, I have consistently committed myself to this belief, and I have never had a moment when I didn't learn something new about the hobby. Whether it's cardboard history or trivial pop culture references, these nuanced learning moments have been fun and intriguing. Also, these “learning moments”  have advanced my hobby experiences into a new collecting frontier. More importantly, as I embrace this new collecting frontier, I have had more opportunities to solidify some important cardboard principles, such as fostering new relationships with fellow collectors, expanding my collecting interest in a player or sport, and growing my love for cardboard. If you have not taken the time to participate in the collecting experiences of others, I challenge you to do it at least once. In the aftermath of these experiences, I can guarantee that your collecting experience, individually and beyond your four walls, will benefit significantly from this intentional commitment—If you don’t believe me, here’s my story.

My hobby commitment to participate in the experiences of others created two thematic events for me during the 2023 Hobby season. The first thematic event I had centered around holy grail rookie cards. My second thematic event happened when I watched a collector’s National Vlog during the week of the 43rd National Sports Collectors Convention. During the week of the National, I was on a break from making hobby content, and as I was scrolling through Instagram, one of Brian Pirrip's chase vlogs about a particular 1980s rookie card caught my attention. In the vlog, Brian shared how he was searching for one card “that he’s been missing,” the 1986 Donruss Jose Canseco rookie card. 

Yes, I was intrigued by Brian’s chase because I didn't have the Canseco rookie card in my PC. However, what intrigued me the most about Brian’s chase was the nickname he used for the card and his concise description of what this Canseco rookie card meant to him. In the four-minute vlog, several dealers gave Brian the “Are you serious it’s the National look” when he asked if they had the classic 80s junk wax rookie card in their showcase. Despite these looks, Brian stood ten toes down in his nostalgic conviction for the “1980s Mona Lisa Rookie Card.” The nostalgic conviction that Brian displayed with each befuddled look from the dealers he spoke to was inspiring, and a prime example of what collecting what you love should look, feel, and sound like. 

If you watched the entire National Vlog as I did, you know how this story ended… Brian found his 1980s Mona Lisa rookie card—the 1986 Donruss Jose Canseco Rated Rookie Card, number 39. After I watched Brian’s four-minute National Vlog, I immediately went to my Canseco rookie card PC not to look for the Rated Rookie card because I didn't have it. I went through my Canseco rookie PC to complete my “tried and true” cardboard chase/hunt ritual. My cardboard ritual of looking at specific players/cards connected to a card I'm about to chase/hunt proves to me every time that no card is out of reach. I completed this ritual when I started my Fleer Premier Set chase/hunt. I also did it when I started my chase/hunt for my MJ and Wilt Fleer rookie cards. After I placed my last Canseco rookie card back in my four-row baseball box, the hunt for my Mona Lisa Rookie card of the 1980s began.  

To Be Continued… 

Keep Collecting,

Click the link to view the picture of my two 1980s Jose Canseco rookie cards!


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