Original artwork of Bo Jackson from Upper Deck sells for ridiculously low price

(If you’d like to listen to this blog post as a podcast, it’s episode #2 in the 57 hits podcast)

Do you remember this Bo Jackson card from the 1990 Upper Deck set?

1990 Upper Deck: Bo Jackson #32 (Kansas City Royals team checklist) Art by V. Wells

This card sells for about one dollar on comc.com and eBay. The low price is due to it being a checklist on the back. Every team had a star player rendered in a double-portrait. I loved collecting these art cards while in high school in the 1990s.

28 cards: 1990 upper deck team checklist set and highlights

The artwork is done by V. Wells, the father to the MLB outfielder Vernon Wells. Wouldn’t it be totally cool to own the original painting from any of these cards? Well, the Bo Jackson artwork recently sold via auction.

Image from Goldin Auctions

The original artwork for this Bo Jackson card sold for a mere $276.19!!!

I’m absolutely baffled by this.

How did the Bo Jackson original artwork sell for so low?

  • Maybe the auction was like 20 years ago or something, right?
    Nope. That artwork sold on June 23, 2020.
  • Is the artwork really small?
    The auction listing stats that it’s in a 25×31 frame, but the actual art size is not listed. I downloaded the image and do the math. The art is about 18×24 inches. A little small, but not tiny.
  • Maybe it’s not the actual art?
    Nope. There is a letter of authentication stating that this the original art.
  • Maybe V. Wells is a forgotten artist?
    Nope. He continues to make art for MLB players. In 2015 the Calgary Herald reports, “his works command up to $20,000, and he has no shortage of potential clients. He has cranked out nearly 2,000 pieces of art in three decades.” V. Well’s Twitter bio even proclaims, “The most commissioned sports artist … ever!”
  • Checklist curse?
    Maybe because this artwork is for a checklist card, it’s not deemed as valuable?
  • Late 80s, Early 90s surplus
    We all know that baseball cards were incredibly over-produced in the late 80s and early 90s. Maybe that stigma attaches itself to the art? I would argue against that point, because if there are more cards, then this painting is even more famous among lots of people.
Detail view of V. Wells' painting of Bo Jackson

I’m sorry, V. Wells, but Bo’s face is a little jacked up there. If you look at V. Wells’ recent artwork, it is completely better in quality. It’s understandable that over 30 years someone would improve in their art.

Even still, I love this card. In the 1989 All-Star Game Bo Jackson hit a lead-off home run. Former President Ronald Reagon was in the broadcast booth with Vin Scully. How incredible! (Youtube video).

This 1990 Bo Jackson card covers the 1989 season. Now you start see why there are three stars in the background of the art. Bo Jackson was a true All-Star.

Who was selling this artwork?

The original owner selling this artwork signed his name on this auction certificate. I can’t quite decipher the name. Mark Gonzalez? Mark Goodbye? Maybe this person used to work at Upper Deck? Is there a reason why he was selling the work?

On that day of June 23, 2020, Goldin Auctions also sold three other V. Wells original artwork featured in Upper Deck cards:

Man. All these went for under $700 each.

If you’d like to see more art by V. Wells, here’s some tweets by @VWellsArt:

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