30 Standout Baseball Cards from the Junk Wax Era

30 Standout Baseball Cards from the Junk Wax Era

Jeter RC Image

There came a time in the history of the trading card hobby that mainstream manufacturers like Topps, Donruss, Fleer, and Upper Deck were shipping cards as fast as they could print them. With the explosion of the hobby in the mid-80s, other manufacturers entered the market. The overwhelming supply and eventually fleeting demand created a perfect storm for the crash that followed.

Unaffectionately referred to as the “Junk Wax Era," the period of 1984 to 1993 was a time of burgeoning gluttony, the ramifications of which are still being felt today. Need proof? Many of these products can still be found by the unopened case or, even, palate.

However, despite the overwhelming amount of material from this period, there are several cards that should be included in any baseball card collection. While some of the cards listed below have long seen their glory days wither away and their values evaporate along with it, they still hold their place in hobby history.

Even today, if graded in top condition, the cards below make scouring through thrift stores, garage sales and long-forgotten boxes in the basement worth it.

30 Great Baseball Cards from the Junk Wax Era

Of all the brands and products released during that time period, only one regular card has carried a consistent “book value" of $100 or more and that's the 1993 SP Derek Jeter rookie. While there are other cards from the Junk Wax Era that still have some tangible worth, the above list is populated with rookie cards of current and future Hall of Famers, as well as those who, unfortunately, will be forever linked to baseball's ugly Steroid Era.

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Ken Griffey Jr Rookie 14 card lot
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Donrus Rookie Update Sets-1988,1989,1991 Ken Griffey,Mark Grace, Bagwell RC More
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2013 Topps Manufactured Commemorative Rookie Patch #RCP19 Ken Griffey Jr.
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1989 Bowman Baseball Factory Set (484) Colorful * Ken Griffey Jr RC Ripken
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1989 Donruss Baseball Complete Set (660) Nm Mt * Ken Griffey Jr RC Ryan McGwire
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Ken Griffey Jr Rookie Crard comes with alot more cards
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Rob Bertrand

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Rob Bertrand is an avid collector with over 20 years of active experience in the hobby. He is one of the site's most accomplished writers, as well as the co-host of Cardboard Connection Radio. You can follow him on Twitter @VOTC.

User Comments

  1. Your forgot to mention the 1987 Donruss Opening Day Barry Bonds/Ray error card — still has top value from junk wax era.

  2. How is the 1987 Classic Green Bo Jackson not on this list?

  3. The 1991 Topps Desert Shield Chipper Jones RC should have been mentioned along with the 1992 Score Franchise autographed card featuring Mantle/Yaz/Musial.

  4. Have some baseball cards that I’m wanting to get some info on

  5. matthew » For detailed questions I recommend posting in our online forum: http://community.cardboardconnection.com/forums/forums.php . The community is a great resource for getting information and finding trading partners. If you question is directly related to this post, go ahead and ask it here and we will do what we can to help.

  6. Just so you guys know, the 1987 Donruss Opening Day issues was only released as a complete set, so the Barry Bonds / Johnny Ray error card is therefore NOT considered a junk wax issue.
    Also, Classic was only released as a complete game. Each colored set variation was released at different times during the year with updated player information and updated rookies.
    The 1991 Topps Desert Shield cards were distributed to US Troops in Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm by Topps as a special thank you to the troops.
    Being that the production of these issues were extremely limited as compared to the traditional junk wax such as 1988 Donruss and 1988 Topps and the like, it is hard to consider any of those cards as so-called “junk wax” as two were never released in wax form, and the other was never released to the general public for circulation.

    As for the 1992 Score Franchise Autograph card with Mantle/Yaz/Musial, or any of the autographed cards from that issue, I wish you the best of luck pulling one; let alone finding one for sale. With the odds rated at approximately 1:5000 packs for an autograph version, I hope you have someone that will gladly purchase all of the commons you end up with during your search!

  7. While the Desert Shield cards were released only troops, they were released in “wax packs” to troops. The packs, from what I have seen, were never labeled any differently from the regular issue packs.

    Concerning the 1992 score Mantle/Yaz/Musial Auto, I would respectfully say that it should be included in the list regardless of how hard it is to pull. This was really the first big multi signed chase card. I would also say that if it isn’t included because of the scarcity of finding one in packs then the 1990 Thomas RC NNOF shouldn’t be included as well, as these are likely more scarce and were only issued in (from what I have read on forums) jumbo packs in the Northeastern united states. You would end up with a lot more commons trying to dig up one of those than hitting a autographed 92 score card.

  8. Those were the good old days. I was a kid, and one of only a handful in my entire school who collected cards and memorabilia. I still have all of those cards. I think it should be noted the mcgwire on that list is his olympic card. His rookie wasn’t printed till 2 years later. Like so many other things, greed ruined the hobby. Adults took over something that belonged to kids for generations. Instead of handing it off to the next, those adults in the 80s decided to keep it for themselves and try to sell it. I’m amazed and a little sick to my stomach when I see what a Mattingly rookie sells for on ebay, as well as Boggs and many others. Oh well, the memories are still all good!

  9. I have a signed 1992 Bo Jackxon card Starting lineup when he wad with thr white sox

  10. I also am guilty of the greed created in the 1980s- It was a lot of fun–Sure everything came falling down- Now I have all these cards left over from that area- I was on the selling side of it all. We messed it up-But after all is said and done look at what you have today- Only the well to do kids and adults can even buy this stuff-Its a rich collectors hobby now. All the little guys like me are gone-The 80s and 90s are gone- But now you have a hobby of the well to do by the well to do and for the well to do.All the down trodden have been left along the way. It pays to be well to do. I am sitting here with 50 thousand sport cards. I have created all kinds of ways to use them- I cant even give them away on ebay. But 20 years from now we will complain about whats going on now.Time solves all problems because time creates all problems.

  11. I have about five hundred older sports cards I would like to get Reid of if interested please let me know email me triekat80@yahoo.com I will send pictures of them or let u know if I got what your looking for thank you

  12. Have a couple cases of cards wanting to sale

  13. i have lost of baseballl ,basketball ,hocky ,basketball, cards old baberuth., ect three boxes had then sinces the80s 90s superbowl 520-704-0035

  14. I have an uncut sheet of 1992 All Stars (100 cards) by Classic in mint condition in a double glass metal frame so you can see the back of the cards. What would it’s value be?

  15. I have 1,500 baseball cards 1986 to 1993 and would like to know if I can sell them and where.

  16. I went to a auction, I do not collect baseball cards but thought I might bid for my Grandson. No one wanted them they said sell everything that has a baseballl on it. 17.00 dollars later and 4 huge grocery boxes of all types of cards open and unopen I went home. My Grandson at 7 years is going to think I am the greatest Grandma in the world . He just plain loves baseball and anyone who ever played it. For him it won’t matter right now everyone will be important. :}He will say you must have spent thousands of dollars. Thats what it will be worth to him.

  17. i recently moved in with my mother after her husband passed away and my marriage failed. She has an entire room of sports memorabilia, mostly baseball cards. She also found out that her late husband left some unpaid bills behind and she’s now in danger of losing everything. I have done some research on what she has and their worth. She is very interested in selling what she can in order to get back on track financially. If anyone could refer me to a place or is interested please e-mail me @Lindamw3479@gmail.com? Thanks

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