Why Your Sports Cards from the Early 90s Are Worthless

Why Your Sports Cards from the Early 90s Are Worthless

It's a familiar scene in sports card shops: someone walks in enthusiastically with a faded box or two under their arms. They confidently toss them on the glass display case, look up at the card shop owner and ask, "How much'll you give me for these?" expecting high sports card values.

Seeing the mix of Fleer team logo stickers and Upper Deck holograms tattooing the box, the shop keeper knows the customer won't be leaving the store happy or with a new-found wad of cash. But he opens the box anyway, out of courtesy.

Before the shop owner even has a chance to take a handful of cards out, the customer amps up the sales pitch, "I've got tons of Hall of Famers in there. That Nolan Ryan where he's wearing the tuxedo. I've got two of them. Same with the Upper Deck card where there's three pictures of him."

Those were some great cards back when they were first released, but they aren't going to put anyone through college today, let alone buy a ham sandwich. Sports card values from the late 1980s and early 1990s are pretty much worthless.

The shop owner continues to thumb through the cards politely as the collector, now completely overcome with visions of forthcoming riches, points out can't-miss rookies like Greg Vaughn, Gregg Jefferies and Kevin Maas.

"I know some of them didn't quite pan out, but they should be worth a little something still, right?" asks the collector.


As the shop owner nears the bottom of the stack, the collector reaches in and grabs one card. "This card is awesome! Check it out, Michael Jordan taking batting practice with the White Sox. The last time I looked in a price guide, these bad boys were selling for $20. Same with the Dream Team Jose Canseco."

The collector knew his stuff. The only problem was, the last time the 1991 Upper Deck Baseball Michael Jordan sold for more than a dollar or two was back when Saved by the Bell was still on the air and Reebok was rocking the Foot Locker with pump shoes.

The shop owner carefully puts the cards back in the box and thanks the customer for bringing them in.

"So, what can I get for them?" the collector asks.

"Sorry, I can't use them."

"What do you mean?"

"I've already got more than I can use."

"But I paid a lot for these cards back in the day."

"I understand. So did I. But they're not worth much anymore."

"How much?"

The dance goes back and forth for a couple of minutes. The shop owner just wants to tell the guy that if he wanted to get rid of the cards, he might as well use them for kindling. But he holds back and continues to try and let him down nicely and educate him about real-world sports card values. The collector is shocked and can't understand it. For all these years, he's been careful to keep the corners sharp and not creased.

But the fact is, very few sports cards from the late 1980s through to the early 1990s have much value. In fact, many are hard to give away today. But not all hope is lost for those looking to cash in on their sports card stashes from the era.

Supply and Demand 101

To put it bluntly, everyone who wants a 1991 Upper Deck Baseball Michael Jordan has three of them. Even if they were just one per box, tons are out there. Literally. Today, they can be found for pennies on the dollar. This is the same with almost every sports card made between 1986 and 1992.

When sports cards began to emerge as collectibles, more people started to buy in. Soon after that came price guides, which placed specific values on collections. The hobby then enjoyed exponential growth. Everyone was suddenly dreaming of Jose Cansecos and Todd Van Poppels working like stocks. Sports card values were supposed to see steady climbs, eventually culminating in cashing in for college tuition, new cars and lavish weddings.

Baseball cards of shirtless Jose Cansecos were worth $20 or more. Heck, 1986 Donruss Jose Canseco cards were going for more than $100. The 1991 Upper Deck Baseball SP1 Michael Jordan was selling for $25. But in this time of card shops on every corner, everybody was forgetting about one of the most basic rules of economics: supply and demand.

When millions of people were buying sports cards in the late-1980s and early-1990s, card companies had press runs to match. With few exceptions, there were always enough cards to go around. Collectors could easily buy single cards by the brick. You wanted 100 1991 Upper Deck Todd Van Poppel rookie cards for every member of your football team? No problem. Heck, you could get 500-card lots relatively easily.

It seemed like everyone was stashing sports cards and lots of them. Supply and demand were in line, so prices were strong.

The mass supply should have been a major tip-off that made the continuous growth of sports card value impossible. As the hobby hemorrhaged collectors, supply now far exceeded demand. The hordes of cards didn't disappear, they merely sat in closets for years, gathering dust.

Now many sports card collectors are looking to get something for their cards. They're nostalgic not so much for the players on the fronts of the cards but rather the rush of bumping elbows at card shows as they built equity for the future. The hobby was filled with investors and not collectors. That's not a knock on anyone's reasons for buying cards. We were all told that sports cards were easy money. Who's going to turn down easy money, especially when it was fun to collect.

Supply has long since caught up with demand. Pallets of unopened cases and shoe boxes of childhood collections are common. If you're looking to sell you late-80s and early-90s cards, you're not alone. The cards are worthless because nobody's buying.

Don't blame the card shop owner for not wanting them. They won't be able to sell them, so if they take them off your hands, they're merely adding to a potential fire hazard.

Modern Perspectives on Sports Card Values

Some of the only sports cards from the early 1990s to maintain any value are the 1991 Donruss Elite inserts. The first serial numbered cards in the hobby, they were "limited" to 10,000 copies. Imagine, just 10,000 cards.

Today, cards limited to just one copy are fairly easy to find. And cheap too. Cards limited to 100 copies are considered common and often sell for a dollar or two, no matter who's on the front. Just last week a couple of one-of-a-kind Albert Pujols printing plates went for about $30 each.

That's how much the hobby has shrunk. Twenty years ago, a print run of 10,000 was the pinnacle achievement. Today, superstar cards limited to just 1 can sell for less than the box they came in. This isn't always the case as some of today's cards can sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars, but there aren't many.

There are several reasons for this, but it still comes down to supply and demand. Today's hobby base is a dedicated one, but you could measure them in the thousands and not the millions who were buying in 1990 and 1991, the peak of the hobby boom.

Not only were there millions of cards, but they were all meticulously looked after. Vintage Mickey Mantle cards remain valuable in part today because they were originally bought to be played with and studied. As cards gained collectible value, a new breed of collector emerged--one who looked after their cards as though they were a fragile antique. Recognizing the red borders of 1990 Donruss Baseball were easy to damage, we started putting them in pages and specially made boxes that made sure "mint condition" was maintained. So not only are there millions of early-1990s sports cards out there, they're all in great condition.

Finding Value in Your Worthless Cards

Not all hope is lost for those of you who have boxes and boxes of cards that aren't worth any money. You may not be able to cash in and take that vacation you were hoping for or even buy a textbook for your daughter's first semester at college, but some value can be found.

Several sets from the late 1980s and early 1990s are still very attractive sets. Okay, maybe not the hideous yellow of 1991 Fleer Baseball. But early Upper Deck sets are gorgeous. Rather than lamenting on false hopes, take out your cards and look through them. Admire the photography, the designs and player accomplishments. If you were a hardcore investor, this might have even passed you by 20 years ago in the rush to keep the cards in mint condition.

You may choose to get rid of some of the cards and only keep your favorite teams or players. Even then, who needs a brick of 1990 Upper Deck Kevin Maas cards? One will probably do.

At this point, you've got little to lose with your overproduced cards. The monetary sports card values aren't there. Enjoy the cards for what they are and don't get mad over what could have been. If you insist on freeing up space and your collection consists solely of cards from 1986 to 1992, don't bother taking them to your card shop unless you have rookie cards of Hall of Famers. Even then, prepare to be disappointed. Outside of a couple of exceptions like 1989 Upper Deck Baseball, 1990 Leaf, 1991 Stadium Club Football and 1992 Bowman Baseball, you're still likely to be turned away.

And if you do take your cards from this era to be appraised, don't get mad at the guy behind the counter when he breaks it to you that the sports card values are worthless. Chances are, he's probably got a basement filled with them too.

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Ryan Cracknell

E-Mail Author | 
Ryan's collecting origins began with winter bike rides to the corner store, tossing a couple of quarters onto the counter and peddling home with a couple packs of O-Pee-Chee hockey in his pocket. Today, he continues to build sets, go after inserts with cool technologies, chase Montreal Expos and finish off his John Jaha master collection. Ryan can be found on Twitter @tradercracks and Google+.

User Comments

  1. Painfully true.

  2. Im going to email this article to about 100 of my friends. This is always an awkward situation when they ask what their cards are worth. my favorite is when they say I have a ton of Ken Griffey Jrs

  3. Well written article Ryan.

    I work in a card shop and can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve had people bring me binders full of late 80’s and early 90’s cards.

    I often feel bad about having to tell them that their cards are worthless and that we’ve got hundreds of duplicates of all that they have. Many take it well, but some get defensive and argumentative. I understand, it would really suck to “invest” in cardboard junk bonds.

    I agree that there are some really handy uses for cards from that era. We have one customer who is a 4th grade teacher in our local area. He uses the singles to teach different math skills to the kids using the stats on the back of the card. He rewards the class with packs of junk wax for different challenges and competitions he has in class.

    As for me, I have a 10 year old son who loves to rip packs of 1990 Topps football. I’ve showed him how to collate a set and store and keep his cards. It’s a fun way to share a little bit of my passion for collecting with my son and to reminisce upon my younger collecting days!

  4. Jeremy Porter (ID 35695) » Those are some great ideas, Jeremy. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Great article Ryan!

    Working in a card shop, I can totally relate to this article. Makes you think what the hobby’s attitude will be towards what we pull out of today’s packs.

  6. Great article…I’ve had some luck getting rid of these by sorting all my sets into teams and selling lots of team sets…of course, I have many older and new cards included in the lots. Likely the only way to get rid of this overproduced “junk”, other than the kindling you mentioned.

  7. How’s this for a solution to the supply and demand issue for over produced cards. Lets have a giant late 80’s to early 90’s card drive and just get as many people to send in there junk cards and then we will literally destroy them. Once we burn enough of the cards maybe we will see a rise in there values. Just a thought. Maybe the Cardboardconnection can even sponsor it!


  9. i agree that we should concentrate on the positeve from this era. There are many paralell sets that are extremely nice looking and slightly harder to come by… usually 1 card per pack instead of 10-15… “only” a hundred thousand instead of 2-3 million copies. My personal favorite is the 1992 Leaf gold set. The black borders with the gold frames are beautiful cards. There are many others to choose from and collecting these and collating complete sets can be a worthwhile challenge. I do not know if they will carry much monetary value, although I bet I could get a ham sandwich or 2 out of a few… just not a semester of tuition for my kids!

  10. Awesome, awesome article. I figured this out about ten years ago and went through my collection (over 10,000 cards, mostly from 86-92) and kept maybe 100, just the ones that had senitimental value to me: stuff like an ’87 Topps Bruce Ruffin All Star Rookie that I found in the school hallway in 5th grade. The rest of my cards I donated to a charity auction for a food ministry. Best decision I ever made. Some lucky kid got to live all through all those cards again.

  11. all good suggestions. What I am going to do is set up my own website. I learned to build websites about two years ago and decided …why not build site for my card collection. I think I will get higher value cards graded. Should be fun experience.

  12. I here you. I have so much. I wasn’t shocked when some prices of older football cards dropped from 5¢ to 4¢. I am an avid collector. WE NEED TO GET RID OF THE TRADING CARD GAME GENRE!

  13. This is a wonderful article. My 12 year old son started collecting cards about 1 year ago, our local grocery store sells them in the $.25 cent machines. How convenient that they are all from the era mentioned above….HaHa! We both read this together and YES, he was a little disappointed. Now he knows, and he wants to start buying “Memorabilia Cards”. Great Great article!!!!

  14. I had the misfortune of 1987 being the year I got into collecting and went strong right through 1991 and got away from the hobby for 4 or 5 years and one day dusted off my collection of thousands of worthless 88 Topps, Donruss those awful 91 yellow Fleer cards and got a fresh price guide and was blown away that the most “valuable” cards where roughly one dollar. Even that ridiculously overhyped 88 Donruss Greg Jefferies was now a quarter. I still have these sets and cards and my collection has swelled into something large enough to fill a small room in my home I started purchasing vintage HOF rookies and sets recently the 1978 Topps set along with present day products and now have some very valuable pieces but in all honesty thumbing through my 1987 Topps set is something I do 3-4 times a year and it always brings back memories such as trading my Jose Canseco rookie for a Wade Boggs all star and my mom telling me it go ripped off haha I believe the Canseco is .50 cents and the Boggs at .25 today or waking down to the local gas station with my 2 dollar allowance to grab 3 or 4 cello packs on a summer day so it was more about the journey than the destination though when I still see mountains of 88 Topps/Donruss cases plastered all over ebay it does highly annoy me that the hobby was wrecked and tainted by blatant commercialism and profiteering. I personally destroy ever card from those sets except HOF players and i suggest everyone does the same or give them to small children to share the hobby.

  15. This article was well written and certainly answered the question I have had as to why I can find these sets so cheap on Ebay. I actually benefited from the glut of cards produced then as I bought low and sold high. I collected cards from 1973 till 1976 then quit. In the early 80’s my brother gave me his cards from 1981 to 1983 when I started collecting again in 1984. I stopped collecting about in 1991 because I was so fed up with all the different card companies (Topps was and is the only card that matters to me) and the prices. In 1995, I sold my whole collection for $2000. Now, I am collecting again and it is so nice to get these sets again cheaper than what I paid for them when they came out!!

  16. I really appreciate this article . It sounds like cards produced between 86-92 are basically worthless .I started collecting in 93 so I hope that I missed the over produced card boom :-)

  17. This made me laugh, “points out can’t-miss rookies like Greg Vaughn, Gregg Jefferies and Kevin Maas.”

    Damn it, I remember how promising they were…Maas with that massive half-season. lol.

    I can’t speak to baseball much as I was more of a hockey guy but some late 80s hockey cards are actually pretty valuable….or at least are worth far more than pennies.

  18. I remember how mad i was walking out of a card shop with stacks of cards from the 1990-1991. Well, the worker at the store said “when you get lemons make lemonade” I didnt really understand him but after a while of thinking about it i started to put the cards in order. I sold my whole baseball set to some guy on ebay for $200 in order! Now, to start with thoese football cards…

  19. I’m glad I did a search online for this topic. Great article! It helped to affirm what I had already figured was the reason for the pathetic decline in the pricing for cards of this era. When the supply is ratcheted up to the enth degree as it was by card companies back then,the market is going to be over saturated with product, driving down its overall price and value.
    I have found that there are many uses for cards from this era though (other than kindling and making the “clicky” sound in bike spokes). With the prices for sets, boxes,singles and even cases of cards from the era so low(I was on a site and saw a case of 1991 Score football selling for $90!),its a good way to build up my daughter’s collection pretty fast and teach her how to build sets,and care for cards properly. Granted it would take all 5000+ cards in there collectively to even get close to getting my money’s worth out of it, but its a great way for her to experience what its like to rip into all those wax packs. She likes it and finds it to be a fun thing to do with good ol dad. :)

  20. Great article! Will be HIGHLY relevant for a while. I too have 5000+ cards and started collecting again in 2012.

    The industry does have a new feel to it with refractors, jerseys/patches, serial numbered cards, especially those hard-to-hit 1/1, of 5, of 10 and so-on short prints. I definitely got back into breaking packs and boxes and I do have to say that while the excitement remains the same, so does the plethora of commons you can be stuck with, like I am now, although I recently hit a Crown Royale RGIII silhouette auto jersey card, :o).

    See what I mean about the excitement.

    Every card store owner tells me to buy the card I want versus packbreaking. Perhaps I will donate the cards as someone suggested. Either way, I am stuck in 80’s and 90’s commons and now even 2012 ones.

    Upon the advise of the shop owners I did, at least, purchase some Clemente’s and other RGIII RC’s.

    Folks, watch how you let the bug bite you. We end up doing the damage to ourselves.

    Thanks again for a great article Ryan!

  21. Jose » Thanks, Jose!

  22. You know what they are worth? What someone will give you for them. Too many people think price guide prices are etched on stone tablets in the archive down at the hall of Beckett.


  24. germin carino » It happens from time to time. A player collector might pay a premium for such a card, but there’s usually not a ton of value.

  25. I’m another poor sap that got into collecting during this era. I bought up a bunch of 89 Score football becasue I was told the quanities were limited being their first year of production. As the years went on I found this to not be true. I also believe that card grading helped to diminish prices greatly. I always thought that whole process was another racket.

  26. Tony Saloom » A lot of us got caught up in the fun. You could have done a lot worse than 1989 Score. I amassed a ton of 1990-91 ProSet Hockey among others.

  27. After buying cards as a kid during the 80s, I really don’t mind that they aren’t worth that much.

    If anything, now I could go out and buy those cards I couldn’t afford back then.

  28. take those cards from that era and try to get them autographed. maybe they will be worth something then lol

  29. I started collecting cards in the late ’70s but really caught on to the hobby during the “boom” of the early ’90s. ‘Tis a shame since probably a third of my collection is from that era. But who could’ve known that those cards would be worthless today. If I had, I would never have traded two Warren Moon rookie cards (’85 Topps) for three boxes of ’91 Pro Set football. Dumbest move I ever made as an educated collector (I have good – or bad – stories from when I was a kid and knew nothing about collecting cards). Anyway, having a ton of worthless cards just means I have a large collection that isn’t worth much. But like the author said, sometimes having cards just for the aesthetic value or simply to say, “Yeah, I have a handful of ’64 Philadelphias,” is good enough.

  30. Oh no, don’t tell me that my 100 ’87 Topps Pete Incaviglia rookie cards are no longer worth $2.75 apiece….

  31. I guess collectors from most generations feel regret…For many of us, it was spending most of our money as kids, on now worthless sports cards, while most kids from the 50’s-70’s didn’t have the foresight to buy more cards or keep what they had in nice condition.

  32. I started collecting in the early-to-mid ’90’s, and have found this to be pretty painfully true. My first box – 1990 Pro Set Series II football – had some cool stuff for the time (Emmitt Smith RC, etc), but nothing worth the trouble of even trying to sell now. That said, I wish I had bought up every unopened box of 1989 Score football I could find! Those do still command a decent premium.

  33. I think there is a small glimmer of hope for some. If you happen to have gotten your hands on Wax Boxes and did not open them, there is definitely a market for that. Opened boxes/packs loose cards are not worth nearly as much as unopened boxes from this period. I think folks will want to relive their youth opening up cards again if they can get their hands on them. Oh the joys of 1991 tops, and the Wade Boggs “Sky Card”!!

  34. 1991 Topps*

  35. For those kids that grew up watching those guys (Bo Jackson etc.) we weren’t concerned with value. I sense a very bitter attitude in the article over paper? If someone has the sense to know what an investment is they wouldn’t be buying baseball cards. That being said it was fun as a kid and I have tons of mint late 80’s early 90’s cards but their purpose was nostalgia not$$$$$$$$. People who break even on a card should be happy if they are indeed “investors”

  36. Sam » Wasn’t written out of bitterness at. I still have, and enjoy, most of my “worthless” cards. That said, I’ve been in many shops and heard from many dealers where they are constantly — daily — asked to buy collections from this era and that they’re disappointed and shocked when the dealer shows no interest.

  37. As kids we collected cards to beat our friends set. Every Griffey or Frank Thomas I’d trade with a friend for Barry Bonds.

    This idea of getting money out of your cards came with Beckett. Beckett totally changed the game, all of a sudden you realized that these collections could be of some value because this magazine told you so. So instead of trading with your friends, you would have that magazine right next to that new box/pack and find out the values of your cards right away.

    Nowadays as they collect dust and take up space we think, hey they had some value before, I think I’ll try and make that back just to find out they’re not worth a dime.

    To Goodwill they go for some other kid to relive my fun.

  38. it actually sucks. I really miss the hobby, when it was good of course. I wish they could go back to about 2-3 brands, who only have 1 set each year.

    its tough, because I so badly want to just dump a majority of the junk I have, and buy some of the ridiculously cheap stuff on ebay and put them in a display case of sorts.

    but really, you are displaying your childhood, and 90’s football etc, I just wish it was all worth more. I really dig that 89 score set, and may just go with that, and get rid of everything else I own.

    too bad the hobby will NEVER make a return. the internet, and advancement in technology have made sure of this. you think more collect cards or play madden ultimate team now? I’d say madden.

  39. I sell and collector still with the modern stuff. This guy may be a little out of touch I make a good 1k a week off of it. I buy people’s modern collections of soley autographed and jersey cards and they often sell like hot cakes with the common players still player. I actually just sold a zach cozart gold refractor out of 50 for 110$!!! So it’s really selective I guess but the newer stuff I find plenty of buyers and competition out there. Shoot I pulled a serial 10/10 lakers 5 auto booklet of magic Johnson, Kareem, cooper, worthy and Scott! It’s worth over 1k!! I got it from a 10$ pack…. So I dunno I say don’t judge the new stuff like the 90s crap. I just use those as fillers to make sure my newer cards don’t get damaged and have packing!! Hahaha :)

  40. Ryan im 13 n i was wondering if these cards will attain value in the future because my dad has lots of these cards will they be worth more in say 20-30 years?

  41. Kevin » A select few may hold some value but there are so many floating around that it’s doubtful that many will.

  42. I think its great that all these cards from the era 86-92 are so affordable now. This is around the time that I started to collect and I didn’t have a big collection because they were so expensive. I enjoy basketball and football the most when it comes to collecting. I just bought 4 boxes of skybox 90-91 series 2 basketball cards for $12.99 on eBay free shipping. Now I can afford to buy boxes to share the hobby with my nephew. If it hadn’t been for overproduced cards then cards would never been affordable and the hobby would been too expensive for kids today to experience.

  43. I’m interested in doing some trading to complete a diamond king set I’d like to frame and I’m missing a couple of puzzle pieces to a Clemente puzzle. I have lots of extra diamond kings, puzzle pieces, and tons of donruss 87-91. And by the way, this is what the cards were for…trading and enjoying not an investment. I was a teen back then and investing was for adults. Cards were for kids. So if any of you want to work together to do some swapping around, I’m all for it. E mail me directly at mongo at athenatechs dot org.

  44. I am looking to trade some of my extra cards to get the last 4 86 diamond kings I need. The 4 I need are; no2 roger Clemens, no4 Darryl strawberry, no6 Jose conseco and no19 Kirby Puckett. I have multiples of a few in this set that i’d love to trade to someone who needs them for the ones I need.

  45. Sometimes I mentally calculate how much allowance money I spent on hockey cards. I try not to think about it too much because I’m sure it’s over $1000. I’d have been better off putting the money under my mattress.

  46. If everyone burned their doubles and kept one of each, that would help. For me, just sitting in my living room and sorting them is fun. Though it is taxing.

  47. This is all too funny. A few weeks back, I was visiting my parents and the “card” topic came up. “you have a ton of sports cards still in the basement” says my mother(all from 1985 to 1997). So I brought them back with me at my wife’s disappointment. Started going through them and was excited to see the nice rookie cards I had(like mentioned in the article and replies). Kirby Puckett, Mark McGwire, Griffey Jr, etc. Was fun going through them and putting the sets in order. Even found a Drew Bledsoe Classic Signed Card and set(too bad Rick Mirer was in there).

    But all along, I couldn’t help but think about the times I spent with my dad collecting them. I even recall a moment, with my dad standing there, asking a dealer if he had any Mike Sh*ts. Got my butt smacked for that one. I’ll never forget…it’s Mike Schmidt..haha, Anyway, thanks for the article Ryan. I look forward to not being able to get rid of any of my cards. Atleast I have the memories.

    PS – Got a 1991 Topps Mark Whiten error worth $150 anyone interested?

  48. Will » The memories are worth more than the money anyway.

  49. Great article. Just cleaned out my basement & like I do every time, when I get to my baseball card collection I stop and stare. There is always an air of uncertainty on what choice I should make. Burn, donate, ebay or continue to stare at them every time I clean out the basement.

    Thanks again for the article. The binders, complete sets, plastic cases and unopened wax packs will continue to sit. There are some early ’70’s Topps, late 80’s & early 90’s.

    They are time standing still.

    Gotta love SportFlix!

  50. I have a good collection of cards from the 1988-1996 era in my collection, but I wanted to know how valuable are (or will be) the somewhat newer cards like a Kobe Bryant rookie card, LeBron James rookie card, or even a Blake Griffin rookie card?

  51. Scott » If you click on the Players tab in the menu bar, you should find links to our player profiles which look at rookie cards. Most also have links to additional articles based on that player.

  52. the point it its a hobby , if you like the card get it save what ever , I have no plans to sell any of mine not even when I started in the 70s , so what you have a box of junk when you pass away , you had fun doing it , that’s the whole point people miss today ,

  53. Ryan I’m 13 and what if I buy unopened boxes and sets from this era and wait until I’m say 50 or 60 will they then hold some value

  54. I think collecting should be for the love of a team or player, most things collected for profit in the modern era wont turn into a good investment. I collect for fun, if one day my collection makes money, good. If not I’m making memories and having fun .

  55. Well, I just reclaimed all my childhood things from 20 years ago. I have millions of cards from the late 80’s and early 90’s. I had the bright idea that I could sell these now.
    Not anymore.
    I don’t blame current buyers or economics for the cards being worthless.
    I blame the players from the late 80’s- early 90’s era. They are the ones that screwed us! haha

    Seriously though, not only do I have a ton of these baseball cards, but I have a ton of basketball cards too. I found a ton of Kerry Kittles, Shawn Kemp, Penny Hardaway, Jermain O’Neal, John Stockton, etc cards that I thought were worth millions and I was the Warren Buffet of card collecting.

  56. Although the article is based around baseball cards, the same applies to Football cards, which I collect. I’d been collecting Cowboys since I was a kid, and 1989 is when I got my son into the hobby. Fortunately, I saw the overproduction, and didn’t see it as an investment. We just collected our cowboys. Turned out good, because the Cowboys are some of the very few that are worth anything these days. But, it is time to get rid of the cards and free up some space. if the card has any value, I put it on ebay. If not, I’m trashing them. Literally. If enough of us do it, maybe some normalcy will return to the cards of that era. Just last week, I must have sent 10,000 to the recycling bin. I guess in retrospect I should be glad I didn’t fall for the hype on the Andre Wares and Jeff George mania that went on. We just collected our cowboys. If we pulled one of the hype cards we sold it almost as quick as we picked it. I was an old-timer n the hobby and could see where ProSet was going to take the market.
    if you have cards from this era, trash them.

  57. I re-entered sports card collecting during March/April of 2013, with 95% of my focus strictly on Vintage years (1910 to 1980). This article confirms some things that I intuitively knew, but what I think that the industry is missing are industry production / sales (akin to a USDA report in agriculture) numbers. Maybe this is something starting to happen more in recent years? It never made much sense to me how a star that is produced in the same number could possibly be worth more than a common player. Makes no sense to me. The star players should be produced in smaller quantities to maintain their premium over commons. Vintage stars seem to be worth a lot more also. There are supposedly just as many Goudey 1933 Babe Ruth cards as Lew Fonseca, but Babe Ruth is worth 100 to 300X as much as Fonseca. I have really no interest in recent years, only vintage, because vintage (pre 1900 up to 1973 or 1980) is much more liquid a market and much more likely to bring you what you paid and even a return possibly if you use smart trading tactics. About 15 months ago, I bought several 1933 Goudeys as a few of my first additions upon re-entry into sports card trading.

    I will forever miss the 1986-1992 nostalgia though, and the memories of seeing which kid could chew more sticks of that flat pink, powdery bubble gum. It’s too bad that my first collecting year of 1987 isn’t considered ‘vintage’. That was 27 years ago. 27 years before 1987 was 1960, which the sets are very expensive now.

    As the economy continues to grow, and people have more disposable income, I’m anticipating strength and liquidity in the vintage card market. Years that you couldn’t buy factory sets, should maintain value.

  58. If your wanting to trash your collection, I would be interested in purchasing them. Just contact me. stephenjludwig@gmail.com

    I have several grand sons that love my cards and we have fun going through them and putting them in sleeves and talking about the teams.

  59. I have a set from 1992 that were distributed by Hardee’s and printed as covers for 32 oz drinks. Could they be worth anything?

  60. Is there ANY card from that era that is worth anything by ANY card producer? I had a British tourist give me a bunch of American football and baseball cards including World Football League and other odd low production stuff about 25 years ago-

  61. After reading this article I called my parents and apologized. Back in 1992, I was 12 years old and my parents bought me the 1992 Hoops Draft Redemption set with Shaquille O’Neal for a little more than $400 for my birthday. Looked it up today and I probably could get $45 for the set.

  62. I started collecting baseball cards in the early ’70s. At that time I liked collecting players from the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers because they were from my region of the country and I liked Cincinnati Reds players because back then they were the Big Red Machine of Pete Rose and Johnny Bench. I ended up selling all my cards from the ’70s and kept the ones from the ’80s and early ’90s and those are the ones that are worthless. I should have kept the old ones. Heck, I even had some players from the Seattle Pilots, Washington Senators and a lot of Montreal Expos…teams that have since moved on to other locales.

  63. Hang on to them anyways… Who knows, 10, 20, 30 years from now and how history will unfold.

  64. Great article – here’s one for you…
    I have 300,000 cards that were accidentally mixed together in 84 garbage bags. Yes you read correctly. That’s what i was left with – i actually threw out about 50,000 because they were damaged or moldy. About 6,000 of them non-sport cards (Batman, Marvel, Olivia, Royal, Star Trek etc) most others late ’80’s to mid 90’s of course. I’m sorting them out and pulling out the ’70’s and early ’80’s now.

    I also have a couple thousand cards that are rookies and “collectible” at one time. – i’m considering tossing everything from ’86-’94 that is not in plastic and maybe tucking the rest away – i do enjoy the nostalgia and art work – not sure what else to do?

  65. “Sigh”… What a depressing article. Not that I didn’t already learn all of this on my own, it still doesn’t soften the blow. I literally spent my entire childhood hoarding every Emmitt, Griffey, and Shaq rookie card I could find, dreaming of how it would one day buy me a mansion on a hill.

    We were so busy collecting every card we could find that we failed to realize what actually made that Mickey Mantle card so valuable. Like the article says, cards in that era were not even considered collectible, they were used to sell candy. Topps used to LITERALLY haul all of their unsold cards into the Atlantic on garbage barges and dump them into the ocean. This includes a substantial amount of their 1952 debut set, including the famous Mickey Mantle card that lists for $30,000 dollars today! I can’t even wrap my mind around the insanity of stacks of $30,000 cards being tossed into the ocean! Of course they had no way of knowing what they were throwing away. It was worthless back then. I just saw an authentic George Mikan rookie card on ebay, – worth at least $2,500 today in good condition – with a mustache drawn on it! The idea of little kids in the 50’s defacing cards that they had no idea would be priceless one day is mind numbing to me!

    I have found solace in this idea that I hold onto… those cards are priceless because they were once worthless, just as all those cards from the late 80’s- early 90’s. So… maybe there are a lot of collectors out there who are tossing their old collection in disgust, (just read the previous comment if you don’t believe me) or handing them down to their kids to use as frisbees. My own daughter has been bringing home stacks of cards from that very same era, saying that her friend’s dad just gave them to her. So maybe… just maybe… all we have to do is wait it out. Maybe the market will come roaring back one day. Maybe we will regret not buying up all these cards for pennies while we could. I realize that is a slim possibility, but the thought of it helps me sleep at night. And keeps me from tossing my own collection.

  66. I get that the cards are worthless in money value but i had a lot of fun negotiating with my childhood friends for some of these cards. I see my rifleman bo jackson card and am still laughing about the sam bowie trade my friend and i made bowie for jackson. Both ened up doing nothing. My micheal jordan trade for joe montana. When ever i pull out my 80s 90s cards it takes me right back

  67. Great article. I just recently brought my cards out of storage and wondered what they might be worth. I probably paid more for the cardboard storage boxes then what the cards are actually worth.. Complete sets of 1990, 1991, 1992 Topps, Topps Gold set, 1991 Upper Deck, 1990, 1991 Fleer, all collected from packs, and hundreds of extras. Pro Set football cards, fleer basketball and nba hoops..I probably have cards from every manufacturer almost from that era. It’s kind of disappointing all the time and money spent into collecting, and trying to accomplish complete sets. But hey, maybe in another 30 years.. I could get my money back. Probably not.. The memories are wonderful tho..

  68. What a trip down memory lane. I wonder if Beckett Baseball/Basketball Card Monthly is still a thing. Who can forget scanning the entire 1988 Donruss list of approximately 600 cards to find, among all the $.04 cards, that one card that had been worth more than a dollar – the vaunted Gregg Jeffries rookie card – listed at a whopping $7.50. “If only I could get that in a pack,” I had thought, “I would be rich someday.” I would muscle my younger brother out of the way at small-town sports card shops to get first crack at the cases, and I would gaze with silent, intense jealousy at my friend’s superior collection. “If only I got his allowance,” I thought, “I too could have those unspeakably awesome cards.” It was not about peace, love, and brotherhood – it was a fiercely competitive sport in and of itself. Oh, the arguments we would have over which cards we were willing to trade, or which prized card was the ill-gotten gain obtained by running full speed into the store while the other had to climb out from the middle seat in the family station wagon. I could go on, but will stop there for now. It was the best of times, it was not the best of times, it was a fairly sizable portion of my childhood. Thanks for a great, incredibly nostalgia-inducing article.

  69. I have a Cal Rypken card #1 of 5. It’s a 2005 SPX ultimate collection signatures card. It is an autographed card that was a mail redemption card. I think it is a division of Upper Deck. Anyone know a value on this card. Please respond to my E Mail. Thanks?

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