Why Your Sports Cards from the Early 90s Are Worthless

Why Your Sports Cards from the Early 90s Are Worthless

Why Your Sports Cards from the Early 90s Are Worthless 1It'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 shopkeeper knows the customer won't be leaving the store happy or with a newfound 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, with some notable exceptions.

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.

See also: The Top 30 Baseball Cards from the Junk Wax 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 Canseco and Todd Van Poppel cards 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.

Why Your Sports Cards from the Early 90s Are Worthless 2Baseball cards of a shirtless Jose Canseco 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 Todd Van Poppel rookie cards from 1991 Upper Deck 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 shoeboxes of childhood collections are common. If you're looking to sell your 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

Why Your Sports Cards from the Early 90s Are Worthless 3Some 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.

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 one copy 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

Why Your Sports Cards from the Early 90s Are Worthless 4Not 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 Fame stars. Even then, prepare to be disappointed. Outside of a couple of exceptions like 1989 Upper Deck Baseball, 1989 Score Football, 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 https://www.cardboardconnection.com
Ryan is a former member of The Cardboard Connection Writing Staff.   His 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.

User Comments

  1. 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

  2. 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!

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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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!


  8. 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!

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. 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!!!!

  13. 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.

  14. 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!!

  15. 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 :-)

  16. 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.

  17. 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…

  18. 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. :)

  19. 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!

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

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

  25. 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.

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

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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”!!

  30. 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”

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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 :)

  35. 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.

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

  38. 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.

  39. 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?

  40. 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!

  41. 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 ,

  42. 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 .

  43. 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.

  44. 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.

  45. 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.

  46. 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.

  47. 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.

  48. 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.

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

  50. 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?

  51. “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.

  52. 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

  53. 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..

  54. 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.

  55. I suppose the only exceptions would be the 89 UD Griffey and the 90 Leaf cards. They’re at least worth something, right?

  56. baseball card pack cost like 5 bucks each today. who has the money to spend like that on a kiddie hobby? kids have moved on to technology and video games as a hobby. packs should still be 50 cents each maybe a dollar for a premium pack. it’s not easy to make money as a kid. it’s a shame the industry became so greedy with useless inserts and over saturated the market, on top of pricing out the kids, the next generation of card collectors. for me, baseball card collecting was part-scam, part-ripoff (once the prices for packs escalated astronomically – some cost $500 a pack today! i am NOT joking!), and part times-a-changin’. how? kids have easier to access hobbies now. they have internet, technology and video games which are even more social as you can game around the world from your couch. the baseball card data can all be viewed and downloaded onto their xbox systems. why keep a piece of cardboard around? it’s junk that takes up space and collects dust and invites bugs. EA sports games also have live stats updates and kids can actually play as their favorite players with real time data. compare that to a static baseball “card” which does nothing but sit there. why would you want to go backwards? i was like you too. i fell for the scam but i sold my stuff a year or so later in 1996 after shaq was in LSU (i sold his 4 sport rookie card) and came to magic. even i knew as a teenager that this was a scam.

  57. You would assume there would be a class action lawsuit regarding this SCAM. Especially the pricing books like Beckett. If it wasn’t for those books nobody would have known what the price of their cards were (or the price we all were conned into believing they were). So I wouldn’t get rid of those cards just yet. May need them in case a class action ever gets started so people can at least get some of their money back.

  58. Wow, googled and found this. Glad to find so many like me.

    I was born in ’80 and collected big time from ’88-’93, all brands. Spent my childhood loving these cards, especially ’91 Leaf, especially my ’91 Leaf Frank Thomases, which I expected to use one day to buy a house. :-) Oh well, good times. I still look at them sometime. I’m sort of glad I’m not inclined to sell them anymore–mementos of a happy childhood.

  59. Article is very true. I know! How about the cards made in the fifties, sixties and seventies? I am sure they are worth something. What about cards from the year 2000 to now? Just curious if the card companies are still printing too many to make these most recent cards worth anything. Does this supply and demand determine the Beckett pricing guide values? Thank you.

  60. John Cards today are printed in low quantities but there are also fewer people opening new product than 20 years ago. The best way to gauge values now is through looking at sold listings on eBay.

  61. Yeah guys, I’m in the same boat. Started collecting in early ’60’s and still have them but restarted in mid-80’s to about ’93. Card shops don’t even consider them now (the 80’s to 90’s). I like someone’s’ suggestion about donating to some charity like maybe a children’s hospital. Hopefully some kid will get some enjoyment out of them, eh?

  62. I too, am a product of the card-craze of the late 80’s/early 90’s. Just like Nathan’s post earlier, I have focused now on vintage baseball and football cards, which I find much more interesting, anyway. The t206 tobacco set is as popular as ever, especially HOF portraits, though I will never get
    close to owning a Honus Wagner :) The T3 Turkey Red cabinet issue might be the most beautiful set ever produced. You can’t go wrong in investing in players like Ruth, Gehrig, Mays, Mantle, Clemente, etc…and buy them in the highest grade you can afford.
    As for modern cards, there still is value in some of the highest graded cards of the most popular players. A PSA 10 Gem Mint 80 Topps Rickey Henderson recently sold for 30K–yes, 30,000 dollars! 81 Topps Montana PSA 10…12K. So there is a market for high-end product. It’s just that vintage cards are a safer bet. However, if you have the nostalgia bug like I do for this era, another route to go that’s a
    little expensive but won’t break the bank is game-used bat collecting.
    I recently got into this niche of the market. My first purchase was a Wade Boggs gamer from his 1994 season with the Yankees. Ball and stitch marks, cleat marks, blue ink transferred from American League baseballs to the bat, pine tar on the handle and middle barrel, his uniform no. written on the knob where the factory info is stamped into the barrel…these are characteristics you won’t find on a baseball card. And to hold the bat in your hands and know you’re holding a part of history–it doesn’t get much better than that. Anyway, for those looking to collect from the players of the 80’s or 90’s the game-used bat genre is certainly an option, and they are much more valuable and rare than collecting the cards…

  63. I just recently received me and my fathers collection from 80 upto 87 topps 87 packs unopened upper deck packs not open 3 Frank Thomas rookie cards, Brett farve rookie card etc. no real value I’ve found , yes I agree they killed the cards with all the reproduction, But get this they sale solid clear packs at my local dollar tree for a dollar a pack 10 to 15 cards per pack less the pack better the cards I thought reprint I was wrong all years mixed all brands as well

  64. Hello from the largest sport card collection in Alaska! I used to buy, and still do buy old 1980s and 1990s cards. The reason being, is that after people wise up to the worthlessness of their cards, people will probably just burn them, thereby accelerating the cards values near, at, or above 1990 levels! I own Bond’s Bonding Collectibles here in Fairbanks Alaska, and I’m proud to say, that we do purchase old collections. After we purchase them, what we do is go and sort them into complete sets. Then, we file them online and sell, sell, sell! You wouldn’t believe the people who buy the sets! I guess the set market is still out there, just not the singles markets for the 1986-1992 stuff! Oh well….

  65. This is a great article, and it raises a question for me. I am new to collecting and I am wondering what the lesson is for collecting now. How do we avoid being in the same position with cards produced today in 20 or 30 years?

  66. Scott Ross My quick advice would be 1) Collect what you like. That way, even if values tank for some reason, you’ve got something worth enjoying. 2) Making money off of cards takes a lot of work. There are no easy ways. 3) Set a budget and stay in it.

  67. I remember how painstakingly I put together the 1987 Topps set. Was so proud of myself and loved the “wooden borders”. My all time favorite is still the 1989 Topps Big set. The only saving grace is the plethora of ’89 Ken Griffey jr. rc’s laying around.

  68. Just went through the process of dumping most of my 90s baseball cards. Hah, that Tod Van Poppel was all the rage, as well the Ben McDonald rookie. Also had the baseball Jordan. Never could afford the 89 Griffey JR UD rookie. While it was kinda sad to dump a large chest full of cards for nothing, at least it’s nice having that free extra space in the house again. BTW, if anyone wants to trade an 89 Griffey JR UD RC for a a Todd Van Poppel UD RC, drop me a line. I’ll throw in a Greg Vaughn rookie, too!

  69. Yes, I agree with the repo bit. I also think that a large part of the worth dropping is due to the internet itself. Now you know how much of one thing is readily available rather than going to your local hobby store or ”trade” paper . You did not know how many of one thing was out their so the value was high. My Ricky Henderson rooking was worth $500 back then. Ebay comes along and you see 50 of them for sale…now check the price.
    Supply and demand and internet I attribute it too. I also have over 3000 comics and the same deal there. I collected all the Image #1 when they came out. Was worth so much , now unless you have classic Marvel and DC you have nothing. Luckily I invested in silver age Marvels as well.
    Good article! Don’t forget about the Mike Piazza rookie from Stadium Club LOL

  70. Awesome article Ryan! I gave away crates full of cards to a elderly man who was in the card business as a hobby and many more crates free at garage sales. People feel good about getting something for free. I have some signed baseballs by Griffey, Mantle, Hank Aaron and Whitey Ford. Might they be worth anything? What king of signature verification would I need?

  71. For the most part this article is accurate but you can’t dismiss well graded cards from that era…. Also Minor league cards of big names that grade high will bring nice $… I saw a comment about someone laughing when their friends asked him if ken Griffey jr was worth anything. BGS 10 1989 ud rookie sold a couple months ago for 2,600 and psa 10 go all day long for 300. Not bad if you ask me!

  72. A few years back I got several boxes filled with baseball, basketball, football, and hockey cards from the early 90’s. I finally found good use for them. I’m a high school teacher so I use them for passes…bathroom pass, late pass, locker pass, pass to the office or library. I just reach into my box and pull out whoever…Dan Gladden, Kendall Gill, Alvin Harper, Brent Sutter…then pull out my Sharpie marker and write the kid’s name, the date, their destination, and my autograph on the back. Everyone is the school knows that if a kid is in the hall holding a sports card then they came from my class.

    The kids get a kick out of them too, especially when they get someone they’ve heard of. “Mister M, is this Doc Rivers the Clippers coach?” “Is that the Scott Brooks that used to coach OKC?” “Is this Dell Curry guy related to Steph Curry at all?” “I didn’t know Joe Girardi used to play.” “How can you have a Delino Deshields card from 1993 when he’s still playing today?” “Mister M, please don’t give me a card with an ugly guy on it. Gimme one with someone cute.” “OMG! This card is…(someone they’ve heard of) Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders, Doc Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Mike Piazza, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, Magic Johnson, Scottie Pippen, Greg Anthony, Steve Smith, Kenny Smith!”

    They never know the football players because almost all of the early 90’s players were out of the NFL long before these kids were old enough to follow football. And it’s an inner city public high school so they don’t know any hockey players today, let alone ones from 25 years ago. But the hockey cards do generate lots of questions. The kids inevitably look at the cards as they walk to their destination and by the time they come back to class sometimes they will ask… “What is a Nordiques?” “What is the blue line?” “Where is Edmonton (or Winnipeg)?” “How do you pronounce this guy’s name…Viacheslav Fetisov?” Why is this player slamming into the other player? Isn’t that a foul or something?” “Is this guy’s name real…Ron Tugnutt? I woulda hated growing up with that last name. Too many jokes.”

    I give them out as bookmarks. I stick them in my colleagues’ mailboxes from time to time. When parents come for a conference I will give an old John Starks or Anthony Mason to a parent if I know that a kid’s father or mother is a Knicks fan, or an old Howard Johnson or Keith Hernandez to a parent Mets fan. On back-to-school night when families come and the little 5-year old brother has to tag along, I will reward him for his patience with 4 or 5 old Marvel comics cards. The boxes I got even had about 20 unopened packs of baseball, basketball, WCW wrestling, and soccer cards…so when a student makes an exceptional point or comment about the subject matter we are covering, I will give them a pack to open for themselves. The students know that to get to open a pack in front of everyone is a special treat because I only give out packs maybe 3 or 4 times a year.

    So even though these cards lack any financial value, I am happy that I’ve been able to find some positive use for them.

  73. Great article.

    In 1995 I was in grade 7.

    I kept all of the 1989-1992 Upper Deck, Fleer, etc. cards I had collected. I still own them, and there are thousands of them.

    I gave my friend maybe 150 Magic the Gathering cards. Many of these are original, (alpha), series cards. I’ll bet every 5 of those cards, (except for land), is worth more than my sports cards collection.

  74. I’m enjoying collecting certain singles I wanted as a kid but we’re over priced . Even though the value isn’t as high anymore having a Bonds rookie is fun cause I always wanted one . Collecting will always be around . Ebay will ruin value . But once people get rid of their collections and dump them then Hofers and productive players will maintain value . My advice is everyone throw away your cards . Just dump them. That way the select few I collect will maintain greatness . I’m making bank off eBay selling cards that are “sp” even tho I pulled 8 kris bryant “sp” at wal mart . Collect cause you love it not cause you think you have a gold mine . Even a car looses half value after you drive five miles . Still you need the car.

  75. Great article. Have cards I bought for my son when he was collecting… 1978 thru 1989. He is now married. Out of state. Checked pricing on line. Do I take the few cards with values over $5 out and sell, or try to sell full set @value of the few $5 + cards inside, or donate to some charity? Approximately 50 full sets ..most 81 thru 89. Thanks for any advice. Would like to move these out of my home.

  76. Here is what I started to do about a week ago…made a 3min video and posted on you tube showing me shredding NFL cards. I plan to continue this for each type of card I have including NBA. MLB, NHL etc.

  77. Started collecting in the 1970’s as a kid. Lost interest in the early 1980s as a teenager when I was more interested in chasing girls.

    Just got all excited yesterday at Goodwill and spent $160 for 10 full sets of unopened baseball cards from 1988-1992. I was thrilled! Thought I might have stumbled on a gold mine since I’ve been away from collecting for so long..

    I have two sons sons who could care less about baseball cards. After reading this article, I realize I just “donated” $160 to a good cause… And for 24 hours I felt the excitement of my childhood of collecting…well worth the donation!!

  78. Great article, this explains why after 15 years in storage I busted out my sports cards from 1989-1995 and was dismayed to find them all worthless on ebay! My father bought me a Ken Griffey Jr rookie card for my birthday back in the day, I believe he paid $60-90 for it at the time (Upper Deck), man did that not retain it’s value! I still love The Kid though.

    I have a few random cards that are selling for $20-$100 on ebay, especially my 1994 Bowman’s Best refractors, Derek Jeter seems to be the highest price.

    My Darren Daulten Donruss Elite used to be a sort of valuable card, it’s now like $5 on ebay ;)

    Brother has Derek Jeter’s rookie card, it’s $100 ish. My Alex Rodriguez upper deck RC is $1.75 ;(

  79. You want to sell old baseball cards and make money you had better be talking tobacco :)

    For many of the 80’s/90’s its worth more in ink and paper. I have a double jar setup I use for a self recycling candle. When I need to make an impromptu wick and can’t find a hard top pack of cigarettes I grab some 80’s cards from a shoebox and fold them up. Inserts,rookies,commons, no matter. Its all tulips.

    Decent candle wicks, bleach and dry might make a nice notepad. Thats about it. Smartest way to get rid of them is to sell the boxes/packs if you have them unopened to someone simply for the pleasure of opening. Let the disappointment of it being rooting through trash post sale.

  80. Im one of those guys who just bought a bunch of complete sets. As a kid in late 70s and early 80s, i had collected cards with passion and had ammassed a number of complete sets through individual wax pack purchases, trading and show buying to build the complete sets. I ended up collecting topps 78, 80, 82-86 sets in this way.

    Last week, I decided to fill out my collection by purchasing the other sets from the era. I went on amazon and bought topps 79, 81, 87-94. A couple days later i bought donruss 81-92 sets. The sets ranged from $15 to $80 each. Now i have every set topps 78-94 and donruss 81-92.

    Did i do this to make money? No. I spent a few hundred dollars but i did it for me and for my enjoyment. Im keeping all of them.

    If they sell at break even or a loss, i wont care because ill be dead. I like them for what they are, a fun hobby with a small hint of value in most and actual value in a few.. But since im not selling, the value is only in the happiness that i get. Im not trying to make this a business investment.

    My next hobby item is collecting super bowl programs. I already had 7 and this week just bought another 6. Email me if you have some to sell. Ill also start buying 70s topps sets for the right price. I want 70-77.

    You can reach me at shawn33904@gmail.com

  81. Just took down a big box full from rafters in the garage…..guess I will be throwing them all on the trash….goodbye Jose Canseco, Dennis Eckersly, Dave Stewart, Tony Gwynn etc. Rookie cards…

  82. i collected in the early 90’s . i thought when i was older i could cash them in and be rich and retire lol. i spent lots of money on baseball cards and they are worthless now . i would of been better off collecting just about anything or even the dollars

  83. To all of the people who are going to throw them away, why not just donate them or give them to a kid that likes sports. I remember like 5 years ago when my neighbor gave me a bunch of his cards from the 80s and I was so happy to get them. Because if you just shred them or burn them nothing will happen, but you could donate it to make someone happy.

  84. This is an article that for the most part hits the nail on the head. Yes ‘Most’ cards and sets from this era are worthless or no market. BUT there is still value hidden in these old 1980’s 1990’s collections. I have bought 20,000+ collections for $100 or less, Picked the ones that have value and had them Graded. If you take the time to pick the 100 cards out and have them graded you can still make money. I recently purchased a huge collection of ‘worthless’ cards and just sold the 1980 Rickey Henderson Rookie Graded PSA 9 for $765.00 on ebay. This is just a recent example. Cards now have to be graded to sell for good money. A great card maybe a struggle to get $1 for BUT the same card graded could be $50-$100.

    YES the 1991 Fleer yellow cards are almost as bad as the Red 1990 Donruss!

  85. Anyone know how many cases of 1992 Upper Deck baseball were produced?

  86. So, the best course of action would be to buy up lots of your favorite cards and destroy all but a handful… Then, give the handful of cards to your grandkids on your deathbed… Then, 300 years from now, your descendants can sell those cards to the smithsonian for a $20 to get the ninetendos in the primitive video games exhibit to work.

  87. in the early 90s…. they made tons of one set..
    now they make tons of sets…
    example Hockey..
    there is only one Martin Brodeur rookie card – but there are tons of them
    today there are many limited Connor McDavid rookie cards and they are all valuable…
    but there probably will be more overall Connor McDavid rookie cards made than there ever were for that one set of Martin Brodeur rookie cards….
    A rookie card should be just that – ONE card -their first licensed card – so for CMD it should be their UD series 1.

    All other 2015-16 cards are rookie year cards BUT not rookie cards.
    the current few years of cards – with tons of sets will soon be as NOT valuable because of the crazy number of sets being made

  88. oooh look my card is numbered out of 10….. nice!!

    but they made 1000 versions of a similar card…

    is that not the same as the original Donruss Elite inserts numbered to 10000

  89. Argh…just pulled out every set you mentioned hoping to sell them on ebay…then doing my research I found your site.

    I collected for the investment purpose. I didn’t even like baseball!

  90. Destroy, Destroy that’s the only way to give these cards any hope of having any possible value and even then it’s slim but at least you’ll give them a chance.

  91. Unfortunately I collected mostly in this era too. Sure I held on to them thinking they were worth money, but I spent so much time with my dad collecting them, and he is gone now, and that can never be replaced.

    I personally destroyed thousands of them and basically only kept rookie cards/hall of famers. They will go back in the closet and come out again in another 30-40 years. They definitely aren’t worth now. i actually have a few worth close to 100 (like signed cards found in packs) but in the 90s I could have sold them for 400-500… ouch.

    On the other hand, I also kept all my Nintendo games from that era and cashed them in for quite a bit of money. Not what I paid for them, but good enough.

  92. I bought a flat box full of basketball cards for $3.99. I use the flat boxes to organize Magic the Gathering cards. Ended up here looking to see if any of the cards have value. At lest the box is worth $5!!

  93. I collected with my dad throughout the late 80s and early 90s, amidst the era you’re writing about. In the early 90s my dad and I would set up at local card shows, and each month when Beckett came out we adjusted prices, wheeled and dealed, and had a blast. Today I have thousands of cards that aren’t worth the monetary value either of us hoped they would be into my late 30s. I recently organized all of my sports cards, and have been riding this wave of nostalgia that has manifested itself into purchasing HOF cards and wax boxes I could not afford as a kid. I live near Orlando, and there’s been a sports card show every three months. I walk in with about $50 looking to spend on cards I couldn’t afford as a kid. It’s fun again – even when I am not looking to sell any or make a profit. Funny this article brings up Kevin Maas. I picked up a wax box of 1990 Upper Deck and pulled three Kevin Maas RCs. That would’ve been a heck a box in 1990. Who didn’t I pull? Griffey, Maddux, Glavine, etc. For $5 for the entire wax box I had a blast and almost put the complete set together between the box and cards I’ve kept for nearly 30 years.

  94. I found this article way to relatable. I recently had an injury and have found myself with way too much time on my hands, so I decided to break out the cases upon cases of cards and flip through them. I do enjoy finding the random RC I didn’t know was hidden along the commons, but then I look it up and I’m a little diminished in my enthusiasm.
    I have enjoyed the stroll through memory lane and recalling the feeling I got upon (finally) getting my first (and only) 1989 KGJ Upper Deck. It is still miraculously preserved in the ironclad 4 screw plastic case that it’s been resting in for the last 20+ years.
    Now I can grab a lot of 10 ungraded RC cards for a few bucks. And I did because I could.
    Amazingly well written and relatable article thank you.

  95. the problem is the cheap card vendors NEVER DID pay anything for cards. they sold them high and paid little for them on the backside. it was always that way !! they are typically these lazy sports types who don’t know antyhing about business, but know how to be cheap.

  96. Uh…buy low, sell high–isn’t that what makes them savvy businessmen?!

  97. My parents bought me a 1992-1993 Hoops Draft Redemption set for my birthday back in 1992 for $300. The shop owner at the time was telling me how great of a deal we got. Just have to laugh lol :)

  98. I saw the writing on the wall a few years ago after rediscovering my collection that spanned 88-92. Like guy in the article, I had visions of wealth and retirement.
    Sadly, after checking a few cards against what folks were TRYING to get for them on eBay, I realized my collection was worth less than the plastic show box they sat in for nearly 30 years.
    I think the only folks with the last laugh are the card companies who must have been laughing all the way to the bank.
    Oh,well. Back goes the box for another 30 years. lol

  99. Should of played Magic:The Gathering instead of collected worthless baseball cards. I did in the 80s when I was a kid, and learned REAAALLL fast this was worthless because of the amount of duplicates I was getting and 0 rarities PLUS no one would give me a penny for them, and even then, they laughed. At least with M:TG if you bought cards in 93-95 you would be filthy rich today, my old collection shot upwards of 250k, beta lotus, moxen, duals. That is a real hobby plus you can PLAY with them!

  100. it was meant to be a hobby for children and the fact grown men were showing up to baseball card shows in the 90’s trying to make a quick buck was puke inducing.

    these overweight suburban soccer dads thought they were the wolf of wall street stashing away jeters and mcgwire olympic cards like they were microsoft and apple stock.

    probably bored their wives to death bragging about how they got 2 canseco rookies in a box of donruss wax packs.

  101. To think that in 2018 we are still talking about sports cards tells you only one thing, this is not dead yet or anytime soon. Just look what happened recently with an SI Tigers Woods Card. Unbelievable!

  102. I started my childhood collecting in the late 70s and continued thru 1989. Over those years I also obtained quite a number of earlier cards from older family members, the older brothers of my friends, etc. This was back when cards were just starting to be thought of as collector items. While my older 1950s thru 1970s cards were hardly PSA9 treasures, there were a decent amount of solid cards in VG/EX condition.

    When I was reaching driver license age, and with no financial help coming from my parents, I decided to sell off my collection to finance my first car… and I sold at exactly the right time. Most of my collection was from the latter half of the 1980s and those values never have and never will recover. Selling off in 1989/1990, I probably made $2000-$2500 on that era of cards and today the identical collection might be worth 1/10th of that when factoring 30 years of currency inflation.

    The earlier cards, from before 1986, have probably appreciated much more… For instance I was getting $40 a piece from dealers in 1989 for the 1984 Donruss Mattingly rookie and $10 a piece for his Topps or Fleer rookie… and I had binder page after binder page full of those. Probably pulled $500-$600 just in Mattingly. Of course, those cards have actually gained value over the years. Same with the handful of 1982 Ripken Future Stars rookies that I sold… and I’m sure a few more that I am forgetting. So in hindsight, I wish I would have sold off the last half of the 80s and kept all my older stuff…

  103. I myself have been heart broken by these card shops. My dad alays brought me home hand fulls of packs of football and baseball cards from the late 70’s till after the mid 80’s! I had boxes of them and some really good ones also even a terry Bradshaw rookie. I was too young to remember all of the good ones but dad THOUGHT he knew what would be nice to have, He told me to hole on to these till im his age and I will have something good. Back in the 90’s I checked some of my baseball cards and some were up to 20 to 40 bucks a piece and some I had a few doubles many others were worth maybe 75 cents to $3.00 I put them all in a separate box and held on to them till around 2008 and decided to see if I could sell some. And I came up against the same heartbreak of them telling me they are not worth anything and IF I am lucky and take them to a card show someone MAY give me approx $30 for ALL of them! I wanted to punch this dude right in the snot box! Not only did I have sports cards but also collected many other cards from Tv shows, rock bands,Movies, Nascar, Operation Desert shield and Desert storm. I cant even name all the ones I had Even the Pac Man sticker packs. Elvis, The Hulk. Mork & Mindy,Dukes of hazard.Dallas.Grease, Village People.Kiss,Micheal Jackson,Star Wars,Star Trek,Battle star Galactica,Et And many more! I really thought they would be worth something buy now. I remember to my dads dying day he remembered posing his Mickey Mantle ROOKIE CARD when he was pitching cards as a teen. Once he found out what that card was worth he just could not believe hoe stupid that was. It was worth A LOT at one time! Im not sure about now.. As a kid I even had the football sticker albums.

  104. Man thank you for this article! My dad left me cards from 1989 and 1990 and I’ve held on to them for almost 30 years and just today I pulled them out after moving states and did a lot of research and realized they’re worthless! The only card of any bit of value is a Topps 1990 Ken Griffey, JR All-Star Rookie card, but for it to be worth something I have to have it graded and I’m sure that will cost more than the card. I guess these are all going in the trash! Honestly, I only had a sandwich baggie full of them, but I held on to them thinking they’d be worth something one day. I’m personally a video game collector who has games worth hundreds of dollars (my entire collection is about $20k) so I understand that some times value in items just disappears. I have games that were worth $100+ and are worthless now because they were re released and no one cares about the old version anymore.

  105. I remember many of those names back when, can’t miss rookies that missed by a country mile! But when profiteers and people hoping to pay for their kids college took over, real collectors started to feel the pinch, seeing the cards sink into the quicksand pretty fast! I threw away a lot of the junk cards, as they were taking up space and the fun had kind of wore off which was sad! I have come back to card collecting the past few years and collect what I love, instead of jumping on this or that bandwagon, as I don’t want to get run over by the same bandwagon! Collecting should be a fun activity, not just to try and hope that you’ll die a rich man if and when you sell your collection, or pass it on to the next generation! Great post by the way, by someone who understands that collecting should be a fun activity, not some get rich quick scheme that usually leave behind a trail of broken dreams!

  106. Guys and Gals,

    I suggest we wait another 50 years, they’ll be worth something then!

  107. The basics of this artical applies to all collectibles such as
    sports cards
    nonsports cards
    comic books
    etc! and antiques, as well as most retail items! SUPPLY & DEMAND rules the day!

  108. Does anyone remember the bulk card sellers like Megacards and Steve Niland (Miland?)? My father used to purchase 800 Ct boxes of guys, 12,000 ct boxes of some players and years. Yes, 12,000 at a time, 15 800 ct boxes of a single card! I try to explain this to people today but it’s hard to grasp. I also believe these wholesalers got the uncut sheets straight from Topps and cut them themselves, does anyone remember this? My father has long ago passed and I hope I’m giving the right info to people.

  109. What’s puke-inducing is your barbarous impugning of my sports-card trading acumen.

    I sank everything I owned into 1989 Oakland As cards featuring the Bash Brothers: Jose Canseco and Mark MacGwire. In the mid 1980s they were the two most handsome, virile men in the Bay Arena.

    Scoff if you must. Some of us have paid the consequences, and it cost us our homes, our families, our freedom—and our lives.

  110. Well I guess I can take these tires out and have a nice big bonefire. I hate to burn some of them they are beautiful.

  111. A friend left me his collection when he died. Now I guess I can cry as I walk all those boxes to the trash.

  112. Actually if the hall of fame rookies from these years are in mint condition,centered good,get them graded,they come back a 9.5 or 10 they can be worth decent money. Think Chipper Jones,Ken Griffey Jr.,Frank Thomas,Randy Johnson,etc,or popular players like Bo Jackson,Mark McGwire,etc.

  113. When my son excitingly tells me about a Pinnacle Prism card being worth $40 from a player this year, I’m thinking, the Hell it is.

    This is 1990 all over again. Yes, the supply may be less, but there isn’t a chance in Hell a player with half a Covid season under his belt is worth more than a HOF player from the 70’s.

  114. The major issue is that baseball is no longer a popular sport and has in turn lost its appeal around the late 90s/early 00s. The even bigger truth is that unless you have baseball cards from the 60s earlier, there’s really no value in them. This also includes other sports cards that quite frankly no one really cares about. The major reason for this has to do with the introduction of the tcg, with Magic, Pokemon, and Yugioh taking the place of sports cards, because the tcg has grown into its own entity that has appealed to such a vast audience that now those are the cards worth collecting, and unlike sports cards, tcg’s have continuous use as they’re more than just there to look at.

  115. I have a bunch of this stuff, as well as cards from the 70s. I never collected them to get rich, I collected them because it was fun. So they’re not “worthless” to me.

  116. Really good article. Unfortunately those are the years I was collecting and trading as a kid, brings back so many memories. And as some one else mentioned, Becket Price Guide really did change everything. I started collecting in 1985. I was 6 years old, my collection came from my father, who had alot of 1981-1983 topps cards. And some from the 70s. Alot of them were not taken care of. But there was 3 cards Immediately Ifell in love with especially after I seen my first Becket price guide. This was all new to me, Ryan Sandberg rookie 1983, Tony Gwynn 1983 rookie, and wade boggs 1983. Back than they were all around $60 bucks each. And looking back in the 50s and 60s
    Seeing how much those cards were worth gave me even more motivation to collect. My first 2 sets I bought were a $20 1988 Donruss set and a $30 1991 Upper deck. Lol. I know its sounds dumb now, but I absolutely loved my 1991 upperdeck set. I made alot of good trades as a kid, mostly trying to get my favorite players. Ken Griffey jr, Frank Thomas, tom glavine, etc etc. By 1994 I had a massive collection of all my favs. Football also. One day I just stopped collecting, around my highschool days I I think. Kind of forgot about them. Anyway my mom brought me my entire collection last summer, and I start immediately looking them all up. AndI had alot of winners, but a whole lot more losers. Most of my cards were kept in mint condition. All definitely 8.5 and above. And still have my 1st 3 valuable cards I originally got from my father. All in hard individual cases. So they didn’t fare to bad Ryan Sandberg sold for $1500, Tony Gwynn I sold for $700. And Wade Boggs is currently at p.s.a being graded and I’m probably going to keep that one more than likely. I have several other cards in the $100-200 values. From that era also. But the majority are worth noting. Cant even give a 1991 Upper deck Frank Thomas away or Griffey. But I do have the 1989 Bowman Ken Griffey Jr rookie card. I traded a 1991 upper deck Jeff Bagwell, Bo Jackson, And Mike Jordan Sp 1 for Griffey when I was in 5th grade. Smartest move I ever made. Keep your heads up wax junk era, yes never know in 40 years maybe the supply will disappear and you may have something to give your grandkids.

  117. I feel like in 2021 and I speak for other sport card collecting that there’s a chance some of those sport cards can go back up in value ESPECIALLY if you can get them graded. I’ve stashed a graded Giannis rookie card in 2013 and recently just sold it off for $2000 ( bought it for $25).

    The point is ~ it’s really just like the stock market where you have to keep an eye out on the trends of sport card collecting. That Michael Jordan baseball card could be worth a lot more in the future if you can get a few of em graded/slabbed and stored properly !

  118. Interesting and sad as have been a collector off and on for many years. Only basketball was a real hit late 80’s was 86 to 89 Fleer then came overproduction and lost interest for a while in mid 90’s after Shaq hit the court.. Came back in to find big push up in MJ cards and those aforementioned fleer sets. Now it seems like flood of new and varient cards I long for the single RC days. Now only collect old graded basketball as I try to keep it simple in my old age.

  119. He’s 100% right it’s been 10 years and COVID is going on it’s now May 2021 the markets never been hotter. The sports card games exactly where it needs be. Before there was refractors tractors protractors refractors prisms parallels Panini’s and other sandwiches the OG was tops who created traded the 1st parallel and Tiffany Topps was a parallel that was polished and limited. While Panini has almost perfected the sales pitch PSA submission is still the path that is far more likely to show you the way.

  120. Very good article but very wrong in a way. To say cards numbered to 100 only sell for a dollar or two now a days is very very wrong! I’m an avid hockey card collector and I wish I only had to pay that lol just pulled a card numbered to 99 that sells for over $600 right now. It is very hard to get value out of late 80’s and early 90’s yes but if you have rookies and they are in mint and grade 9 or higher then yes you do have some value in them I just sold a psa 10 Bure rookie for $500. A 9 goes for about $150. But don’t look at your card with the naked eye and think it’s mint lol magnifying glass and ruler are needed. But with the market price for grading right now I wouldn’t grade a single card as all your profit will be lost to the fees unless your grading older or very high value cards.

  121. I disagree with your article for several reasons. I think the first is the games themselves. The NFL, NBA, and MLB are losing fans, not gaining them. The popularity is not there at the moment. But like ALL things “RETRO” is ALWAYS trendy. All it takes is a comparison like M.Jordan to J.West, or some compelling movie like “Remember the Titans” to jump start a whole new generation of enthusiasts.

    Secondly, you are never going to get away from the “Which generation is better debate”. That in itself can create a buying barrage, even if it is only short lived. The depth of talent during that era is not (nor ever will be matched). Thanks to You Tube and Google…. If any REAL NBA LEGEND passed away (GOD Forbid) you don’t think it would / could cause an upswing in the market?

    The last reason is, the ease of it all. Those worthless cards now are going to be worth 2 and 3 times more. Guys like you are going to be looking for guys like me with about 6000+ cards from 1989 – 2002 to sell and you are going to pay good money too.

    So until, we go “RETRO” or some other strange phenomenon occurs, I will hold on to my “fire kindling” until they are SO HOT, I can’t hold them anymore…..

    Because someone will want them that bad to pay a small fortune for them… You just wait and see

  122. I just seemed to notice most of these responses were from 2011-12 and up. So when I reached the bottom of the responses and Thank God there were still people talking about this issue in 2019-21. My issue is I had a friend whose brother had passed away, and his brother then gave me his collection. So here I sat with 1000’s of mixed up hockey, baseball, Marvel, football, etc.. in 3 boxes and a couple bags. Well I too was in that group that would shake their head everytime someone would try and argue that the late 80’s to mid 90’s was a bonafide money hungry time to have collections. Well in reading EVERYONE’S posts I had a huge chuckle cause now “I’M” stuck with trying to find the golden goose and his almost nonexistent golden egg. Yet to my surprise, I have found a few cards worthy of a high five or two. I came across a 1986 Fleer Micheal Jordan worth $5000 !!! BUT then wallow in self pity when a 1953 Topps Bob Feller All-Star fan favorites lists between $20-$40 bucks. Or a Stu Miller 53′ Topps card doesn’t even hit double digits, lol. I wish I could post a picture of these cards because they are in rather beautiful shape, but alas, the names on the back of the jerseys are just not up to snuff sadly. But dang it! I sure like them. And as a few people have mentioned, they will pass them on to their kids and teach them the importance of maintaining a possible tuition payment or two. Anyways I hope I may have added something to this long running conversation, rather than water it down. Cheers all ! And Merry Christmas to all !

  123. Could someone please put me on the right trail to a good site to price cards, without having to pay for this service. It just seems to me that there are so many FREE sites, that are just as, or better than the average Beckett prices etc.. Much appreciated.

  124. yes thats right, throw away all your 90’s cards, Store owners , throw them away, collectors, burn them up!! That way one day, my grand kids can cash in on them when they are all gone!! hehehehe

  125. Some guy just sold me 7000 cards and they’re in awesome condition. I pull the cards out from time to time just for the fun of it. However, i checked the going rate for some of the cards i have and they are worth far more than I ever imagined.

  126. Can’t believe this thread has run for 10 yrs. Reminds me of my father in law who started buying everyday 1963 postage stamps in the firm belief that they would put the new baby through college in 1981. Talk about oversupply and no demand! (You can still use them tho if you use big enough envelopes)

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