1980-1998 Sports Cards

Every day in my retail shop people walk in or call and ask if I am buying cards. My answer is always “Depends on what it is” The story is usually similar. I’ve got a box of cards I collected as a kid. I’ve got a box of cards my dad or grandfather gave me. I have no idea what they are worth. The cards come in carefully packaged in penny sleeves and top loaders, sorted in 5000 count boxes or they come in rubber banded together in shoeboxes. It’s always the same though, 1980-1998 Sports Cards. I can’t tell you how many 1988 Topps Baseball set’s I’ve seen since August. I look thru the cards quickly, hoping for that one piece of cardboard gold that could make the collection worth buying. I’ve found 50’s-60’s Topps stars, A Goudey and a few T-206’s in boxes of 80’s crap but it’s very rare.

Why aren’t cards from those years (80-98) worth anything? I am asked all the time. Well there are a few reasons.

1.) Mass Production: Especially during the 80’s the card manufacturers made 1 set a year and they printed them all year-long. Yea, OK, maybe in December they produced a few  52 card sets for K-Mart or Woolworth’s but mostly they printed base sets and TONS of them.

2.) Collectibility: In the late 70’s and early 80’s card shows sprouted up on weekends at every Hotel Ballroom, Club Lodge, and School Gymnasium. Prices for cards from 1975 and earlier began to climb at exponential rates. Guys like Alan “Mr. Mint” Rosen and Bill Mastro began making their fortunes this way.
One dealer recalls that about 1986 at the Philly Show, Bill Mastro was shopping around a “sharp” (the operative adjective) T206 Wagner. Bill wanted $25,000 for it. We all took a close look at it then told Bill “too ex-pensive”. That same card is now the PSA 8 (so-called) Gretzky Wagner.(1)
People started looking at Sportscards as Collectibles rather than Toys. Kids used to flip them against the wall with their friends. They would put them in their bicycle spokes. They would otherwise destroy them thus creating scarcity of those cards today.

3.) Steroids: Let’s look back at some of the better Rookies from the 80’s. and early 90’s. Sosa, McGuire, Palmiero, Bonds, Clemens, even some whose names have never been linked to a report like Griffey are all suspect. Small little boys who grew 3-4 sizes over the course of the off-season to become monster hitters. Many of these players have become the face of evil in baseball. Their card values have dropped from once monstrous proportions.  Our one time Heroes and saviors of baseball after the strike have now become the demons of the sport.

So what to do with all those cards? Here’s some ideas:

  1. Pack them in a 500 ct box and use them as fire starters. (They work great)
  2. Donate them to a local children’s hospital. Kids love them and it give them something to do while they are being treated.
  3. Donate them to your local Police Department. When police have to take a child out of a home because of living conditions or abuse it’s great for them to have something to give to the child. They also use them to reward kids who they find are behaving in the community.
  4. Find a Player or Team Collector to Donate them too. Even if they already have the cards, they probably know someone in their network of friends who may want them.


(1) Ted Z – Reflections on 30 years of the Philly Show

This entry was posted in 1980's, 1990's, Baseball, Donruss, Football, Junk Wax, Mass Production, Panini, Steroids, Topps, Upper Deck and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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