Are The Cards I Collected in the 1990’s Worth Anything?
By: Colin Tedards
Host of The Sports Card Show Podcast
If I had a penny every time someone came into our store with a box of cards trying to sell them I would have retired a long time ago. Most of the time I can flip through the cards really quickly and see what era the cards are from and find out right away if they are worth buying. Honestly probably 90-99% of the time, the cards have little value.
Understand that Sports Cards are like any other collectible, it depends on what you got. Take Sports CARS for example-if you bought and kept Corvettes, Camaros, Chargers, ect…in the 1960’s…kept them nice and had them today-you would have a small fortune on your hands. If you bought the same group of cars made in the 70’s and 80’s your investment wouldn’t be as nice. Not to say 10-20 years from now the 70’s and 80’s era of “classic” cars won’t be highly collectible, but imagine what the 60’s era will be at.
Same thing goes with Sports CARDS. Most people collected cards in the 1980’s-mid 1990’s. This is when cards were MASS produced AND easy to get. When I say easy to get, I mean you could go to any large retailer, discount store, drug store, flea market, toy store, garage sale and card store and find sports cards. Cards were everywhere and there were lots of Sports Card shops around the country. Profit margins and demand on boxes/packs was A LOT higher back in those days so lots of people were selling the cards.
Chances are these are the cards you have-the baseball/basketball/football cards made between the years 1989-1996. This is when a card was considered RARE if there was less than 10,000 copies. Problem is, when you collected those cards in 1990s the cards did have value and sold well. Today its hard to sell most of that era of cards for more than $0.10 a card if you are lucky. Taking these cards to card stores to sell is like taking a 1992 Ford Tempo to a classic car dealer to see if he is interested in buying it. Your better off in both cases to put a For Sale sign on it with a dirt cheap price and take what you can get.
Will this era of cards ever go back up? (Should I hold onto these cards?)
Long answer: Obviously I have generalized this era of cards. Some cards do have value and probably will be worth a little something in the future. Some cards that come to mind are Brett Favre Rookies, Michael Jordan Cards, Cal Ripken Jr. cards, Shaq RC’s (although if you bought them back in 1992-1995 you probably paid a ton for them) Derek Jeter, Arod and some of the early Bowman/Sp baseball Rookies are excellent cards. But most of the “common cards” even if they are star players are not worth much and probably won’t be worth much in the near to distant future. If you are a real optimist you have to hope that a huge portion of these cards are damaged or thrown away to bring print runs down to a level that can support demand. This happened to most older collectors I know who had Mickey Mantles and other vintage cards-so it could very well happen again. (If I also got a penny for every time I heard someone tell me they had Mantles and Ruth’s but mom threw them away I would be the CEO at Upper Deck)
So to make a long story short if you want to build a solid collection start collecting again because the cards today feature autographs and jerseys of almost any player that has ever played. In my opinion these cards will not crash in value as much as the 90’s cards and they have the ability to go up in value because an autograph of Jeter, Jordan, Shaq should only get better and better as the years go on. Do you remember seeing cards with Babe Ruth Autographs on them in the 1990’s? Today’s products have them (one sold on eBay for $40,000) so you can hit the big one these days which make collecting really fun.
A few other reasons why in my opinion these cards will be less collectible in the future than any other era of cards is because of what came before them and what came after. The Pre 1970 cards are classics and are in short supply and high demand. They feature legends of the game that young collectors have only read about. Imagine the mythical status Mantle, Ruth, Jackie Robinson, ect will have in 10-20+ years. Now compare that to the stars of the 90’s, Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Canseco, and most of those stars have steroids being the first thing you think of. Yes Jordan, Shaq, Jeter, ect played then and had cards, but their cards AFTER this era are nice too (and the Ruth, Mantle cut signature cards are worth a fortune). Autographs and Jersey cards rule today and these cards have a piece of the player on the card where as the cards in the 90’s just had gold foil or some silly subset name/design.
And don’t forget the two cliches of sports cards-you have to spend money to make money and you get what you pay for. If you buy $1.00 packs you’ll get a bunch of $1.00 cards. But collect the right stuff (sometime not more than $4.00-$10.00 a pack) and you could improve your chances. A 10 year old pulled a $400 Reggie Bush Autograph from our store not too long ago out of a $3.00 pack, it happens.
Of course if you want a star players autograph you need to stalk them, get lucky, or pay usually $100.00 and way up, but in my opinion its not a bad investment. (Autograph of Retired/Players that have passed away are very solid long term investments and all those cards are found in packs released in the last 10 years or so)
Thanks for reading, good luck with your collection.