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Are the cards I collected in the 90’s worth anything?

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.

1965 CorvetteUnderstand 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.

1990 Topps Sammy SosaSame 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?)

Short answer-No.

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)

Michael Jordan Cards
Michael Jordan Cards

Derek Jeter Rookies
Derek Jeter Rookies

Brett Favre Rookies
Brett Favre Rookies

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.

What Sports Cards will hold their value best over time?

Lots of former collectors (people that collected 10+ years ago) are amazed by the Sports Cards being made today.

You can get Game Worn Jersey Cards and Autograph Cards out of every product these days. This is exciting and new to a lot of new/former collectors.  There are also numerous low serial number inserts, rookies, base cards ect…and of course now you can grade cards.

Here is some advice that we pass on to those just getting back into collecting Sports Cards after collecting in the past:

  • Complete Sets are a thing of the past-no use in trying to build them to sell later-UNOPENED HOBBY BOXES/CASES SELL BETTER THAN COMPLETE SETS. Only complete sets for your own enjoyment-not investment.
  • Buying packs is gambling-The hobby is not cheap-if you want good cards-Manage your money well so you can get the most for your money.  Research the products to find out which ones have the best bang for your buck.  Every year a $3-$6 Pack product is better than a $8-$12 pack product. (Take 2006 Donruss Threads Football-Great product that was $4-$6 msrp-Liked it a lot more than pricier UD SPx)
  • Single cards are often best found on eBay. No hobby shop is able to carry every card or every player. If you like a team, player, rookie cards, autograph cards, or expensive cards-eBay is the place to find them.  You can find great values and extreme rip offs on eBay-so know what you are looking for.
    Just as an example-I bought so many Chad Johnson 2001 Rookies on eBay before anyone knew who he was. I bought several SPx Autograph/Jersey rookie cards for less than $15 and now its a $100 card.
    Tony Romo cards in the summer of ’06 and before that were all less than $50-Now look at his prices.
    Tom Brady was the same way-So if you know what you are doing, and get the right players/cards-you can see huge value from your Sports Cards investment (so tell the wife you need to keep watching Sports Center and playing fantasy football so you can keep up on all the hot players)
  • “On-Card” Autograph cards are slightly more collectible than sticker autograph cards.
  • The cards listed in Beckett magazine with the RC right next to them are slightly more collectible than the paralells you see listed after the base set.  (Doesn’t mean they are more valuable-just slightly more collectible)
  • Understand that cards/players will go up and down in popularity and value.  Lots of rookies come out hot, then even if they have a great career-they may not be all that popular.  A truly great player should go up near the end of his career if his cards were not collected all that much early in his career. 
  • SELL YOUR CARDS-Don’t think that every card/player is going to be worth something in the future. Not every player that has a great rookie year is a HOF.  Very few players become legends-many are hot for a season or two then they cool.  TRY AND SELL YOUR CARDS WHEN THE PLAYER IS HOT-
    Shaun Alexander and Matt Hasselbeck would be two good examples of players that would have been good to sell during the Super Bowl-their cards have dipped.  -DON’T GO TO HOBBY SHOPS TO SELL YOUR CARDS-IF ITS A HOT PLAYER/CARD-YOU WILL GET MORE MONEY ON eBay!  (we own a hobby store-we need to resell the card-we would give you %50-%75 the price the card goes on eBay no matter what the player is-so you might as well become the dealer and sell it on eBay)
  • GOOD LUCK-Just a few tips we have-Hope they help.

The HOT PACK Sports Card auctions Rip Off or Bargin?

Some sellers auction packs that are “Hot Packs”
These are the packs that have Jersey and/or Autograph cards in them.

Each box of sports cards will contain aprox. 8 to 36 packs of cards.
Most products contain 1-4 autograph/jersey cards per box.

Hot packs are the packs with the jersey/auto cards. Products containing one jersey card per pack (Sp Game Used) I would consider all these packs hot but you can still search these packs – I will get to that later.

Click Here To See An Example of “Hot Packs” on eBay

How do the sellers find these hot packs?

  • Most if not all probably use a quality digital scale. Most packs with a jersey piece or auto (even sticker auto’s) will show up on a high quality digital scale.  Compare that with the other packs in the box and you can narrow it down.
  • Sometimes the companies make it obvious and you can pick out the jersey packs just by eye. (This is not common any more)
  • Some products have 1 jersey card per pack
  • You can bend the packs and “feel” the thicker packs.

Should I bid on these packs?

  • I open and see countless packs today that contain 1, 2 more or less cards.  I am sure auctions have gone on that contain 2 extra base cards and the seller thinks its a jersey card.  How would you get your money back?
  • Some cards contain PATCHES of logos off NFL, NBA ect..jerseys, shoes, laces…ect.  The sports card companies admit that even with “dupe” cards there is no way to hide the “quad patch or bat” card.  So even if you buy these packs on eBay, the seller probably opens the packs that are REALLY thick.
  • Products with Jersey cards per pack are somewhat safe to bid on-you will get a jersey card or a “Hit”  But realize that sometimes a product like that is broken down to deliver 1-3 PATCH or DUAL Jersey cards Per BOX-My guess is that sometimes sellers pull those packs and sell the “average” jersey card packs-(the weight of a patch card will weigh out more compared to the other Jersey packs)
  • Sometimes a product contains jersey AND autograph cards per box.  It is possible that the jersey card checklist is not anything great-but the autograph cards are rookies or really nice pulls.  More times than not a seller is selling you the packs with the jerseys cards and pulling the rookie autographs or auto card.

Where should I buy packs?

THE Best way to buy packs is go to a honest sports card dealer-where you or people you know have pulled nice cards from the shop. We have a board in our store with big hits-most good hobby stores do. Buying hot packs on eBay is always risky, you should always watch how much you spend-there will be bargins, but there are rip offs everyday.
Purchase SEALED Hobby Boxes of your cards-from an honest eBay or sports card dealer. There are many good sellers of sports cards on eBay-many have websites and are some of the biggest sellers in the country. With a little searching you will find them.  If you live in a small town with no hobby store-this is probably one of your best options.
Connect with people-if you cannot afford a full box, there are collectors all around the country. Many websites have message boards (including eBay) where you can find collectors in your area.  Go 1/2 on a box with someone. Or better yet, find a friend that you think would like collecting and get him/her to go 1/2 on a sealed box with you.


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