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Thread: What was the junk era like?

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    Junior Member RagingAcid's Avatar
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    What was the junk era like?

    interested to hear differnt perspectives

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    Senior Member Brewer Andy's Avatar
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    Ignorance was bliss


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    Senior Member Pinbreaker's Avatar
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    There were collectors paying $100 for RC that you could get for $1 now..

    You could go to Costco and buy boxes and boxes and go home and rip until your fingers hurt!

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    The junk wax era was everything that was good about childhood. It connected all kids to baseball, didn't break the bank for parents buying cards, raised up the entrepreneurial spirit in many kids and felt "wholesome".
    For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23 - Questions about this? PM ME!
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    Think about all of the friends you have today. Now imagine they are all avid card collectors like yourself.

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    Senior Member Austin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pinbreaker View Post
    There were collectors paying $100 for RC that you could get for $1 now..
    You mean like now? Back then it was just Canseco who was worth $100+ and can now be found in dollar boxes.

    Today, failed prospects once worth $100+ like Ian Stewart, Brandon Wood, Delmon Young and dozens of others can be bought for a buck or two.

    In five years, another 20 ridiculously-expensive "hot" prospects like Byron Buxton will be worth just a few bucks.
    Set builder, autograph hunter and fan of the Texas Rangers & '50s-'60s Yankees


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    Senior Member Austin's Avatar
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    Warning: Prepare for a very long stream-of-consciousness post of my experiences and memories of collecting during my personal Golden Era of baseball cards.

    Collecting during the hobby's boom days of the '80s and early '90s was heaven, especially if you lived in a big city with a MLB team like I did.

    My got my first cards before the junk wax era, when my Dad bought me my first cards in 1982 when I was 9, a few packs of Topps and Fleer.
    But I didn't become a serious collector until 1985, when my Dad took me to my first card shop, First Base. There were a few other card shops in the area that year.

    The monthly Beckett Baseball Card Magazine had just come out in November 1984, and that's when the boom started, when the casual collector started realizing cards were worth big money. There was an annual price guide before that, but only serious collectors knew about that. Beckett's monthly magazine was soon at every newsstand and bookstore.

    By '86, baseball cards had become a national phenomenom, and card shops were popping up everywhere. I grew up in a Dallas suburb, and by 1990 there were 12 card shops within a few miles of my house. I could easily ride my Huffy to several of them. It seemed like every other strip mall had one.

    In the entire Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, there were several dozen card shops.
    There was actually a "Baseball Card Store" category in the phone book and it took up a full page.

    Baseball card shows were every weekend in Dallas by 1990, sometimes 2-3 shows a weekend because the Dallas area is so big. I was lucky enough to have the National Convention near me twice as a kid (1986 and 1990, both in Arlington, TX).

    The popularity caused card makers Topps, Donruss and Fleer to begin printing more cards than ever, ushering in what we now call the Junk Wax Era. For a few years, the tremendous demand actually met the gigantic supply, and prices rose every month.

    There were baseball cards made for fast food restaurants and inside cereal boxes, packages of sunflower seeds, Big League Chewing Gum, cat food, dog food, potato chips, cookies, snack cakes, macaroni and cheese, iced tea, granola bars... any food product you can think of. Many big stores like K-Mart, Woolworths, Revco, Toys 'R' Us, Kaybee Toys, Walgreens, etc. had their own exclusive small boxed sets produced by either Topps or Fleer.

    The hobby was so incredibly popular that for one issue in 1987 (the one with Kevin Seitzer on the cover) Beckett removed all of the "Up" arrows that showed that a card had increased in value, because Beckett literally increased the price of nearly every card in the price guide. Dr. Jim Beckett explained it in the magazine's editorial column so people wouldn't think it was a misprint. I thought it was a stupid decision because I had to compare the previous month's issue to see what the values were before.

    That year, Topps let the printing presses run 24 hours a day, and there was a glut of '87 Topps cards. Even though the set was popular, it was the first set that made people realize that too many cards is not always a good thing.

    '87 Topps were literally everywhere. On every counter and candy shop of every supermarket, drug store, toy store, convenience store, gas station, warehouse store like Sam's Club and Costco (only sold by the 36-pack box) most retail stores, and even stores that had nothing to do with toys or candy or food. I bought some '88 Score packs at a Mervyn's clothing store.

    Donruss and Fleer were still hard to find at retail in '87, relative to the huge demand. Dealers would buy out a retail store's entire inventory of Fleer and Donruss in backroom deals before the packs even hit the shelves.

    Then in 1988, Donruss and to a lesser extent Fleer, started overproducing like Topps. '88 Score, its first set, was always easy to find. From '88 to '91, Topps, Donruss, Fleer and Score cards were extremelu overproduced.
    Donruss and Fleer began slightly cutting back production and increasing the quality of its base sets in '92.

    Most boys who liked baseball and sports collected cards, and most kids traded with each other. I even sold some cards to kids at school. A few teachers would even hand out cards as rewards.

    It was 90% baseball card collecting until 1989, when the "rare" Score football set and cool Pro Set cards came out, and then collectors suddenly realized basketball and hockey cards were cool too and rookies like Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky went through the roof overnight. I'm still mad I didn't listen to my friend who bought lots of '86 Fleer basketball packs at a 7-11 for 35 cents each. The Slurpee baseball magic motion discs were cool though and I soon got the whole set.

    Prices for Topps, Donruss and Fleer ranged from 30 cents a pack at the beginning of the '80s to 45 cents in 1989, when Upper Deck came out with the outrageous price of $1 a pack. Some dealers quickly doubled that price. In 1990, Donruss came out with its high-end Leaf set. In 1991 Topps came out with Stadium club and Fleer has Ultra. Score follored in '92 with Ultra.

    But all of this excitement didn't last long for people who thought they'd become rich. There were too many stores and too many cards, and by 1991-92, many store owners started closing their doors. The end of a glorious era.

    A few years later, eBay was launched and it made it even more obvious how many billions of cards are out there and how cheap and easy they are to buy online, and most of the rest of the card shops died.

    Being a kid collecting baseball cards from 1985 until 1991 when i went away to college, was the best of times. Especially since I could share it with my Dad and younger brother, who collected.

    Most cards from that era may be practically worthless today, but my original sets and cards from then are priceless to me and bring back so many great memories. I look at my binders of sets from the the '80s much more than any other cards because of the nostalgia.

    Former collectors and even many current collectors may look at the junk wax era in disdain, but it was some of the best times of my life.
    Last edited by Austin; 05-11-2017 at 04:42 AM.
    Set builder, autograph hunter and fan of the Texas Rangers & '50s-'60s Yankees


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    Lots of fun, and I didn't know it was the junk era til the era ended.

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    Great write-up @Austin !
    For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23 - Questions about this? PM ME!
    Do you have rare Jose Canseco cards? Let me know! www.CansecoCollector.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by Austin View Post
    Warning: Prepare for a very long stream-of-consciousness post of my experiences and memories of collecting during my personal Golden Era of baseball cards.

    Collecting during the hobby's boom days of the '80s and early '90s was heaven, especially least if you lived in a big city with a MLB team like I did.

    My got my first cards before the junk wax era, when my Dad bought me my first cards in 1982 when I was 9, a few packs of Topps and Fleer.
    But I didn't become a serious collector until 1985, when my Dad took me to my first card shop, First Base. There were a few other card shops in the area that year.

    The monthly Beckett Baseball Card Magazine had just come out that year, and that's when the boom started, when the casual collector started realizing cards were worth big money. There was an annual price guide before that, but only serious collectors knew about that. Beckett's monthly magazine was soon at every newsstand and bookstore.

    By '86, baseball cards had become a national phenomenom, and card shops were popping up everywhere. I grew up in a Dallas suburb, and by 1990 there were 12 card shops within a few miles of my house. I could easily ride my Huffy to several of them. It seemed like every other strip mall had one.

    In the entire Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, there were several dozen card shops.
    There was actually a "Baseball Card Store" category in the phone book and it took up a full page.

    Baseball card shows were every weekend in Dallas by 1990, sometimes 2-3 shows a weekend because the Dallas area is so big. I was lucky enough to have the National Convention near me twice as a kid (1986 and 1990, both in Arlington, TX).

    The popularity caused card makers Topps, Donruss and Fleer to begin printing more cards than ever, ushering in what we now call the Junk Wax Era. For a few years, the tremendous demand actually met the gigantic supply, and prices rose every month.

    There were baseball cards made for fast food restaurants and inside cereal boxes, packages of sunflower seeds, Big League Chewing Gum, cat food, dog food, potato chips, cookies, snack cakes, macaroni and cheese, iced tea, granola bars... any food product you can think of. Many big stores like K-Mart, Woolworths, Revco, Toys 'R' Us, Kaybee Toys, Walgreens, etc. had their own exclusive small boxed sets produced by either Topps or Fleer.

    The hobby was so incredibly popular that for one issue in 1987 (the one with Kevin Seitzer on the cover) Beckett removed all of the "Up" arrows that showed that a card had increased in value, because Beckett literally increased the price of nearly every card in the price guide. Dr. Jim Beckett explained it in the magazine's editorial column so people wouldn't think it was a misprint. I thought it was a stupid decision because I had to compare the previous month's issue to see what the values were before.

    That year, Topps let the printing presses run 24 hours a day, and there was a glut of '87 Topps cards. Even though the set was popular, it was the first set that made people realize that too many cards is not always a good thing.

    '87 Topps were literally everywhere. On every counter and candy shop of every supermarket, drug store, toy store, convenience store, gas station, warehouse store like Sam's Club and Costco (only sold by the 36-pack box) most retail stores, and even stores that had nothing to do with toys or candy or food. I bought some '88 Score packs at a Mervyn's clothing store.

    Donruss and Fleer were still hard to find at retail in '87, relative to the huge demand. Dealers would buy out a retail store's entire inventory of Fleer and Donruss in backroom deals before the packs even hit the shelves.

    Then in 1988, Donruss and to a lesser extent Fleer, started overproducing like Topps. '88 Score, its first set, was always easy to find. From '88 to '91, Topps, Donruss, Fleer and Score cards were extremelu overproduced.
    Donruss and Fleer began slightly cutting back production and increasing the quality of its base sets in '92.

    Most boys who liked baseball and sports collected cards, and most kids traded with each other. I even sold some cards to kids at school. A few teachers would even hand out cards as rewards.

    It was 90% baseball card collecting until 1989, when the "rare" Score football set and cool Pro Set cards came out, and then collectors suddenly realized basketball and hockey cards were cool too and rookies like Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky went through the roof overnight. I'm still mad I didn't listen to my friend who bought lots of '86 Fleer basketball packs at a 7-11 for 35 cents each. The Slurpee baseball magic motion discs were cool though and I soon got the whole set.

    Prices for Topps, Donruss and Fleer ranged from 30 cents a pack at the beginning of the '80s to 45 cents in 1989, when Upper Deck came out with the outrageous price of $1 a pack. Some dealers quickly doubled that price. In 1990, Donruss came out with its high-end Leaf set. In 1991 Topps came out with Stadium club and Fleer has Ultra. Score follored in '92 with Ultra.

    But all of this excitement didn't last long for people who thought they'd become rich. There were too many stores and too many cards, and by 1991-92, many store owners started closing their doors. The end of a glorious era.

    A few years later, eBay was launched and it made it even more obvious how many billions of cards are out there and how cheap and easy they are to buy online, and most of the rest of the card shops died.

    Being a kid collecting baseball cards from 1985 until 1991 when i went away to college, was the best of times. Especially since I could share it with my Dad and younger brother, who collected.

    Most cards from that era may be practically worthless today, but my original sets and cards from then are priceless to me and bring back so many great memories. I look at my binders of sets from the the '80s much more than any other cards because of the nostalgia.

    Former collectors and even many current collectors may look at the junk wax era in disdain, but it was some of the best times of my life.

    Thanks for the detailed post, this pretty much sums up how I remember it too. Great times, and you really could ride your bike to a card shop from just about anywhere that you were. I still enjoy the 1990 leaf griffey, and all of 1991 stadium club. Even 1986 donruss, and all of the 1987 releases have a special place for me in my collection. It's hard to believe but I remember selling all of my 1987 fleer Kevin Seitzers for $15 each and my Bo Jackson's for $40. That was a lot of money for a 10 year old, too bad I probably just spent all the money on boxes of 88 donruss from Costco lol.

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    I stopped collecting after the 1983 season. Got reinterested in comics, got interested in girls, the usual. I wonder if the Phillies pathetic performance in the 1983 Series didn't affect me, also. Anyway, I had only brief contact with the hobby until 1991, but I remember hearing things. I remember hearing that prices for old cards had gone through the roof, and people were paying more than the price of a box for new rookies. I was content knowing my old collection was up in the attic, but around 1985 I found out that I had real money sitting up there, and, despite being not yet old enough for a real job, my lifestyle required more than the $10 a week I made from mowing lawns. So I sold most of the good stuff from my childhood, which I still regret, and not just because I basically got fleeced.

    Then I remember in 1987 seeing packs of cards on the counter at 7-11 and deciding hey, I might like cards again. I bought maybe 10 packs of Topps (I had a job then so peeling of a fin for cards was no big deal). I remember liking them, but something didn't connect, so that was it. I had practically stopped paying attention to sports at all, and the flame was not reignited. I still have those cards, with a McGwire and a Bo Jackson and a couple Palmeiros that I gather would've been good for trading back then. I knew who McGwire was, and Bo Jackson was everywhere, but I didn't really care. I still collected comics, and the Ryan rookie I had sold two years earlier was sitting there in the card case of my comic shop, now with a $600 price tag on it. Painful still.

    I missed out on chasing around hard-to-find Fleer and Donruss sets, buying tons of food and stuff to get those cards, running around looking for regional issues, Puckett and Clemens, Eric Davis, Shawn Abner, Canseco, McGwire, Strawberry, Gooden, the continual "discovery" of old rookies who were about to make the Hall of Fame and have their cards shoot up. I missed out on the first big wave of the hobby hitting mainstream media and prices jumping hugely. I missed Field of Dreams because Kevin Costner gave me hives and Eight men Out because Sayles was an earnest craftsman but boring (I had gotten into film in high school and was a Film Threat kind of guy in college). While I was aware Schmidt had won his third MVP in 1986 and I had seen Jackson in the All-Star game and I watched Gibson's WS homer live in the basement lounge of my dorm, I was pretty much divorced from sports and especially the hobby.

    I remember seeing 1989 Upper Deck, along with what seemed like too many other brands, at that 7-11. I scoffed, audibly. Couldn't believe that there was a pack of cards double the price of everything else. I don't think I had heard the name Ken Griffey Jr. at that point. And I hadn't seen the cards, either. If I had I probably would have been converted, although later on when I dove back into the hobby I still could not wholly embrace UD. The cold, stark white cardstock was too cold and sterile compared to the relative rough and crude cardboard of Topps.

    In June, 1991, I saw packs of cards at the 7-11 again after my junior year of college and decided I sort of was interested in them again, and went to dig up the dregs of my collection. I went to that comic shop and saw my Ryan rookie still sitting there, still 90/10 centering, still with a $600 price tag on it. I bought a Beckett and used that to determine that I still had some good cards after all, and also found that there was probably more cards made in the previous 8 years than the 50 before that. I found out there was a new tier of cards, including something called "Stadium Club" that blew my mind. The sharpness of the photos, the borderless design, the bright blue and orange/pink of the logo, the gold foil, and the PRICE! The one shop that had them charged $5 per pack (which I later found was ridiculously high but that's what it was). I bought 2 packs and in the first found a striking image of a huge young man in an old-fashioned pinstriped White Sox uniform against a dark background. I consulted my Beckett for each card and found that this guy, Frank Thomas, was worth $20! I hate to say it was the financial aspect that hooked me, but that's true as much as the aesthetics of the modern hobby.

    Soon I was spending as much on cards, especially new packs, as I dared while trying to save up for my final year of school. I wish I had spent that money on something more meaningful, a solid HOF RC or that 1975 Topps set I always coveted as a child (that's a whole other story). But no, just endless piles of new Leaf, Stadium Club, Ultra, and Upper Deck, along with completing the Topps set from packs (finding the Pat Combs cost me probably $30). But it was OK because it was exciting. These new "insert" cards that weren't part of the set but were rare and awesome. The Gold Leaf cards were impressive, especially when Series 2 came out (sets coming out in series again was awesome) and I pulled a Rickey Henderson with the black background. Mind-blowing. And value being a major component of what drove my collecting has always been a guilty element to it. It's still pretty much that way.

    But mainly it was fun. Before 1990, the cards were just fun. All that mattered was the design, because the same players, anyone with any success at all, were in almost all the sets. If a set came out and you didn't like the design, you just wrote that brand off for the year. There were always other things to chase like food and regional issues, not to mention a hundred years of old cards. Growing up near a city with successful teams helped a lot, and there were hobby shops in every town. Modest little shops with custom-made display cases, primitive card holders, and 9-pocket pages that allegedly contained oils that would eat your cards. Baseball Cards magazine that came out quarterly, initially, but soon became a monthly with plenty of competition. I'd hear about a weekly newsprint newsletter but rarely saw a copy. Saving up to go to a card show at a mall or the convention center out on the highway. Having to order out of the backs of magazines, hoping they still had it in stock at the advertised price. My idea of fun back in 1982 was to resort all my sets from numerical into team order, or back again, without concern for condition or anything other than getting these little bits of paper arranged the way I wanted.
    Looking for 2014 Topps Heritage Black Refractors and 2011 Topps Marquee Museum autographs

    I collect Frank Thomas and Grady Sizemore



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    Senior Member 1st4040's Avatar
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    The hobby was very different pre internet/Ebay. nobody knew production runs and cards like the Donruss Elites were so rarely seen and very desirable/expensive at card shows(yeah card shows because there were so many of them back in those days). The internet and auction sites have made acquiring rare cards so much simpler and easier and the hobby more about the $$ and less about the pure fun like it was back then. The chase was real in the junk era especially for the super collector and obtaining stuff like regional issues from other parts of the country. Now the chase is from your couch and how deep you can dig into your wallet. The junk era cards don't have the monetary value but the sentimental value and memories of the key acquisitions stay with the collector forever!


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    Senior Member joey12508's Avatar
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    For me it was a fun time cheap packs. You could buy packs at gas stations, grocery stores, candy stores. Just pulling any yankee was a kick. No ebay hard finding those inserts
    you wanted.

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    This topic is yelling at me to do a long write up later tonight as I LOVE talking about my childhood and cards.

    DTA

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    just picked up 50,000 FREE

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