Like many of the other kids growing up in the 1980’s, I used to ride my bike to a baseball card shop. We didn’t surf the internet for hours on end. We had to have something tangible to look at. That’s where baseball cards came in handy. My friends and I would browse the cards and sometimes we did wish we could pay for the cards of yesteryear. They were, to say the least, very expensive to a young man.
Those guys named Mantle and Ruth weren’t in our generation. I vividly remember my Dad talking about how good Ted Williams was but he just didn’t compare to my heroes. For a young card collector, there is nothing like the current.
I was way more worried about Dale Murphy, Cal Ripken and Ozzie Smith back in those days. I knew Ruth was the man but Dale was my man. I collected almost every card ever produced with Dale Murphy on it. It was a fun era to collect and cards were easier to obtain. Even the coveted cards were easier to come by. Here’s the only problem. Those cards of that era were simply overproduced. Nobody tossed any into the trash because collecting became the “in” thing to do. There was a seemingly greater possibility for future value because we all believed we’d be the only ones to hang on to our rookie cards. Wrong! Everybody seemed to keep their cards in my era because of the precedent of cards from yesteryear evolving into the equivalent of a lottery ticket.
I always thought that I would pay for a college education for my children in the future if I just held on to those cards. I told my friends that. I told my mother that and it helped convince her to buy me a few more cards when I really needed some. It was a good gimmick.
The card companies, however, also must have realized that because they over-provided consumers on the supply side. Who could blame card companies for giving kids what they want anyway? Demand was up. Supply was up. Everyone was happy to be a card collector.
In my head, Dale Murphy would become the Babe Ruth of our generation. You think these things when you are 11 or 12 because you have such optimism for the future. It doesn’t really matter how wrong you are because there is potential. The absolute truth was I didn’t collect those cards because I thought they’d just fetch a ton of money for me some day. I collected them because I just really wanted to have a piece of history in my collection. I wanted a personal connection to the players I watched on a week to week basis during the summer months. I also wanted to something to dangle in front of my friends as a “trophy.”
If money were to come from selling that piece of history in the future then so be it. Unfortunately, the cards in that era were overproduced. Many refer to it as the “junk wax era”. You’ve heard the old cliché that one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. The same theory could probably be applied to that entire baseball card era.
While the overproduction did hurt the current values of many cards issued during the late 1980’s and early 90’s, there is also an amazing positive that has developed. It didn’t cost much for me to buy a pack of those Topps, Donruss or Fleer back then. Since the value didn’t jump much like we anticipated, I can still buy those cards today for a relatively low cost. There are folks who grew up in that era who can go back and finish those sets and buy what was once an expensive card for very little money. It’s also a refreshing reminder of what it’s like to be a kid again.
Those of us who get back into the mix these days can still go back and relive part of our childhood without spending a fortune and those of us with kids get to share it with them. Imagine if gas prices from the era remained the same in the world of today. You’d kind of think you hit the lottery in some respects. For those of us who have a hole in our Dale Murphy collection, that era just keeps on giving.
While it didn’t provide a fruitful payoff financially and certainly won’t pay for my son’s education, it certainly allows me to dabble in my old boxes and finish off collections that I swore I’d finish back in the day.
That’s what we got into it for anyway right? Don’t you recall the whole checklist theory? Didn’t you buy into that as a young card collector? Didn’t you swear to your best friend that you’d get every single card and trade valuable doubles to get the player card of the guy who didn’t even stand a chance? It was an impossible puzzle to solve until now.
The bright side of having those cards still out there in abundance is that finishing off collections and promises can actually happen today. And that’s not such a terrible thing.
You can check out all of the cards from the 1981-95 time period on eBay right now by clicking here.