In this environment, it can be challenging for collectors to quickly flip cards for profit. In response, many are defaulting to buying cards that they are satisfied with owning over the long-term. There is nothing wrong with this, and the specifics of this path will vary from collector to collector. Ultimately, owning sports cards should be fun. My personal version of this mindset has caused me to focus less on purchasing stars of the modern era and return to the junk wax years of my youth. Included in this post are some of the junk wax cards I am considering for purchase.
As most of you are aware, trading cards were wildly overproduced between 1984 and 1994. This period is often referred to as the “junk wax” era and makes most base cards printed during this time readily available and affordable.
All the players listed below have rookie cards that were printed between 1984 and 1994. In addition, each is in their sport’s hall of fame, and in most cases, PSA 9 versions of these cards can be obtained for approximately the fee to grade. Due to the supply of these cards on the market, it is unlikely buying them will lead to extraordinary profitability or wealth. However, I do think we have to be close to a “price-floor” for most of these. Either way, these are the cards, sets and players I fondly remember trading, collecting and watching with my friends during our elementary school days. This means that even if they become worthless, owning any of the cards below will bring me joy.
In reading my list, you will see only Topps flagship rookie cards included. Certainly, some of the players like Ken Griffey Jr., have more iconic rookie cards from other companies or sets. However, with Fanatics likely to hammer collectors with Topps history and nostalgia in the coming years, I think Topps flagship is the best value option from the junk wax years. For fun, I also included population numbers for PSA 9 versions of these cards. This will give you a sense of how many are available. These numbers will seem high, but keep in mind that there are now almost 17,000 copies of PSA 9 Zion Williamson 2019 Panini Prizm rookies in the world. That is not exactly a scarce card either.
1989 Topps Traded #41T
Ken Griffey, Jr.
PSA 9 eBay Buy It Now Cost: $30
PSA 9 Population: 45,121
One of the most loved baseball players of the 1990s and 2000s, “The Kid” played 22 seasons with the Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds, and Chicago White Sox. Griffey Jr. was a 13-time All-Star, 10-time Gold Glove winner, and won the American League MVP in 1997. His career home run total of 630 ranks seventh in Major League history. Griffey Jr. was elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 2016, his first year of eligibility. He received one of the highest vote totals in history.
Sadly, Griffey Jr. only appeared in the playoffs 3 times during his exceptional career, never winning a championship. However, his standing with collectors and fans is boosted significantly as he is one of the few sluggers of his generation not to be tainted by ties to the use of performance enhancing substances.