Wednesday, September 23, 2015
When "old" stopped meaning "valuable"
This is a pack of 1988 Donruss. Note the sticker.
All of my life, when looking back at cards from 25 years ago, I was looking back at the unattainable, mystical and legendary. When I first started collecting cards, in 1975, 25 years ago was 1950. The only significant cards around at that time were Bowman. I didn't even know what Bowman was in 1975. But it sure was unattainable at age 9.
In 1980, the prime of my first collecting period, 25 years ago was 1955. The cards from that period are magic. Bowman wood framed TV sets and the first horizontal Topps cards. They seemed so ancient to me that I might as well have been hunting for them in a cave somewhere in Greece. There was no way I'd be able to get my hands on them.
In 1990, 25 years ago was 1965. I had maybe 100 cards from the '60s in 1990. Each of them was difficult to get and not all that easy to find. All of them had an unattainable quality.
In 2000, 25 years ago was 1975, the first year I collected cards. At that point, I still hadn't completed the '75 set (nor cared to at that time). I had lived 25 years thinking completing the '75 set was almost impossible because so many of the cards were so coveted.
Then something changed less than five years ago. Twenty-five years ago didn't mean what it had meant for my entire collecting life. Thanks to the junk wax era of the late '80s/early '90s, cards from 25 years ago were no longer unattainable or mystical and really not all that legendary (except for '89 Fleer Billy Ripken, of course). In fact, the cards were overattainable -- if there is such a word.
This is stunning to me to this day.
A few days ago, I needed to break a $10 bill to pay my daughter back $5. There is an easy way to do this that also satisfies my pack-ripping urge. I went down to the discount store and grabbed 12 packs -- $4 worth -- of 1988 and 1989 Donruss and a single pack of 1991 Fleer Ultra.
That's 12 packs for $4. That's almost 180 cards for $4. That's 2 cents a card.
Yes, I know everyone knows this and I'm not telling anyone anything new. But that blows my mind. These cards are 25 years-PLUS old! I would have knocked down all of my friends to get to a 25-year-old card in 1980.
And not only are these 25-year-old cards much cheaper than any 25-year-old card from any other point in my life, but they are stupifyingly available.
Here it is, almost 30 years later, and I can go down to some non-descript store and see boxes and boxes of 1989 Donruss. Rows of shelves with 1990 Donruss and 1989 Topps. This store probably will cease to exist in maybe another 10 years, yet all of those junk wax cards will still be available. The cards have outlived countless items -- both animate and inanimate -- in our lifetime.
The mind reels with exactly how many cards card companies printed then. They must have printed every hour on every day for five consecutive years.
So, anyway, that's what I thought when I was breaking a $10 bill.
I probably should show you the cards that were in the pack up above.
There you go.
The cards that ruined the concept that 25-year-old cardboard is valuable.