Monday, July 11, 2016

The 20-year nostalgia cycle and card blogs

One aspect of card blogging that has always puzzled me is the large number of bloggers over the years who seem to have a great affinity for cards from the late 1980s all the way into the late 1990s.

Yes, it's perfectly natural to have different loves in cardboard, but as somewhat of a card blog outlier who loves everything 1970s, I couldn't help but notice sooooo many odes to Pinnacle and Pacific, tributes to Ultra and Tek, and allegiances to Griffey Jr., Gwynn and Canseco. The card blogs were skewed toward the 30-something crowd and have been since I've been blogging.

Why is that?

I think I've discovered why. Or have a theory anyway.

It's nostalgia. More specifically, the 20-year nostalgia cycle.

Perhaps you've heard of the 20-year nostalgia cycle. It's cited as the amount of time required to produce a steady stream of nostalgia for a particular decade. Growing up through the 1970s and the decades that followed, I've noticed this trend myself.

In the 1970s, there were love letters to the 1950s in the form of movies American Graffiti and Grease and TV shows Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley and Sha Na Na.

In the 1980s, the '60s were everywhere. Oldies radio stations exploded in the '80s and what they played was '60s music. Endless Mamas and the Papas and the Rascals. The movie The Big Chill spawned a relentlessly aired soundtrack of '60s music. Popular shows and movies like China Beach and Platoon chronicled the Vietnam War. And The Wonder Years covered the '60s from a kid's point of view.

The '90s paid tribute to the '70s with the aptly titled That '70s Show, the Dazed And Confused, Brady Bunch and Austin Powers movies, as well as almost every Quentin Tarantino movie.

When the 2000s arrived, I expected '80s tributes and I wasn't disappointed. Rose-colored paeans to Saved By the Bell, Full House and Zubaz pants. This was my indication that maybe nostalgia didn't account for taste. (To be fair, Freaks and Geeks, the most accurate depiction of my high school years ever made, chronicled the start of the '80s).

But guess what else popped up in the 2000s?

Card blogs. And as the 2000s became the 2010s -- allegedly the decade where nostalgia for the '90s is supposed to occur -- more and more blogs paid tribute to cards from the late '80s and the 1990s. This was nostalgia at work! Card blogs are what The Big Chill was, what Good Morning Vietnam was. They are the 20-year nostalgia cycle in action.

And that is why there are so many blogs run by people who are fans of cards from the '80s and '90s. Or at least I think that's why.

I wrote all of that so I could show you some cards sent to me by someone who also has nostalgia for '90s cards, Nick from That Dime Box Blog.

Nick actually covers a wide span of cards, thanks to his excellent taste, but I know he's rooted in the late '90s as well as turn-of-the-century cards.

 Here is a '90s card he sent. This Konerko card and the Brett Butler at the top of the post are about the only '90s cards I received that filled a hole. There weren't a lot of them anyway because Nick knows I gravitate toward other cards.

Good thing we card collectors like nostalgia, huh? Topps makes whole sets dedicated to looking back on those fuzzy, glowing days.

Nick sent me a whole stack of 1979 Topps-style cards from 2016 Archives. I'm trying to collect them all, you know, because I have nostalgia for the '70s (yet, I've never seen the Brady Bunch movies).

These three cards -- take it from someone who collected the 1979 set in 1979 -- best represent the '79 set. Daytime full-body action there, just like '79 drew it up.

This particular card might be one of my favorite of the year. So damn colorful, although there are virtually no night cards in the '79 set.

Not all of the '79s hit the mark. No offense, Junior fans, but nobody in '79 was wearing their hat backwards on a regular basis. Griffey would've been a better fit in the 1991 tribute. Or maybe Archives should start creating Stadium Club tributes. Put a Griffey on a 1993 Stadium Club-themed card. That would work.

Nick is such a thoughtful trader that he sent me two '79 Pedersons, one for the '79 Archives completion quest and one for the Dodgers set. This is how you do it!

More Dodgers Archives. It's obvious that bloggers bought more Archives this year than in past years. I've almost completed the team set already -- except for those three ridiculous SPs, of course.

Some necessary but hardly desired 2016 Series 2 Dodgers. No nostalgia here. There won't be any in 2036 either. Not from me anyway. Moving on.

This makes me happier -- and much more nostalgic. Those are two '80s cards that have somehow escaped me. I look at those and I can hear Tears For Fears in the background. Or maybe it's Spanky and Our Gang. I get my nostalgia mixed up these days.

Sometimes the cards pay tribute to players or moments from so long ago that there is no nostalgia.

I suppose that's how some people feel about the '70s. They have no warm fuzzies for the Bicentennial or Alice's Vic Tayback or Monday Night Baseball because they weren't around then. I pity them a bit. But at least they have their own nostalgia period, as weird as I think some of those things are.

Still, nothing will be as weird as when it's 2026 and grown people are nostalgic for Twilight, Nickelback's Rockstar and Kevin Federline.


  1. Great post!I always remind myself how lucky I am to have been a kid collecting cards In the 80s. Virtually everything In that era is sooo affordable and easy to obtain today.

  2. never really tied the 20 year thing to the nostalgia, but it makes sense now.

  3. I've not heard of the 20 year rule before today, but it makes sense. This Biggio card reminds me of another card in the 79 set. I think it is a Cub catcher, but I'm not sure a don't have my binder handy.

    1. Gotta be Larry Cox.

    2. That's the one I was thinking of.

  4. If that is what people are nostalgic for in 2026, I will remain outside of popular culture thanks.

    Thats a great package of cards from Nick, though -- good stuff all around.

  5. I do often wonder what's going to happen in twenty years when people my age now are in their forties. Surely they won't still like Miley Cyrus and whatever awful sitcom is on TV now...right?

    But anyways, glad you enjoyed the cards! Didn't realize I sent you two Pedersons but glad you needed both. Call it a happy accident. And "Necessary but Hardly Desired" probably sums up Series 2 in one phrase.

  6. I'm wearing Zubaz pants right now! I wasn't born yet in the 70's, so it's hard for me to have much nostalgia for that decade. And if I did have nostalgia for the 70's all the 70's kids would be angry at me for appropriating their decade. They did put out some cool cards back then, though, and I collect them when I can.

  7. I know what's missing from Archives. An OPC version of 1979 cards. "Now with Cubs"

  8. I think the 20 year rule tends to map the distance between intellectual awakening and disposable income.

  9. Can't believe the 20-year nostalgia cycle never occurred to me... even though it was standing right in front of me for the last four decades. It's so true... and a BIG reason I blog is for the nostalgic feeling. As for decades... I'm more of an 80's kind of guy. But since there's so many cool cards from the 90's... that decade is easier for me to blog about.