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Sports Cards, NFTs, & Crypto

The Top Unique Sports Cards from the Junk Wax Era

The Top Unique Sports Cards from the Junk Wax Era

by John Roman

A month ago


Overview

The Junk Wax Era refers to the period in the late 1980s and early 1990s when card manufacturers flooded the market with an excessive amount of product, leading to a significant imbalance between supply and demand. Below we outline some of the most infamous and unique cards from the era.

1989 Fleer #616 Bill Ripken "F**k Face" Card

Description: The 1989 Fleer Billy Ripken "F**k Face" Card is one of the most infamous and controversial cards from the Junk Wax Era. The card features an obscene message written on the knob of Billy Ripken's bat, which was not caught during the initial printing process. Fleer realized the ‘issue’ after some cards had already been printed and shipped out. Later versions of the card have censored bat knobs. Despite its controversial nature, the 1989 Fleer Billy Ripken "F**k Face" Card is highly valuable, with mint condition cards.

Price Trends: 

PSA 10

PSA 9

BGS 9.5

SGC 9.5

Raw

Pop Counts:

PSA 10

PSA 9

1989 Upper Deck #1 Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Card

Description: Ken Griffey Jr.'s rookie card is considered one of the most iconic cards from the Junk Wax Era. The card features a close-up shot of a young Griffey Jr. in his Seattle Mariners uniform, with a vibrant design and high-quality printing. The 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card is still highly sought after by collectors. 

Price Trends: 

PSA 10

PSA 9

BGS 9.5

BGS 9

SGC 9.5

Raw

Pop Counts:

PSA 10

PSA 9

1991 Upper Deck SP1 Michael Jordan

Description:  The card is part of Upper Deck's 1990 card set, which has a distinct and eye-catching design. The SP stands for Short Print as these were not printed at the same scale as the rest of the set. The event pictured took place in 1990 at Comiskey Park and made news all over the sports world. Despite being part of the overproduced Junk Wax Era, the 1991 Upper Deck SP1 Michael Jordan card has retained significant value and desirability among collectors due to its unique features and legendary status.

Short Video of card: 

@trecollect 1991 Upper Deck Michael Jordan. this card is a classic. every collector should have one. these were mine as a kid, unfortunately not PSA 10. #baseballcards #sportscards #fyp #ebay #jordan #michaeljordan #ssp #shortprint #psa10 ♬ Bad Bitch - Lexy Panterra

 Price Trends: 

PSA 10

PSA 9

BGS 9.5

BGS 9

SGC 10

SGC 9.5

Raw

Pop Counts:

PSA 10

PSA 9

1990 Hoops #205 Mark Jackson (Menendez Brothers in Background)

 Description: 1990-91 Hoops Basketball card of Mark Jackson (No. 205) has found new notoriety, as it appears that the Menendez Brothers sitting courtside shortly after their infamous crime, this card offers a unique glimpse into sports and pop culture history.

Short Video of card: 

@trecollect the infamous Mark Jackson card #fyp #menendez #menedezbrothers #sportscards #nba ♬ Mysterious - Andreas Scherren

Price Trends: 

PSA 10

PSA 9

SGC 9.5

Raw

Pop Counts:

PSA 10

PSA 9

 1990 Score #697 Bo Jackson

Description: The 1990 Score Bo Jackson #697 is absolutely iconic. The card is overproduced but beloved nonetheless. Bo Jackson was perhaps the most legendary all-around athlete in modern American history. Watch his 30 for 30, "You Don't Know Bo: The Legend of Bo Jackson," to see what I mean. And this picture captures his imposing physique in artsy black and white. And, of course, he is wearing shoulder pads and carrying a bat, representing his unparalleled mastery of both sports. There are no better cards of one of the most memorable characters of an era full of outsized personalities.

Price Trends:  

PSA 10

 PSA 9

BGS 9

SGC 10

SGC 9.5

Raw

Pop Counts:

PSA 10

PSA 9

1993 Topps Draft Pick #98 Derek Jeter Rookie Card

Description: The 1993 Topps Derek Jeter Draft Pick Rookie Card #98 card is a particular favorite, possibly because of its incredibly distinctive baseball diamond background. Unfortunately, this card's downside is so iconic that it has been over-graded. There are no less than 41,000 copies in PSA holders. But there is a reason for that. This card defines the era.

Price Trends: 

PSA 10

PSA 9

BGS 9.5

BGS 9

SGC 10

SGC 9.5

Raw

Pop Counts:

PSA 10

PSA 9

1986 Fleer #57 Michael Jordan

Description: The 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan RC #57 is the most iconic card of the junk wax era and the most famous basketball card ever made. Although "Air Jordan" played his rookie season for the Chicago Bulls in 1984-85, we didn't see a recognized rookie card for this generational talent until 1986-87 when Fleer produced their first basketball card set. It isn't just the evident historical importance that makes this card so iconic. It's also the design and photo. The picture embodies the bursting energy of early Jordan. Back when the man wasn't winning any titles yet, but was a walking highlights reel, putting butts in seats and reviving an all-American sport. And of course, the illogical color scheme is so junk wax. However, the borders are inoffensive and charming. The card is a masterpiece in every way.

Price Trends: 

PSA 10

PSA 9

BGS 9.5

BGS 9

SGC 9.5

Raw

Pop Counts:

PSA 10

PSA 9

1986 Topps #161 Jerry Rice

Description:  Despite being part of the overproduced Junk Wax Era, the 1986 Topps #161 Jerry Rice rookie card stands out as a unique and highly coveted item due to its significance as the rookie card of an NFL legend, its relative scarcity, iconic image, and cultural impact, making it a must-have for many collectors.

Price Trends: 

PSA 10

PSA 9

BGS 9

Raw

Pop Counts:

PSA 10

PSA 9

1989 Score #257 Barry Sanders Rookie Card

Description:  The 1989 Score #257 Barry Sanders Rookie Card has a cheap green bordered design, the awkward smiling grin, and the hideous logo of any card company in an era of ugliness. You just know it has to be a Scorecard. It is somehow everyone's favorite Barry Sanders rookie card. Possibly because Topps featured him in their late release Topps Traded product, by which time everyone had their Score Barry Sanders card in hand.

Price Trends: 

PSA 10

PSA 9

BGS 9.5

BGS 9

SGC 10

SGC 9.5

Raw

Pop Counts:

PSA 10

PSA 9

1992 Bowman Mariano Rivera Rookie Card 

Description: The 1992 Bowman Mariano Rivera rookie card features an unconventional photograph that has raised questions among collectors. Rivera is depicted in a casual outfit, with no baseball equipment or media presence, giving the image a more relaxed, resort-like atmosphere. This unusual choice has led some to speculate that the intended look was akin to "casual golf Fridays at the resort. Despite the peculiar photo selection, the card remains an iconic rookie issue of Mariano Rivera, a first-ballot Hall of Famer and one of the greatest relief pitchers in Major League Baseball history. A gem mint condition example of this rookie card can command prices upwards of $630, reflecting Rivera's legendary status and the card's significance in the collecting world. 

Price Trends: 

PSA 10

PSA 9

BGS 9.5

BGS 9

SGC 10

SGC 9.5

Raw

Pop Counts:

PSA 10

PSA 9

Causes

Overproduction: The primary cause of the Junk Wax Era was the overproduction of Sports cards by major manufacturers, such as Topps, Fleer, and Donruss. These companies produced an excessive number of cards, far exceeding the demand from collectors.

Speculation and Investment: Many people began treating Sports cards as investments, speculating that their value would continue to rise. This led to an influx of new collectors and investors, further driving the demand for cards and prompting manufacturers to increase production.

Consequences

Decreased Value: With an oversupply of cards in the market, the value of individual cards plummeted. Cards that were initially sold for high prices became virtually worthless due to their abundance.

Loss of Interest: The oversaturation of the market and the perceived lack of scarcity led to a loss of interest among collectors. Many collectors became disillusioned with the hobby, as the cards they had purchased for investment purposes lost their value.

Decline in Quality:  To meet the high demand and increase production, manufacturers often compromise on quality. Cards were produced with lower-quality materials and less attention to detail, further diminishing their appeal and value.

Legacy

The Junk Wax Era left a lasting impact on the Sports card industry and collecting community. It served as a cautionary tale about the dangers of overproduction and speculation. Manufacturers learned valuable lessons and implemented measures to control production and maintain scarcity, helping to restore the hobby's integrity and collectibility.

Today, the cards from the Junk Wax Era are generally considered less valuable than those from other eras, but they still hold nostalgic value for many collectors who experienced that time period.