Saturday, October 17, 2015

Best of the Boom Era, Part I: 1987 Topps

As of today, I am going to start referring to the era of Topps sets manufactured between 1987-1992 as the "boom era".  It seems to me that while I was away from the hobby between 1992-2000, the industry assigned a derogatory label to some of my all-time favorite baseball card sets.  These sets now carry little monetary value because of mass-production, not because of any lack of greatness.

The baseball card industry was BOOMING in the late-'80s.  These were the years when the entire nation had suddenly woke up, and finally discovered that the value of their childhood baseball card collections were skyrocketing.  To my knowledge, people were still collecting baseball cards for fun in the '70s.  Dr. James Beckett's first large-scale price guide was printed on an annual basis beginning in 1979.  By the end of 1984, Beckett's "new" price guide became a monthly magazine, and America's first "convenient" source for baseball card pricing data.  By the time I started collecting baseball cards only three years later, these price guides had become like a bible to the industry.  The values for early Topps and Bowman sets had tripled in between those three year between 1984-1987.

Here are the first six editions of Beckett's Annual Baseball Card Price Guide as shown on the first page of a reprinted copy of Beckett Monthly's first issue.    

Pricing from 2/79 to 11/84 to 11/87 to 11/90 to 11/93 to 11/2015:

1948 Bowman: $180 to $390 to $900 to $2,850 to $3,600 and now $5,000
1949 Bowman: $1,100 to $2,500 to $5,500 to $15,000 to $17,000 and now $15,000
1950 Bowman: $420 to $925 to $2,500 to $8,250 to $10,000 and now $8,500
1951 Bowman: $650 to $1,600 to $5,000 to $16,000 to $21,000 and now $20,000
1952 Topps:     $4,300 to $8,500 to $22,500 to $42,000 to $66,000 and now $65,000
1953 Topps:     $350 to $1,700 to $4,500 to $12,500 to $14,250 and now $15,000
1954 Topps:     $240 to $800 to $2,000 to $7,250 to $8,300 and now $8,000
1955 Topps:     $175 to $625 to $1,350 to $5,600 to $7,600 and now $8,000
1956 Topps:     $185 to $625 to $1,500 to $6,000 to $7,700 and now $8,000

The pricing data from the 1979 Sport Americana Baseball Card Price Guide was based on cards in Mint Condition.  Current Pricing data is based on cards in Near Mint condition.

During the "Boom Era", new card stores were popping in extraordinary numbers everywhere.  There was a significant increase in crime and violence associated within the baseball card industry.  People began investing in cards like stocks--actually believing that the cards would someday send their kids to college, or even prepare them for retirement.  People were storing cases of unopened material like they were gold bars in Fort Knox.  It was really crazy.  I read articles in my older issues of Beckett about kids claiming to get ripped off by greedy dealers, as well as young adults suing their own parents for throwing away their childhood card collections.


I think that there was some type of realization that occurred after I had already quit collecting cards in 1991, which probably left a lot of people feeling like they had been "burned" by the misadvertised industry.  Looking through my old Beckett's, I can see that my 1987 Topps set peaked at $42.00 between 9/90-12/90, before plummeting into the depths of oblivion forever afterward.  The entire baseball industry was headed for a crash that resulted in a strike that cancelled a World Series in 1994.  Card prices haven't changed much in over 20 years now.  While many of the older cards held their value, boom era wax fell significantly.

My Boom Era Wax fits into three 1" binders for each set that tends to be color coded for the wax packs the cards originally came in.  I'm still working on the Cracker Jack team stickers for the top 3 teams of each season.  These binders contain the debut set, base set, traded/update set, wax box sets, glossy send-ins, glossy all-stars, and glossy rookies if they exist.  Here's a fairly large sample from my '87T set.

The good thing about the affordable pricing of these great cards is that it's easy to upgrade sets as well as to experience opening original packs, boxes, and factory sets of older material without much investment.  I currently own 13 compete sets of '87 Topps.

I don't have any expectations for these sets to gain any significant value, although I believe they are still very collectible.  I would like to see Beckett update the pricing of individual cards in relation to one another within these sets, however.  It seems that the company hasn't even looked at the individual card pricing for the 1986-1992 sets in over 20 years.  There are Hall-of-Famers listed at $0.05 while rookies that barely even played in the majors are being listed at $0.20-$0.40.  I guess it's kind of like counting pennies, which most people just don't do.  It's obvious to me that much more attention has been given to updating the commons, minor stars, semi-stars, and superstars for the much more valuable older sets.  

I tend to look towards Hall-of-Fame ballot voting statistics for determining player value.  Understanding that almost any evaluation method can be considered skewed, I find that using HOF ballot voting statistics really helps when you haven't seen many of the players in action.  I've compared the statistics to the older sets, and it seems to correlate that players with 0%-5% of the vote during their best year on the ballot receive consideration as at least a minor star,  while those receiving 5%-75% of the vote in their best year are considered at least semi-stars, while those receiving at least 75% are considered stars.  This correlation doesn't exist much for cards from the boom era.  Just a thought.

1 comment:

  1. This is one of the sets I'm slowly working on completing. 1987-1990 Topps, 1989-1992 Donruss as well. The problem I have is I also have separate binders for my Blue Jays and Expos.. So realistically for this to work, I'd need two copies of those cards lol Good thing they're not overly expensive.