State Of The Hobby – June 1990

With my recent post on my favorite Beckett Covers, I took out a few that I kept over the years.  If you’re my age, you remember Beckett Magazine before there was internet and eBay and Twitter.  We used the magazine as a Bible for collecting and we were able to keep up with who was hot, what products were coming out and where the next show was.  While I had the Bo Beckett out, I decided to give it another read.  I took my time too.  I started at the beginning, worked my way through a couple of articles, the “Readers Write” section, The Hot/Cold List, the price guide portion and then the show list.  I wanted to take the temperature of the hobby in mid 1990, so to speak.I was very much a part of the hobby in 1990 and I have many fond memories from that time but I wanted to see it in black and white again.  Believe me when I say, it didn’t disappoint.  First, let me point out very obviously that our hobby has changed quite a bit since 1990.  Card companies were printing cards with reckless abandon and we were buying them up as fast as they came off the press.  There is even one forboding comment from a reader in the “Readers Write” section that was a couple of years ahead of its time.  There were some hot rookies at the time that were making waves and forcing collectors to grab up their cards that are now only a part of cardboard folklore.  There were some sets that were just plain bad, even by 80’s standards and the market reflected it.  And let’s be clear about that part as well.  These prices we are going to discuss and the hot players were decided by their play and the market.  This was a sign of the times, not an indictment on the hobby by any means.Cards were popping up at drug stores, convenient stores, grocery stores, you name it.  The LCS was just the pricey alternative in those days.  The packs you got at Wal-Mart were the same as what you would get at a hobby shop; you just paid Wal Mart prices for them.  As you’ll see with one article that I particularly enjoyed, cards were popping up on Home Shopping Channels at this point as well.  Everybody was trying to get in on the action but we didn’t see the train wreck coming, or at least I didn’t.  I was 13 years old at the time and I was just trying to get my hands on as many Rickey Jordan RC’s as I could.  I hadn’t reached the point where I knew ’88 Donruss was oozing out of warehouses like a scene from the blob or that Jerome Walton was going to be a flash in the pan.  Maybe if I had a Beckett Almanac from the future back then!  All I knew was that cards had taken over my life and I was 100% sold just like everybody else.

So let’s look at the hobby as it was in June of 1990.

As we begin this trip down memory lane, how many of you remember this advertisement?  I always wanted this entire collection of books but was only able to score the Baseball Price Guide.  You couldn’t pay me to read a textbook in 8th grade but I would study these publications like my grandma at a book club meeting.

The first article I read was “Top Guns”, which covered the best arms at each position.

  • C – Benny Santiago
  • 1B – Keith Hernandez
  • 2B – Jose Oquendo
  • SS – Shawon Dunston
  • 3B – Ken Caminiti – Dude had a rifle!
  • LF – Bo Jackson
  • CF – Andy Van Slyke
  • RF – Jesse Barfield

They also covered some weaker arms by position.  Some of the names surprised me.

  • C – Craig Biggio – Guess the move to 2nd was warranted
  • 1B – Dave Magadan
  • 2B – Ryne Sandberg – Surprise #1
  • SS – Ozzie Smith – Surprise #2
  • 3B – Bobby Bonilla – Wild Arm
  • LF – Kirk Gibson
  • CF – Gary Pettis
  • RF – Ivan Calderon

The first article was awesome and gave me information I had either totally forgotten or I never knew!  The names took me back immediately and made me realize I was going to enjoy this adventure.

Next, I moved to the “Readers Write” section.  This is where the readers would write in with a question or observation and get responses from various writers or editors at Beckett.  Let me first say that there were some very arrogant readers back in the day.  There were a couple of comments that made me bristle at the tone they were taking.  While some were cringeworthy, others were pretty interesting in hindsight.

First, the one that made me cringe a bit.  It was a comparison between Jim Abbott and Gregg Olson.  But the response was dead on.  Abbott was a starter and Olson was a reliever.  How many relievers have ever looked good in the price guide?

Then there was a reader who was no fan of Rickey Henderson.  I get that his career had not completely played out yet but he was not interested in Rickey being a member of the All 80’s Team.  The whole thing seems pretty laughable today.

The last one I’ll share is the one that is a bit foreshadowing.  M.V. In California seems to have seen the writing on the wall!

Moving on to the Hot and Cold List, this was what we were after in a big way in mid 1990, or either trying to dump.Canseco, Jefferies and Chris Sabo found themselves on both lists.  Bo was the hottest player in the hobby and his cover photo (’89 Score) was one of the hottest cards.  Todd Zeile was in the Top 5 while Ben McDonald and Eric Anthony were in the Top 10.  Delino DeShields was making his first appearance on the list.  In August of ’89, Pete Rose was placed on Baseball’s Ineligible List and his spot at #1 on the Cold List was reflective of his removal from the game.  Sportsflics was getting hammered too but more on them on a moment.

When I got to the price guide portion, I automatically thumbed to certain cards that I remember being on my want list.  While doing so, I stumbled across some that I never knew were as popular as they were in June, 1990.  Again, this is a great indicator of where the hobby was at the time.  The current market always tells the story.  As I said before, the hobby has changed!

The first out of place card I saw was this 1983 Donruss Howard Johnson.  It was running only $2 less than Ryne Sandberg.

What was going on with Kevin McReynolds in 1990 to make his already $12.00 RC be on the rise?  I can’t figure this one out.

In the 1984 Topps Traded set, two American League pitchers were surprises.  Gooden was the obvious stud in the set but Bret Saberhagen at $24 and Mark Langston at $18 didn’t quite hold up.

All collectors from this era remember the ’85 Topps Mark McGwire.  Your window of purchasing this card at a reasonable price was closing fast by this point.

The window had already closed on getting the Canseco at a low level.  He was a bonafide star by this point and the card would continue to climb.

Here’s a name from the past.  Kevin Mitchell was rocking a $9 Fleer card in 1987.  For a 13 year old, a $9 card was as good as a $50 card.

Not to be outdone, Will Clark popped in with an ’87 Fleer valued at $35.  The last 4 players (McGwire, Canseco, Mitchell and Clark) were fresh off of the “Battle of the Bay” World Series of 1989.  Their cards were hot!

Here is where that Beckett Almanac from the future would’ve paid HUGE dividends!  I could have purchased 20 Barry Bonds ’87 Topps and made $2,000 on them a few years later.  This was a true buying opportunity missed!  But at the time, I would’ve traded Bonds and Frank Viola for the Greg Seinfeld RC!

Remember that Sportsflics mention above? This was ’86 and ’87.  This is what we call abandon ship time!!

This ’88 Score Update Mark Grace totally took me by surprise.  He was a hot young player but this card was huge value for 1988.

Want to know just how much Collectors thought of Jerome Walton?  Look no further than the ’89 Score and Topps Traded Sets.  In June of ’90, he was valued at a mere .50 cents less than Ken Griffey Jr. and was the second highest value in the sets.

Speaking of The Kid, this was one of the last times you could get his ’89 Upper Deck for a decent price for a long time!

Finally, ’90 Score brought us a hot young rookie who was just starting to blossom.  Big Hurt’s rookie card was .90 and would not see a 2 digit value again.

The next section of the mag was the show listings.  Shows in 1990 were abundant to say the least.  I just attended my first show in many years this past weekend and wrote about it HERE.  In 1990, you could take your pick on any given weekend within a 50 mile radius of anywhere in America.What I really found striking in these ads were the players that would be present and how much an autograph would cost.  What a time to be alive!

  • Eric Dickerson and Jim Palmer were free with admission
  • Barry Sanders – $7
  • Whitey Ford – $8
  • Willie Stargell – $5
  • Brooks Robinson – $7
  • Johnny U – $8
  • Al Kaline – $7
  • Sterling Sharpe – $5

I wrapped up my review with a read of this article titled, “Beware of Mass Media Hucksters”.  This just screams 1990 and is a perfect synopsis of how mainstream the hobby was becoming.  I tried to scan this so you could read it fully.  Great stuff!

This was our hobby in 1990.  No Twitter trading, no eBay sales to effect the market, names that we’ve forgotten were household names, a chance at Hall of Fame autographs for the price of a pack of cards today and no filter on collectors who wrote in to magazines.  As odd as it all may sound to some of the new collectors, I think I speak for a lot of Junk Wax Era hobbyists when I say it was one of the funnest eras ever!  I miss those days and in many ways, never left them.  Those that follow me know that I am a sucker for ’89 Topps, Pro-Vision and washed up prospects of the 80’s. That’s because it’s what I cut my teeth on.  And we never stray too far from our roots.  Even when those roots are made out of wax paper and high fructose sticks of gum.  It’s just a part of me and always will be.


5 thoughts on “State Of The Hobby – June 1990”

  1. We have a lot of card shows in the Fort Worth/Dallas area. There’s no longer a “Rodeway Inn” there in Arlington. That’s only about ten minutes from where I live.

    Love these old Beckett posts so much. Please keep them up !

  2. Wow – what a difference 27 years can make! Another good read Joey! Funny to see the trends of players who “were good” back in the day! I think what shocked me the most were the price for autographs! Wish I would’ve picked up some more $7 Sanders or $5 Stargell sigs back in the day! Still incredibly reasonably in 2017 dollars: $13.10 & $9.35 respectively! -M. Carlson (SpartyHawk Cache)

    1. Thanks Sparty. Those days were such fun to be in the hobby. I miss them but I think it’s coming back to some degree. Maybe wishful thinking….

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