My post “State Of The Hobby – 1990” was met with positive reviews and even some requests to follow up with more similar posts. As I am a blogger who aims to please, I felt the urge to do so. It also helps that I enjoyed browsing that old Beckett and seeing those 1989 Donruss Rated Rookies priced at that moment in time when I was buying them. If you collected in the late 80’s and early 90’s, I encourage – nay, I demand – you find a Beckett Magazine from that era and just read through it. There are things that you’ll remember immediately and then there are some that you will have totally forgotten about. Those forgotten tidbits are the gems that make the $5 investment worth every penny.
The last post covered the time that Jerome Walton, Ricky Jordan and Ben McDonald were vying for young superstar supremacy with Ken Griffey Jr. By the time this 1991 edition of Beckett was printed, Jr. had left those guys in the dust and a new crop of 2nd year players were endearing themselves to collectors. Guys like Kevin Maas and Scott Erickson were outperforming Frank Thomas and John Olerud in value. Another hot young stud named Phil Plantier was making Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez look like chopped liver. The biggest takeaway from reading this edition was that baseball cards were skyrocketing in value and we were at the very beginning of the bubble that would burst just a few short seasons later.
Perhaps nothing encapsulated card hysteria in 1991 like the card show calendar. The calendar at the back of the magazine was 22 pages long…..22 PAGES!!! There was a card show happening in every state including 1 in Hawaii, 3 in Idaho, 1 in Montana and 1 in the Virgin Islands. There were 143 card shows for November in the state of Texas. This was the height of the hobby that I remember when I was 14. Premium cards were another hot item and they were met with hot and cold reactions from collectors as you’ll see when we get to the “Readers Write” section.
Enough rambling, let’s jump into the card collecting world from November, 1991.
Bo graced the cover of this magazine just like he did in the 1990 edition I covered. However, a lot had happened for Bo since that 1990 Beckett. This cover has him in a White Sox jersey with a card in the lower left that says, “Bo’s Back!” He was about 10 months removed from the hip injury that ended his football career and his time in Kansas City. He was also climbing back up the Hot List as it reveals he was 20th after being 29th the month before.
The inside cover is a wonderful artist rendering of Jose Canseco. I would love to have the actual print of this but I’m sure it’s hanging on Eric Norton’s wall at Beckett at this point. What a beautiful photo!
The first article I read was this gem titled, “Ho-Jo’s Ris-in”. It was interesting because I don’t remember Johnson having numbers this impressive. He had reached the 30-30 club for the third time in 1991 and at the time, was ranked 2nd in franchise history for home runs and 3rd for stolen bases. I don’t remember Ho-Jo being a base stealer but boy, was he ever. He was a prime candidate for NL MVP in 1991 according to this piece.
The second article was on the superstars from the Mississippi State Bulldogs, beating 30 for 30 to the punch by about 25 years. Included in the article was a rundown of Will Clark, Rafael Palmeiro, Bobby Thigpen and Jeff Brantley. As usual there was a baseball card spin to the article that made you want to seek out those cards.
Then we have an advertisement for the Ken Griffey Jr. Arena Holograms cards. This REALLY took me back. I remember collecting Jr. and Frank Thomas in these cards. They took out a full page ad to display them too. This was one of those forgotten gems.
There’s also an interesting article that could get an overhaul since 26 years have passed. “Most Memorable Mashes” covered a list of memorable home runs over the years. 1988 was the last year featured and it would probably be fun to complete the list with what’s happened since. Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols are just a few that have had big time home runs since that time.
· 1951 – Bobby Thompson’s “Shot Heard Round the World” Wins Pennant for Giants
· 1953 – Mickey Mantle hits 565 Ft Home Run
· 1960 – Bill Mazeroski HR Beats Yanks in World Series
· 1961 – Maris Breaks Babe’s Season HR Mark
· 1974 – Hank Aaron Breaks Ruth’s All Time HR Record
· 1978 – Bucky Dent Breaks Boston’s Heart
· 1988 – Kirk Gibson Seals Oakland’s Fate
Here’s a nice spread of Bo’s cards from 1986-1991, surprisingly leaving out the ’87 Topps Future Star.
I then found myself at the “Readers Write” section which was fun to read then but is even more of a blast now. It really gives you a look into what was going through our minds as collectors back then.The first was “Bogged Down” in which a reader blamed dealers for “false increases in newer cards just to pad their pockets.” I think the response from Beckett set the record straight on this one by breaking down demand of certain new cards vs. older rookies.“Speaking Out” and “Speaking Out II” covered the frustration that collectors were beginning to see as pricing for singles, packs and boxes were starting to rise. It makes me miss when $4.00 packs were considered highway robbery.The final piece I found interesting was a question about the 1991 Topps Desert Storm cards. With this being 1991, it seems that no one had a real handle on the production. We were all even less sure of how value would look in the future. Hindsight is 20/20 I suppose.
Before we move to pricing, there was the Hot and Cold list. The Hot List had some familiar names with Frank Thomas (1) and Ken Griffey Jr. (2) but Scott Erickson came in at #3. This was right after his dominant rookie season and the ’91 World Series for Minnesota. Meanwhile, Kevin Maas and Todd Van Poppel were dropping like rocks. It was time to get out of those investments but I held on too long. The Cold List featured some solid names with Jose Canseco (also on the Hot List), Pete Rose, Don Mattingly (Hot List) and Bo Jackson (Hot List). But this is the first indication that we are about to see some disappointed Jerome Walton collectors as he checks in at #7.
There is a lot to cover in pricing because we were experiencing some record breaking prices around this time for sports cards.
1982 Topps – Here we are starting to see Cal Ripken’s Rookie Cards start to take off. It was $52 and climbing as of publication date.
1983 Donruss – Here’s that bump Ho-Jo was experiencing.
1983 Topps – Ryne Sandberg’s Rookies weren’t far behind Cal.
1983 Topps Traded – Holy Cow! Look at that Daryl Strawberry XRC!
1984 Donruss – I had to check back in on the Kevin McReynolds from my 1990 post. I found that it was starting to come back down to earth. Side note – Tony Fernandez RC looked pretty good here.
1984 Donruss – This set was also the home of a $75 Don Mattingly RC.
1984 Fleer Update – This set was still rocking and rolling with a huge $240 Roger Clemens, $185 Kirby and a $120 Doc Gooden.
1986 Donruss – Jose Canseco was hovering at $90 and was Priority #1 on my needs list. It was worth $60 in my last post.
1987 – Topps has clung to that wood grain design for 30 years now and when you look at prices of the sets from that year, it makes me wonder where Topps would have been with a generic design.
1989 Upper Deck – The world famous Ken Griffey Jr. #1 card was worth $13.50 in “State of the Hobby – 1990”. One year later, it had risen to $55.00 and wasn’t even half way to its peak. Hide your eyes Jerome Walton Collectors!
1990 Leaf – For a set from 1990, these prices were astronomical. Frank Thomas was $60 and rising and Dave Justice was $28.
1991 Fleer Pro Visions – I’m not the only one who liked Pro Visions!
1991 Leaf Gold Bonus – These were as hot as a firecracker in November 1991.
1991 Stadium Club – The “Leaf of ‘91”, Stadium Club was turning the hobby upside down with its UV coating and partnership with Kodak. We get our first glimpse at Boston Slugger Phil Plantier at $9 and rising.
The last section of note in this edition is the aforementioned Card Show Calendar. This was pretty unbelievable to see with my 2017 eyes. The card shows were blowing up all over the country! Look at this one spread and multiple that for 22 pages. Totally unreal!!
And what’s a card show section without an example of the autographs you could hit at one of those shows. At a show in Arizona, you could get autographs of Rickey Henderson, Rafael Palmeiro, Ronnie Lott and Roger Craig for a total of $53! There were numerous shows in November that were featuring Frank Thomas anywhere from $6-$10. Do you realize how big of a name Frank Thomas was in November 1991?? He was #1 on the Hot List for a reason!
So as you can see by this revisit to 1991, the sports card industry was reaching unbelievable heights. Card shows were popping up everywhere, card companies were starting to innovate in new and imaginative ways, some of the most recognized players in baseball history were at or near their peak and Bo was Back! Hopefully you’ve enjoyed another look back to the heyday of collecting for me. Maybe you collected at that same time and all of this is refreshing your memory. Or maybe you’re a younger collector and don’t really understand just how big this hobby was in 1991. Either way, the examples listed here should give you a pretty good idea. The fun doesn’t end in 1991 though. I can’t wait to get to ’92 and see what pricing was doing on Donruss Elite!