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Friday, March 11, 2011

Is It Junk-Wax? A reply.

I started writing a comment to Sewingmachineguy about his recent post, and it's kind of grew to a full-out article. So I've moved my response below and expanded it a bit more.

I consider "junk wax" to be basically '86-92, because if you look at the '93+ cards, there was a change from cheap cardboard and serious overproduction to higher quality card stock and design (foil printing, gloss, thicker stock, better photography, etc) and an increase in added value (insert sets, mainly, with the beginnings of inserted autographs and relics).

And even with stuff like '88-'90 Donruss, there are people who want that product. Colbey mentioned kids buying cheap packs, and a $5 case of rack packs. There really aren't any players left on the field from that era but kids can learn a little bit of their favorite team's heritage, and have a cheap way to be introduced to the hobby or build their collection. And while it is overproduced, there are new collectors who will want to collect it, and it does have a place in the history of the hobby.

I remember some time around 1992 or 1993 I took a bunch of photos (which I don't think I have any more, certainly not here with me) of my 1990 Topps extras. I scattered them around one of the family pets for some shots (the theme was "everybody's collecting them!"), and then gathered them up with the title card, arranged them nicely in the fireplace, and proceeded to replicate the fire scene from Gone With The Wind. But that was for fun, and it was a fairly small stack. I love the video on how to deal with junk wax, and in the name of art that video is great.

I have to agree with Colbey on a couple more of his statements. First, I have a very hard time locating some of the cards of the "junk wax" era - actually, many specific cards made after 1985. People either think they're worth much more than they are, or not worth the time to sell at all. Second, I have a *ton* of cards to get rid of. Almost my entire childhood collection, actually. Because I collected everything, and now I collect a little of everything, there are some cards that I just don't want anymore. Plus, after about 1994, I stopped getting rid of my extras - I had no time or means to do so. So there are thousands of cards sitting in boxes that I've not wanted for over 15 years.

Once I finally get those cards back into my possession, I'll offer a lot of it up as trade bait. But I know there's a lot of "junk wax" there, especially 1990 Donruss. Will I burn it? Probably not. I think it can be used instead for donation or an art project or two I have in mind.

By the way, I am looking for some junk wax issues. Check my want lists for sets, and check with me on oddball issues.


  1. When my wife was still teaching 2nd grade I would donate a lot of the cards I didn't want to her "class store" where my wife used them as a reward. She always told me the kids loved digging through the box looking for that one special card or of the team their dad pulled for.

  2. I refuse to use the term "junk wax" on my blog, I prefer the term overproduction era. Sure they aren't the greatest cards ever but for someone my age (33) these are the cards that got us into the hobby to begin with. I'd never refer to anything that started me in this wonderful hobby as junk.

    I didn't have a lot of money growing up so those 35 cent packs of 1986 Topps were the only thing that let me get started. I couldn't have afforded any nowadays as a youngster.

  3. I agree (and mentioned) that these cards were and still are great for collectors with very little money. I'm 32 and while I didn't start until 1989 I know the sentiment - cards from this era have some nostalgia. I mentioned in a comment on another blog that cards from this era are going to become popular again, and I think we're already seeing that. Just as our parents have gone back to relive their collecting days with the '50s and '60s issues, we'll do the same. Topps has been "overproducing" cards for decades (and even made a tribute to it on a card this year) - it's just that now a lot of that era's product is still around due to the change in collecting habits (why throw out or damage that 1989 Score Mike Scioscia card - it will eventually be worth thousands!). I'd love to see a return to inexpensive packs, a full value set with a large base set size - kind of like Opening Day, but better planned out.

    However, I believe the term junk wax has become a label for the era. And it has negative connotations, but it's identifiable, and I think that it more accurately describes the state the hobby was in at the time. It's not that cards were overproduced, it's that they were hoarded and invested in like junk bonds. It was a product of the growing (uninformed, simplistic at the time) investment side of the hobby, where people threw money at everything and expected to be able to resell it for more when their kids hit college. Then, everyone has the cards for the wrong reasons and five years later try to dump the product back on the market. If it had simply been a case of overproduction, then as usual the companies would buy back their boxes and resell them at a reduced rate or destroy them, as they had been doing for years. But the stuff sold.

    I like the term overproduction era, I really do. But I think it puts the blame solely on the manufacturers, and leaves the quick-buck investors out. It's just like junk bonds (nice term: high-yield debt). The overproduction era, to me, really spans from the 1950s through the mid '90s or even later. Just think: if instead of dumping those extra cases of '52 Topps in the river, someone had bought them cheap and put them in a warehouse, and as the value of those cards took off, pulled them back out to sell them? What would the value of that set be today?