The Great Baseball Card Bubble

Dave Jamieson‘s new book (excerpted at Slate) covers the history of the baseball card, including the baseball card bubble of the 1980s and early 1990s. In the 1980s, “As prices continued to climb, baseball cards were touted as a legitimate investment alternative to stocks, with the?Wall Street Journal referring to them as sound ‘inflation hedges’ and ‘nostalgia futures.’” The baseball strike of 1994, and declining interest on the part of children, marked the end of the bubble, and no doubt dashed the secret hopes of many an amateur collector.[%comments]

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  1. Steve Neubauer says:

    As a kid In 1992, I received a pack of Topps baseball cards in my stocking. I had heard of collections going for fortunes, so I decided to leave this particular pack unopened in hopes of cashing in big sometime in the future. I still haven’t opened the pack, but it looks like I will have to wait much, much longer for it to be worth anything appreciable.

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  2. jdiec says:

    This is why I’ve never faulted people for not buying gold in the 80′s and 90′s. I can’t understand why it is a good idea to invest in something with absolutely no instrinsic value beyond being shiny and yellow. That people would choose to invest in something whose primary market relied on the discretionary income of individuals not even old enough to drive just seems worse than even the most irresponsible forms of speculation.

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  3. Dean Champion says:

    Once again, we see that true collectibles of value are those things that originally were thought to have little, if any long-term value. And once deemed valuable, the producers scam the gullible by mass producing crap that is tagged as “collectible.”

    From Baseball cards and comic books to Cabbage Patch dolls and Beanie Babies, to the anything produced by either the Franklin Mint or similar “coins/plates/medallions” manufacturers — they’re just scamming the gullible public.

    When will the public wake up? When will they quit trying to get something for nothing? If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is — DUH!!!

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  4. Greg says:

    I am sure it is a great book, but I know the bubble. My brother and I collected baseball cards in the late 70s. My parents got smart in 1980 and started buying us full boxed sets of Topps baseball cards for x-mas. So we have one set from 80-90. We did get some cards from a family member of ones from the late 60s and 70s. I have seen the price go up and down over the years.

    Really baseball cards might have been one of my first lessons in economics. See I learned quickly that the cards are only worth something if someone will buy them. Also the stores would only buy the cards at a severe discount.

    So they sit in a box in the basement and probably will for a long long time to come. Maybe in 30 years the cards from the 80s will be worth something.

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  5. Ray says:

    Steve,
    Unfortunately you’re pretty much correct – that pack of cards, unopened, is probably worth $2 to $4 today. If they cost $1 back then, that’s about a 5% return on value – not great, but not horrible.

    Currently card prices are a bit lower than they were just 3 or 4 years ago because of the recession. If you want to hold onto them for another couple years they should appreciate to a bit better price (assuming there is a good economic recovery).

    If I recall correctly, back in 2005, packs like yours were selling for somewhere around $4 to $6.

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  6. A Reader says:

    Today you can buy unopened packs of Topps from the 80s for less than they cost back in the day.

    The mass delusion we kid collectors of the 80s and 90s suffered is both hilarious and frightening. Tulipomania meet Sandbergomania.

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  7. keith says:

    The froth of the baseball card market was captured by the collectible card game industry in 1993-1994, via, at first, Magic: The Gathering, then Pokemon.

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  8. Nick says:

    Eventually you realize that baseball cards are just pictures of men…

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