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Junk Wax Era, 90s basketball cards, basketball trading cards, nba cards

Why 90s basketball cards are worthless – Everything you need to know about the ‘junk wax’ era

The Junk Wax Era of NBA trading cards is a forgotten time in the basketball trading cards industry. While NBA cards rarely get their due in comparison to the MLB counter, there’s been several booms for those who love collecting hardwood cards.

The late 80s to mid-90s was definitely an interesting period to live in. Basketball, in particular, would go on to experience a renaissance of sorts with Michael Jordan leading the way. This surge in popularity would take the sport to a whole new level as more and more people are introduced to it. 

The 90s basketball cards industry, during this time, was also taken along the ride. This resulted in a massive increase in people entering the hobby and starting to collect basketball cards, giving birth to the Junk Wax era.

What is the Junk Wax Era exactly?

Junk Wax Era, 90s basketball cards, basketball trading cards, nba cards

The hype surrounding basketball reached an absolute high between 1987 to 1994. These were the years when Michael Jordan has fully ascended as the face of the NBA, the Dream Team dominated the Olympics and Shaquille O’Neal entered the league through the NBA Draft. As such, the high interest in basketball spilled over to the card industry, leading companies to print more supply to keep up with the increasing demand.

During this time, Fleer, Upper Deck, and Topps produced a boatload of products to satisfy the huge influx of people entering the hobby. This trend reached its peak in 1993 when O’Neal was drafted first by the Orlando Magic, leading a lot of people to chase his rookie cards. As a result, the market was flooded with so much supply that it greatly diminished the value of these cards.

After 1994, overall interest in basketball cards would slowly fade away. Unfortunately, those who have invested heavily in sports cards during this time would be left with a lot of supply that would have no value at all.

Is it wise to invest in cards from the Junk Wax Era?

There’s always a chance to find something valuable from these cards if you know where to start looking. Just keep in mind that if the card doesn’t feature a rookie or a key player, like Jordan or O’Neal, you shouldn’t pay a lot of money for it. More often than not, you’re going to encounter a lot of worthless cards that were made during this era.

When buying cards produced from this era, it’s best to take a close look at their condition. Since they’re more than 20 years old, most of them will have dinged corners or scratched surfaces, among others. Better ask for closeup images so you can make an informed decision on whether to purchase these old cards or not.

When to buy Junk Wax cards and how to make money out of them

The best time to invest in old cards is during the regular season. That’s because the hype surrounding modern cards isn’t that high and people are looking at other segments of the market to focus on. During this time, it’s best to scour the market for amazing deals on junk wax cards.

Again, when you’re in the think of hunting those cards, it’s best to go for cards that feature the hottest rookies and All-Stars at that time. Apart from O’Neal and Jordan, the notable names to keep in mind are Scottie Pippen, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, and David Robinson, among others.

Finding a clean and undamaged junk wax card can be quite a challenge. In the event you stumble upon one, it’s best to have it graded right away. Doing so would preserve its condition and increase its value by a lot. Take Pippen’s 1988 Fleer rookie card as an example.

A raw copy was sold off just this week for $40 while a PSA 9 reached $615. As you can see, the price difference between the two is very high and it could mean a good profit in store for you. Remember, though, that you will need to spend a lot of time, energy, and money to generate a return to your investment when dealing with junk wax cards.

The verdict on junk wax cards

With the reasons stated above, it’s best to be wary when dealing with cards manufactured during the Junk Wax era. It’s best to research heavily on what they’re worth and practice a lot of caution at the same time. In doing so, you will be protecting your hard-earned money by preventing any worthless purchases.

On the other hand, there’s also the chance to hit it big with these old NBA cards. There’s a part of the market that appeals to them and this is where you should focus. If do you end up with a great find, like Shaq’s definitive rookie card, you’re going to find a lot of interest out there.