Monday, November 18, 2019

A Different Kind of Junk Wax Era?

My first baseball cards I collected as a kid were 1987 Topps.

Cutch's rookie season was 2009. He made his debut early June of that year and according to the Trading Card Database he had 123 cards produced that year by Topps, Bowman, Tristar, Upper Deck, and Choice (minor league team sets).  I have 64 cards from that debut season and am missing only cards /50 or less.  At the time of Cutch's call up he was a top 15 prospect in baseball.

The consensus top prospect in baseball heading into this season is Vladamir Guerrero Jr.  He has had 579 cards produced PRIOR to the year of his debut according to TCDB.  So far in 2019, his rookie year MLB debut, he has had 1,495 cards produced.  With a month left in the year, it is very possible to see that number grow more as it has tripled since June thanks to the release of more Topps Now, Heritage High Number, Topps Update, Bowman Draft and Prospects, and many more high end sets produced.  With the hype surrounding Vlad Jr prior to the season, it is no surprise to see card numbers like that produced.  Is anyone else alarmed by this?

Let's look at another rookie who has made their MLB debut this year.  Since Cutch wasn't a top 10 prospect and didn't win Rookie of Year in his debut season, let's look at a similar resume player.  Pete Alonso is the NL Rookie of Year winner so I am going to look at Austin Riley, outfielder/3rd baseman for the Atlanta Braves.  Similar to Vlad Jr he will have another few cards released since appearing in Update, Heritage, BDP, and Now cards prior to year's end.  He currently already has 483 cards produced for this year.

The most popular shortstop of 1987 when I began collecting was Cal Ripken Jr.  He had 60 cards produced that year with brands Topps, Fleer, Donruss, Classic, Sportflics, and many local/food releases providing those quantities.

A rookie shortstop who would go on to have a Hall of Fame career, Barry Larkin, had only 16 cards produced that year.

Kevin Newman, a Pirates rookie shortstop, was having a great year at the plate but would hardly be considered the best at his position in the game despite finishing in the top 10 for the NL batting title.  He already has had 492 cards produced this year.  That doesn't even include the buyback autos for this year's Archives Signature Series Active Player collection.

With all of the parallels being produced in each new release, it feels like we are entering a new Junk Wax Era.  The presses aren't working overtime like they were in the 80s and 90s just pumping out more and more base cards, but for our small niche hobby we collect there are more cards to collect of a player than ever before.

Here are some of my favorite late 80s and early 90s junk wax era themed cards.
 1/1 Superfractors are awesome. Getting one with the 1989 design is doubly awesome.
1989 is a favorite design of mine. I love the simplicity of the set. This Patch card is extremely tough to find.
1993 Topps Finest Refractors changed the game.  A few years ago Topps made a metal version available.

1991 Topps Desert Shield was featured as a parallel in 2016 Topps Archives.  The originals of these cards actually still hold value to this day.
This set started it all for me and this mini perfectly captures the thrill of baseball card collecting.  "Oooooh you almost had it. Keep going"

What are some of your favorite designs from the junk wax era?


  1. I agree that there are way too many parallels being produced now.

  2. My favorite designs were 1987 to 1991. I cannot really pick one over the other.

    I also believe we are in another era of over production. They may not be producing a million copies of a single card anymore, but they are still producing way too much each year. It's just split up between different sets now.

    I guess we'll see...

  3. I started to research a post about the pre-rookie cards of the new upcoming prospects. Amazing numbers of cards, mostly autos, of guys that haven't done a thing yet. May still follow thru on that one.

  4. It is the beginning of Junk Wax 2.0. The companies are paying huge fees to keep the licensing exclusive, so they are running the presses raged to make money.

  5. I'm ready for Topps to give 1987 a rest. Ooof, it's out there so much it's making me dislike it.

    I am all for honoring the old designs, but it's overdone. Between Archives and Heritage, you get 4-5 retreads, and then there are other parallels that add to, plus inserts like "iconic rookie cards, Berger's best, etc."

    Anyways, what I mostly miss is innovation. It's a lot easier to just bring back an old design than do something new, fresh, and exciting.

  6. 1987 Topps was also my first real set that I collected. It still holds a special allure for me.

    I picked up on the rookie card absurdity back when Aaron Judge mania hit the hobby. It's getting to the point where the only valuable rookie cards will be printing plates.

  7. Off the top of my head, I'd say 1987 Topps, 1990 Leaf, 1992 Fleer Ultra.

  8. 1987 Topps was also my first set, so that's my default favorite. I sometimes wonder what if I started to collect in 1986 or 1988, whether I would have continued collecting. I also enjoy 1990 Topps, probably all the colors.

    I thought this time was dubbed the Parallel Era...maybe that's too sci-fi? Junk Wax implies there's cases of unopened 2018 Topps waiting to be sold for $5 in 20 years...