Looking back 20 years shows a lot of changes in the hobby

I’ve been searching for an old advertisement in the SCD archives at the request of a reader/contributor. The lengthy search has afforded me the opportunity to go through a lot of old issues, primarily from 20 years ago.

1991 Upper Deck Chipper JonesTwenty years might not seem like a long time in the great scheme of things – and certainly not in this hobby in terms of collectibles – but what was being advertised back then is a world’s difference from today.

Of course, the hobby circumstances dictated the items on the market at the time, but the overwhelming content revolved around the latest sports cards hitting the market. There were literally checklists for the latest product to hit the shelves, selling cards like 1991 Upper Deck Mark Grace examples for 8 cents.

And it wasn’t just sports cards being offered by the boatload. Trading cards in general were being produced on all manner of subjects. I can’t speak to the times overall (as my head was buried solely in baseball cards in 1991), but were people really clamoring for “The Wizard of Oz” and a 1991 Corvette set? Are you really going to display the latter in a nine-pocket album in your garage next to your ’Vette? There couldn’t have been any investment hopes with that . . . right?

I understand the Internet wasn’t a player yet in this hobby and this was how shops and distributors told collectors what’s available, it’s just so vastly different from today. Manufacturers didn’t have to do any of the work – their dealers did the promoting for them.

There were ads that included a list of players that read, “The following cards are being sold in lots of 50, 100 or greater . . .” I’m curious, what were folks doing with 50 1991 Topps Dave Hollins cards?

This must have been a crazy time of free-flowing money, dollar signs in the eyes trying to pick the right players to invest in and just plain hoarding of cards.

I’m not sure how you would describe it, but this must have been a new era in collecting in 1991. I say that just from looking at ads for different displays and protective products for cards, etc. This was a huge business in 1991. Collectors kept everything, and it had to be nice. Some advertisers promoted how their “double-boxed” their cases.

While previous generations” ofcollectors wanted to keep their cards in good condition, that meant some of the stars in special holders, with the rest in a box. No longer would that suffice. Again, you don’t see a lot of that type of advertising today. The biggest type of protective cases being sold today are through the third-party grading process.

Card shops will list what’s coming from the manufacturers (now a fraction of what was issued in 1991), but you’ll never find a base card listing or or flashy feature like foil stamping being touted today. Today’s game is all about limited-edition singles and the need to have patches or signatures on them to be truly special.

Vintage product was still offered, although greatly overshadowed by the new stuff. Hindsight being 20/20, collectors should have used the money they paid for new cards on the vintage material and they would have been far better off.

A segment of the hobby lacking in ads in 1991 was for any type of memorabilia. Autographs, now so much a part of any auction, are few and far between 20 years ago. Game-used jerseys, bats and awards? Only in the high-end auctions

From time-to-time I’ll look back at other years and share the contents.

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