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Old 04-29-2012, 08:01 AM   #1 (permalink)
Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: Bay Area
Posts: 226
Exclamation ** Demand/Value of 90's Inserts **

There have been lots of talk/debates and unbelievable sales throughout the past 3-4 years regarding 90's inserts (especially Michael Jordan) as most of the Basketball hobby world knows by now. I wanted to share my input from personal experience, my history in the hobby, research, as well as many other collectors around the world that have shared their stories with me. For those who don't quite understand why the hobby has turned the way it has... maybe this will shed some light and help you understand why the demographic of 90's insert collectors/dealers collect and spend thousands on things they do.

Let's please keep it civil and conduct mature conversations/debates.

First off... the 90's was absolutely THE GOLDEN ERA of Basketball cards period. It was the first decade to introduce real inserts, parallel inserts, game used cards, auto's and Serial #'d cards. The Pioneers of modern basketball cards. And as we all know in the collector's world... it's the first print or the first edition of anything that's worth the most. Not the ones that followed or mimic it later on. One of the very first real parallel inserts were from the 1993-94 Finest set with their Refractors. Turned the hobby world upside down and I remember these Refractors were the hottest thing in the hobby. That's really what started it all. The first game jersey cards were introduced in the 1997-98 Upper Deck sets with their Game Jersey cards and the infamous Jordan Jersey Auto card. The first ever GU Auto card that revolutionized Basketball cards and lead the way to how it is now. Also, 1996-97 & 1997-98 cards were the MAIN years where rare Serial #'d cards were first introduced. Not only were base cards mass produced during this time, but some of these inserts had ULTRA high odds compared to modern cards now. Very rare when you compare. Odds such as 1:50,000 packs and so forth. Almost impossible to pull unless you had unbelievable luck. You'd have to literally open thousand and thousands of packs to even have a chance at pulling one of your desired player. This decade is when Basketball cards really bloomed. That including the popularity of the NBA with a guy named Michael Jordan and the Bulls that DOMINATED the game for that entire decade. A global sports icon unmatched by any.

It's almost too perfect as the popularity of basketball card collecting and Michael Jordan's NBA success went hand in hand. What coincidence that all these inserts, GU Auto's and Serial #'d cards were first introduced during the height of Jordan's career as a Bulls right before he left. A very small window of time that overlaps the career of the Greatest of All Time and the introduction of such inserts. Just 2 years only from 1996-1998. So in reality, only these 2 short years consisted rare GU/Auto/Serial #'d inserts that featured Jordan while he was STILL playing as a Bulls which just so happens to be the first of it's kind. Twice the reason for such HIGH demand.

And to add... this demographic of collectors consider TRUE MJ cards or any player card for that matter... cards that were produced and released DURING the player's career in their respective sports. You can agree or disagree, but as an example... a Babe Ruth collector would consider his 1933 Goudy card a true Babe Ruth card and not his 2000 Upper Deck Game Used Bat Babe Ruth card. That would be more of a "Tribute Card" than a true Babe Ruth card. So for MJ in the BULLS uniform... it's these short span of years during the 90's.

Another very important but many times neglected fact is that the game of basketball card collecting was COMPLETELY different back then compared to how it is now. There were more kids that collected and bought packs/boxes at their local card shop than there are now. Needless to say, cards were also handled much differently back then. Lots of kids stored their cards in shoe boxes, tied in rubberbands, binders, shoved into bicycle wheels, etc. Many of them also outgrew the hobby and have either given them away or threw them out over the years. Sometimes even their moms throwing out old boxes and so forth. Cards were MUCH more prone to being damaged, lost or thrown away. Fast forward 15-20 years to today... collectors now spend a whole lot more on cases and packs. Packs that cost $300-$500 where no ordinary child can afford. No doubt, it's an adult oriented market now. In addition, when these cards are purchased by these adult collectors and a rare card pops up... they get it graded or place it in strong sturdy cases almost immediately. Stashed away in a safe place. Hardly any get thrown out by accident or shoved into a shoebox, never to be found.

Which brings me to my next point. A rare 90's Serial #'d insert numbered to /50, compared to a 2005-06 GU Auto Patch card Serial #'d to /50 is also very different in comparison of scarcity. Sure the production numbers are the same at 50, but chances are that A LOT more of the 15+ year old 90's inserts were damaged, lost or still stuck in boxes in a shed somewhere throughout all the years. Some may call that an assumption, but most would agree that this is true. Again, it's a totally different game today than it was back then. Collectors will immediately store rare cards away in modern collecting. Collectors and kids back then did not. At least not nearly the same amount as they do today. Some didn't even know the difference between a base card and a rare Serial #'d parallel insert.

Now I'm not bashing modern cards by any means. Some of these Exquisites and NT's are very nice and I someday wish to expand my collection with these. But Game Used cards, Auto's and Serial #'d cards are WAY too over-saturated now. You're almost guaranteed one of these in every pack/box. They're more common now than EVER. You can open a Beckett anytime of the year and see the small amount of GU Auto cards/Serial #'d cards there were in the 90's compared to the exponentially higher amount you see after 2000+ and up. These cards were quite SPECIAL and very limited in the 90's. Michael Jordan Auto cards were worth thousands and considered one of the rarest you could get. Now-a-days, you can find TONS of MJ Auto cards, GU cards and Serial #'d cards from 2000+ and up for as low as $100 bucks on any given day online. Sometimes even lower. And it's quite evident that Serial numbering has been abused as well. There are 1/1's everywhere now and many different versions of them. It's borderline sad how every other card has a game used jersey piece or an auto. Even at the recent Tri-Star show in SF, I would see boxes and boxes of modern cards in $10 dollar bins that ALL had some sort of Game Jersey or Auto on them. It's definitely lost that "specialness" or aura that they used to have in the Golden days. Not saying they're not special anymore... but at least not in the same sense as they were during the beginning.

Add to all this the NBA lockout and Panini taking over. Things like expired licenses that allow cards of Jordan in the Bulls uniform. In uncertain times of the NBA, the hobby, and even during one of the worst economic recessions... only one player came out stronger than ever. Michael Jordan. His cards/memorabilia are untouched by whatever that goes on. His legendary legacy is already sealed in history and is widely conceived as the Greatest of All Time. He was named the Athlete of the Century and is on the top of endless stats lists. Every new superstar is compared to his greatness year after year. His popularity STILL surpasses almost EVERY current player which is evident on social media website followers, search words on Google, etc. even after a decade of not playing a single sport. The only athlete to STILL come out with new shoes every 6 months that's always on the #1 list at your local foot locker. People camping out in lines to purchase a pair. Sometimes even stabbing someone for Jordans. You go to a mall on any given day and you will see Jumpmans plastered everywhere. T-shirts, sweats, hats, jerseys, backpacks, etc. No other athlete has had and continues to have such a huge market than Mr. Jordan. His name is mentioned all the time in current NBA games and even in other sports/categories. The "Michael Jordan" of... etc. Simply, the Greatest of All Time. Michael Jordan is to Basketball, as Babe Ruth/Mickey Mantle is to Baseball. Muhammed Ali to Boxing. Wayne Gretzsky to Hockey. Pele to Soccer. etc.

If you've been in the Basketball card hobby since the 90's, you will know that MJ was always the most valuable/expensive player to collect. It was always evident at your local card shops and their sticker prices, Beckett magazines, Tuff Stuff price guides, etc. A lot more valuable/expensive than the next most valuable player card on the list. It's always been like that and still is today for the most part. People or kids that collected back in the 90's have all grown up now with careers and have disposable income. They finally have the money to afford and participate in the market whereas back then, there was no way you could even think about spending $100 bucks on a single card, let alone thousands when you're just a kid. There's also Nostalgia that plays a big role in one of the reasons why people love to collect 90's inserts.

If any player... past or present has staying power... it's Jordan. The hobby has witnessed and knows this truth. One of the many reasons why Jordan cards have always been worth the most above all players. Many potential stars have come and gone. Every new blazing rookie receives HOT buzz in the beginning and many fall short. Always compared as being "the next Jordan" only to fall short everytime. To many collectors, Jordan cards are the safest player to invest in. His legacy is already finished and established as the best of the best. Sure it's very expensive to begin with, but there's smaller risk of MJ's key cards dropping drastically in value/demand as opposed to a new Rookie star that has yet to prove himself completely till his retirement. Injuries, stats, championships, etc. can all change the outcome. Kobe also has the staying power. Not quite up to Jordan but still far above most other players when it comes to cards. He's proven himself as being the best in today's game. Has the championship rings and stats to back it up.

I'm still leaving out a bunch more reasons... but all of these things added up should give you an idea why 90's inserts have been the way they are and most of the time valued MUCH higher than modern cards that have all the bells and whistles to help their value like Game Used Pieces and Autographs.

Of course people are entitled to have their own opinions about anything no matter how the world is. That is why there are people who badmouth the whole thing and all the collectors/dealers that participate in this market. But no one can deny that there are hundreds and thousands of collectors around the world that ARE devoted to 90's inserts for many of the reasons mentioned above. They participate from $10 inserts all the way up to $50k+ cards every second of the day on eBay/Forums/Auction houses/Private sales. Sure there are some shilled and faked auctions that are very obvious to everyone... but that exists EVERYWHERE. Not only Jordan/Kobe/Exquisite cards, but Chris Paul cards, Derrick Rose, Sydney Crosby, Mickey Mantle, Beanie Babies, Chanel Purses, Electronics, Paintings, Jewelry, etc. There's ALWAYS going to be foul play in any business market somewhere along the way. But when the market is going the way it has been without slowing down for 3+ years with thousands of cards selling each day by countless participants (still record prices and strong sales every week), you can't deny the fact that it is really happening. At least a good chunk of it. Some conspiracy driven people think the entire market is being manipulated by a handful of frauds. Some think it all started by a single sale of a PMG Red which was sold for over $11k a couple years ago. They argue and say that there's no way a card that was sitting stale at $550 dollars a few years ago is now selling for $14k. Calling everything or almost everything fake, even when these deals are proven by maildays on forums and evidence is apparent that the sale really took place. It really frustrates ALL the people who have been participating in it honestly and diligently.

Some say once all the high rollers purchase all the rare cards and exit the market, the bubble will pop and prices will fall back down from thousands to a few hundred. That is highly unlikely. With the amount of high end 90's collectors out there, it will never go back down to a mere hundred or two. PMG's, Credentials, Rubies, etc. go back down to hundreds? I highly doubt it. There are just way too many high end 90's collectors around the world that will continuously participate. Look at it this way. There will always be far more collectors wanting these cards than what's listed on eBay or online marketplaces at any given time. You will never run out of people wanting them.

It's impossible to manipulate an entire market. No one person or a group of people can have the power to change thousands of collectors around the world to participate heavily like the way it has been by a few fake sales here and there. People are not stupid. There are brilliant minds that collect and spend thousands on high end 90's inserts that are FAR FAR from being ignorant and stupid. If anything, they are more investment minded folks that have all succeeded in their businesses or careers. That's calling everyone of them out. Another thing that isn't openly talked about is what will happen when Jordan passes away. God forbid that happens anytime soon... it's bound to happen at some point. And when it does, many believe that it will be the BIGGEST price surge the hobby has ever seen. The crazy high prices we've seen over the years might seem small compared to later years when the G.O.A.T. passes on.

There are of course personal reasons why people collect what they do. But these are some of the reasons why the huge demographic of 90's insert collectors collect and spend lots of $$ doing so.

Anyways, I know it was a long read but it's always been on my mind and it's quite surprising how most collectors I've ran into all think alike and have similar stories.

Below are some recent articles that speak about 90's inserts and the open market. A fun read for those who are interested:

Beckett Open Market Watch:

July 2011

Sept 2011

Jan 2012

March 2012

May 2012

A fun article comparing past Legends to current Stars.

Last edited by Rare23air83; 04-29-2012 at 10:04 PM.
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Old 04-29-2012, 08:59 AM   #2 (permalink)
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wow, thats over 2500 words
can someone please make a summary after finishes the reading...
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Old 04-29-2012, 09:00 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Nice post !...
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Old 04-29-2012, 09:17 AM   #4 (permalink)
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a Babe Ruth collector would consider his 1933 Goudy card a true Babe Ruth card and not his 2000 Upper Deck Game Used Bat Babe Ruth card
a base ruth card would be considered a tribute card..not a gu ruth....
and even with jordan, his post 2002 cards that arent gu should be tributes..but people dont think that way...
look at the price of his base exquisits..

i collect basketball patch cards..
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Old 04-29-2012, 04:18 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Very informative, First refractor and GU came came out of this decade. Those Jordan cards will always be in people's want list.
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Old 04-29-2012, 05:03 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Edit double post

Last edited by MarkPacers; 04-29-2012 at 05:07 PM.
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Old 04-29-2012, 05:04 PM   #7 (permalink)
Join Date: May 2011
Location: Indianapolis
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Gosh, great read. Very impressive. I'm glad you touched on the whole "once the high level collectors get what they want, they will leave the market and priced will fall" argument. I think that is so ridiculous. Anybody who has take a basic economics course can tell you that when there is a decrease in supply and steady demand prices will rise. So if what these people argue is true, these people will buy these high end rare cards, then leave the market thus reducing supply. Therefore price should increase, not decrease, given a steady demand. I guess there argument hinges on a decease in demand, but I for one don't see that happening anytime soon.

All that said, I don't really collect Jordan and never was really a fan. Like it or not though he was the best player that ever played and if demand for his cards drop then demand for all cards will be mirroring that.
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Old 04-30-2012, 05:31 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Thanks fellas. Glad you enjoyed the read.
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