When did the “Junk Wax Era” end?

The topic of this post is one that I never really though had much wiggle room, but as it turns out, I was mistaken.

I logged into Twitter this afternoon and found myself in a discussion with a fellow Ben (ourtradingcards) from About The Cards Podcast (@AboutTheCards) about “Junk Wax” era cards. Turns out, we had two different definitions of the era.

Ben defines the era essentially as extending from the 1990s into the early 2000s. This blew my mind a bit because I personally think the Junk Wax Era ended right around 1996. I’m curious where everyone else stands on this? And not because one of us has to be right or wrong — I’m curious how folks go about defining such a period of time in our hobby.

I’ll let Ben speak for himself — so I wont put words into his mouth. But here’s how I see things … again, this is MY opinion. It does not mean anyone else is wrong.

Our Hobby underwent a transformation in the 1980s. Card collecting went from something people do for fun, to something that a new wave of people did to make money. There was a massive influx of consumers who saw dollar signs and believed cards were a sound investment. With that new group of people joining the hobby came a massive increase in print runs, this the beginning of my defined “Junk Wax Era.” Personally I see this has happening right around 1988 — just about the time Jose Canseco made a push for 40-40 and his 1986 Donruss Rated Rookie exploded in the secondary market. Hell, remember, this was before Upper Deck broke into the market in 1989. For that matter, few people knew who Ken Griffey Jr. was and certainly no one could foresee the popularity to which he or his rookie cards would reach.

I digress. Production seemed to skyrocket in 1988 and 1989 and continued to do so until about 1994/1995, an era in which products would go from just containing base cards to the inclusion of chase cards, some of which were damn near impossible to pull. And with few exceptions from Upper Deck, Donruss and Score, there were no autographs and certainly no relics. The end of this time frame also coincides with the Strike of 1994, which caused many fans and collectors to leave the market, and in my mind forced to companies to change things up to keep interest.

The hobby would seemingly change in 1995, as the number of chase cards, parallel cards and number of products released every year seem to increase again. And then in 1997 Upper Deck began including autos and relics in packs, and the quality of products seemed to shift again forward, thus marking the beginning of a new era in my mind.

And so, when I think of the Junk Wax Era, I tend to think of products from 1988 to about 1995, with a little wiggle room on both ends of course — especially on the front end. Junk Wax Boxes in my opinion offer NO CHANCE at hits — because they did not exist in the products — or offer a long shot at something featuring a signature. Also, the boxes were produced after the 1986 Donruss Canseco, which I see as a game-changer.

What say you?

My definition is the one I operate under, and by no means am I claiming it to be the end-all, be all of the hobby. But this discussion on Twitter genuinely intrigued me as I did not know others viewed the term “Junk Wax Era” as extending a full decade past when I thought. I’d agree that there was a lot of stuff from 1995 through 2005, but that’s a different era in my mind.

4 Responses to “When did the “Junk Wax Era” end?”

  1. The title presupposes that it did end! 🙂

  2. I asked this question a few years ago, and the general consensus was that it ended between 1993 and 1995.
    http://royalsandrandoms.blogspot.com/2014/05/baseball-sheep-results-and-contest.html

  3. Brett Alan Says:

    To me, the junk wax era is 1987 through 1994, inclusive, because I just see so many cards from those years (many of which people have simply given me). I can see changing those years a bit on either side, but if the junk wax era was still going in the 2000s, can someone sell be packs from that time at a quarter a pop?

  4. I second 1987 through 1994. there are so many 87 topps cards out there. by the time the strike happened, preorders had shrunk to previously unheard of levels and production went way down. there are a few outliers, like 1993 finest, but to me, those are the years.

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