IT’S TIME TO GIVE JUNK WAX FOOTBALL CARDS THEIR DUE.
Sorry, I don’t normally start off my posts by screaming at people online, but as the pandemic has once again made card collecting “cool” (at least as cool as card collecting can possibly be), much of the attention has been on baseball cards. And yes, baseball cards were my first love, too.
But it’s time we stop ignoring the classic football cards as well, kiddos.
At the height of our global communal shutdown during the pandemic last year, we were isolated, bored, and desperate to find different ways to entertain ourselves. For those of us who were card collectors as a kid, we suddenly found ourselves pulling out old binders and boxes of cards that stopped being valuable 20 years ago.
And you know what? Without the worry of how much the cards were worth and trying to trade for rookie cards and freaking out if one of our 35 Frank Thomas cards had a small nick in the corner, we were able to sit back and enjoy the memories of what it was like to dump all of our allowance into a box of cards and spend a day ripping open pack after pack.
Of course, like with all good things, collectors have taken things to the extreme once again. Card collecting has become a hot hobby, with “flippers” flocking to Target stores and antique malls to buy as many packs as they can and sell them on Ebay. However, there are many of us out there who still enjoy collecting those old packs and ripping them open just for the fun and nostalgia of it.
It may sound stupid, but it’s like a little mini Christmas every time you do.
Card collecting got out of hand in the late 1980s, with Topps, Donruss, Score, Upper Deck, Fleer and others mass producing cards to the point it became impossible to keep up. The market became flooded with billions of cards that were, essentially, not worth the cardboard upon which they were printed. Today, those cards are called “junk wax” because they remain plentiful and are still mostly junk.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to open those old packs or flip through binders that haven’t been touched in 25 years. It’s supremely fun, and it’s time the “junk era” football cards got some love.
For football, the junk era started in 1987. Topps began to mass produce their football cards to the point that none of them are really all that valuable today. The cards released just one year earlier, the ‘86 set, are extremely valuable because they had a more limited run. So, for the purposes of this post, we’ll stick to NFL cards from 1987-94, and take a look back at some of my very favorite cards featuring Eagles players from that era.
1987 Topps Randall Cunningham
I mean, just look at this Randall Cunningham rookie card. Look at the flowing locks. Look at that kelly green No. 12. Look at all those wristbands! Randall’s career was just a sparkle in his eye, his entire future laid out in front of him. Cunningham would go on to become The Ultimate Weapon during the late ‘80s-early ‘90s Eagles teams that thrilled in the regular season but ultimately frustrated in the postseason.
1988-89 Topps Jerome Brown
This is not a valuable card by any stretch, but it’s fun to look back at Jerome, the soulful, far-off look in his eyes as he imagined devouring another quarterback underneath his massive frame. It’s similar to his Topps card the following year...
...only this far-off gaze isn’t as soulful. There’s an anger emanating from his aura. One can only assume when Brown returned to the game the quarterback he was pursuing died from the fear of inescapable doom.
1989 Score Reggie White Predator
1989 was when the football card industry went full junk, with Score and Pro Set releasing cards that year as well. The Score cards, specifically, were not junk because their print run was more limited than Topps’ and Pro Set’s, and the Score cards are really sharp-looking, better than any baseball card they ever produced.
The fact they made a Reggie White card and splashed a “Predator” tag over it is just all kinds of awesome and fun. Lawrence Taylor and others also had “Predator” cards attached as well.
1989 Score Randall and Keith Jackson
This is another super-fun card. Not a valuable item, but this landscape-sized card featuring Randall about to sling a ball to the best tight end in football at the time, Keith Jackson, brings back so many memories.
1989 Pro Set Eric Allen Rookie
Even more than the ‘89 Topps cards, the ‘89 Pro Set defined “junk.” These cards were everywhere. Card stores, drug stores, ice cream shops, auto body repair shops, doctor’s offices, church, you could find these cards everywhere.
Sometimes when a card labels a player as a “prospect,” they wildly miss the mark. Not so with Eric Allen, one of the greatest cornerbacks of his generation and the best corner in Eagles history.
1990 Pro Set Chris Carter
Things really started to get out of hand in 1990. Topps, Fleer, Upper Deck, Pro Set and Score all released football cards this year, and none of them are worth anything.
One year after a pretty blah edition, Pro Set featured the best-looking cards of that year, and everyone who was alive during the Buddy Ryan era remembers the exact game from which this Chris Carter catch emanated. In fact, one of my BGN Memories podcasts specifically focused on this 1989 classic between Washington and the Eagles at RFK stadium, an episode you should listen to as soon as you’re done reading this story. Whoever the photographer was that snapped this photo for Pro Set, you’ve earned your money, sir or madam.
1991 Fleer Randall Cunningham
Sorry, time to include another Randall card, and some of the artistic rendering cards of this era are simply awesome. I’m not sure where those other footballs are coming from, perhaps Randall threw them earlier in the game and he tossed them so hard they traveled around the world and returned back to him. He was THAT GOOD.
1992 Upper Deck Herschel Walker
Herschel was a better player with the Eagles than people remember. When he came to the team in ‘92, he finally gave Cunningham and Rich Kotite’s offense a real threat to run the football, combined with a hard-charging Heath Sherman at the end of the season. Walker went on to play two more seasons in Philly and although he didn’t have another 1,000 yard season, he did become the first player in NFL history to have a 90+ yard rushing TD, receiving TD and kickoff return TD.
1994 Skybox Eagles
Such a sleek design that is so mid-1990s it’s hard to believe Just awesome stuff, even the Mark Bavaro one. I want them all.
Luckily, if you’ve got $5, you can likely have any of these you want.