The early 1990's were not only a boom time for the sports collecting hobby but also a time in which the major card manufacturers really started improving their production techniques. The old expression "it's only cardboard" started to fade away as the cards produced showcased more modern printing technologies. Instead of incremental improvements, the cards stock started getting better and the photo were also better.
Leaf simply did not feel or seem like any cards ever previously released. In addition, the print run was significantly smaller than the other major companies. You couldn’t find them at every corner store.
A shorter print run, a classic design, and some important rookie cards made for an immediate hit among collectors. While today the real key rookie card is Frank Thomas, other cards which were popular at various times included the Dave Justice rookie which exploded in August 1990 and the second year Steve Avery card which became a $15 card after the 1991 post-season.
Then a few years later, during the midst of the famed 1998 home run record chase, 1990 Leaf Sammy Sosa rookie cards were actually selling for more than $100. While today, collectors may find it difficult to believe any card from that set could ever have sold for that amount, in 1998 any price truly seemed possible for the Sosa. Even though the stars of Justice, Avery and even Sammy have faded, the 1990 Leaf set has always maintained collector interest and is our second eBay Set of the Week.
You can often find complete sets of both series I and II for $25-35. A 12-card preview set that included Ken Griffey Jr. and Ozzie Smith is rare and usually sells for over $200 to collectors who specialize in 1990’s material.
You can find a grouping of complete 1990 Leaf Sets here.
I’d love to hear your idea for our eBay Set of the Week. Please include your name and home town and contact me at [email protected].