Most collectors these days know of the junk wax era. Despite their age, these late 1980s/early 1990s cards generally hold little value. That doesn’t mean you should abandon them entirely, however. 2016 marked the 25th anniversary of 1991 sports card releases and there are some quality finds that have stood the test of time. Here are five worthwhiile rarities from that year in no particular order.
During the Gulf War, Topps distributed special boxes of baseball cards (enough for approximately 7,000 sets worth by most counts) with special gold foil logos to servicemen and servicewomen overseas. Because of that, many of the cards never made it back home to the U.S. and are rare compared to their regular 1991 Topps brothers.
Chipper Jones’ rookie card is the key card in the set and it surely isn’t ‘junk.’ Even cards rated NM 7 sell for several hundred dollars. There are several for sale and auction now, including some graded higher. That’s much more than his regular Topps issue, which is generally available for about $1.
With all due respect to Favre’s 1991 Star Pics autographed rookie card as well as his more common 1991 Stadium Club rookie, this is the holy grail when it comes to first-year cards of the all-time great. This card was available in packs and could be exchanged for 1,000 individual Favre cards if so desired. Wild Card wasn’t around for very long, producing its last football card set in 1993. Few of these 1,000-stripe cards were produced and considerably fewer exist today since many collectors no doubt mailed them in to claim the individual cards.
They aren’t impossible to snag but are difficult to find. And when you do come across one, the price tag is usually steep. One actually sold this week on eBay for about $2,550. A while back, a PSA 10 recently topped $10,000.
Never heard of the 1991-92 Fleer 3D acrylic cards? Don’t be embarrassed because you’re not alone. Most collectors passed on this promotion to mail-in a few bucks and some Fleer wrappers in exchange for one of these. Because of that, they aren’t easy to find. You will generally find a few floating around but are in general, tough cards. The best one of the bunch? That would be any one of the Michael Jordan cards – and there are four to choose from, including his base issue, All-Star card, League Leader, or Team Leader.
Other key cards from the set include rookie cards of Larry Johnson, Dikembe Mutombo, and Kenny Anderson. But while those can be had for considerably less, Jordan cards like these will require a bigger investment. There are a few on eBay now.
4. Mickey Mantle 1991 Score Autographs
hrough a special promotion with the Hall of Famer, Score produced 5,000 seven-card sets of the former Yankee slugger, which were distributed to dealers and media. A total of 2,500 cards were hand-signed and they, of course, quickly found their way into the general public. These cards are still very popular with collectors but due to the small quantity available, are not always easy to find.
There are usually a few on eBay at $500 and up. It is worth pointing out that collectors eager to purchase one should be wary and ensure they are buying a Score-certified example. On the backs, the cards state the autographed versions are numbered to only 2,500. A regular Mantle card that was later signed by him is still valuable. However, those do not have the same premium as the signed cards a part of the promotion that were certified by Score.
5. Nolan Ryan and Hank Aaron 1991 Upper Deck Autographed Inserts
Rounding out our list of the best 1991 sports cards are a pair of early autographed insert cards from the legendary Hall of Famers. While commonplace these days, autographed inserts weren’t too common 25 years ago. So when fans had the opportunity to pull an autographed Nolan Ryan or Hank Aaron card from a pack, there was extraordinary interest.
The cards are cool ones at that. The Ryan issue features him with each one of his four teams and with him throwing a football. Aaron’s card depicts him with both the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves. The cards were a part of Upper Deck’s Heroes inserts, which included some of their career highlights. Each player signed a total of only 2,500 cards.
Looking to buy one? It’s probably best to stick with a graded version. They’re available here for $200 and up, depending on the grade.