That 1980s stuff may not be ‘junk’ anymore.
The 1980s get no respect. Enough time hasn’t gone by for it to really be considered "nostalgic". The music is sometimes ridiculed (but hey…let’s remember U2 was born during this time period). And while it’s not as bad as the abuse heaped on 1990s stuff, the sports cards of the ’80s are looked at with disdain by everyone who didn’t grow up then.
I was a college kid and then a young professional during that time and I can tell you there was a lot of excitement in the hobby, even if only a handful of cards produced during that era are worth much now. We went from one manufacturer (Topps) to three in the space of a few months. The products were primitive, but the number of people collecting or investing was growing like crazy. Rookie card speculation was already going on in the early 80s. The thirst for new products was almost insatiable.
When the new companies came aboard, so did a flood of smaller sets, each one hotter than the last. Fleer Star Stickers were some of the least interesting cards on the planet but people went crazy over them.
I remember going to a show just as the 1983 Donruss Action All Stars were released. Thanks to a Dad who worked in the supermarket business, I had a distributor contact. We bought a case, sorted half into sets and sold the other half as boxes. The cards were so unique, so different for the time that we sold out in about an hour. I think they were $6 each, which is about what they’re worth now.
This stuff is dismissed by true vintage collectors (and I count myself in that group), but here’s something to think about if you’re someone who sells. The eight year-olds of 1983 are now in their early 30s. They’re starting to accumulate some disposable income, maybe even have kids of their own. Stuff produced in the 1980s may be junk to you but it’s nostalgia to them. It would be wise as you sit behind the table at a show to remember that. Making some smart-ass comment about the 1980s "junk" probably isn’t the smartest thing to do if that’s what your customer is looking for.
There was a lot of it produced and you won’t get rich selling it on eBay but read a few message boards and you’ll know there are still a lot of people out there who like this kind of stuff. Sometimes they even get it graded. Not for the value they think they’re getting but because they just like it. Or remember it. Dress it up in a slab and it doesn’t look bad.
The 80s were also home to a flood of regional sets, "police" sets, food sets and ballpark card giveaways. They, too, haven’t earned much respect because they’re not mainstream, but that’s how many 1980s kids were introduced to our hobby. You think your Joe Montana rookie card is special? Try finding the Holsum/Gardner’s disc. Montana with a fu manchu. Now that’s cool.