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What are your baseball cards worth? If they’re from this era, probably not much

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A Mickey Mantle baseball card from 1952.

A Mickey Mantle baseball card is displayed at Heritage Auctions in Dallas, on July 21, 2022. This card sold for $12.6 million at auction on Sunday.

LM Otero, Associated Press

A baseball card fetched the most expensive price ever for a sports memorabilia item on Sunday.

So, are your baseball cards worth anything? That depends a lot on the era you collected them in.

Mickey Mantle card breaks record

A 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card that went to auction earlier this month sold for a record $12.6 million on Sunday. It’s the “most ever paid for any sports item, card or memorabilia,” according to ESPN.

A T206 Honus Wagner card sold earlier this month for $7.25 million, a then-record that didn’t last long. The Mantle card, which was graded at 9.5 by the card-grading company SGC, is “arguably the finest-condition example of the most iconic post-war card in the world,” said Chris Ivy of Heritage Auctions, which conducted the sale, according to ESPN.

What is the ‘Junk Wax Era’?

The Mantle card reportedly came from a “trove” of untouched 1952 Topps baseball cards found in a basement, according to ESPN.

For those who have their own boxes of baseball cards stored away and are hoping for a payday, be aware that there is an era of baseball cards that is particularly not valuable.

It’s called the “Junk Wax Era,” and it’s generally thought of as covering the years 1986 to 1993. That’s when “leagues were over-licensing to anyone who wanted in on the gold rush,” David Gonos wrote for The Athletic.

(Take it from someone who bought a lot of baseball cards during those years — there were all kinds of options at the gas stations. My collection is a grand mix of Topps, Fleer, Donruss and Score brands.)

“Junk wax baseball cards didn’t get their name because they’re rare and valuable. In fact they are quite the opposite,” according to PSAcollector.com. “... Because so many baseball cards were printed between roughly 1987 and 1993, the values plummeted significantly.”

There are, however, some cards from this era that have some value. There’s a consensus about one in particular — a 1993 SP Derek Jeter rookie card. According to the Athletic, “SP was a high-end product from (card brand) Upper Deck.” It comes with a PSA value of $360,000 for a condition grade of 10.

An Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card from 1989 also makes the Athletic’s list. Upper Deck “shook up the collecting world with improved glossy card stock, inserts worth chasing, counterfeit-defying holograms and foil wrappers instead of wax,” Gonos wrote.

What other ‘Junk Wax’ cards have value?

A Google search will deliver several articles and videos on Junk Wax Era cards that have value. If you have a box from this era, here are a few resources to help you know what to look out for: