The '90s were an interesting time to be a collector. The internet was gaining steam and suddenly, it was easier than ever for buyers and sellers to connect. Price guides like Wizard and Beckett were becoming staples of their industry, and people were starting to realize that some of the junk they accumulated in the preceding decades had become rare, desirable, and valuable. No longer was the speculation game confined to the niche convention circuit. Baby boomers tore into their belongings to unearth hidden gems.
In 1991, hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky made a high-profile purchase of the world's most prominent baseball card. Collectibles became seen as investments. Speculation markets grew quickly, but the sudden upswing in popularity had three major consequences.
1. While demand may have exploded, supply went supernova in response. The producers capitalized on their sudden popularity by flooding the market with an obscene glut of product.
2. People stopped discarding anything with the slightest potential for appreciation. As a result, less items became scarce.
3. When the internet became commonplace and the seller pool expanded to be international instead of local, values plummeted.
Decades have passed, nostalgia has set in, but values haven't soared the way investors had hoped. To make matters worse, a lot of the things that attracted speculators were crappy products to begin with. Nothing was as rare as it was perceived to be, and some of us were left with attics, basements, and our very childhoods stuffed with the worst collectibles of the '90s.
Oh, and that baseball card Wayne Gretzky bought that started all this? It was a fraud.