Modern Card Ramblings: Mark Jackson / Menendez Brothers 1990-91 Hoops Card

A unique basketball card from the junk wax era is drawing attention

The 1990-91 Hoops basketball set is nothing special. In general, the highlight is the rookie card of Gary Payton, and that’s really about it. But lately, a common in it is selling for upwards of $20.

1990-91 Hoops was a fine set, really. In fact, it’s what initially got me started on basketball cards. To that point, I’d really only dealt with baseball issues. But but 1990, I had turned 12 and was kind of a big deal. I had a paper route for the first time, was earning some real money, and more importantly, branching out as a collector. The 1990-91 Hoops cards were my start into the world of basketball cards.

So what’s the deal here? Well, simply put, a fool and his money are soon parted. Now, it’s slightly more complicated but that’s what this screams to me.

In case you’re not a walking, talking checklist, you probably didn’t know that card No. 205 in the 1990-91 Hoops set features New York Knicks point guard Mark Jackson. Jackson, of course, was a fine player and a borderline star. But until recently, this was a card you could find in commons boxes with little trouble.

Mark Jackson 1990-91 Hoops Menendez Brothers Basketball CardHowever, it’s what’s in the background of that card that is turning heads. That’s because, seated in the front row are the famous Menendez brothers. On the pictured card here, they are shown circled (my addition, obviously).

If you’re under the age of, say 40, you may not really know who they are. But the Menendez brothers became famous as they were ultimately convicted in the 1989 killing of their parents, who were quite wealthy. Currently, they are in jail on a life sentence.

The card is even more interesting in that it pictures them after the killing — and possibly not that much later. The parents were murdered in August of 1989 and the picture of Jackson, obviously, would have been from the 1989-90 basketball season, which wouldn’t have started until after that. The whole thing is just a little too weird for me to deal with.

Thoughts on when the exact discovery was made are a little fuzzy. But it was certainly known for a little while before major news outlets started reporting it this weekend.

Interesting fact, right? Well, turns out it’s a little more than that. Sales for the card are shooting for the roof (as much as can happen to a five-cent card, anyway). Copies on eBay are selling for $15-$30, or in some cases even more. The obvious question, of course, is why?

Interesting card? No doubt about it. The issue here is that it is abundantly common. Think, like, 1988 Donruss. A bajillion (technical term, not mine) 1990-91 Hoops cards were printed and they are abundant. Dealers have a hard time moving unopened boxes for even $10 and this is among the junkiest of the junk wax era.

Despite all of this, collectors are lining up at the door to get their hands on one. Now, some of those collectors are not really collectors at all. The story was featured today on sites like Bleacher Report and the New York Daily News. Some of these people just learning about the card are likely not collectors and are merely looking to get in on what they see as a tangible investment. The problem for those folks is they literally have no idea of the production run of this card.

You also have collectors buying this card. They, too, are looking to capitalize and hope that this turns into a $50 or $100 card to make a little money.

Both groups, of course, are abundantly wrong about its potential.

Again, these are cards that are not difficult to find. Earlier today, there were about 25 listed on eBay. Now? There are nearly 150. That is just from a few hours of hype. Wait until the news really gets out of the bag and more collectors find out about them.

What’s the likely path here? Well, there’s clearly a boom on them right now. Prices could even initially continue to rise a little as the story gets its peak attention, which is probably going to happen by tomorrow. But it won’t be long before supply outpaces demand here. There could be hundreds of these listed in a week’s time and the fascination on them will ultimately die down.

That’s not to suggest they’ll truly be a common again. Could it be worth a couple of bucks in the long-term? Maybe. But this will be hard-pressed to remain as a $20, $15, or even a $10 card over the long haul. That’s because there are simply so many of them out there. Think about it. The highest card in the set is generally the Payton rookie or Michael Jordan’s base card. It isn’t difficult to find either of those for about $1. My guess is the ceiling for this card can’t be wildly above that.

The prices are high right now as this is a discovery just now being known on a widespread basis. But it shouldn’t take too long to spread and the market will, as it does for everything, adjust accordingly.

My own personal worthless advice? If you’ve got one sell and if you want to own one, wait.

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