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Looking Back at Unopened Product Prices in 1997

I’ve written about Mark Murphy a few times before on the blog. He was a prominent dealer of unopened sportscard items in the 1990s. Recently, a collector ran across one of Mark’s advertisements in a 1997 Sports Collectors Digest publication and shared them. I thought it would be interesting to compare the cost of some of the items Mark was selling in 1997 to the prices the items go for today, understanding that we have had an absolute explosion in the cost of unopened material the past few years.

First, let’s look at the “Specials & New Items” then and now.

1997 Baseball Card Kid Advertisement

1992 Bowman Hockey Wax Box: $225, Now $110

1987 Fleer Basketball Wax Box: $950, Now $20k+

1986 Topps Hockey Wax Box: $395, Now $2500+

1987 Topps Hockey Wax Box: $125, Now $500

1989 Upper Deck Baseball Factory Set: $160, Now $125-$150

1978 Topps Baseball Wax Pack: $15, Now $200

1962 Topps Baseball 5 Cent Wax Pack: $250, Now $2500-$3000

Now, let’s look at some of the items that have photos.

1997 Baseball Card Kid Advertisement – Featured Items 1
1997 Baseball Card Kid Advertisement – Featured Items 2
1997 Baseball Card Kid Advertisement – Featured Items 3

1991 Topps Stadium Club Football Wax Box: $110, Now ~$75

1960 Leaf Marbles Wax Pack: $150, Now ~$325

1986 Donruss Baseball Wax Box: $49, Now $175

1991 Stadium Club II Baseball Wax Box: $22, Now $20

1990 Leaf II Baseball Wax Box: $245, Now $180

1986 Fleer Basketball Wax Pack: $160, Now $3500-$4000

1978 Topps Baseball Vending Box: $195, Now $2500

1985 OPC Hockey Wax Box: $1150, Now $15000+

1983 Topps Baseball Football Wax Box: $49, Now $500

1983 Donruss Baseball Wax Box: $85, Now $400

1975 Topps Baseball Cello Pack: $60, Now $600

1979 Topps Hockey Wax Pack: $39, Now ~$1000

1992 Bowman Baseball Wax Box: $170, Now $600

1994 Upper Deck SP Baseball Wax Box: $179, Now $110

1960 Topps Baseball Rack Pack: $450, Now $9000+++ 

1974 Topps Baseball Wax Pack: $40, Now $350

The situation is similar beneath the photos in the spreadsheet-style listings. A few items that stand out (the picture cuts off most early-year baseball, unfortunately).

1997 Baseball Card Kid Advertisement – Full Page

1954 Bowman 5 Cent Wax Pack: $500, Now $5k+

1982 Topps Baseball Wax Box: $159, Now $600

1989 Upper Deck Baseball Low # Box: $135, Now $400

1956 Topps Football 5 Cent Wax Pack: $225, Now $1000

1969 Topps Football 5 Cent Wax Pack: $125, Now ~$1800

1981 Topps Football Wax Box: $375, Now $2800

1986 Topps Football Wax Box: $375, Now $3500

1970 Topps Basketball Wax Pack: $175, Now ~$900

1971 Topps Basketball Wax Pack: $350, Now $3000+

1989 Fleer Basketball Wax Case: $450, Now $6000

1988 Topps Hockey Wax Box: $119, Now $400

Clearly, most items have gone up a lot in price. My takeaways are:

  • It’s pretty clear that the older the item, the greater its price growth. We have learned what items are truly scarce.
  • While most items have had explosive price growth, not all items have. This is particularly true compared to inflation as $170 today is equivalent to $100 in 1997. For example, 1991 Stadium Club Football and 1992 Bowman hockey boxes are cheaper now than they were in 1997.
  • A lot of price appreciation has happened in the past few years. For example, 1989 Score Football boxes were listed for $315, and they were that price until about three years ago when the prices of all unopened skyrocketed.
  • Also, my goodness, I knew the early Jordan era basketball prices went up a lot the past two years, but it’s been over 20x in pack prices since 1997!

Thanks for reading. Please let me know if anything stands out to you down in the comments or over on Twitter.

Happy collecting!

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