Let's go back to the early 1990s, when my wife Celeste and I decided to invest in quite a few cases of Topps baseball cards. We thought we were going to hit a home run to pad our retirement.

Instead, our investment melted into "junk wax." It's a card collecting term meaning the period between the late '80s and early '90s. The era got its name from the large amount of cards printed, holding little value. They made too many cards, and when you flood the market like that, it keeps the value very low.

"There were a lot of collectors back then and the card makers ran the the presses too long," said Michael Miller, owner of Sports Heroes in Cranston, one of the oldest, family-run sports card shops in Rhode Island.

Unless you had a big rookie card like a '93 Derek Jeter, they were all junk wax. Yet they aren't junk wax anymore because the COVID-19 pandemic eliminated that. More people were home and started collecting, said Miller.

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Miller, who has had his business 34 years, thinks sports cards replaced another interest as the world was shut down due to COVID.

"During the height of the pandemic, a lot of gamblers couldn't go in the closed casinos, so they started gambling with sports cards," he said.

He lamented that collecting cards is so much different today compared to the '80s.

"People are getting into it now, as if they were winning or losing at the casino," he said.

Brandon Santiago, co-owner of The Kard Shop in downtown New Bedford, offered the same disappointing information about our collection. I asked Santiago what should we do with worthless baseball cards? "Continue holding on to the cards, or hand them down to the kids," he said.

Celeste suggested I make wallpaper out of them in my office.

Our kids won't even get the enjoyment of a couple of cavities chewing the bubble gum that used to come in the card packs. Topps stopped including it in the early 1990s. So much for smart money.

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