80s and 90s Capitals Rookie Cards

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Posted July 5, 2010

The late 80s and early 90s was a boom time for the sports card industry. When Score got exclusive rights to produce an Eric Lindros rookie card, times were changing. Along came Upper Deck with its sleek look, far better than the cardboard-and-bubble gum of Topps (or its brother, O-Pee-Chee). There were other brands (Pro Set, anyone?), and now it’s depressing to think about how much money we dropped on those cards at the time. I thought it was bad when the stock market crashed in 2000, but considering that a card worth $10 on in 1990 might only fetch $1 today, I’m fairly certain that these sports cards were the worst investments I ever made.

For those of you who grew up as Capitals fans in the 80s and 90s, you may have stocked up on the hottest rookies drafted by Washington. Let’s remind ourselves who they were:

Olaf Kolzig was drafted in 1989 but it would be years before he emerged into a star.

Needless to say, Olie the Goalie was a success in Washington. If there is any justice, the Capitals will retire his number to the rafters. But he’s no Hall of Famer. This rookie card will only be of value to anyone… in Washington. I’ve seen it many places selling for $9, but I’ve also seen it as low as 75 cents.

The hottest Caps rookie of that time was an eighth-round Slovak named Peter Bondra, in 1990. I loaded up on these, both the Upper Deck and O-Pee-Chee. I think I have about 20 or so. I see them as low as $1 now.

In 1988, the Caps drafted Dmitri Khristich in the 6th round. He was an offensive threat. We bought his rookie card because surely one day his jersey number would be hanging in the rafters, right? In five seasons with the Caps, he scored 121 goals in 315 games, which isn’t bad, but nothing that would make his Upper Deck rookie card worth more than a quarter. He had a second – and unmemorable – stint with the Caps from 2000-2002.

In 1992 the Caps landed Jim Carey, who stormed into the league in 1994 by winning rookie of the month, and a year later, the Vezina. But he was traded to Boston in favor of Kolzig, then faded into obscurity. Current value of this rookie card: 35 cents.

The Capitals also drafted Sergei Gonchar in 1992. Gonch certainly had a great career, which isn’t even over. But his rookie card? Seen it as low as 18 cents.

The Caps landed almost no one of major significance in the mid-to-late-90s in the draft, except perhaps Jan Bulis and Richard Zednik. But even as they had decent seasons for the Capitals, the card industry had tanked and we knew we weren’t going to get rich off of those rookie cards that we bought.

Certainly, the Capitals had other good players during the 90s, such as Joe Juneau and Adam Oates, but they were drafted and played their best seasons elsewhere, so we didn’t exactly have the same love for their rookie cards as we did with Bondra, Khristich, Carey, Gonchar, and Kolzig. If you loaded up on Pat Peake rookies, I’m sorry.

Wait! Wait! I found a Capitals rookie card that may actually be worth something.
Yes, it’s none other than Hall of Famer Mike Gartner. The 1980-81 Topps can fetch anywhere from $5-$10, though several outlets are holding out for $70.

And another worth something… perhaps even in the $10 range. It’s a 1983 O-Pee-Chee Scott Stevens rookie card.

Okay, let’s also not forget… Kevin Hatcher, a 1984 draft pick. Anyone have a dollar for the Topps?

The 1984 draft year wasn’t so bad, though, as the Caps picked up Stephen Leach, Michal Pivonka, and Mikhail Tatarinov.

The best pick of 85′? John Druce. 86′? Jeff Greenlaw and Jim Hrivnak. And that about sums up the 80s, folks. Needless to say, even had the sports card market not overproduced in the early 90s, us Caps fans wouldn’t be rolling around in dough after selling our cards.

So now, I ask, will anyone take all of my cards for an Alex Ovechkin Black Diamond Upper Deck rookie?

Ben Sumner
Ben Sumner is the editor of Capitals Outsider and a contributor for Gunaxin.com. He also works for The Washington Post and contributes there when he gets a scoop.
Ben Sumner

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