With its foundation in 1948, Nascar has grown to become the premier stock car racing company. It has grown, sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly, to be a major sport in the United States.
Automobile racing has been around since the inauguration of gasoline powered vehicles. The first organized race dates back to 1894. The average speed was 10.2 miles per hour over 50 miles. Today, a race sanctioned by Nascar can be over 500 miles with an average speed of over 200 miles per hour.
Automobile racing cards have a long and rich history. However, as it has taken time for the quality of vehicles to improve, early racing cards are in multi sport sets. The concept of vintage is different from sport to sport. With Nascar cards vintage cards can refer as late a period as the 1990s.
While there are cards for a variety of vehicles, this article focuses on Nascar. Nascar trading cards follow similar patterns to the larger sports. As the popularity of Nascar has grown, so to have the cards. Additionally, Nascar cards went through a major boom and bust in the mid 90s like the rest of sports cards. Sets valued in the thousands of dollars for a couple dozen cards quickly plummeted.
Today, Nascar continues to expand by experimenting with different tracks and venues. It has made waves for continuing to commit to safety. While Nascar cards are nowhere near as valuable as the cards of the larger sports, they are worth looking into because, unlike some other sports, the crashed cards from the 80s and 90s are beginning to rebound.
This article will take you through some of the major Nascar sets. The focus will be on the major sets that fell off in the 90s sports cards crash because there are few cards prior and recent cards are not as valuable. The cards in Nascar center around the stars of the competition.
The 1972 STP is one of the most difficult series to find because of its age as one of the earliest stock car cards (debatably the earliest). This 11 card set was distributed by the STP Corporation. They are incredibly difficult to find higher than a PSA 7. Fred Lorenzen, Richard Petty, and Bobby Allison are difficult to find at any grade. Fred Lorenzen takes up two cards in the set.
The cards measure at a standard trading card size (2 ½” x 3 ½”) which was the first for stock cars. The backs of the cards have the driver’s name, city, birthday, a brief bio, stats, and zodiac sign.
Higher grade quality cards can go for a few hundred dollars. Some believe that these cards are undervalued.
1983 UNO Racing
This set has the honor of Dale Earnhardt’s first card. It was used as a promotional giveaway, but there is very little else known about the production of this set. The front pictures Earnhardt clutching a trophy next to three women with the UNO logo in the background. The back of the card is a classic UNO card. It is somewhat of an anomaly, and it is a riskier card to buy as an investment. For now, it is one of the most valuable cards in the hobby.
1986 SportsStar Photographics
In this thirteen card set, the Harry Grant and the Geoff Bodine cards are rather sought after. The cards are hard to find in highly rated condition. A PSA 7 or 8 is very solid. The Harry Grant and Geoff Bodine cards were short printed. These are two of the most valuable cards in the hobby.
An even more valuable is the Dale Earnhardt from this set. It is also a short print card that is tough to find in high grade. The UNO and SportsStar Dale Earnhardt’s are considered early Earnhardt’s, but they are not viewed as rookies because they were not widely distributed by a major manufacturer.
1988 World of Outlaws
This set is known for having an early Jeff Gordon. While it is not considered his true rookie by the hobby, the card is sought after. It is incredibly difficult to find at a PSA 10 because of the centering.
1988 MAXX Winston Cup Champion
The 1988 MAXX Winston Cup Champion set was the beginning of MAXX which threw Nascar trading cards into a much wider audience. The set is noted for featuring several Earnhardt cards, and the most famous one shows him in front of his car with his team in the background.
This set was almost never released. After it was printed and ready to be sold, MAXX could not come to an agreement with Dale Earnhardt. It did reach collectors in the end.
The cover cards are sought after because they are hard to find in high grade. The corners bend and fray from being on top. Also, there is plenty of chipping along the edges.
MAXX released more copies in 1994 which came with a gold sticker attached to the front. Upper Deck jumped in by releasing 100 autographed cards from this set in 1997.
Important to note is that there are plenty of fakes out there. The key difference to look for is the spelling of Earnhardt’s hometown. The correct spelling is “Kannapolils.” The fakes spell it “Kannapolis.”
The key to this set is Dale Earnhardt at #6. It is generally considered his rookie card because it is produced by a major distributor and it does not have the contract issues of the 1988 MAXX. It features a nice photo of Earnhardt smiling while sporting a Goodwrench hat. The photograph is the exact same as the 1988 MAXX though the border and name are significantly different.
The cards went through a promotion where they were free with a Crisco product, and the leftover cards found their way into collectors’ hands. The set is less valuable because there are so many cards. Yet, the Dale Earnhardt card remains valuable, especially because there are so few PSA 10’s.
Jeff Gordon features prominently in this set. A major concern is the black border which creates chipping on the edges and corners. Centering is also an issue.
There are 9 drivers features in the set. There were autograph inserts of Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty. Many of these cards were distributed unsigned. This has created a great deal of creating fake autographs.
1996 Press Pass
A major selling point of this set was the insert of a piece of a race used tire. In Nascar cards this a huge insert because it was the hobby’s first memorabilia insert. Other custom cards soon followed soon after. The cards came 1:480 packs, and they were numbered to 500. Earnhardt’s car is featured on the card.
Another major insert was a piece of Earnhardt’s fire suit. There are four versions. The silver fall 1:384, the Gold 1:512, the Blue 1:2,048, and the Green 1:6,144.
1996 Pinnacle Zenith
There are actual diamond pieces embedded directly into the card in 1:6,025 packs. The insert is hand numbered out of 94. The diamond card shows Earnhardt holding the trophy of his seventh Winston Cup Championship.
While Nascar cards and automobile cards in general do not have the weight of the larger sports, they are worth investigating. Unlike the other sports, many cards from the 1980s and 1990s are the most valuable in the Nascar trading card hobby. If the market continues to improve and Nascar continues to grow, there is no telling where cards like these may go.