Ken Griffey Jr. rookie cards are some of the best investments in the hobby and are hotter than hotcakes. The retired outfielder spent the majority of his career with the Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds.
A living legend, he made the MLB All-Century Team, and was a 13-time All-Star over two decades.
Here’s a list with five of the best Ken Griffey Jr rookie cards options if you’re looking for the best ROI, as well as a checklist and investment advice for the future.
Ken Griffey Jr Rookie Card Checklist
Ken Griffey Jr RCs originate from 1989, with over 100 different options to choose from as they were released during the ‘junk wax era’.
Here’s a list with his true rookie options;
- 1989 Bowman #220
- 1989 Bowman #259
- 1989 Bowman Tiffany #220
- 1989 Bowman Tiffany #229
- 1989 Classic Travel Orange #131
- 1989 Classic Travel Purple #193
- 1989 Donruss #33
- 1989 Donruss Baseball’s Best #192
- 1989 Donruss The Rookies #3
- 1989 Fleer #548
- 1989 Fleer Glossy #548
- 1989 Score Masters #30
- 1989 Score Rookies Traded #100T
- 1989 Score Young Superstars Series II #18
- 1989 Topps Heads Up #5
- 1989 Topps Traded #41T
- 1989 Topps Traded Tiffany #41T
- 1989 Upper Deck #1
Ken Griffey Jr Top 5 Cards
We’ve looked at popularity and the best potential ROI when picking out the top five Ken Griffey Jr rookie cards.
1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Upper Deck Rookie Card #1 (Find Bargain on eBay)
The 1989 Upper Deck Griffey Jr rookie card is the first release in the debut set, and it’s another popular, premium option.
Although it was massively produced it is still one of the most sought after cards in the hobby (imagine how much this card would go for if it was a rare card).
Truly an iconic card, it features a large image of Griffey Jr, although it is widely available in comparison to more recent UD releases. Despite a large print run, high rated versions still hold decent value. It’s another card that could be a great investment piece.
1989 Donruss #33 (Find Bargain on eBay)
Griffey’s 1989 Donruss isn’t the most attractive card on our list, and the dark borders make it susceptible to corner and edging damage. It’s still widely available, despite prices increasing rapidly in recent years.
PSA 10 versions currently sell for roughly $300, which is a notable increase compared to the $50 you’d have expected to pay a few years ago. The extensive quote on the back lists some of his career highlights;
“Hopes to make jump all the way to big leagues in ‘89 after barely 1 1/2 seasons of minor lg. ball… Had ‘88 season interrupted by a stress fracture of the vertebrae in his neck, missing nearly two months after batting .338 with 11 HR, 42 RBI and 32 stolen bases in 58 games at San Bernardino… Moved up to Vermont after recovering from injury and batted .279 with 2 HR, 10 RBI and 4 stolen bases in 17 games… In 1st pro season, 87’, batted .320 with 14 HR and 40 RBI in 53 games at Bellingham… Mariners made him No. 1 player selected in country in 87’ June draft… Son of Reds’ OF Ken Griffey.”
1989 Bowman Tiffany #220 (Find Bargain on eBay)
Bypassing the regular sets entirely once more, it’s worth looking at the special edition 1989 Bowman Tiffany card. It’s easy to see why it’s one of his most valuable RCs, as it has a glossy finish, while it’s limited to just 6,000 copies. It sounds like a lot, but it’s an especially small number for the era. The image shows Griffey Jr taking a knee, with a baseball field in the background.
Fitting the throwback style, the reverse has a simple quote;
“Ken made his Professional Baseball debut at Bellingham in 1987. He played at San Bernardino and Vermont in 1988.”
1989 Fleer Glossy #548 (Find Bargain on eBay)
Fleer had their own range of special cards in 1989, offering a slightly improved version compared to the norm.
The Fleer Glossy Griffey Jr is exactly that, with the RC being similar to the base version in most respects. As the name suggests, there’s an added finish that makes the card stand out, while it’s thought that only 30,000 were produced altogether.
As an investment piece, you’ll need to look out for centering, which is notably poor. This makes it harder to find a perfect copy, leading to a better chance of increased prices in the future. The quote located on the reverse reads;
1989 Topps Traded Tiffany #41T (Find Bargain on eBay)
Like Bowman and Fleer, the 1989 Topps Traded Tiffany is a souped-up version of the normal base card. You’ll be able to tell the difference thanks to a sharper look and a better finish, which is especially noticeable when you check out Griffey Jr’s name at the bottom.
As a rarer version of the normal Topps Traded, it’s more expensive, with a PSA 10 grade recently selling for $1,085. The quote on the back is as follows;
“Ken’s first professional Hit was a Home Run for Bellingham vs. Everett, 6-17-87. He was named Northwest League Player of Week, June 16-22 with 3 HR and 8 RBI”.
Not a baseball fan? Check out Kobe Bryant Rookie Cards
Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Card Signed
You will occasionally see an autograph Griffey Jr. rookie card but these are non-affiliated to the producer of the card in question (i.e. Topps, Upper Deck).
One of only a few players that have featured in four calendar decades, Ken Griffey Jr RCs are a great investment option compared to many others from the junk wax era.
It’s true that Griffey Jr has a ton of RCs, with the majority being worthless. Regardless, we’ve sorted through them all to list some of his most important rookie cards, with rare versions that are more likely to go up in price compared to the base editions.
We’ve noted that the 1989 Donruss #33 was only $50 a few years ago, and it’s now worth six times that amount. It’s still inexpensive compared to current day rookie releases, while the same is true for the others that have made our list.
The best ROI is the name of the game, and it’s hard to see past a retired 13-time All-Star with an unblemished record. Griffey Jr’s rookie card prices will be exciting to watch over the next few years, while both Reds and Mariners fans will always be interested in his collectibles.
Investment Rating: 10 out of 10