Ken Griffey Jr. rookie cards are some of the best investments in the hobby and right now seem to be 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 that includes five of the best Ken Griffey Jr rookie cards options. If you’re looking for the best ROI, that is! Also, don’t forget to take a look at the checklist and speculation on what the cards may do going forward.
Ken Griffey Jr Rookie Card Checklist
Ken Griffey Jr RCs came off the presses in 1989 with a crazy amount of cards to choose from as they were released during the ‘junk wax era’.
Here’s a list of his true rookie options;
- 1) 1989 Bowman #220
- 2) 1989 Bowman #259
- 3) 1989 Bowman Tiffany #220
- 4) 1989 Bowman Tiffany #229
- 5) 1989 Classic Travel Orange #131
- 6) 1989 Classic Travel Purple #193
- 7) 1989 Donruss #33
- 8) 1989 Donruss Baseball’s Best #192
- 9) 1989 Donruss The Rookies #3
- 10) 1989 Fleer #548
- 11) 1989 Fleer Glossy #548
- 12) 1989 Score Masters #30
- 13) 1989 Score Rookies Traded #100T
- 14) 1989 Score Young Superstars Series II #18
- 15) 1989 Topps Heads Up #5
- 16) 1989 Topps Traded #41T
- 17) 1989 Topps Traded Tiffany #41T
- 18) 1989 Upper Deck #1
Ken Griffey Jr Top 5 Cards
We’ve looked at card popularity and the best potential ROI when picking out the top five Ken Griffey Jr rookie cards (they kind of go hand in hand). Here’s what we’ve come up with!
1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Upper Deck Rookie Card #1 (Buy it on eBay)
The 1989 Upper Deck is the first release in the debut set, and it’s another popular, premium option.
Although it was massively produced, it’s still one of the most sought after Ken Griffey Jr. rookie cards in the hobby (imagine how much this card would go for if supply was limited!).
Truly an iconic card, it features a large image of Griffey Jr and 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 (Buy this card 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 sell for more than $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 Donruss Baseball’s Best (Buy on eBay)
An offshoot version of the regular Donruss set, this card shows in live batting action ready to unleash that famous silky smooth swing. As far as value goes, the card sells for about the same price as the one above with BGS or PSA 10s going for well over $300.
1989 Bowman Tiffany #220 (Buy this card 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. Which definitely has something to do with the recent selling price of over $8,000.
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. Who doesn’t like some gloss in their life every now and then? It’s thought that only 30,000 were produced altogether so finding one in gem mint condition is no easy task. But when you do, you’ll see a card capable of bringing in a few thousand at auction.
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.
1989 Topps Traded Tiffany #41T (Buy 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 over $4,000 (roughly for around the same price as the Barry Bonds rookie card from Topps Tiffany) 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”.
1990 Topps Tiffany (Buy it on eBay)
Not as valuable as the Topps Traded Tiffany we spoke about but a nice little item for those who don’t want to break the bank. While not from 1989 (and not a true rookie card), it’s Ken’s first card from the regular Topps set and has that All-Star Rookie trophy at the bottom left corner. If you have a couple hundred to invest you can pick up a PSA or BGS mint.
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 (with the exception of the Bowman card we just talked about). In other words, it’s not like nowadays when you see cards coming fresh out the pack with an autograph!
Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Cards Investment Rating
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 infamous 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, that’s for sure. Almost as exciting as it was to watch Ken Jr. himself.
Investment Rating: 10 out of 10
Fan of throwback baseball cards? Check out our list of the most valuable baseball cards of the 80s and 90s!