The Absolute Best Ken Griffey Jr. Card Of All Time
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 Mariners and later the 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.
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Complete 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
Top 5 Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Cards
We’ve looked at card popularity and the best potential ROI when picking out the top 5 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
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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! Either way,
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. And a great item to show off front in center in your collection case!
1989 Donruss Rated Rookie Card #33
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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. Similar to the Barry Bonds rookie cards from Donruss from a few years prior.
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.”
Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Card Bowman Tiffany #220
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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.”
If that doesn’t make for one of the world’s most iconic Ken Griffey Jr. rookie cards we don’t know what does!
1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Card Topps Traded Tiffany #41T
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Like Bowman and Fleer, the 1989 Topps 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”.
While it probably doesn’t even have to be said, this card is without a doubt the most essential Ken Griffey Jr. card Topps has to offer. Easily one of the best baseball cards of that year.
1989 Fleer Glossy #548
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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. Thus making it one of the best Ken Griffey Jr. rookie cards when it comes to speculation.
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5 Best Ken Griffey Jr. Cards on a Budget
1989 Score Traded
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Hoping to an an autographed an amazing Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card to the collection? Look no further. This beauty from Score offers Griffey’s signature at a shockingly affordable price. So if you have $500 to throw a card, you should be able to get the deal done. And that’s not for a low graded or raw card either. That’s for a PSA GEM MINT 10. Talk about a BARGAIN.
In addition to the autograph, you’ll also be getting one of the coolest first year Griffey Jr. cards out there. While it appears he’s either fouling one off or taking a warm up swing, you can’t help but love the flailing gold chain. Nothing wrong with a little flare!
1989 Score Young Super Stars
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While score was never the cream of the crop in the world of baseball cards, it’s Young Superstars collection from 1989 sure churned out a decent Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card. As with most cards from this era it takes a simple approach. Nothing too drastic, just a photo of Ken’s ultra-smooth left handed swing enraptured my a purple border.
As far as value goes, you won’t have to blow your entire bankroll to add this card to your collection. For instance, the PSA 10 shown here recently sold for just over $200. Compare that to some of the other cards on this list and you’ll soon realize owning a gem mint Ken Griffey Jr. card wasn’t as hard as you thought! Obviously cards in lesser conditions will be priced nowhere near $200 so if you’re looking to LOAD UP this might be the collection to focus on.
1989 Donruss Baseball’s Best
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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. So if you’re not a fan of the regular 1989 Donruss, this more colorful version is something worth exploring. And when you consider that you’ll be buying it for a fraction of the price of the Rated Rookie, it’s almost a no brainer.
1989 Classic Travel Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Card eBay Rare Gem
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If you’re in the market for one of the best Griffey Jr. rookie cards to impress your friends with, here it is. The 1989 Classic Travel shown here is an option that most collectors have never even heard of. Just think about the reaction you’ll get at the next dinner party while the boys gather around in the man cave waiting for the women to roll out the dessert tray. Safe to say you’ll be gaining unimaginable clout within your friend group after they get a glimpse of this beauty.
Anyways, not only is the card rare it’s incredibly easy on the wallet. Have an extra hundred bucks or two? You should be able to haul in a PSA 10. Sure beats standing around looking at a new driver or iron set.
1990 Topps Tiffany
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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. And just like the other tiffany’s on the list it has that ever satisfying silky smooth feel. If you have a couple hundred to invest you can pick up a PSA or BGS mint.
Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Card vs. Ken Griffey Sr. Rookie Card
Nothing against the old man but this one ain’t even close. Junior is not only the better player of the father son duo but he’s one of the best players OF ALL TIME. While, Senior’s cards may co0me with that coveted old school vibe, Junior’s are MUCH more valuable. However, we’re not saying you should completely ignore Ken’s dad. They’re one of the greatest father son duos to ever grace the sport and it’ll be a looooong time before we see another playing on the same team at the SAME TIME.
At the end of the day, this isn’t much of a comparison but a collection of both players would be something to admire. Just make sure that collection is focused on Junior not Senior. Enough said?
Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Card Signed
You will occasionally see an autographed Griffey Jr. rookie card but these are non-affiliated to the producer of the card in question. Such as the Scored Traded card we discussed earlier. In other words, it’s not like nowadays when you see cards coming fresh out the pack with an autograph!
However, there is an autographed card that IS affiliated with the producer. Remember that Bowman card we just talked about? Take a gander at the lower left hand side.
Either way, an autograph is an autograph. No matter which way you slice it! And since there aren’t many out there it sure would be satisfying to get your hands on one.
Is my Ken Griffey Jr. rookie cards worthless?
The answer to this question depends most on the cards condition. If it has a pizza sauce stain covering Ken’s face and a massive crease down the middle then yes it is absolutely worthless. However, if your card is free of creasing, has decent corners, and a surface free of scuffs or scratches it could easily be worth something. The best way to get an idea of what your card is worth is by reviewing the PSA grading scale. If you think the card is in mint condition it may be worth it to send it in for grading as it could drastically increase its value.
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Best Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Cards: Investment Rating
One of only a few players that have featured in four calendar decades, top 10 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!