Note: While it’s certainly hard to include ALL of the most valuable baseball cards of the 80’s and 90’s, here we’ll list our favorites of the bunch. Sure, you may be able to find some that are more valuable, but what about sentimental value? There’s a reason Biggio’s name comes up later and clearly, it’s not the $$$!
Baseball was a much different game in the 1980s and 1990s. For instance, most of this time period was the pre-Steroid era. Perhaps uncoincidentally, some of the game’s greatest pitchers (Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez) and greatest dynasties (ATL, NYY) were born during those years. And let’s not forget about the hitters, base runners, and defensive stars (Cal Ripken Jr., Barry Bonds, Ricky Henderson, Frank Thomas). These are just a few Hall of Fame-caliber guys who suited up during these great decades.
It was also a time during baseball cards where manufacturers were getting more creative and cards were starting to truly come into their own. Despite the overproduction. In this post, we will give you an inside look at some of the most valuable baseball cards that exist from that time period and who the players were that appeared on them.
Looking for something more modern? A Fernando Tatis Jr. rookie card may be in order.
Most Valuable Baseball Cards of the 80’s and 90’s: Our Favorites
Derek Jeter 1993 Upper Deck Gold Hologram #449 (Check Price)
There aren’t many of these in existence and you can get a pretty penny if you’re one of the lucky collectors to own one. The card features Derek Jeter in spring training wearing his pinstriped New York Yankees uniform casually fielding a pop fly. If you do happen to have one it should have no problem making you a couple of grand richer if it’s in good condition.
Jeter spent his entire career with the Yankees and is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He was a 14-time All-Star, five-time World Series Champion, World Series MVP, and AL Rookie of the Year. Derek Jeter was the captain of the Yankees and one of the most beloved members in baseball history. Plenty of reasons with this is certainly one of the most valuable baseball cards of the 80’s and 90’s.
1987 Donruss Opening Day Barry Bonds / Johnny Ray Error Card #163 (Check Price)
There is nothing quite like an error card. This 1987 card proudly displayed the name of the Home Run King Barry Bonds but it pictured his teammate Johnny Ray, aged 30. There aren’t many of these cards in existence and the last 10 grade sold at auction for well over $3,000. Card #162 was a photo of Ray and so it seems the quality control people at Donruss weren’t able to catch it in time. Because only a few of these cards actually went out, you may not have it on the mantle, but it is a historic card nevertheless.
Bonds is the current leader in MLB Home Runs with 762 home runs. He also owns the single-season home run record with 73. He won seven MVP awards, went to 14 All-Star games, eight Gold Glove Awards and 12 Silver Sluggers. Johnny Ray, not so much.
1993 Finest Refractor Ken Griffey Jr. #110 (Check Price)
This is an amazing Ken Griffey Jr. card that has been valued at a monster price. It’s been on a tear in the auction houses as of late. The card shows Griffey Jr. trotting down the baseline with the ultimate 90’s look. It has the old school lettering at the top and the colors burst off the card. This is one of the better-looking cards that the 90’s have to offer and was sold at auction for more than $7,000.
Ken Griffey Jr. was a man who changed baseball, in a way. He played differently, acted differently, and even struck out differently than the players who came before him. He represented a new era of Major League Baseball players and will forever be one of the most popular players of all time. Griffey went to 13 All-Star games and won an AL MVP award. He also won 10 Gold Gloves and seven Silver Slugger awards. He was a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee with over 99 percent of the committee voting for him (who were the geniuses that made up the 1 percent who didn’t vote for him??).
1991 Topps Desert Sheild Chipper Jones Rookie Card (Check Price)
Chipper Jones is one of the greatest Braves to ever play the game. Jones played his entire career with the Braves (something that has been lost in the modern age of free agency). He was an eight-time All-Star and a World Series Champion. He won seven Silver Slugger Awards and was the AL home run leader in four different seasons. All of which makes his cards some of the most valuable of the 80’s and 90’s. There are only a handful of these particular cards in circulation and even less in mint condition. The card features Chipper posing with the baseball bat on his shoulders. Simple. What’s not as simple is the price tag that can exceed $10,000!
1990 Topps Frank Thomas No Name on Front #414 (Check Price)
For whatever reason, collectors LOVE a good error card. Probably because there are way less in stock, making them a rare find. Either way, folks love em’. While not as cool as the wrong photo Barry Bonds card we talked about earlier, this 1990 Topps Frank Thomas is a nice find. When Topps peeled the cards from the printing press, apparently Frank Thomas’ name was nowhere to be found on it on some of them. That’s right, it is a picture of the gigantic Frank Thomas without his name on it. This card has been known to exceed $20,000 when the auction-goers get nutty. Yes, you read that correctly. Over $20k. Thomas was a two-time AL MVP and won a batting title, he is thought of as one of the greatest designated hitters ever.
1988 Craig Biggio Rookie Card #103T (Check Price)
While this card won’t make many objective lists of the most valuable baseball cards of the 80’s and 90’s, it makes this subjective one, HANDS DOWN (huge Biggio fans). Craig Biggio was the little guy who just flat out got the job done for the Houston Astros. His rookie card is also a nice little price that gets the job done for anyone looking for a great trading card. With only 87 in circulation, this card made by Score that features Biggio at-bat in his old school Astros rags went for around $300 at auction. Biggio is a Hall of Famer who went to seven All-Star Games and won the Roberto Clemente Award.
1993 Upper Deck Derek Jeter Rookie Card FOIL #279 (Check Price)
With only 21 Grade 10’s in circulation, this Derek Jeter rookie card is the most valuable baseball card of the 80’s and 90’s. As you read before, Jeter is one of the greatest to ever live and this card fetched a price that showed it. In a recent last auction, this card was able to be sold for well over $100,000.
1985 Topps Mark McGwire (Check Price)
Anyone who collected baseball cards in the 80’s is surely familiar with this one. The card features a young McGwire staring into the camera with somewhat of a goofy grin on his face. Additionally, he’s got the bat slung over his should and is wearing his red, white, and blue Team USA uniform. It may not be as valuable as the Jeter shown above, but it can fetch nearly $3,000 at auction in the right condition.
Now that you know what the most valuable baseball cards of the 80’s and 90’s are, find out what the most valuable football cards of the 1980s are!
Most Valuable Baseball Cards of the 80’s and 90’s: Investment Strategy
Short Term (Less than 1 year)
None of the players from this list are active players so there isn’t much that’s gonna move the needle in the short term. On top of that, they’re already all in the Hall of Fame so you can’t even count on that value-boosting event. If you’re going short you’re hoping the overall market increases. While this certainly can happen, bigger gains are likely farther ahead. 5/10.
Again, with these cards, you’re banking on the strength of the overall market. Which has a great thing to bank on in recent years! We prefer the latter end of this investment range. 7/10
Long Term (5 years plus)
Whether you’re new to the game or a life long collector, tracking down the most valuable baseball cards of the 80’s and ’90s is an exciting trip down memory lane. Especially for those who started collecting in that era. Sure, the era had its overproduction issues, but there’s still plenty of cards that will fetch some BIG dollars at auction. You just need to find the right ones. For all of those reasons (not to mention the iconic players featured on the cards), the above cards should be a positive addition to your portfolio well into the future. 9.5/10