With his infectious smile, fluid and effortless swing, and uncanny power, this five-tool phenom took the game by storm and inspired a generation of collectors to stock up on his cardboard from 1989.
Who, you ask? None other than prodigious power hitter Ken Griffey Jr., of course.
Junior entered the league as a force and took baseball and pop culture with him. Years later, despite such acclaim, many of his rookie cards are affordable, especially considering the caliber of player we’re talking about. Starting a set of his rookie cards will cost you a fraction of time and money compared to other athletes that occupy the upper echelon of sports, like Griffey does.
Whether due to the massive production and readily available nature of his cards, or his dwindling numbers as he reached his age 30-and-beyond seasons, Griffey’s basic rookie set seems shockingly undervalued, even after the recent surge in value.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the six-card set.
1989 Bowman #220 Ken Griffey Jr.
- PSA Population: 1,891 PSA Gem Mint 10
- Average Cost for PSA Gem Mint 10: $200
The set starts off with Bowman’s 1989 offering. Like many Griffey cards, this issue is marked by high population numbers, and high-grade examples aren’t difficult to come by. Centering can be an issue, however.
The card does get a boost by the fact that Ken Griffey Jr. is all of us in our Little League days with this card pose …
1989 Donruss #33 Ken Griffey Jr.
- PSA Population: 1,714 PSA Gem Mint 10
- Average Cost for PSA Gem Mint 10: $350
Even without “The Kid’s” winning smile, this card is still one of the slugger’s essential rookie cards. The colored borders present chipping issues and corner/edge wear. The population is also a bit lower. PSA 10 examples are currently valued around the $300 mark.
1989 Fleer #548 Ken Griffey Jr.
- PSA Population: 3,924 PSA Gem Mint 10
- Average Cost for PSA Gem Mint 10: $175
Though the card’s gray borders are notoriously fragile and Griffey’s portrait is often seen off center, high-grade examples of this card aren’t difficult to track down. It does, however, come in a “Glossy” variant, which was part of a much more limited run of around 30,000. Junior doesn’t seem to be too thrilled at the moment, however.
1989 Score Traded #100T Ken Griffey Jr.
- PSA Population: 4,135 PSA Gem Mint 10
- Average Cost for PSA Gem Mint 10: $80
Funky color combo aside, this issue is notable because it’s a rare action shot from the Kid’s rookie year, and we can assume he was probably powering an extra-base hit through the gap. Typically, Junior was seen posing for cardboard shots in 1989, a la our next entry in the set …
1989 Topps Traded #41T Ken Griffey Jr.
- PSA Population: 11,572 PSA Gem Mint 10
- Average Cost for PSA Gem Mint 10: $130
To date, over 68,000 examples of The Kid’s Topps Traded rookie have been submitted. Maybe it’s because the attractive eye appeal of this issue has led many collectors to consider it among the best designed Griffey rookies. Like Bowman and Topps Traded, this also came in more limited Tiffany versions.
1989 Upper Deck #1 Ken Griffey Jr.
- PSA Population: 3,800 PSA Gem Mint 10
- Average Cost for PSA Gem Mint 10: $1,000
Sort of saving the best for last here. When you think of Griffey rookie cards – or rookie cards in general, for that matter — Griffey’s 1989 offering from Upper Deck comes to mind. Few cards in the hobby can claim to have catapulted a nascent card company, as well as inspired an entire generation of collectors the way that Griffey’s most popular rookie card did.
Though produced in droves, this card has cemented itself in the hobby and in pop culture. It also seemed to be undervalued, until the recent spike in value. Huge production run or not, considering the type of athlete Junior was when his star shined brightest.
It does cost a bit more than other cards of the rookie set at around $1000, but this is Ken Griffey Jr. we’re talking about. And this is THE Griffey card to own.
Junior was on top of the world in his heyday, and many believe he would have smashed several hitting records, had his health not been a factor. Now is the time to get in on the Griffey hunt.Start Your Set Today
3 thoughts on “Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Cards | Set Registry Starter Kit4 min read”
The only issue I have with saying that this is the “Rookie Card Set” is that there are so many other 1989 cards that should be added to Junior’s RC Registry. Not just base, but subsets. From the tiffanys and glossy, to the Kenner and Star cards. If we’re really going to consider it a rookie registry, then shouldn’t it contain the full gauntlet? I understand that is a massive list and can get watered down by the no-name issues out there, but still… it would make hunting for his rookie registry a bit more challenging and fun. Just my opinion though.
You’re absolutely right, and some of his other key Tiffany variants get left out of the mix. I think this is more of an intro set to pursue, for those new to the hobby or looking to collect a legend in minimal time and for minimal $$$. For the sporting sort, as you point out, there’s always Basic, Super and Master Sets (see link: https://www.psacard.com/psasetregistry/baseball/player-sets/ken-griffey-jr-master-set/1697). Though it spans Griffey’s career, pursuing nearly 5,000 cards would be fun!
Having collected since I was a kid, I’d be happy to never see another Griffey card again no matter how much a PSA 10 is worth, let alone the subsets, Toy-R-Us, Wonder Bread, etc. The glut of cards and roar of Griffey hype leave a bad taste, despite how marvelous a player he is. Just one collectors opinion.