In this series, we focus on sets from across sports and non-sports that are easy to build and won’t necessarily break the bank to acquire. Set Registry Starter Kit features sets that can appeal to seasoned hobbyists looking to expand their collections or novice collectors getting their feet wet.
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, collectors will be surprised to know that his cards are largely affordable, and 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.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the six-card set.
1989 Bowman #220 Ken Griffey Jr.
- PSA Population: 1,720 PSA Gem Mint 10
- Average Cost for PSA Gem Mint 10: $70
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: 1,491 PSA Gem Mint 10
- Average Cost for PSA Gem Mint 10: $155
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, and as you can see this is one of the more pricey additions of the set, even though it can still be considered undervalued at around $93 for a PSA 10 example.
1989 Fleer #548 Ken Griffey Jr.
- PSA Population: 3,267 PSA Gem Mint 10
- Average Cost for PSA Gem Mint 10: $38
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: 3,523 PSA Gem Mint 10
- Average Cost for PSA Gem Mint 10: $35
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: 10,485 PSA Gem Mint 10
- Average Cost for PSA Gem Mint 10: $45
To date, over 24,000 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: 3,678 PSA Gem Mint 10
- Average Cost for PSA Gem Mint 10: $429
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 seems to be insanely undervalued, 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 $400, but this is Ken Griffey Jr. we’re talking about. And this is THE Griffey card to own.
Cards of a Modern Legend Won’t Break the Bank
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. Considering this, $772 for his rookie set in PSA 10 is a steal!Start Your Set Today