Set Registry Starter Kit: Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Set

 

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.

1989 Bowman #220 Ken Griffey Jr.

  • PSA Population: 9,396 PSA Mint 9 | 1,675 PSA Gem Mint 10
  • Average Cost for PSA Gem Mint 10: $59
  • Average Cost for PSA Mint 9: $8

See summary prices by grade.

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 …

You might remember this pose in your Little League days.

 

1989 Donruss #33 Ken Griffey Jr.

1989 Donruss #33 Ken Griffey Jr.

  • PSA Population: 8,519 PSA Mint 9 | 1,358 PSA Gem Mint 10
  • Average Cost for PSA Gem Mint 10: $93
  • Average Cost for PSA Mint 9: $9

See summary prices by grade.

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.

Another undervalued Griffey rookie.

 

1989 Fleer #548 Ken Griffey Jr.

1989 Fleer #548 Ken Griffey Jr.

  • PSA Population: 22,959 PSA Mint 9 | 3,125 PSA Gem Mint 10
  • Average Cost for PSA Gem Mint 10: $33
  • Average Cost for PSA Mint 9: $7

See summary prices by grade.

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 Fleer #548 Ken Griffey Jr.

1989 Score Traded #100T Ken Griffey Jr.

  • PSA Population: 12,858 PSA Mint 9 | 3,394 PSA Mint 10
  • Average Cost for PSA Gem Mint 10: $23
  • Average Cost for PSA Mint 9: $7

See summary prices by grade.

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, ala our next entry in the set …

1989 Topps Traded #41T Ken Griffey Jr.

1989 Topps Traded #41T Ken Griffey Jr.

  • PSA Population: 39,541 PSA Mint 9 | 10,193 PSA Gem Mint 10
  • Average Cost for PSA Gem Mint 10: $26
  • Average Cost for PSA Mint 9: $8

See summary prices by grade.

Now onto the largest PSA population of cards from Griffey’s rookie set. Look at that; over 39,000 examples 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.

1989 Upper Deck #1 Ken Griffey Jr.

  • PSA Population: 22,131 PSA Mint 9 | 3,351 PSA Gem Mint 10
  • Average Cost for PSA Gem Mint 10: $385
  • Average Cost for PSA Mint 9: $57

See summary prices by grade.

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 $300, 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, $619 for his rookie set in PSA 10 is a steal, and $96 for the set in PSA 9 is even better!

With that in mind, if you’d like to own the rookie set of a modern legend and not break the bank, give the set a try on the PSA Set Registry.

Start Your Set Today

Posted by Ryan Gaeta

Ryan is a sports fan and Non-Sports aficionado, who is still tormented by the fact he owned the entire 1st Edition run of Pokémon cards but traded them away or ruined them at one point or another.

3 thoughts on “Set Registry Starter Kit: Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Set

  1. 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.

    1. 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!

  2. 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.

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