Diamonds in the Junk – 1988 Donruss Baseball5 min read


For collectors of a certain age there is something oddly comforting about junk wax cards. Far too many were printed, they’re littered with quasi-errors and print issues, and “rare” chase cards are numbered in the thousands. However, they are also full of players who are now in their respective halls of fame, the cards are necessary parts of many PSA Set Registries and a $5 or $10 investment can still bring hours of enjoyment. Not a bad deal. Here is the latest installment in the PSA Blog series called Diamonds in the Junk, where we crack some junk wax, review the results, relate them to the hobby today and have fun along the way. Today I review 1988 Donruss Baseball.


In my mind, the 1988 Donruss set ranks among the junkiest of all junk wax. Ugly design, rather crummy rookie crop, black-on-blue printing on card backs that challenge my eyes, and seemingly more cards produced than common printing paper, this stuff has very few redeeming qualities. In fact, since about 1990, I run in the opposite direction every time I have encountered 1988 Donruss cards, save for this break, of course.

This set consists of 660 cards and contains the stalwart Donruss subsets of Diamond Kings and Rated Rookies. Rookie cards of future Hall of Famers Roberto Alomar and Tom Glavine can be pulled from packs, though the chase card of the day was not-so-legendary Gregg Jefferies. There are a handful of errors, both corrected and not, in the set, although none have had any real impact on the hobby. Hall of Famers featured in the set are what would be expected of any late ’80s issue, and the images used to portray the HOFers are generally good.


1988 donrussOh boy, what a mess. Like I said, I have not made a habit of collecting the ’88 Donruss set, so I must say that other than my experiences from about 1988-1990, I don’t have much knowledge of these cards. Maybe my tastes are now more refined than they were back then, or we didn’t pay as much attention to the delivery of cards at that time, but this box was a study in ugly. The box itself was in fine condition and admittedly who would bother cheating the purchasers of a $5 box, but the first thing I noticed was that the packs in this box were a terrible mess. Pristine wrapping was clearly not a priority, and I found several packs that were just abysmal.

I got through all 36 packs in about 20 minutes, and suffice it to say that the things that continued to stick out about these cards were not positive. The centering on this box was poor and a good many cards arrived with dinged corners and substantial chips missing from the borders.

1988 donruss
Quality control was less than optimal.

There are also a lot of mug shots used on the cards, and let’s just say that image selection must have been a hasty process.

1988 donruss
There had to be better images to use than these.

The last thing that really caught my attention as I was going through packs was the number of packs that completely lacked any player of note. Imagine paying the going rate for these packs back in 1988 and getting the following:

Pack #1

Rick Leach, Jerry Reed, Manny Trillo, Craig Lefferts, Bob Walk, Frank Williams, Jeff Blauser, Mark Grant, Steve Lake, Jeff Calhoun, Robbie Wine, Bob James, Geno Petralli, Greg Minton, Joe Hesketh.

Pack #2

Gary Thurman (Rated Rookie), Jeff Robinson, Dave Leiper, Terry McGriff, Wally Ritchie, Rocky Childress, John Tudor, Darrell Miller, Dave LaPoint, Mike Loynd, Dennis Martinez, Jose Rijo, Jerry Don Gleaton, Mike Devereaux, Jay Buhner.

Pack #3

Tim Belcher, Bill Gullickson, Jeff Sellers, Brad Komminsk, Doyle Alexander, Rene Gonzalez, Herm Winningham, Ron Hassey, Gary Lucas, Ty Gainey, Tom Pagnozzi, Steve Jeltz, Dennis Rasmussen, Rob Nelson, Darnell Coles.

There was, however, a nice assortment of cards overall and I didn’t get many duplicates. I managed to pull 19 base Hall of Famers, 16 different Diamond Kings and a baker’s dozen of the Rated Rookies, including Roberto Alomar (off-center and with print marks).


Yikes… Well, I knew what I had going into this break, so nothing was a major surprise. And honestly, what else can you expect from a 30-year-old unopened box that retails for only $5. Truth be told, you can’t even get a decent bean burrito for that. Still, this 1988 Donruss box did not disappoint in terms of crummy cards, and it made a strong push in the quest to be called the junkiest of the junk era. It is still a set of note, however. While there are not a lot of people who submit these cards for grading, many of the individual cards are necessary components of PSA Registry Sets.

If I had to give a fancy (yet truthful) review of this set, I would have to say that 1988 Donruss suffers from the hallmark traits of its era. Overproduction and low attention to quality offer a poor first impression, and the contents do little to overcome initial suspicions. While robust in quantity, these cards lack the finishing touches that might have made them a bit more desirable.

Junk wax is cheap and can be a lot of fun, but for my money this stuff was just cheap. For a few more bucks I would have likely gotten more enjoyment from 1989 Donruss or gone on a sloppy error hunt with the 1990 product.

THE DIAMOND IN THE JUNK: #102 George Brett

1988 donruss george brett


Posted by Todd Tobias

Todd Tobias is a longtime hobbyist and PSA staff member who is constantly on the hunt for vintage lacrosse issues and autographed cards for his American Football League (1960-1969) collection.

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