The 1985 Topps baseball card set featured some of the most iconic rookie cards in the history of the hobby. While it did not have a true superstar rookie like Griffey Jr. or Trout that would go on to have Hall of Fame careers, the 1985 set provided collectors their first glimpse of many talented players who would go on to have solid big league careers and remain popular with collectors to this day.

Some of the top rookies in the 1985 Topps set included Dwight Gooden, Vince Coleman, John Smoltz, and Don Mattingly. Gooden’s card is one of the most sought after from the 1980s as he was already establishing himself as one of the best young pitchers in the game in 1984 when he won Rookie of the Year honors. Gooden went on to win the 1985 Cy Young award and help lead the Mets to a World Series title that year. Even though injuries derailed what could have been a Hall of Fame career, Gooden remains one of the most iconic Mets players and his rookie card in high grade is valued over $1000 today.

Another very prominent rookie from 1985 was Vince Coleman of the St. Louis Cardinals. Coleman made an immediate impact in the big leagues by stealing 107 bases as a rookie in 1985, shattering the single season record. His speed and ability to get on base made him a fan favorite in St. Louis for many years. While his career was shorter than many expected due to injuries, Coleman’s rookie card remains high on the list of desirable 1980s cards, frequently fetching over $200 for top graded examples.


Perhaps the most impressive rookie season in 1985 belonged to John Smoltz of the Detroit Tigers. As an unknown 21-year-old, Smoltz went 12-9 with a 3.69 ERA and 154 strikeouts in his first full season in the majors. His control and power stuff were immediately apparent. Of course, Smoltz would go on to have a Hall of Fame career primarily with the Atlanta Braves, winning over 200 games and notable for his effectiveness both as a starter and closer. Due to his eventual success paired with his already promising rookie campaign, graded examples of his 1985 Topps card can reach over $500.

Another key rookie from 1985 was Don Mattingly of the New York Yankees. Already established in 1984 by winning the batting title, Mattingly’s rookie card was technically in 1981 Topps but he was still new enough on the scene in 1985 to be included amongst that year’s top rookie class. Mattingly went on to have a stellar 11 year career spent entirely in pinstripes where he won 9 Gold Gloves and an MVP award in 1985 while helping lead the Yankees to the playoffs multiple times. Highly graded PSA 10 examples of Mattingly’s rookie card now sell for over $1,000 showing his enduring popularity almost 40 years later.


While Gooden, Coleman, Smoltz, and Mattingly stood out as the biggest stars, the 1985 Topps set featured a host of other notable rookies as well including Bret Saberhagen of the Kansas City Royals, Steve Bedrosian of the Atlanta Braves, and Mark McGwire of the Oakland A’s. Saberhagen was coming off his first All Star season as a 21 year old in 1984 and would go on to win two Cy Young awards in his career. Bedrosian emerged as a top closer in 1985, saving 25 games while striking out over a batter an inning. And even though McGwire is now best remembered for his record breaking home run totals later in his career, collectors had their first glimpse of his legendary power potential in his 1985 Topps rookie card.

Some other valuable and recognizable rookie cards from the 1985 Topps set include Barry Bonds, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and David Cone. Bonds made his debut in Pittsburgh in 1985 and collectors could see even then he had five tool talent, though few predicted he’d eventually break the all time home run record. Meanwhile, Maddux, Glavine, and Cone all made their first appearances as young, but talented, pitchers for the Chicago Cubs, Atlanta Braves, and Mets respectively. All three would go on to have Hall of Fame careers characterized by dominance and longevity at the highest levels.


While stars like Gooden, Coleman, and Smoltz drove the popularity of 1985 Topps rookie cards in the 80s and 90s, different players rose to greater prominence over time as their careers played out. For example, despite modest numbers in his debut campaign, Greg Maddux’s rookie now garners more attention than contemporaries like Bret Saberhagen due to his elite status as one of the greatest pitchers ever. Meanwhile, collectors in recent decades have paid top dollar for rookies of Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and even mid-tier players like Lenny Dykstra who became more famous later for non-baseball reasons.

While it may not feature the single biggest star debut of all time, the 1985 Topps baseball card set offers collectors a fascinating glimpse at the early careers of many now-legendary players. From Gooden and Coleman’s immediate dominance to glimpses of future Hall of Famers like Maddux, Smoltz, and Glavine, 1985 Topps is a landmark release that remains tremendously popular with collectors today. With high grade and authentic rookies of stars like Gooden, Smoltz, Mattingly, and Maddux now commanding prices well over $1,000, this vintage set stands as one of the most iconic and collectible in the entire hobby.

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