The 1988 Donruss baseball card set is considered one of the most iconic issues in the entire hobby. While it didn’t feature the finest photography or most innovative design of the era, the ’88 Donruss set holds a special place in the hearts of many collectors due to the starpower and cultural significance of the players featured. This was the year of the Bash Brothers as Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire launched Major League Baseball into the steroid era while chasing record-breaking home run totals. As a result, cards of these sluggers from the ’88 Donruss set are among the most valuable and desirable in the entire checklist.
Leading the way is the Jose Canseco rookie card. As the first Cuban-American player to win the American League Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards in the same season in 1986, Canseco helped usher in a new era of massively jacked superstars. His intimidating physique and prodigious power made him an instant fan favorite and one of the most sought-after rookies in baseball card history. PSA Gem Mint 10 graded copies of his ’88 Donruss rookie have sold for over $10,000 in recent years. Even well-worn raw copies can fetch $300-500 depending on condition. This is easily the most valuable non-sports card in the entire set.
Just behind Canseco is Mark McGwire’s rookie card, which also comes from the 1988 Donruss issue. Like Canseco, McGwire was a physical specimen the likes of which baseball had never seen before. He smashed 49 home runs in his rookie season of 1987 playing for the Athletics alongside Canseco. McGwire went on to break baseball’s single season home run record in 1998 with 70 round trippers. In pristine PSA 10 condition, his ’88 Donruss rookie has sold at auction for over $7,000. Raw copies average $200-300 based on condition. No other rookie card from this set approaches the value of these two Bash Brothers cards.
Speaking of superstars from the late 80s/early 90s Oakland A’s, the third most valuable ’88 Donruss card is none other than Rickey Henderson. The incomparable leadoff hitter and base stealer was already a five-time All-Star and two-time stolen base champion at this point in his career. regarded by many as the greatest to ever play his position. PSA 10 copies of his ’88 Donruss card have sold for around $3,500. Even well-loved raw examples can bring $150-250. Henderson is truly one of the greatest of all time and his card resonates strongly with collectors to this day.
After the top three, there are several other star players whose ’88 Donruss cards hold significant collector value as well. Kirby Puckett’s card regularly sells for $500-1,000 in gem mint condition after his starring role leading the Twins to World Series titles in 1987 and 1991. Dwight Gooden’s dominant pitching during his 1985 Rookie of the Year and 1986 Cy Young Award seasons makes his ’88 Donruss card worth $250-500 raw. Ozzie Smith is considered the greatest defensive shortstop ever and his smooth, flashy style of play made him a fan favorite – his card sells for $300-600.
Roughly a dozen other key players have 1988 Donruss cards valued at $100 or more depending on condition. This includes power hitters like Andre Dawson, Darryl Strawberry, and Jack Clark as well as talented pitchers like Dave Stewart, Bret Saberhagen, and Dennis Eckersley. The vast majority of the set’s cards weigh in at under $10. But the true stars of the late 1980s like Canseco, McGwire, Henderson, Puckett and others make certain pieces from this iconic set hugely important cornerstones for dedicated collectors.
While it didn’t push photographic boundaries like some of its sportscard peers from the early 90s boom, the nostalgia, star power, and historical significance of the players features gives the 1988 Donruss baseball set a hallowed place in card collecting lore. The rookie cards of Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire are two of the most iconic and valuable in the entire hobby. Combining enjoyable retro designs with some of the biggest names from the steroid era’s early years makes certain pieces from this set highly coveted and worth significant money to this day for those looking to build the finest possible collections. When combined with the cultural mythology surrounding the “Bash Brothers”, it’s clear why the 1988 Donruss set endures as such a memorable part of card collecting history.