The late 1980s was an exciting time for baseball card collectors. Major stars like Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds, and Roberto Alomar were just entering their primes, while legendary players like Nolan Ryan, Wade Boggs, and Ozzie Smith were still producing at high levels. The 1989 card set featured some of the most iconic and valuable rookie cards of all time. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most noteworthy baseball cards from 1989:
Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Card (Upper Deck): Widely considered one of the most visually stunning and valuable rookie cards ever printed, Griffey’s Upper Deck debut skyrocketed in demand in the late 80s and early 90s as his Hall of Fame career took off. Features stunning photography of a young Griffey swinging a bat. High-grade versions today can fetch thousands of dollars.
Roberto Alomar Rookie Card (Donruss): Alomar made his MLB debut in 1988 but his rookie card was first issued in 1989 Donruss sets. He went on to win 10 Gold Gloves at second base and batted over .300 ten times in his career. This iconic rookie card shows Alomar fielding a ground ball. Prices today range from around $50-$150 depending on condition.
Barry Bonds Rookie Card (Topps): The future Home Run King’s rookie card underwhelmed many collectors at release due to poor photography and design. But demand has risen sharply in recent years given Bonds’ all-time great career stats. The card features unimaginative photography of a stoic Bonds in the on-deck circle. Near-mint copies can sell for over $1,000.
Greg Maddux Rookie Card (Topps): Though not a true rookie since he debuted in 1986, 1989 was Maddux’s first Topps card. It showcases the crafty righty’s smooth delivery on the mound during his early Braves years. Maddux would go on to win 4 Cy Young awards and cement his Hall of Fame status. Near-mint copies sell for around $100.
Nolan Ryan Express (Fleer): One of the most iconic action shots in card history, this Fleer issue catches the flame-throwing Ryan unleashing a 100+ mph fastball. It was Ryan’s last card with the Astros before signing with the Rangers. High-grade versions remain very valuable at $500-1000 due to Ryan’s mythical status.
Ozzie Smith Sweet Swing (Donruss): A work of art depicting the Wizard of Oz taking a majestic rip at the plate. This all-time great defensive shortstop was still producing at an elite offensive level for the Cardinals in 1989 as well. High-end PSA/BGS Gems can surpass $500.
Randy Johnson Rookie Card (Bowman): A 22-year old Johnson had just broken into the leagues in 1988 but ‘89 Bowman marked his true rookie card. It shows an angular, young Big Unit firing a heater. Among the most visually stunning of rookie designs. Near-mint copies sell for $150-$300 range.
Wade Boggs (Fleer): Arguably the finest offensive third baseman ever, Boggs was in his prime as the Red Sox captain in ‘89. This issue depicts him rifle-arming a throw to first base. Highly sought after by Boggs and Red Sox PC collectors. $75-150 price range.
Mark McGwire (Donruss): Big Mac burst onto the scene with 49 home runs in ‘87 but injuries limited him in 1988. This Donruss issue from ‘89 was likely McGwire’s last “affordable” card before launching into superstardom. A true sleeper pick for investment potential. $50-100.
The 1989 card season gave collectors a window into stars of both the present and future. More than 30 years later, legendary rookies like Griffey, Alomar and Bonds continue to captivate fans both on and off the field. Masterful veterans like Ryan, Boggs and Smith also made their mark. Overall it was a banner year for the hobby and these cards remain highly prized in collections today.