As late 1980’s baseball cards go, ‘89 was a great time to be collecting the best that Topps had to offer.
For one, some of the cards are actually worth something in the present day!
There’s the iconic Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Card which always garners plenty of attention, joined by a variety of Hall of Famers in a massive 792-card checklist.
Here are 10 of the best cards from the set, along with information about the most valuable overall, common error versions, and an investment outlook.
10 Best 1989 Topps Baseball Cards
There are a handful of standout cards from the 1989 Topps Baseball set, although the majority are worth nothing unless they’re pristine PSA 10 graded versions.
For the purposes of this list, we’re looking at the rarer upgraded Topps Tiffany cards, which come with white backs.
However, this doesn’t work with Topps Traded sets. Both the common and Tiffany sets have white stock on the back, so be careful.
#10. 1989 Bo Jackson Topps Tiffany #540
We begin with Bo Jackson (Related: Best Bo Jackson Rookie Cards), who had the potential to be one of the best two-way players of all time, if not for a serious hip injury in 1991 against the Cincinnati Bengals which ended both his football and baseball aspirations.
As was often the case with the flagship set, Topps used a great action shot of Jackson, holding a bat aloft casually.
His name and team logo are found in the bottom right corner, placed in front of the player. It has a blue hue, with a yellow borderline that helps to add some color.
#9. 1989 John Smoltz Topps Tiffany RC #382
An eight-time All-Star who won the World Series in 1995, John Smoltz was part of the Atlanta Braves “Big 3” pitching rotation that dominated the National League East for almost a decade along with Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux.
Smoltz’s RC is found in the base set, and he’s staring at the camera with a serious expression on his face in the profile shot.
It also sells for a serious price if you’re looking for gem mint copies of the Tiffany card.
#8. 1989 Nolan Ryan Topps Tiffany #530
Nolan Ryan is another huge name from the era. During his stellar 27-year MLB career he struck out 5,714 batters which still ranks 1st for most career strikeouts all-time.
His ‘89 Topps card features an action shot of the Hall of Famer mid-throw. It’s not an RC, but there are still avid collectors of every pristine Ryan card created.
#7. 1989 Craig Biggio Topps Tiffany RC #49
An Astros legend, defensive savant, and the only player ever to be named an All-Star and to be awarded Silver Slugger Award at both catcher and second base, Craig Biggio is up next.
Top-Rated Investment: Ronald Acuna Jr. Rookie Cards
As you’d expect, Biggio is found in vintage Astros gear, while his release from the base set is also an RC.
The Hall of Famer might not have the most expensive card, but it’s still one of the keys to the set.
#6. 1989 Omar Vizquel Topps Traded Tiffany RC #122T
Omar Vizquel won 11 Gold Glove Awards, including nine consecutively from 1993–2001. Despite being a multiple record holder, his ascent to the Hall of Fame has recently hit the rocks.
As MLB.com notes;
“In 2018, he earned 37 percent of the vote before jumping to 42.8 percent in ’19. When he received 52.6 percent of the vote in ‘20, it appeared as though he was on a steady climb to reach the 75 percent threshold within the next few years before this slight setback.“
His Topps RC is found in the ‘89 Traded set, and there are Tiffany versions which are more expensive when graded.
#5. 1989 Cal Ripken Jr. Topps Traded #98T
The legendary Cal Ripken Jr. spent his entire 2-decade long career with the Baltimore Orioles.
Having made his debut in 1982, you’ll have to head back further than this set if you’re looking for the most valuable options.
Ripken Jr. is always popular with collectors, and it’s another card found in the Topps Traded set, rather than the base release.
#4. 1989 Barry Bonds Topps Tiffany #620
A player that needs no introduction, Barry Bonds was the home run king?, he’s the all-time leader in walks, and owns a career 1.051 OPS.
Released a couple of years on from his rookie season, Bonds was already beginning to tally impressive numbers by 1989.
Top 10 Investment: Barry Bonds Rookie Cards
He won his first MVP Award in 1990, and the ‘89 Topps Tiffany features a profile shot in a batting pose, with a stadium background.
#3. 1989 Deion Sanders Topps Traded Tiffany RC #110T
Deion Sanders played professionally in two sports, winning a couple of Super Bowl titles as well as making one World Series appearance in 1992 with the Braves. No other player in history has been able to repeat the feat.
His ‘89 baseball RC is from his time with the Yankees, and has a profile image of Sanders wearing an NY cap.
One of the more popular players from the era, he eventually entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.
#2. 1989 Randy Johnson Topps Tiffany #647 RC
Randy Johnson might have been unfortunately named, but I wouldn’t say that to his face!
“The Big Unit” is featured in an angled profile shot in this classic RC, which sees him staring off-camera.
The base Topps card is relatively easy to source, with Tiffany versions upping the rarity. Expect to pay 10 times as much for a pristine graded copy of the latter.
#1. 1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Topps Traded Tiffany RC #41T
Ken Griffey Jr’s rookie cards are one of the best investments in the hobby and on top of that, he is one of the best center fielders in the history of professional baseball.
Found in 1989 Topps Traded, (and yes, there is a Tiffany version) the Griffey Jr. RC is by far the most coveted card from the collection.
An impossibly young looking Griffey Jr. takes centerstage, holding a bat in a relaxed pose.
It’ll take a serious chunk of change to add a PSA 10 Tiffany card to your collection.
5 Most Valuable 1989 Topps Baseball Cards
There aren’t many surprises when listing the most valuable cards from ‘89 Topps Baseball sets. In no particular order, we’d look at;
The sets have a strong rookie class, including a handful of future Hall of Famers.
Of the cards listed, the Griffey Jr. RC stands out as the most valuable option by a wide margin.
The Randy Johnson RC has a mid-range price tag, while Deion Sanders is one of the more affordable given his legendary status.
1989 Topps Baseball Cards: Error Cards
Whether it be true error cards, or color variations, the 1989 Topps Baseball set is plagued with issues.
It’s partly due to the sheer size of the checklist, while some cards even have a couple of error versions.
The list below is far from comprehensive, but here are some of the better known error cards from the collection;
- All Star Commemorative Glossy – * or ** found on reverse and White or Gray stock
- #24 Larry Anderson – Partial tan top border/Solid orange top border
- #27 Orestes Destrade – F* next to copyright/E*F* next to copyright
- #167 Steve Searcy – Larger gap between top of hat and Future Stars on front/Smaller gap between top of hat and Future Stars on front
- #212 Scott Sanderson – Black dashes down right border
- #233 Gregg Jefferies – Larger gap between top of hat and Future Stars on front/Smaller gap between top of hat and Future Stars on front
- #264 Rob Dibble – White area under team name/Gray area under team name
- #268 Keith Miller – Partial Green at bottom of banner
- #303 Felix Fermin – *F* at back bottom
- #343 Gary Sheffield – Necklace lined up with Y in Gary/Necklace lined up with R in Gary, Topps logo higher/Necklace lined up with R in Gary, Topps logo lower
- #348 Ed Hearn – Blue ST across cheek and ear on front
- #368 Brian Houlton – Dodgers in White
- #403 Kirby Puckett – E in League on front printed over helmet
- #426 Dan Gladden – Partial Yellow Border/Solid Red bottom border
- #456 Tim Belcher – Dodgers in White
- #469 Jose Bautista – Top border has Yellow stripe/Yellow stripe missing from top border, filled with Orange
- #505 Pete Rose – White area under S in Reds
- #582 Mike Marshall – Red shirt sleeve/Blue shirt sleeve
- #588 Luis Alicea – E*F* at back bottom/F* at back bottom
- #594 Jimy Williams – Inside the J in Jays on front, white spot
- #605 Bob Welch – Missing stat headline
- #648 Sandy Alomar Jr. – Larger gap between top of hat and Future Stars on front/Smaller gap between top of hat and Future Stars on front
- #663 Ron Blomberg – Black line extends into white border by 1st base on front
- #665 Tony Olivia – Missing copyright/Copyright blacked out
- #689 Stan Jefferson – Pink triangle on bottom left/Purple triangle on bottom left
- #697 Franklin Stubbs – Dodgers in White/Dodgers in Gray
- #726 Dickie Thon – Solid Orange top border/Partially Yellow top border
- #729 Rangers – Black shadow border left of Rangers
- #732 Steve Beuchele – Pink dot by Topps logo on front/Pink dot airbrushed away.
- #736 Jeff Hamilton – Dodgers in White/Dodgers in Gray
- #742 Mike Harkey – Larger gap between top of hat and Future Stars on front/Smaller gap between top of hat and Future Stars on front
- #750 Bret Saberhagen – Pink scribble and Black blotch under right elbow
- #767 Jose Lind – Topps shadowed in Yellow on front/Topps shadowed in Blue on front
- #771 Ron Kittle – Errant horizontal line across back
You can also check out the Trading Card Database for more information about 1989 Topps Baseball error cards.
1989 Topps Baseball Cards: Investment Outlook
Arguably the best Topps Baseball sets that were released towards the end of the decade, you can’t really go wrong with the 1989 collection.
“Sure, the base sets were overproduced, but high graded Tiffany cards do allow for some separation at the upper end.”
There’s a variety of Hall of Famers, ably backed by one of the best rookie cards in the sport. (Of course, we’re talking about Griffey Jr.)
If we had to make a snap decision, we’d always opt for his card over the others that made the list, especially if you’re looking for a long-term investment option which should provide a good ROI.
PSA 10 copies of the Tiffany cards are where the real money is, and there are a number of cards which are worth keeping tabs on.