Top 5 Baseball Cards From the 80s (Exceptional Investments)

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best 1980s baseball cards all time

Most enthusiasts regard the 1980s as a time of substantial growth for not only the sport of baseball but also for the hobby of card collecting.

During this period, many new collectors were lured in by a wave of fresh and innovative players, as well as the potential to make a sizeable profit.

Must-Read: Best Baseball Cards To Buy Now

The 1980s enjoyed a surge of rare and valuable rookie cards that were the crown jewels for many avid collectors.

Some have stood the test of time, while others have faded into obscurity on the secondary market. 

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For many collectors, the 1980s were a golden age of card collecting.

The decade began as a desolate wasteland, with just one card producer, Topps, and only one significant set per year. Things were looking bleak for the hobby as a whole.

By the end of the decade, the market ballooned to five major card makers and a myriad of issues by the year 1989. 

Card collecting was reborn, and the hobby gained in popularity. Along with it, card values both old and new soared as new collectors entered the market. 

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However, like most trends that were born in the 80s, the party couldn’t last forever, and the bubble burst.

The 1980s saw the cardboard mountain crumbled, and many dreams of sports cars and early retirement crumbled along with it

Nevertheless, unlike spandex, most collectors kept their cards, and an exciting thing happened.

Many of the original collectors found that once they were settled in life, they still enjoyed the hobby and returned to collecting.

Countless collectors returned to the market and many of these prized 80s cards regained their value. 

So which of these 80s superstars is most valuable? 

Top 5 Baseball Cards From the 80s

Let’s take a look at the top 3 cards from the Decade of Decadence.

 

 

5. 1987 Donruss Greg Maddux RC #36 (buy on eBay)

1980s best baseball cards

We feel the 1987 Greg Maddux Leaf rookie cards is not only one of the most underrated baseball cards of the 1980s but one of the most underrated in all of the card hobby.

Not only was Maddux one of the greatest pitchers of all-time but the card is absolutely gorgeous (so good looking we named it one of our Best Looking Sports Cards of all Time).

We feel the ROI on the 87 Maddux Leaf RC will be through the roof over the next 10 years and one of the better small budget investments out there

Numbered #36 the card shows Maddux winding up in the vintage Cubs blue jersey.

The classic “Rated Rookie” logo is placed in the bottom right corner with his name to the left. The Leaf logo is plastered in the upper left corner… WE LOVE THIS CARD.

 

4. 1989 Bill Ripken Fleer F-FACE #616 (buy on eBay)

best 1980s baseball cards for sale

This card was the card every red-blooded, cigarette candy, bike riding kid who grew up in the 80s was familiar with.

Some of us knew what was behind the black box and some of us didn’t BUT all of us knew it wasn’t good as adult card dealers devilish chuckled when asked the question.

Numbered #616 the 1989 Bill Ripken Fleer F-Face card shows old Bill posing for the photo with bat slumped over his right shoulder.

The Baltimore Orlies Logo is placed in the top right corner while Bill Ripkens name and position are placed in the top left corner… an odd grey color borders the card… a true must-have baseball card for any kids who grew up in the 1980s.

 

3. 1984 Don Mattingly Donruss Rookie Card #248 (buy on eBay)

best baseball cards of the 1980s

Donald “Don” Mattingly, is known for holding the record for the most grand slams (he hit 6) in a single season, set in 1987.

Interestingly enough, he had not hit any grand slams, before or after this unimaginable season.

Mattingly was drafted to the New York Yankees in the 1979 MLB draft, then made his rookie debut in the fall of 1982. 

Distinction: The hefty value of this card speaks for itself… tt is one of the most famously coveted cards in history

Collectors are likely to pay handsomely if they are lucky enough to come across a PSA 10 condition. 

This card is one of the rare finds that helped launch the rookie card craze among hobbyists.

The design and layout of the ‘84 Donruss series may seem dull, but the color scheme and iconic photography made this card an instant classic. 

[irp posts=”5401″ name=”Juan Soto Rookie Card – Top 5 Cards and Investment Advice”]

Out of all of Don Mattingly’s rookie cards, this is the only edition to list his position as merely a first baseman rather than outfielder and first baseman. 

The back of the card is iconic as well. It makes use of a simple horizontal layout which lists his career highlights, and league stats.

It also gives a quick bio about Don’s meteoric rise up through the minors to become a staple to the Yankee’s roster.

It is almost unbelievable that this future legend was picked in the 19th round of the draft.

Read This Before Grading Cards: SGC Grading vs PSA Grading vs BGS Grading

Although quality control for this card was relatively decent, most collectors have a hard time finding a card that is perfectly centered.

Finding a perfectly centered front and back is the biggest issue standing in the way of a PSA 10 rating.

 

2. 1986 Barry Bonds Topps Traded Tiffany #11T (buy on eBay) 

best baseball cards of the 80s

Born July 24, 1964, Barry Lamar Bonds made baseball history when smashed Hank Aaron’s record of a towering 755 home runs in 2007.

Bonds began his MLB career with the Pitsburg Pirates in ‘86.

Bonds was no stranger to controversy and was indicted on charges of perjury in the major league steroids scandal.  

Related: Best Barry Bonds Rookie Cards

Distinction: This card might not be the most expensive Bonds’ card available, but the 1986 Topps is most certainly his most famous rookie card. The design itself is not only instantly recognizable, but it is also iconic among collectors. The bright yellow “Pirates” lettering blends with the striped cap that Bonds was sporting to create an aesthetically pleasing and memorable design. In mint or top condition, this card can easily fetch some decent cash, to the right buyer. 

Collectors often regard this card as the most visually attractive card in the set and certainly the most memorable.

The retro lettering and jersey give this design some 80s pop and make for an instantly recognizable piece of history. 

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If it were not for the unfortunate PED scandal, Bonds would have entered the annals of history as one of the best players ever to play the game.

Undoubtedly, he would have been a hall of Famer, and there is no telling where the value of this card could have ended up. 

 

1. 1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Upper Deck RC #1 (buy on eBay)

best 3 baseball cards of the 80s

Ken Griffey Jr., also known as “the Kid,” was born on November 21, 1969, and completed 22 legendary years in professional baseball.

Most of his career was spent with either the Seattle Mariners or the Cincinnati Reds, and he even played a short spell with the Chicago White Sox. 

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Not only was Griffey Jr. a record 13-time All-start, but he was also one of the game’s most prolific and sensational home run hitters.

He finished his career with 630 home runs and 10 Gold Glove Awards.

Distinction: There is no denying the fact that the 1989 Upper Deck card was a complete game-changer for the hobby of card collecting. When Upper Deck entered the scene, they pushed the limits and broke the mold. They made a fantastic decision by backing Griffey Jr. for their #1 card.

Upper Deck made headlines for shaping baseball cards into a premium and quality product.

Their Griffey Jr. card was not only the first card in Upper Deck’s official set, but it was also one of the most collectibles and iconic cards ever created. 

Pro-Tip: Never buy raw cards on eBay with expectations of getting them graded

It’s true that these cards were perhaps overproduced and don’t currently hold the value they once did, but that does not make this card any less iconic.

Among all of the Ken Griffey Jr. cards ever manufactured, this card is by far a clear favorite. 

Without a doubt, there are many more valuable cards out there, but the importance of this card cannot be understated.

The 89′ Griffey Jr. Upper Deck rookie card represented the pinnacle of the card collecting era and helped turn this hobby into a passion for many people

In the world of card collecting, there are far more valuable cards out there.

However, few define the hobby quite like the three iconic and memorable items on this list.

They not only established a decade but rekindled a love of the game for a whole new generation.

 

1980s Baseball Cards: Buyers Guide and Investment Outlook

1980s baseball cards worth money

We love to use the phrase “99.9% of sports cards are not worth your time” and this phrase couldn’t be more true when referring to baseball cards from the 1980s.

Very few baseball cards from the ’80s are worth investing in and many can simply be used for starting a fire on a cold winter’s night.

When it comes to investing in 1980s baseball cards just remember the phrase above and stick with the cards named above and HOF players rookie cards (i.e. 1980 Topps Rickey Henderson RC #482, 1984 Fleer Update Kirby Puckett RC #U-93, and 1984 Fleer Update Roger Clemens RC #U-27.

73 COMMENTS

  1. Got into collecting sport cards and Beanie Babies over 20 years ago,still have almost everything I bought,except the few that I sold,after everything went downhill in collecting…and moved everything from Ct.to Mo.over 6 years ago,never realize how much I truly had till then,wow how much I have…

  2. I can’t get a straight true answer from anyone.Can u tell me how much the Mark Johnson card is worth it has the manandez brothers in the front row.1990 nba hoops.Ty Tim Ritchie

  3. Obviously this subject is widely open to opinion, but putting any Don Mattingly card above the 82 Topps Traded Ripken is just nonsensicle.

  4. No doubt the 80s rookies will be going up. Great investments as most can be had for a pretty low price still. Get in while you can. The p2020 set is driving them as well.

  5. I have a mark McGuire usa rookie in perfect condition.what can I expect to get from it? Not graded but it’s a ten and so is the whole set including the clemens rookie.

  6. Where can a person sell their Baseball Cards I have over 80 baseball cards that’s still in good shape from the 50’s to the early 90’s

  7. Whoa, I recently discovered all my collection it was started before I was born. Some of those are 1950’s Cubs 1.old coach Jerry Kindel UofA baseball was Cubs 2and. I have those shown 1,2,&3 .In collection there are possibly a few hundred rookie cards from60s til Anthony Rizzos Tucson Padre 1b rc,as SDP 1b Adrian G. was traded to Boston moving up Rizzo who was then traded in same deal.from Rookie RBs Sanders Smith,Bettis,Dorset, Okoye,Payton. Even Brady, and not to mention NBA greats

  8. I have a few of those and when I was researching it they were selling raw (not graded) for about $20-$30, I wish I could tell you it’s worth a small fortune, but unfortunately, tons of them were printed and put into circulation. That was a couple years ago not sure if the price fluctuated with the current trading card boom that’s happening. Good luck!

  9. I have an auto Ripken rookie. The billy Ripken card words are blacked out. Jeter rookies. Kobe rookies, Shaw so many I have to have graded. I need to find out how to do that. I also have the mark Jackson’s card with the two brothers. So many more

    • I’m a MASSIVE griffey card collector. If u lmk which cards u have, I can probably give u rough estimates. My griffey collecting/valuation is pretty good. I’ve been collecting cards for 25+ yrs and have nearly 500 griffey cards. So don’t be shy to ask!

  10. I had an older gentleman pass and he gave me a bunch of cards. Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Jose Conseco, Roger Clemens, etc any interest let me know.

    • Hi Janet I am interested in your card if you would like to discuss sign then you can reach out to me via email or cellphone 310-422-1821
      William

    • Yes Ms.Janet, I have been collecting cards since I was around 9 or 10 after my father and brother passed away it gave me something to keep my mind off things so I have a lot of cards. I would like to talk to you about those cards you’re trying to sell I ain’t no rich man but I am willing to give you a fair price for them. Thank you for putting together a few lines and telling us that you have some for sale have a blessed day.

    • Hey I’d be interested in looking at cards you have for sale. I purchase whole lots of card collections. I can be reached at +15743361657

  11. What is the best way to sell some sports memorabilia and cards? If anyone has a great way to do it please let me know. I have so many sports cards and memorabilia. I have so many rookie cards it’s ridiculous but it is so hard to find people to trust because of everyone is trying to get over on you. I don’t even know what the best app is to get the prices for the cards. I used to get Sports Beckett’s all the time but now they’re so hard to get and so expensive

  12. I have some Ken Griffey Sr and Jr cards. I have Barry Bonds, Canseco, Elway, Joe Montana, magic, pippen, Jordan, Golden, Strawberry, ricky henderson, bo jackson and more for sale

  13. The top 3 Baseball Cards of the 1980s have to be rookie cards of Hall of Fame players. Two out of three fail that test. The real list would be 1980 Topps Rickey Henderson, 1982 Topps Traded Cal Ripken Jr and 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr.

  14. Hi there…I was wondering if anyone would be interested in buying some cards. I have alot of baseball and hockey cards. I started collecting baseball cards in the late ’70s I started collecting hockey in the ’90s to current. When I collected I collected to complete sets.. if interested please email me at patsvill@gmail.com. for more information.

  15. have a sports cards collection that I started back in 1972, I was 8. I now have over 100,000 cards (raw). Anybody buying without insulting lowball offers? I buy and sell daily
    254-589-5033…Tim

  16. I have hundreds of football, baseball, basketball, and starwars cards for sell. I also have plenty of comic books for sale. If anyone is interested or have a question feel free to give me a call@662-617-9101 and ask to speak to rock

  17. I have a collection ranging from the 30s forward a few have been sent to beckett I have 3 T06 cards. Willy Mays football basketball baseball boxing. Trying to sell 6013089754 gimme a call.

  18. ’80’s and 90’s cards are basically worthless. That’s when almost every kid was collectin, every mom & pop stor was sellin the packs of vards that had the piece of gumnin them. Thebmarketplace got flooded with cards. That, and a new modern player is busted for rhoids, everyday is why i’ve gone to more vintage cards

  19. Anyone interested in kobe bryants fresh foundation 1996,97 card in mint condition was personally graded from a shop here in hawaii 98.86

  20. I have a 1985 mark mcguire topps mint so mint i open it a pack of the 1985 cards .even wore soft gloves so not even a finger print it has.had many more 1985 topps 84 and 87 all in mint grade what can i sell at.had theses boxes for years and the gum thats inside its destroyin the card it sticks to so i rather open then.just wanted help my daughter..if eanyone can help that woyld be great.thank you

  21. I also have a lot of cards from the late 80s to early 90s whole sets wanting to sell or could sell individual if anyone is interested please contact me at 9415450827 i have a big and when i say big i mean big collection

  22. I am in my early 40’s and have been collecting since I was 7 or 8 years old. My uncle passed away about 5 years ago and in his safety deposit box sat almost $1.2M – $6.75M in cards. These are not opinions but facts. The prices are all over the place as you have all seen (for instance I have 8 Mantle 1952 rookie cards that are in amazing condition and some people at auction ands charitable events have paid millions for). We have 3 banks where our cards sit in safety deposit boxes, cashing in almost one million dollars to pay off our home, my children’ college tuitions, our vehicles and a condo we bought in NYC. My uncle was a savvy collector saving gold and silver bars and other commodities that never amounted to much but I can say as a hard asset these have allowed us to retire almost 10 years ago. I will bring a few to shows and have presented at expos and large shows in Plano, SF, Cooperstown, etc.

    This is not a measuring contest or bragging about what I have but a real concern that has hit our family; some of the counterfeit cards being sold for less than a few thousand dollars are almost impossible to detect even from the best eyes in the business. When I paired up with a very credible name in this industry, we did some comparisons from my cards versus some of the fakes (I am not talking about reprints that are $20 online from Etsy and Ebay), these cards are almost impossible to distinguish from the real thing. Pixelations don’t exist, the chemical compounds used for the card material are exact and a cottage industry is developing quickly with technology today. I mean, if there are millions to be made, it is a lot easier to develop a reprint than a forgery of a famous painting and the rewards are ridiculous. It scares me that the eventuality will end up in cards indistinguishable from the real thing which is why newer, rare cards are becoming very valuable.

    With that said, in December we will be selling our entire collection besides 2 Mantle ’52’s, J Robinson rookie PSA 7.5, 3 Pete Rose cards that are PSA 7 – 9 (yes 9), and about 30 other cards. I am going to publish this list before we bring this to auction and we are seeking $3M – $3.1M for over 220 cards. If interested in being invited this private bid, please email me below. Again, I don’t keep any cards at my home and only one person knows the banks the cards are stored at. It is time we let this go as my biggest fear these cards will soon lose a lot of value based on what is being manufactured. Please email me at radicchibrian@gmail.com.

    We also have many other hard assets but we are looking to live the second half of our lives fully retired.

    Again, this is in no way a demonstration about what we have but my parents have passed away, life is short and between our investments, cards, real estate we are looking to let go of this amazing collection. Please email me and this will be held in NY at a private guarded auction house in upstate if you want to attend. We have about 7 seats left and it is well known in our industry of my collection so only serious buyers respond. We use a third party to verify liquid assets to demonstrate the ability to make this purchase and we highly recommend you bring an expert who can validate and evaluate the collection. We will be donating some amazing pieces that are truly one of of kind to the Hall of Fame the weekend after Thanksgiving.

    I am posting this in several places as my family will want to maximize the value of the collection and we know many buyers may come to buy potentially buy many 50’s, 60’s, 70’s cards as well as very rare newer cards but in no way will this collection be sold in pieces. We would like a well-known collector or a historian to take this collection and have my Uncle’s name attached to it in remembrance for his ability to save these cards 70 years ago in vacuum-sealed packaging free from light and moisture without every being opened. Pictures available upon request but credentialed collectors only for viewing.

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