Cal Ripken Jr. (08/24/60) is a legendary former baseball shortstop and third baseman. He spent the entirety of his 21-season MLB career playing for the Baltimore Orioles and was a 19-time All-Star and a World Series champion in 1983.
Buy Cal Ripken Jr. Rookie Cards on eBay
Here’s the ultimate guide for his rookie cards, with a checklist, five great options, and an investment outlook for the next few years.
The Best Cal Ripken Jr. Rookie Cards
Ripken’s rookie cards came out just before the junk wax era, (1986-93), while a number of popular versions were released in the years leading up to his retirement. As well as three popular rookie card options, we’ve listed some more to look out for below.
1982 Cal Ripken Jr. Topps Rookie Card #21 (buy on eBay)
Ripken Jr. takes pride of place in the middle of this ‘Future Stars’ card, flanked by Bob Bonner (shortstop) and Jeff Schenider (pitcher). They were all Orioles rookies at the time, but only Ripken managed to carve out a successful career in the sport. The reverse has a list of basic stats, while a PSA 10 grade recently sold for $795 after attracting 42 bids.
1982 Cal Ripken Jr. Donruss Rookie Card #405 (buy on eBay)
It’s not especially rare, but the 1982 Donruss is my personal favorite. A PSA 10 grade recently sold for just under $240 so it’s affordable, while it features a large, close-up image of Ripken with bat in hand. An all-round classic, the back has a quote listing his career highlights to date;
“Almost made the Orioles’ 25-man roster in spring training after a sensational ‘80 season at Charlotte in which he hit 25 HR and knocked in 78 runs… Orioles recalled him from Rochester 8/9/81… Was hitting .288 with 25 HR and 75 RBI… Was Orioles’ No.2 pick in June ‘78 draft… Can play shortstop as well as 3B… His father, Cal Sr., is the Orioles’ third-base coach.”
1982 Cal Ripken Jr. Topps Traded Rookie Card #98T (buy on eBay)
The 1982 Topps Traded is by far his most desirable rookie card option. It’s a classic, featuring Ripken squaring up to bat, with loud, contrasting colors. A PSA 10 grade recently sold at auction for $1,475, attracting 82 bids as it was bitterly fought over. In comparison, a PSA 9 went for just $179.50, with 49 bids overall. The reverse quote reads;
“Cal belted Homer his 1st At-Bat of season, 4-5-82.”
The Best Cal Ripken Jr. Cards (non-rookie cards)
2007 Cal Ripken Jr./Derek Jeter Exquisite Retro Rookies Dual Autograph #RR-RJ (buy on eBay)
Out of all the combo cards in the baseball card hobby this has got to be one of the better ones.
The Iron Man and Captain Cluth on the same card! Whoa!
This card will not be up often on eBay auctions but when it is we suggest making a winning bid.
1992 Cal Ripken Jr. Donruss Elite #/5000 (buy on eBay)
The 1992 Donruss Elite is an autographed card with a limited run of 5000.
Nearly three decades on, it’s difficult to find a perfect copy because of the metallic foil border, which scuffs far too easily. A PSA 9 recently sold for $301, while a rare gem version will sell for thousands. (So much for the junk wax era!) There are two versions, with one missing a signature on the front, as well as the numerator in the serial number.
The reverse quote is as follows;
“Cal Ripken, the tallest player ever to play shortstop regularly in the major leagues, may in time stand tallest of all Orioles as he breaks record after record. And, in the mid-’90s he should break Lou Gehrig’s record of playing in 2,130 consecutive games. He is the second player featured in the Donruss Signature Series, personally signing during the off-season, 5,000 of these specially numbered cards. Dick Perez, the official artist for Donruss and the National Baseball Hall of Fame, created this card using a two-dimensioned hologram and metallic foil.”
1994 Cal Ripken Jr. Finest #235 (buy on eBay)
Numbered 235, Ripken’s 1994 Topps Finest is a popular option that was released midway through his career. It has a strong design, although there’s no signature to be found. There is a refractor version, with a gem mint grade recently selling for $300. The reverse lists his ‘Finest Moment’;
“July 15, 1993: His 278th HR as a shortstop surpassed Ernie Banks to set ML record for the position”.
2020 Cal Ripken Jr. Topps Series 1 1985 (buy on eBay)
If you’re looking for something more recent, the 2020 Topps Series 1 has an insert set, celebrating their 35 year anniversary with a host of stars from 1985. You’ll be able to find the following parallels;
- Black (/199)
- Gold (/50)
- Red (/25)
- Platinum (1/1)
There’s no quote on the back, although there is a guarantee of authenticity for the signature.
Cal Ripken Jr. Rookie Card Checklist
Here’s a checklist with his rookie and prospect options.
- 1982 Fleer #176
- 1982 Donruss #405
- 1982 Topps Cal Ripken Jr. RC #21
- 1982 Topps Traded #98T
- 1980 Charlotte O’s Police Cal Ripken Jr.
- 1980 Charlotte O’s WBTV Cal Ripken Jr.
Rookie Card Investment Outlook
Ripken is a living legend by every metric. He earned 98.53% of the vote as he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007, and was the Rookie of the Year in 1982. Meanwhile, his record of playing in 2,632 consecutive games over more than 16 years can’t be bettered, and it’s the reason why he’s known as the “Iron Man”. It’s unlikely that the feat will be matched anytime soon.
The majority of his rookie options suffer from centering issues given they were released in the early 80s’, but they’re still incredibly popular with the majority of collectors. Meanwhile, he has lots of interesting cards to suit every budget if you’re looking at later years.