This post may contain eBay affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.
Ken Griffey Jr. rookie cards are one of the top investments in the hobby from an ROI perspective. His 1989 Upper Deck Rookie Card is one of the most famous cards in the hobby, ranking right up there with Jordan, Jeter, and Brady regarding popularity search on Google.
The 1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Upper Deck RC #1 is one of the top cards regarding long-term value/ROI and a cultural icon. It was the object of affection for the golden age of baseball, and serious collectors rank it similar to the iconic T206 Honus Wagner and 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle baseball cards.
Ken Griffey Jr.’s rookie cards are by FAR one of the best investments in the sports card hobby, and he is one of the best center fielders in the history of professional baseball. Not only can he hit a baseball a mile away, but he can also frustrate the opposition with his defense. When we talk about Griffey, we’re talking about a multi-dimensional player.
The Seattle Mariners drafted Ken Griffey Jr. (11/21/1969) with the 1st pick in the 1987 MLB June Amateur Draft out of Archbishop Moeller HS (Cincinnati, OH). He spent two years in the minors before the Mariners called him up to the majors on April 3, 1989. Griffey was 19 years old.
He is the son of former major league outfielder Ken Griffey, Sr. “Junior” (the moniker of the younger Griffey) was a fixture in the Cincinnati Reds’ clubhouse during the team’s consecutive World Series titles in 1975 and 1976.
Griffey was also a 10-time American League Gold Glove Award winner, a seven-time Silver Slugger Award winner, and the 1992 All-Star Game MVP during his tenure in Seattle.
The two Griffeys made MLB history by becoming the first father and son tandem to play in the same game in 1990. On September 14 that year, they hit consecutive home runs in the first inning against the California Angels. Father and son played in a total of 51 games for the Mariners from 1990 to 1991.
His rookie cards are coveted by collectors across the globe and have been in the dreams of kids since 1989, particularly the legendary 1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Upper Deck Rookie Card. There are tens of thousands of 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. rookie cards, so you must be ultra-picky when investing. We typically only invest in PSA 10, PSA 9, BGS 9.5, and SGC Gold 100.
PSA 10 1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Upper Deck rookie cards are a top-rated investment as they destroyed the S&P 500 in a head-to-head match-up over the last three years! (see chart below).
1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Upper Deck PSA 10 vs S&P 500
As you can see, the card has gained roughly 45% since 1/1/2017, while the S&P 500 is at 9.39%. The ’89 UD KG Jr. rookie card seems to do very well in times of distress as it rose in value while the S&P 500 tanked via the COVID-19 outbreak.
We’re not saying sell all your stock and buy Ken Griffey Jr. rookie cards, but we are saying this card (and other high-end sports card investments: read our best sports cards to buy now write-up) makes for an excellent hedge against the stock market losses. We recommend investing as much as 15% of your investment into high-end sports cards.
Now let’s take a look at some of the best Ken Griffey, Jr. rookie cards for investment purposes and consider some of these for your new investment strategy if you haven’t already.
1. 1989 Ken Girffey Jr. Upper Deck Rookie Card #1
Despite hundreds of Junior’s rookie cards on the market, the 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey, Jr. #1 Rookie Card emerged on top… this not only is our favorite Griffey Jr. rookie card and is also on our shortlist for our best long-term baseball card investment… you can’t get much better than this card, especially for collectors/investors in their 30s and 40s.
This top-quality version is virtually flawless – near-perfect centering, sharp corners and edges, and a stain-free surface. Everything comes together.
These facets highlight The Kid’s radiant smile in the photo.
The back of the card reads, “The son of major league veteran Ken Griffey, who is still active with the Reds, Ken, Jr. is a rising star on the Seattle horizon, possibly the finest young talent the Mariners have ever produced. He will probably begin the ’89 campaign at Triple-A Calgary since his projected half-season at Double-A Vermont in 1988 was cut short by a back injury. M’s drafted him No. 1 in June ’87 out of Cincinnati’s famed Moeller HS, and 17-year-old Ken broke in with .320 and 14 HR at Bellingham that season.”
By far one of the most iconic cards in modern sports card times and is a childhood memory for many in the hobby. The Ken Griffey Jr. Upper Deck Rookie Card is a true classic that belongs in EVERY baseball card collection.
2. 1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Bowman Tiffany RC #220
This is the best Bowman Ken Griffey, Jr. rookie card on the market. According to PSA’s official website, only 156 copies of the Ge Mint version exist. Despite this card’s Gem Mint version having more copies than the 1989 Star Ken Griffey, Jr. #1 Checklist White Back Rookie Card, it commands almost twice the market value on average. We credit that partly to the white borders and glossy finish.
Fun Fact: Junior expressed a desire to move back to his hometown of Cincinnati in the fall of 1999. Seattle eventually traded him to the Reds for pitcher Brett Tomko, outfielder Mike Cameron, and minor league players Antonio Perez and Jake Meyer on February 10, 2000. Griffey signed a nine-year, $112.5 million deal with the Reds.
Another rookie card features a photo of Junior without his most fearsome asset – his bat. It shows him kneeling with a business-like look on his face. The back of the card reads, “Ken made his professional baseball debut at Bellingham in 1987. He played at San Bernardino and Vermont in 1988.”
3. 1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Bowman RC #259
The Bowman cards were more significant than usual, measuring 2 1/2″ x 3 3/4″, and featured a full-color photo of Ken on one knee (see below for a rarer version).
Ken Griffey Jr. was the home-run leader in the American League in 1994, 1997, 1998, and 1999. He was also won the American League MVP in 1997.
The classic Bowman Logo is plastered in the top left-hand corner, while his autograph is PRINTED at the center bottom (i.e., this is not an actual Ken Groffey Jr. Autograph as it is printed).
4. 1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Donruss Rated Rookie RC #33
The PSA population report currently has 1,625 copies of this card with a Gem Mint rating. With that in mind, this card isn’t exactly the rarest Ken Griffey, Jr. card on the market. However, it still commands a reasonable price in the three-digit range. Bear in mind it still garnered the highest possible PSA grade.
Despite its simplicity, the 1989 Donruss Rated Ken Griffey, Jr. Rookie Card #33 should give you an excellent return after a few years. This is a typical Donruss baseball card – you won’t find any flashy graphics or other eye candy. It’s downright simple. You’ll see a photo of Junior holding a bat on the front of the card.
#5. 1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Topps Traded Tiffany RC #41T
While PSA received around 1,800 copies of this card for grading, only over 300 copies received the elusive Gem Mint rating. Try not to confuse the 1989 Topps Traded rookie cards with the Topps Tiffany version. The latter’s Gem Mint versions sell for roughly $25. They’re also much more common. The front of the 1989 Topps Tiffany Ken Griffey, Jr. Rookie Card #41T shows a boyish-looking Junior holding a bat.
On the other hand, the former commands a heftier price on the market. Make sure you see “41T” in the upper right-hand corner. Plus, the Topps Traded version has a glossier surface. The back of the card reads, “Ken’s first professional hit was a home run for Bellingham vs. Everett, 6-17-87. He was named Northwest League Player of the Week, June 16-22, with 3 HR and 8 RBI.”
6. 1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Fleer Glossy RC #548
According to PSA’s population report, there are 15 copies of the 1989 Fleer Ken Griffey Jr. at a PSA 10 grade. The reason is that a considerable majority of the 1,397 copies of PSA received for grading have a centering issue. When you get the Gem Mint version, you have one of the best Ken Griffey, Jr. rookie sleeper cards.
The front of the card shows a photo of Junior holding a bat with simple gray and white graphics in the background,
The back of the card shows Griffey’s minor league stats and some trivia. It reads, “No. 1 pick of Seattle in 1987….I signed out of Moeller High School in Cincinnati, famed for its football stars….The first pro hit was a triple….He batted .339 and hit 11 HRs in 1989, his 2nd pro season….Dad played in Majors for Reds, Yankees, and Braves.”
7. 1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Score Traded RC #100T
Part of a smaller 42-card set, this Griffey Jr. card shows him getting ready to come out of the batter box after a base hit. The color scheme makes the card pop, as does the great shot of Griffey taking a massive cut. It’s not super hard to find and is on eBay often. The card does land a higher value than his other Score issues on this list.
The 1989 Griffey Jr. Score Traded RC is ideal for moderate bankrolls at high grades (PSA 10 or BGS 9.5).
The Ken Griffey Jr Score Traded rookie card is an ideal starter card for kids or new collectors not looking to spend hundreds.
8. 1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Scoremasters RC #30
This card isn’t on the radar of most collectors but is a true beauty and is very underrated. The 1989 Score, Masters Griffey Jr. RC artwork, is impressive and captures his trademark swing in a unique format. It’s one of very few Ken Griffey Jr. rookie cards to feature the artwork of the rising start and a must for true KG jr fanboys.
9. 1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Donruss Baseball’s Best RC #192
According to PSA, only 410 copies of this card with the highest possible grade exist. While it isn’t as rare as the 1989 Star Ken Griffey, Jr. Rookie Card #11, it’s still valuable. In terms of price, it won’t create a severe dent in your wallet. However, prepare to shell out at least three digits for this one.
The 1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Donruss RC won’t put a dent in your wallet… that’s the good news… the bad is the ROI won’t be a juicy vs the next few cards on this list.”
The front of the card shows a young Junior getting ready to swing for the fences. The back shows his stats during his minor league days. Donruss is one of the most famous baseball card brands during Griffey’s era. It gives Fleer, Topps, and Upper Deck a severe run for their money. This card is no exception.
10. 1989 Ken Griffey Jr. by Tyson Beck Topps Project 2020
Technically this is not a Ken Griffey Jr. RC as it was printed in 2020 under the Topps Project 2020 set… BUT… we love it too much to keep it off the list. The card is a throwback to the classic 1989 Topps Traded Baseball RC #41T and shows Griffey Jr. with the bat hung over his left shoulder while mean-mugging for the camera.
Available in a few of the card’s artists was Tyson Beck (Considered an industry leader in the world of sports design, Tyson Beck counts major American leagues such as the NBA, MLB, NFL, and NHL clients of his, alongside global brands such as Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour).
The value of Ken Griffey Jr.’s rookie cards, particularly the 1989 Upper Deck rookie card, has exploded within the last few months. Hobbyists we spoke with differ on the exact reason. Still, many agreed that the COVID-19 virus had much to do with it as collectors had ample time to sit around and browse baseball card listing on eBay (the stimulus check didn’t hurt either).
That said, the exact worth of any Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card is tough to determine and can vary greatly, but we have attempted to put together a Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card price guide below.
Our take on the best Ken Griffey Price Guides: We would not purchase a service to obtain a value regarding a Ken Griffey Jr. RC. The eBay advanced search is our preferred option, or you can also drop us an email, and we will do the work for you (which is the easiest way, in our opinion).
Here are a few Ken Griffey Jr. baseball cards we love regarding return on investment (ROI) that are not rookie.
1993 Ken Griffey Jr. Finest Refractor Baseball Card #110
The 1993 Ken Griffey Jr., Finest Refractor card, is among the most valuable of all the Ken Griffey Jr. non-rookie cards. Ken Griffey Jr. Fun Fact: He attended Archbishop Moeller High School in Cincinnati. He played high school baseball for two years, hitting .478 and 17 home runs during that span. He was the 1987 U.S. High School Baseball Player of the Year. A great-looking card with a high-end price guide at high grades but worth it for the return on investment.
1990 Ken Griffey Jr. Topps Baseball Card #336
The 1990 Topps Ken Griffey Jr. non-rc is #336 and catches Griffey Jr. with the bat over his left shoulder. And who could forget the 1990 Topps All-Star Rookie Trophy that sits proudly in the bottom left corner? You will not regret purchasing this bad boy with high grades.
1990 Ken Griffey Jr Upper Deck Baseball Card #156
One of the most popular, if not the most, is Ken Griffey Jr.’s non-rookie card. A great purchase if you are looking for a solid, long-term return on investment. Available at almost anytime on eBay auctions in a variety of grades. We suggest purchasing PSA 10 or BGS 9.5 grades.
- 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. RC #1
- 1989 SCD Baseball Pocket Price Guide Ken Griffey Jr. RC #3
- 1989 Bowman Ken Griffey Jr. RC #220
- 1989 Bowman Tiffany Ken Griffey Jr. RC #220
- 1989 Score Traded Ken Griffey Jr. RC #100T
- 1989 Donruss Ken Griffey Jr. RC #33
- 1989 Classic Travel Orange Ken Griffey Jr. RC #131
- 1989 Classic Travel Purple Ken Griffey Jr. RC #193
- 1989 Topps Traded Ken Griffey Jr. RC #41T
- 1989 Donruss The Rookies Ken Griffey Jr. RC #3
- 1989 Donruss Baseball’s Best Ken Griffey Jr. RC #192
- 1989 Fleer Ken Griffey Jr. RC #548
- 1989 Topps Heads Up Test Ken Griffey Jr. RC #5
- 1989 Mariners Mother’s Ken Griffey Jr. RC #3
- 1989 Bowman Tiffany Ken Griffey Jr./Ken Griffey Sr. #259
- 1989 Bowman Ken Griffey Jr./Ken Griffey Sr. RC #259
- 1989 Star Baseball Ken Griffey Jr. RC (11-card set)
- 1989 Pacific Griffey Candy Bar Ken Griffey Jr. (blue, yellow, and white backgrounds)
- 1989 Score Young Superstars II Ken Griffey Jr. RC #18
- 1989 Donruss Diamond Kings Ken Griffey Jr. RC #4
There is not a lack of Ken Griffey Jr. autograph baseball cards for sale on eBay, as he was pretty friendly and quick to sign a card.
Pro Tips When Buying a Ken Griffey Jr. Autograph Rookie Card Buy PSA/BGS/SGC graded cards
- Only purchase high grades such as PSA 10 and BGS 9.5. Don’t take a chance buying a raw Ken Griffey Jr. RC, as the odds of it grading high are not great
- The 1989 Upper Deck RC #1 and the 1989 Bowman Tiffany RC are tops regarding return on investment (ROI)
- If you can find an SGC Gold 100 or Black Label Ken Griffey Jr. RC, BUY IT! (or at minimum, put a bid on it as these cards will have a higher ROI vs. the standard PSA 10, BGS 9.5
- If you have any questions or need help buying a Griffey Jr. RC, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and title the email Griffey RC Advice, and we will expedite the response if you cite this write-up.
Ken Griffey, Jr. made headlines in the major leagues for 22 seasons. He was one of the rare players who excelled in both offense and defense. Griffey made a name for himself by crushing booming home runs.
However, let’s not forget he was also a 10-time American League Gold Glove Award winner. He was a two-way player in every sense of the word. Little wonder Junior was a 13-time All-Star, the 1997 American League MVP, and a National Baseball Hall of Fame member.
On that note, investing in a player of Griffey’s credentials and caliber is wise. You can’t go wrong with a Hall of Famer who played his heart out every night. More impressively, Griffey played the game correctly – with dignity and honor. He is one of baseball’s all-time greats who profoundly impacts fans years after retirement.
- Investment Rating: Strongest Buy Possible (5 out of 5)
- Ownership Disclosure: Five (5) 1989 Upper Deck PSA 10, One (1) 1989 Upper Deck SGC Pristine, Two (2) 1989 Bowman Tiffany, Two (2) Donruss Rated Rookie, One (1) Topps Traded Tiffany Rookie Card, One (1) 1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Autograph Upper Deck RC #1
- Top Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Card for Moderate Bankrolls: 1989 Bowman Rookie Card #259
- Risk/Return Analysis: Low Risk/High Return in the long term | Moderate Risk/Moderate Return in the short term (prices have fallen from all-time highs over the last few months, and now would be a good time to buy back in for short term flippers (but use caution and exercise bankroll management).
- Top Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Card Based on ROI: 1989 Upper Deck RC #1