Top Five Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Cards and Rookie Card Checklist  

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By Poch de la Rosa

Legendary Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. was one of the best players of his generation. Not only was he an outstanding hitter, but he was also a staunch defensive player as well.

 Junior (his nickname) could do it all on the baseball field. It’s obvious from the get-go he got his baseball genes from his father, three-time MLB All-Star outfielder Ken Griffey, Sr. Junior, the man known for wearing his hat backward in the dugout and pumping himself up on the diamond to the tune of Naughty by Nature’s “Hip Hop Hooray,” will forever live on in the hearts of baseball fans.  

Remember when pitchers feared this guy?

George Kenneth Griffey, Jr. was born on November 21, 1969 in Donora, PA. However, he spent his formative years in Cincinnati, OH. After Griffey’s stellar high school baseball career at Archbishop Moeller High School, the Seattle Mariners made him the first overall selection of the 1987 MLB Amateur Draft. Junior made the biggest splash in the Emerald City during his stellar baseball career.   

In 11 years with the Mariners, Griffey recorded 1,752 hits, 398 home runs, 1,152 RBIs, and 167 stolen bases. He led the American League in home runs four times during the 1990s. Junior was also a 10-time American League Gold Glover and a seven-time Silver Slugger Award winner as a member of the Mariners. His defining moment came during the 1997 MLB season, when he was proclaimed the American League MVP.  His 630 career home runs ranks him seventh all time.  

While Griffey had his moments of glory during his four-year tenure with his hometown Cincinnati Reds, his best years were unarguably with the Mariners.  Junior officially became a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame on January 6, 2016.  

On that note, Junior belongs on a different stratosphere in terms of rookie sports cards – we’re talking about one of the best to put on a baseball uniform. Investing in these should give you a great ROI over the long haul. 

Let’s break down some of the best Ken Griffey, Jr. rookie cards on eBay!  

griffey jr.

Best Ken Griffey, Jr. Rookie Cards 

1.1989 Ken Griffey, Jr. Upper Deck Star Rookie # 1   

If you’re on the lookout for a Ken Griffey, Jr. rookie card which gives you the solid traction in the sports card market, this is it. Upper Deck Star cards were the norm among baseball card collectors during the 1980s. This one preserves Junior’s famous smile during his first year in Seattle.  

In fact, we daresay his card is virtually spotless – the centering, corners and edges, and the surface remain unblemished. It’s as if it came fresh off the printing press.  

Griffey’s description on the back of the card pulls no punches on his sky-high potential back then: 

“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.”  

The manufacturer couldn’t be more prophetic when it said Griffey is “possibly the finest young talent the Mariners have ever produced.”  

For our part, we say “iconic” and “classic” describe this card perfectly.  

 

 

  1. 1989 Ken Griffey, Jr. Topps Traded RC # 41T

Here, you can see a young Junior ready to take his swings at the plate during his rookie year with the Seattle Mariners in 1989. The design of the card is downright simple – in fact, it’s reminiscent of the baseball cards from at least a decade earlier. All in all, it’s a classic look – the kind of card you’d want to blow up, frame, and hang in your man cave.  

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 Northeast League Player of the Week, June 16-22 with 3 HR and 8 RBI.” 

This card has another version: the Topps Tiffany variation. It’s more common and hasn’t gained serious traction on the market. Make sure to go for the Topps Traded version with the glossy surface. Those can command a price somewhere in the three-digit range.  

ken griffey jr

  1. 1989 Ken Griffey, Jr. Bowman RC # 220

If you’ve always wanted an autographed Ken Griffey, Jr. rookie card, this one should be on your radar.  

The front of the card shows Junior kneeling on the outfield with a serious look on his face. You can see his autograph scribbled at the bottom of the picture. Autographs add a dimension of scarcity to your sports card collection – one with Junior’s authentic handwriting is a rarity nowadays (in fact, PSA’s official website says only 156 copies of the Gem Mint version exist). Think about how many potential buyers will tug at your coattails in the future.  

In fact, one of these cards has a value somewhere in the three-digit range. Taking the scarcity factor into the equation, don’t act surprised if its value skyrockets in the not-so-distant future.  

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.” 

  1. 1989 Ken Griffey,Jr. Fleer Autographed RC #548 

This is one of the most coveted Ken Griffey, Jr. autographed rookie cards on the market. The front of the card shows an unusually stoic Junior in his familiar batting stance. The gray pinstripe graphics take a backseat to his autograph, which is scribbled prominently on the photo.  

The back of the card has a “Did You Know” trivia portion about Griffey. It reads, “No. 1 pick of Seattle in 1987…Signed out of Moeller High School in Cincinnati, famed for its football stars….First pro hit was a triple….Batted .338 and hit 11 HRs in 1988, his 2nd pro season…Dad played in majors for Reds, Yankees and Braves.” 

While a casual card collector can purchase one of these, it won’t surprise us one bit if its value skyrockets to the four-digit range. On the other hand, the limited glossy version without the autograph is worth around four times as much. The reason: they’re rare and in great condition.  

5. 1989 Ken Griffey, Jr. Mother’s Cookies RC #3

Let’s be frank here: Mother’s Cookies wasn’t essentially the quintessential brand of baseball cards during Junior’s era. The household names back then included Upper Deck, Topps, Donruss, and Bowman.  

Nonetheless, this Junior rookie card is a good investment option for the casual card collector. For starters, you’ll shell out an amount somewhere in the two-digit range. It’s affordable and it could possibly take off in value a few years after purchasing. We feel the glossy surface and centering give it a fresh look. In fact, it seems as if this card is in pristine condition (hence the high rating).  

Ken Griffey, Jr. Rookie Card Checklist 

  • 1989 Ken Griffey, Jr. Upper Deck Star Rookie # 1 
  • 1989 Ken Griffey, Jr. Topps Traded RC # 41T 
  • 1989 Ken Griffey, Jr. Bowman RC # 220 
  • 1989 Ken Griffey, Jr. Fleer Autographed RC #548 
  • 1989 Ken Griffey, Jr. Mother’s Cookies RC #3 
  • 1989 Ken Griffey, Jr. Star Promos RC #5 
  • 1989 Ken Griffey, Jr. Donruss RC # 192 
  • 1989 Ken Griffey, Jr. Score Masters Rookie Card #30 
  • 1989 Ken Griffey, Jr. Score Rookies Traded #100T  

Investment Rating 

Ken Griffey, Jr.’s rise to prominence coincided with baseball’s notorious steroid era – the time when sluggers such as Jose Canseco of the Oakland Athletics resorted to juicing to get an edge on the baseball field. Griffey managed to stay away from such headlines. Instead, he became one of the best two-way players in baseball history.  

The proof is in the pudding: the 1997 AL MVP Award, 10 AL Gold Gloves, seven Silver Slugger Awards, and 630 career home runs. Had injuries not slowed him down as his career wound down, he would’ve padded his career stats considerably. Nonetheless, he helped put Seattle Mariners baseball on the map.  

Today, Junior’s rookie cards are numerable and for the most part, affordable. They’re a great long-term investment simply because he’s a bona fide member of Baseball’s Hall of Fame. When you throw in his career accomplishments and stellar reputation, there’s no reason to hold off on his top rookie cards.  

8 out of 10  

 

 

 

 

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