1988 Upper Deck Baseball Promo Cards: Before Griffey, There Was Wally Joyner

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Ken Griffey Jr. is largely credited as helping Upper Deck launch their line of sports cards. The rookie was the first card in their first set and the rest is history. Baseball cards got more attractive, they were made better and they started to cost more. It’s true when they say that the hobby was never the same again. That Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card is an important part of the narrative of the hobby’s boom years and the ensuing changes that followed. But it’s not the first Upper Deck baseball card. That credit goes to a couple of California Angels, DeWayne Buice and Wally Joyner. They’re featured on a pair of 1988 Upper Deck Baseball promo cards, the first that were given out by the company.


The two cards are standard promos, which means they were intended for dealers to show them what the upcoming 1989 Upper Deck Baseball product would be like. Those selling at the 1988 National Sports Collectors Convention in Atlantic City are among those to receive them.

1988 Upper Deck DeWayne Buice Promo Card 1

1988 Upper Deck Promo Card 1 DeWayne Buice

1988 Upper Deck Wally Joyner Promo Card 700

1988 Upper Deck Promo Card 700 Wally Joyner

The basic look of the 1988 Upper Deck Baseball promo cards is very similar to the final design. On the front, there’s the large photo are with the first base line running up the side. The biggest difference is the logo. The promos have it in the top corner while the final set moves it to the nameplate along the bottom and pushes the player’s name to the other side.

1989 Upper Deck Baseball 573 Wally Joyner

1989 Upper Deck Wally Joyner

If you have a stash of baseball promo cards, you’ll notice that most have big-name stars — at least they probably were at the time. While Joyner was no slouch in the popularity department, Buice was a reliever that lasted three seasons in the majors with a career ERA of 4.23.

But in the grand scheme of things, Buice may have been more instrumental in launching Upper Deck than the iconic Ken Griffey Jr. card. Buice became an early partner in the card company following a series of events that started with him looking for dinner. Through his connections, Buice helped Upper Deck land the all-important MLBPA license to get them officially started in the baseball card business. This explains why he’s on one of the promo cards. When Buice walked away from the company a few years later, his settlement was for much more than he’d made in his playing career.

1988 Upper Deck Baseball Promo Card Variations

Both of the 1988 Upper Deck promos has three different variations. And while the differences are subtle, their availability and corresponding values vary greatly. The most common version has the hologram, which was a major selling point at the time as it was intended to prevent counterfeiting, at the bottom of the card. The hologram itself is somewhat thin and all four corners are rounded.

1988 Upper Deck Wally Joyner Promo Card 700 Back

1988 Upper Deck Promo Version A – hologram at bottom with four rounded corners

The next version has the hologram in the same place but it’s bigger and extends to the bottom edge of the card, well past the border where the first version stops. Also, only the top two hologram corners are rounded. The bottom ones are square.

1988 Upper Deck Wally Joyner Promo Card 700 Back Thick Holo

1988 Upper Deck Promo Version B – hologram at bottom with two rounded corners

The toughest and most valuable of the 1988 Upper Deck promo cards sees the hologram at the top of the card. All of the corners are square.

1988 Upper Deck Wally Joyner Promo Card 700 Back Top Hologram

1988 Upper Deck Promo Version C – hologram at top

If you’re looking to add any of the 1988 Upper Deck promo cards to your collection, they can be found in the Beckett Marketplace.

When you click on links to various merchants on this site, like eBay, and make a purchase, this can result in this site earning a commission.

Ryan Cracknell

A collector for much of his life, Ryan focuses primarily on building sets, Montreal Expos and interesting cards. He's also got one of the most comprehensive collections of John Jaha cards in existence (not that there are a lot of them). Got a question, story idea or want to get in touch? You can reach him by email and through Twitter @tradercracks.

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  1. David D 5 January, 2016 at 14:59

    I was actually at the National Baseball Convention in Anaheim volunteering for Upper Deck passing out DeWayne Buice cards back then…. no one wanted my cards….they wanted the Joyner cards that the more important folks at Upper Deck like Richard passed out….
    I remember that Upper Deck was changing the market and selling $1.00 a pack cards- unheard of back then (although a welcome sight today). Upper Deck claimed that you could smudge or spill water on the cards and they would wipe right up. I tried it- and it worked!!
    The 1989 set was a thing of beauty- even with the airbrushed number 1 Griffey card- in his high school Cincinnati Mouller uniform! When I see the thousands of dollars a pack garbage today, I long for 1989 again!

  2. Albert Ebbs 7 January, 2016 at 14:20

    What about the Upper Deck Dennys Grand Slam hologram cards? I am pretty sure that they were the first hologram set, if not cards, and I believe that they predated the 1989 cards. Not sure about the 1988 promo cards in your article. Please let me/us know about that. Personally, I think the Dennys set deserves some acknowledgement.

  3. David D 7 January, 2016 at 18:37

    The Denny’s set DID come out as “give-aways” in 1991…but Upper Deck had already established their company by then. It was still fun to pick up cards at Denny’s- even if they were covered with eggs and syrup from the waitress!

  4. Larry 7 January, 2016 at 23:54

    The Dennys cards were awesome!!! I still have two sets I completed myself. They were awesome even though I had to suffer through eating Dennys food to get them.

  5. Albert Ebbs 8 January, 2016 at 03:50

    Thank you. I remember now. I still believe that I am correct about the hologram aspect. I have quite a few sets, putting them together was a “social” experience much like when we traded cards as children. People negotiated trades like they were General Managers of a club with many discussions about who was better or worth more. It was fun.

  6. Charley DiPietro 8 January, 2016 at 19:45

    Great set! Shows the FUN and ENJOYMENT that come with collecting. Panini’s releases bring out that same joy for my customers. What a wonderful hobby.

  7. Chipmaker 9 January, 2016 at 19:30

    The “B” variant was quickly abolished because of the hologram — it was mounted and then cut with the cards, and the hologram tended to cut poorly, often displayed a tattered edge.

    Some people went nuts about the Denny’s holo set — would order ten dinners to go, show up, pay, and take only the cards. Such were the times in the baseball card world.

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