1994 was a weird year for sports and sports cards. The hobby was already experiencing a shrinking marketplace, which was only accelerated with work stoppages in both baseball and hockey.
Michael Jordan quit basketball to give baseball a try.
There was also a white Ford Bronco leading the police down the California highway with a fallen sports hero as a passenger in the back.
Despite the lows, there were still plenty of memorable 1994 sports cards (and non-sport cards). With a slumping market, companies were taking more risks and pushing innovation in hopes of keeping and recapturing collectors. Autographs were starting to show up in more products. This not only meant some landmark sets, but early ink from some of the biggest names in sports.
With tens of thousands to choose from, we’ve narrowed the field down to 25 of the most unforgettable 1994 sports (and non-sport) cards.
Top 25 Sports and Non-Sport Cards of 1994
Please note that cards are based on the set year, not necessarily release date. Basketball and hockey cards include cards from the 1994-95 season.
25. 1994 Bowman’s Best Blue Jorge Posada RC #29
Jorge Posada might not be the biggest name in the Yankees’ Core Four dynasty, but he’s still a respected name in both baseball and the hobby. This Rookie Card comes in the debut of Bowman’s Best, the first time a Bowman set got the chromium treatment. Of course, there’s also a Refractor parallel to go with it.
24. 1994 SkyBox Lion King Lenticular Holograms #L1
How big was The Lion King in 1994? Enough to have packs of the trading cards included in kids meals at Burger King alongside the normal hobby and retail releases. The lenticular inserts are the toughest cards to pull in Series 1, landing 1:180 packs. The print run was on the large side for a non-sport set, but these are still relatively tough to find.
23. 1994-95 SP Jarome Iginla RC #181
Jarome Iginla might not rank among the top tier of NHL superstars as far as collector appreciation goes, but he’s certainly up there. One of the game’s greatest players in the ’00s, he racked up over 1,500 points in his Hall of Fame career. He was also a star on the international stage, helping Team Canada to multiple championships. And it’s the maple leaf that’s highlighted on one of his most iconic cards of all-time.
22. 1994 Collector’s Choice Baseball Michael Jordan RC #661
One of the biggest stories in sports in 1994 was Michael Jordan switching to play baseball. Upper Deck had an advantage over other MLB card makers thanks to their exclusive relationship with the newly turned two-sport star. While others got Jordan into their minor league sets, Upper Deck used him throughout their MLB lines. The 1994 Collector’s Choice Michael Jordan is a perfect transition card showing that even on the diamond, Jordan knew his basketball roots.
21. 1994 SkyBox Simpsons Series 2 Promos Willy “The Dupe” Dipkin #P4 (#B1 more common version)
Playing off of the infamous 1989 Fleer Bill Ripken, this promo card pays tribute as only The Simpsons can. There are two versions of the card. P4 is much more scarce, handed out through Diamond Distributors. There’s also a virtually identical #B1 that was included in Simpsons Comics #4 where the card was part of one of the stories.
The gags aren’t just on the card front. The reverse gives some of Dipkin’s backstory, “Willy never really liked playing baseball. His true ambition was to play the flute for the New Shelbyville Philharmonic. Unfortunately, a spiky-haired culprit scrawled the word “FLUTE FACE” on the end of his instrument and Dipkin left the orchestra in a frustrated rage in 1992.”
20. 1994 Topps Traded Paul Konerko #112T
Similar to Iginla, Paul Konerko is one of those athletes that pretty much everyone respects but when it comes to cards, he’s overlooked. It’s the key card in the 1994 Topps Traded Baseball set. It’s also Konerko’s only card to get the RC tag. While it’s not an expensive card, graded Gem Mint copies carry a fair bit of clout.
19. 1994 Stadium Club First Day Issue Frank Thomas #285
Parallels were still in their infancy in 1994. And of those that were out there, Stadium Club First Day Issue cards were among the most coveted. Debuting the year before, there’s not much to them other than a foil stamp. But the cards landing 1:24 packs and a big checklist, the perception of rarity drove them. So why Frank Thomas? For starters, he was the 1994 American League MVP and was among the top players in the hobby. And like a lot of Stadium Club cards, the photo is cool — maybe a little too cool for some parents.
18. 1994-95 Finest Jason Kidd RC #286
Back in the day, the 1994-95 NBA rookie class was considered a strong one. To a certain extent, it still is. While Glenn Robinson and Juwan Howard saw their hobby spotlight fade, Jason Kidd put together a Hall of Fame career that included an NBA Championship, ten All-Star selections and dozens of other accolades and awards.
In 1994-95, the basketball card world was still a couple of years away from embracing things like small, numbered print runs and autographs. Finest was considered among the top basketball lines and Kidd is right there towards the top of the checklist as far as popularity goes.
17. 1994 Leaf Limited Rookie Phenoms Alex Rodriguez #10 /5000
Alex Rodriguez doesn’t have a ton of MLB card from 1994. And of those that he does have, several inserts have carried the most clout thanks to the lower print runs. The print run of 5,000 the 1994 Leaf Limited Rookie Phenoms Alex Rodriguez card might seem laughable by today’s standards, but that was still relatively small back then. Today, it’s not the easiest card to find, particularly if you’re a stickler for condition. The gold foil on the front certainly makes it one of the flashiest early ARod cards, but also on the condition sensitive side.
16. 1994 Upper Deck World Cup Contenders Mia Hamm #268
Soccer had a breakthrough year in North America in 1994 as the United States played host to the World Cup. Upper Deck made multiple sets in conjunction with the event. Although it was the men who got most of the attention in these sets, one of the top cards 1994 Upper Deck World Cup Contenders features an icon of American women’s soccer. Mia Hamm makes her mainstream soccer card debut in the product and it remains popular still today.
15. 1994 SP Marshall Faulk RC #3
With more than 12,000 rushing yards, Marshall Faulk is one of the greatest running backs to ever play in the NFL. He was also the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 2000 and was named the league’s Offensive Player of the Year for three consecutive years from 1999 to 2001.
When it comes to Marshall Faulk Rookie Cards, 1994 SP tops the list. At the time, SP was as high-end as it got. The foil backdrop on the card makes it one of his most attractive as well. It’s not on the same level as some other RCs from the SP line, most notably the 1993 Derek Jeter, but that shouldn’t take away from it being one of the greatest football cards of 1994.
14. 1994 Action Packed WWF Autographs “Macho Man” Randy Savage #1 /500
“Macho Man” Randy Savage is one of the greatest wrestlers ever. One might even say the Cream of the Crop. Outside of cuts, he has just two certified autograph cards. The first is from 1994 Action Packed WWF where he and The Undertaker both signed 500 cards. These also happen to be the first autograph cards in a mainstream wrestling card set.
The quality of the signatures varies, as does the condition of the cards themselves. Foil, embossing and ink don’t mix that well. Who knew?
While it doesn’t stand out, there’s a serial number at the top, which should help combat cards that may have been signed in person or outright forgeries.
13. 1994 Flair Hot Gloves Ken Griffey Jr. #3
When it comes to baseball cards, big hitters usually get the most love. 1994 Flair Hot Gloves flip things, putting the spotlight on the game’s best defensive players. But it’s how they did it that makes the set a classic still today. Players are cast against the die-cut backdrop of a baseball glove.
For a while, die-cut cards were one of the big things in sports card technology. It’s still used a lot today. 1994 Flair Hot Gloves set a high bar and collectors took note, making them one of the year’s most popular insert sets.
Found in 1994 Flair Series 2 packs, they land 1:24 packs (one per box). Griffey is one of ten cards on the checklist.
12. 1994 Parkhurst Missing Link Autographs Maurice Richard #2 /956
1994 Parkhurst Missing Link plays “What If?,” imagining what a 1956-57 Parkhurst Hockey set might have looked like. The design nails the era and its players. But the set isn’t all retro in its approach. Autographs were also randomly inserted in packs. Among them is one of the earliest Maurice Richard signature cards. Like all cards in the set, it’s numbered to 956 copies.
Richard signed for several sets prior to his death in May, 2000, but not a lot.
11. 1994 Upper Deck Michael Jordan RC #19
MJ switching to baseball meant that all collectors could finally afford a Michael Jordan Rookie Card again. Sure, he’s wearing a White Sox jersey and the photo’s a little awkward. But it’s still a Jordan RC by definition, just not the Jordan RC that goes for thousands in top condition.
10. 1994 Miami Bumblebee Dwayne Johnson
When you look at this card “Dwayne Johnson” might not ring a bell. But look into those eyes and say the name again. Yes, it’s that Dwayne Johnson — also known to many as The Rock. Johnson’s failure in football might have been the greatest thing to ever happen to him. After a short stint in the CFL, he joined the WWF. Pardon the pun, but after a “rocky” start, he would evolve into The Rock and become one of professional wrestling’s biggest stars. But he didn’t stop there. Johnson moved on to Hollywood where he is now one of the biggest action stars in the world.
Johnson’s trading card beginnings can be traced back to this card. It was included on a massive 24-card sheet given out as a stadium giveaway. To free the card, all four sides needed to be separated with its perforated edges, much like Sports Illustrated for Kids cards. So an already tough card is even tougher when it comes to high-condition ones. Thankfully, with other cards surrounding it on all four sides, there was a bit of protection.
9. 1994 Score Rookie/Traded Call-Up Alex Rodriguez #HC1
When you think “Score,” you don’t normally think “rare.” The 1994 Score Rookie/Traded Call-Up Alex Rodriguez is an exception. A mystery redemption card was included at a rate 1:240 packs. So it was hard to find to begin with. But when the set came out, baseball was done for season with its players on strike. The popularity of baseball cards plummeted, even the good sets. 1994 Score Rookie/Traded isn’t one of the year’s strongest products overall. This might be the only memorable card on the entire checklist. It’s also one of the most coveted Alex Rodriguez cards from his debut season.
8. 1994-95 Finest Refractors Grant Hill #240
Injuries may have slowed Grant Hill’s career, but in the early part of his career, he was one of the NBA’s biggest stars. This translated over to the collecting world where cards from his rookie season drove 1994-95 products. Refractors were popular then like they are now, making this one of the most iconic Grant Hill cards of all-time.
7. 1994 Upper Deck All-Time Heroes Autographs Mickey Mantle #100
In 1994, Upper Deck had an exclusive deal with Mickey Mantle. He was a huge part of their promotional efforts and products. For 1994 Upper Deck All-Time Heroes, an early foray for the company into products focused on retired players. The set’s four autographs live up to the set’s name with Mantle leading the way. The Yankees legend signed 1,000 cards for the product. They’re similar to his base card but have an Upper Deck Authenticated hologram on the back.
6. 1994-95 Pinnacle Hockey Sylvain Turgeon #288
Although this is a Sylvain Turgeon card, he’s not the reason this card has gained tremendous notoriety. For more than a decade, it sat in bins of commons. But then someone discovered the identity of the boy staring up at Dale Hawerchuk with hero eyes. It’s future Hall of Famer Patrick Kane making his NHL hockey card debut about 13 years before his official Rookie Cards in 2007-08.
Needless to say, you’re a lot less likely to find it in common boxes today.
5. 1994 SP Holoviews Die Cuts Michael Jordan #16
When it comes to cards, Michael Jordan dominates. It really doesn’t matter what sport it is (or how good he is playing it). 1994 SP Holoviews are some of the most interesting and coolest inserts ever created. They pair up a slick regular design and integrate a holograms into it.
1994 SP Holoviews Die Cuts take things a step further. Yes, the tops on these come with a simple rounding, but it’s the rarity that contributes more to their lasting popularity. Die Cuts are 1:75 packs versus 1:5 for the easier non-die cut versions.
In addition to the long odds, the 1994 SP Holoviews Die Cuts set is fairly big for an insert set, coming in at 38 cards. So they’re tough. Jordan is one of several players in the set who continues to command strong prices.
4. 1994-95 Be A Player Autographs Wayne Gretzky #108
It’s not the prettiest autograph card of The Great One or the most valuable. But it is the first. 1994-95 Be A Player Hockey is notable for a few reasons. Put out by the NHLPA, they capture players in casual atmospheres like on the golf course or riding a waterslide.
But it was the set’s autographs that were the game-changers. This was one of the first products to include an autograph in every pack. Not surprisingly, Gretzky is a short print having signed just 300 copies versus the reported 2,400 most other players did.
3. 1994 SP Alex Rodriguez RC #15
Yes, the 1994 SP Alex Rodriguez Rookie Card doesn’t carry the same prestige it once did. Yes, it sells for a lot less than it once did. Its fall is comparable to the 1986 Donruss Jose Canseco. But when it comes to 1994 baseball cards with mass recognition, it’s hard to think of anything else.
The sophomore release for SP Baseball, it keeps the foil that 1993 SP Baseball Premier Prospects had. That means similar issues with condition the edges and corners. However, as the 1993 SP Derek Jeter RC continues to soar, the 1994 SP Alex Rodriguez has fallen on hard times thanks to the controversy towards the end of his career. His popularity has rebounded a little, but it’s unlikely this card will ever reach its earlier highs.
2. 1994 Signature Rookies Tetrad Titans Autographs O.J. Simpson #129 /2500
In the worlds of sports cards and collectibles, it’s often the story behind an item that elevates it. There’s a whole lot wrong with the 1994 Signature Rookies Tetrad Titans Autographs O.J. Simpson. And that’s before you even get into the dated design. The cards were actually signed while Simpson was in prison awaiting trial for the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman.
While it’s certainly ghoulish to make the connection, it’s there. The cards come with a story. And they’re one of the most interesting pieces to come from a trial that has gone on to influence so many parts of our culture and media.
Many cards over the years have pushed the envelope over what’s acceptable. Here, it’s totally understandable. But no matter what side of the debate you’re on, the history surrounding this autograph is still fascinating.
1. 1994 Upper Deck Baseball Mickey Mantle/Ken Griffey Jr. Autograph
Mickey Mantle and Ken Griffey Jr. are baseball card icons. Both helped drive the hobby to new heights but their popularity transcends that. And that’s a big reason why this card is so amazing. Both signatures are timeless. Coming out at a time when autographs were still rare in the vast majority of products, it set a high mark for multi-signed cards to follow.
One thing to be on the watch for is altered cards. In addition to the dual autograph, both Mantle and Griffey have single-signed versions of the same card. There are no unsigned inserts. But what some have done is taken a single signature card and tried to make it into one that appears to be the dual autograph. Card backs do have an Upper Deck Authentication hologram on the back so if you’re unsure, you’ll want to contact the company directly as older pieces aren’t in their online database.
Although not serial numbered, 1994 Upper Deck Mickey Mantle/Ken Griffey Jr. autograph has a print run of 1,000 copies.