How to Spot Which 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Cards Are Worth Grading

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1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr BGS 9-5.jpg front header

By David Poole | Senior Grader, Beckett Grading Services

A strong grade can make a major impact on what your 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. is worth (or any 1989 Upper Deck rookie card for that matter). Here are some tips on what to look for when choosing which cards to send in.

Hint: You may want to spend more time on the back.

1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr BGS 9-5.jpg front

The 1989 Upper Deck set was produced in very high quality. Cards were generally cut well, print flaws were rare, and corners came out of packs almost always sharp. So why don’t all the Ken Griffey Jr. rookie cards grade 10? Let’s take a closer look.

1. Keys to Getting Top Grades

• Centering top to bottom is measured from the top border to the bottom of his name. More specifically, the bottom of his name aside from the tail of the lower case ‘y’ in Griffey.

• Natural factory cut edges tend to have a little roughness from time to time. As long as this roughness doesn’t tear into, dip down into the borders of the card, or run down an entire edge, the card still has a chance to get a 9.5, or in some rare cases still achieve a 10 (obviously, if the remaining sub grades allow).

2. Commonly Missed Flaws

• Small paper flaws (small wrinkles in the card stock) appear from time to time on the back surface coming from either the right or left edges about half way up the card. The surface grade, depending on how prevalent the paper flaw is, can range anywhere from a 5 to a 7.5

• The Upper Deck hologram on the back may have chipped off pieces. If only about 15-20% of the hologram is missing, then card may still have a chance to receive a 9.5 overall. The surface grade can get as low as a 5 depending on the severity of how much is missing. If the hologram has been deemed completely missing from the factory, not scraped off, then the surface grade will NOT be affected. It will be referred to as “Missing Hologram” on the label.

In some rare cases, there may be two holograms placed on the back. This also will not affect the surface grade and will be notated on the label. However, if one of the holograms is complete and the other is missing pieces, the surface grade will be deducted accordingly.

• Print Dots, sometimes referred to as “fish eyes,” (small circles of different colors usually red, green, yellow or blue) on or near his face. These negatively impact the grade.

• A “crimp” or slight bend in the surface coming up from the bottom edge right near the Upper Deck logo, extending to the bottom of his right shoulder. This is sometimes hard to see but, unfortunately, leaves the surface grade at anywhere from a 5 to a 7, depending on the severity.  

• Small white check mark shaped flaws sometimes appear in groups on the front of the card. These can cause the surface to be dropped anywhere from an 8.5 to a 6.

1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr BGS 9-5.jpg reverse

3. Common Variations That Don’t Count Against a Grade

• The back has a completely different player. This is notated as wrong back on the label. 

• Sometimes the ink printing of an entirely different card is printed on top of the front or back of the card (leaving a “shadow” like look of the other card image). This also will be notated on the label and not deducted from the surface grade.

• Missing holograms and double holograms (see above).

One last tip. Even though a card is fresh from a pack or factory set, don’t assume any quality. Those paper wrinkles, and hologram chips likely happened during the printing process. Like many cards, it never had a chance at a high grade, even before it was packaged.

Visit the Beckett Grading Services site to find out how to have your 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. and other cards graded and encapsulated.

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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.

7 comments

  1. LJ 23 July, 2016 at 20:40

    Great article. I would like to see more articles like this on what to look for with other cards. It would save a lot of time and Money on both sides. Thanks.

  2. David 24 July, 2016 at 15:44

    Great tips, rather than showing a bgs 9.5, it would’ve been nice to show pictures of the typical flaws you mentioned, especially the surface issues that might not be a obvious.

  3. Darren Burr 13 August, 2017 at 20:01

    I have a Ken Griffey Jr #1 rookie card and it’s in good condition I just want to say that the information your site gave me was very valuable information and I will be getting the card graded tomorrow. Thanks a lot .

  4. Jeffrey Hall 26 October, 2017 at 10:04

    Thanks You for the information. Pics. Would really help us to see what to look for, before grading.

  5. Marc 28 October, 2017 at 15:33

    I have two of these. I haven’t looked at them in years. I was looking up how much they are worth and there is a very wide difference is worth. What would cause one to be worth 4K.

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