Top 100 Baseball Cards of the 1980s

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The 1980s was a decade of big change for baseball cards. New companies, new technologies and a booming marketplace all brought the hobby into the mainstream. And with every new season came some great and memorable cards. These are our picks for the top 100 baseball cards of the 1980s.

It’s not necessarily the most valuable cards of the decade. That’s part of it but more important are the cards’ legacy and how they helped shape such an important era.

Top 100 Baseball Cards of the 1980s

1. 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. RC #1

Who cares if there are more copies printed to stretch around the world … twice? Not just one of the most important 1980s baseball cards but of the post-WWII era, ushering in a new, premium brand into the baseball card aisles and leading off that ground-breaking set with the Rookie Card of arguably the most impactful player of his era.

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1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Card

2. 1984 Donruss Don Mattingly RC #248

This was the card, more so than any other in the first half of the 1980s, that promoted perceived scarcity and status. If you owned a ’84 Donruss Mattingly, you owned the neighborhood. You were royalty. And you were living large.

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1984 Donruss Don Mattingly Rookie Card

3. 1982 Topps Traded Cal Ripken Jr. #98T

This isn’t even Cal’s first Topps card – that appears elsewhere on this list – but it was more challenging, and more expensive, to secure after its release in late 1982. While some dealers broke box sets to sell singles, others chose not to. As Ripken’s greatness played out on the field, this 1980s baseball card became a must-have for any collector who understood what they were seeing.

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1982 Topps Traded Cal Ripken Jr.

4. 1980 Topps Rickey Henderson RC #482

You want the Rookie Card of the major league’s all-time runs scored and stolen base leader? You’ve come to the right place.

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1980 Topps Rickey Henderson Rookie Card

5. 1985 Topps Mark McGwire RC OLY #401

The USA Baseball subset in 1985 Topps introduced the program to the masses, and brought this slugging first baseman’s first licensed trading card to the forefront of the collectibles industry. Everybody wanted one. And everybody paid good money for it two years later when McGwire was slugging his way to 49 home runs as a rookie.

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1985 Topps Mark McGwire Rookie Card

6. 1989 Fleer Bill Ripken F-FACE #616

It used to be Billy Ripken was best known for being Cal’s younger brother. Since 1989, he’s mostly been known for his penmanship. When it comes to infamous 1980s baseball cards, this one is king.

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1989 Fleer Bill Ripken

7. 1984 Fleer Update Roger Clemens XRC #U-27

Give Fleer credit for getting The Rocket in its 1984 Update set when the competitors waited until the next year to include him in their sets. Fleer was ahead of the curve for this one, as well as card #10 on this very list.

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1984 Fleer Update Roger Clemens

8. 1986 Donruss Jose Canseco RC #39

Both Donruss and Fleer produced Canseco Rookie Cards for their mainstream sets, but the choice of the masses was Donruss. It had a couple things going for it: The iconic Rated Rookie logo and Canseco pictured by himself. Meanwhile, Fleer’s offering paired the future Bash Brother with pitcher Eric Plunk. Donruss sold a lot of ’86 Donruss packs for this Canseco card alone. One of the true highlights of 1980s baseball cards.

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1986 Donruss Jose Canseco

9. 1983 Topps Tony Gwynn RC #482

I think we can all agree Topps could have found a more flattering photo for Gwynn’s Rookie Card. Like, almost anything else. But despite the image, this is a really important card of one of the game’s greatest pure hitters.

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1983 Topps Tony Gwynn Rookie Card

10.1984 Fleer Update Kirby Puckett XRC #U-93

Kirby Puckett wasted no time in making his mark in Minnesota, batting .296 as a 24-year-old rookie in 1984. But it took some time to develop his power. As a rookie, he did not hit a homer. He hit four the next year, then exploded with 83 round-trippers from 1986-88. Puckett died of a stroke at age 45, becoming the second-youngest man to pass away after already being enshrined in Cooperstown. Only Lou Gehrig, at 37, was younger.

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1984 Fleer Update Kirby Puckett

11. 1984 Topps Don Mattingly RC #8

Two Mattingly RCs in the first 11 cards on this list? You bet. This Topps RC – while maybe not as coveted as the Donruss RC was at the time, but pretty darn close – still is very recognizable and stands the test of time as one of the 1980s’ key Rookie Cards.

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1984 Topps Don Mattingly RC

12. 1982 Topps Cal Ripken Jr. RC #21

Of the players shown here, only one went on to set the major league record for consecutive games played, collect 3,184 hits, win two league MVP awards, play in 19 All-Star Games and earn a plaque in Cooperstown. Anyone hear from Bonner or Schneider lately?

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13. 1983 Topps Traded Darryl Strawberry XRC #108T

Still one of the greatest newspaper headlines ever featured a picture of Strawberry getting some extra fly ball work as dusk began to creep in one spring training day. The headline: Strawberry Fields Forever.

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1983 Topps Traded Darryl Strawberry

14. 1986 Topps Traded Barry Bonds XRC #11T

We got our first look at Barry Bonds when the 1986 Traded/Update/Rookie sets were released. At the time, who could have known the highs and lows that would mark an amazing career on the field? But even before the allegations, Bonds was a great player. You just wish he had embraced it more.

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1986 Topps Traded Barry Bonds

15. 1983 Topps Ryne Sandberg RC #83

The 1983 season saw the Rookie Cards of four players break out – Sandberg, Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn and Ron Kittle. This Topps RC was, and is, Ryno’s card of choice as he played a near-flawless second base throughout his Hall of Fame career on the North Side.

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16. 1989 Bowman Tiffany Ken Griffey Jr. #220

With a print run of just an announced 6,000, this may well be the toughest rookie-year Griffey Jr. card to find. And many collectors already have figured that out. There are no shortage of buyers for this card.

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1989 Bowman Tiffany Ken Griffey Jr.

17. 1981 Topps Traded Fernando Valenzuela #850

The driver of sales for Topps’ inaugural boxed Traded Set, the thought of getting a Valenzuela card picturing him alone during Fernandomania caused many a collector to dig for the wallet.

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1981 Topps Traded Fernando Valenzuela

18. 1987 Donruss Greg Maddux RC #36

From 1992-1995, the guy with the pencil-thin mustache on this card won four consecutive National League Cy Young awards, leading the league in innings pitched each time. Four straight Cy Youngs. Let that sink in for a moment.

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19. 1986 Topps Traded Bo Jackson XRC #50T XRC

Jackson was already a household name when his card appeared in the 1986 Topps Traded set. Having won the 1985 Heisman Trophy Award while at Auburn, he was then selected No. 1 overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1986 NFL Draft. Bo warned the Bucs not to select him, but they did anyway. He stayed true to his word and did not sign with the team. A few months later, the Kansas City Royals took Bo in the fourth round of the 1986 MLB Draft. He signed, became an All-Star and marketing gold.

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20. 1984 Topps Traded Dwight Gooden XRC #42T

Like its competitors, Topps waited until its late-season Traded release to issue the company’s first card of the 17-game winner and 1984 Rookie of the Year, who also finished second in the Cy Young Award voting. He won the next year.

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21. 1989 Upper Deck Dale Murphy Reverse Negative #357

Whether this was a true error of a contrived gaffe, it created attention and – even bigger for UD – it created interest in its premiere edition packs.

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1989 Upper Deck Dale Murphy Reverse Negative

22. 1984 Fleer Update Dwight Gooden XRC #U-43

When he entered the 1984 All-Star Game in San Francisco to open up the fifth inning, Gooden was 19-years old, just two years out of Hillsborough High School in Tampa. He was, then, the youngest player to ever play in an All-Star Game. Using his fastball almost exclusively, he struck out the side, fanning Lance Parrish, Chet Lemon and Alvin Davis. That kind of of success on that stage can get a card like this – released later in the season – noticed. And it did.

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1984 Fleer Update Dwight Gooden

23. 1983 Topps Wade Boggs RC #498

There was a time when the world came together for one thing: finding Wade Boggs Topps RCs.

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1983 Topps Wade Boggs RC

24. 1984 Topps Tiffany Don Mattingly #8

It was pure genius when someone at Topps said, “Let’s take our 1984 Baseball Set and cover each card in a glossy coat.” That made an already scorching Don Mattingly card even hotter. And shinier. And pricier.

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1984 Topps Tiffany Don Mattingly

25. 1985 Topps Roger Clemens RC #181

The weather looked great in Winter Haven, and young Roger Clemens was smiling. Seems like this was a good day.

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1985 Topps Roger Clemens

26. 1985 Topps Kirby Puckett RC #536

Puckett’s quick emergence brought this RC a lot of attention from the first day ’85 packs began surfacing. And it was a more affordable option than the ’84 Fleer Update – an important fact to budget-conscious collectors.

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1985 Topps Kirby Puckett

27. 1986 Donruss The Rookies Bo Jackson XRC #38

You’ll notice the same image used for this card also appears on Bo’s Topps Traded card. This is probably a team-issued shot, and considering Jackson only played in 25 games that first season, there would have not been a lot of options at the print deadline.

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28. 1981 Donruss Tim Raines RC #538

Not many 1981 Donruss cards can be called “classic” or “important.” None maybe. But this, the only RC of future Hall of Famer Raines pictured alone, is about as close as it gets.

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29. 1989 Fleer Randy Johnson RC “Marlboro” #381

Not only did Fleer overcompensate with multiple “fixes” for the 1989 Fleer Bill Ripken card, they did the same with Randy Johnson’s card #381 from the same set. The original printing contained a stadium Marlboro sign over the Big Unit’s left shoulder. Can’t have that. So they made sure they cleared that up with several variations ranging from black scribble, to red and green-tinted cover to complete blackout of the sign.

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30. 1986 Topps Traded Tiffany Will Clark XRC #24T

A big-shot hitter for USA Baseball and at Mississippi State, Clark was a highly anticipated rookie coming into the 1986 season. While others bought and sold lots of this XRC, smart buyers figured “What the heck,” and bought the limited edition glossy Tiffany version.

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31. 1986 Fleer Update Barry Bonds XRC #U-14

Perceived to be printed in smaller quantities than the Topps Traded release (and maybe the Donruss The Rookies release, too), the image is classic Bonds – bat in hand ready to uncoil. The blue border was susceptible to some chipping. Here’s a vote to return to the yellow helmets full-time.

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32. 1982 Donruss Cal Ripken Jr. RC #405

Donruss dramatically changed its look from its first set in 1981 to its second in 1982. But the best thing that the ’82 set had going for it was this very affordable Cal Ripken Jr. RC.

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33. 1981 Fleer Graig Nettles Error #387 – “C Nettles” on Back

Nobody wants to look goofy while trying to make the all-important first impression and all. But Fleer did have a moment of lapsed competency when it spelled Graig Nettles name as “Craig” (with a C) on the card back. Yes, it was corrected but by then it had made industry headlines and the “C Nettles” was all anyone wanted.

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34. 1984 Topps Darryl Strawberry RC #182

One of the more anticipated Rookie Cards heading into the 1984 season, as Straw had slugged 26 HR and stolen 19 bases en route to earning the 1983 NL Rookie of the Year Award.

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35. 1986 Topps Traded Jose Canseco XRC #20T

There were other significant cards when 1986 Topps Traded sets dropped – Bo Jackson, Will Clark and Wally Joyner to name just a few – but the company’s first Canseco card did move the needle in the secondary market, even though Donruss and Fleer had included the youngster in their regular sets that year.

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36. 1989 Donruss Ken Griffey Jr. RC #33

One of the pack-pulled Rookie Cards during Junior’s rookie season, but it comes with a tough blend of purple and black border. An RC of one of the game’s greatest, this one isn’t winning any beauty contests.

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37. 1986 Donruss Fred McGriff RC #28

In 20 years, how will history remember The Crime Dog? Will it be as one of his era’s most prolific sluggers, whose name was never linked to performance enhancing drugs? Or will McGriff just be collateral damage from the misdoings around him? He deserves so much more than that.

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1986 Donruss Fred McGriff Rookie Card

38. 1987 Topps Traded Tiffany Greg Maddux #70T

The ’87 Topps Tiffany regular set and Traded sets are believed to carry the highest print runs of any Tiffany set. But that doesn’t mean this true rookie-year glossy card of a Hall of Famer (he did pitch 31 innings in 1986, not enough for rookie status) doesn’t have its place in collections. It certainly does.

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39. 1988 Score Rookie/Traded Craig Biggio XRC #103T

Coming out of Seton Hall, Biggio was a catcher. But he flourished as a second baseman and was one of the better contact hitters of his era. Nobody gets to 3,000 career hits by accident.

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40. 1981 Topps Kirk Gibson RC #315

Sparky Anderson did Kirk Gibson no favors comparing him to Mickey Mantle before Gibson fully figured out major league baseball. But, as we know, things turned out okay for Gibby, both in Detroit and L.A.

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

Seems surprising now, but Topps failed to include Griffey in its flagship release in 1989. Completely missed him, while Upper Deck, Fleer and Donruss did include the game’s top prospect. But when Topps did get around to including Junior in its ’89 Traded box set, they had produced one of The Kid’s best-looking early cards.

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989 Topps Traded Ken Griffey Jr RC

42. 1983 Fleer Ron Kittle RC #241

The hottest baseball card in the Summer of ’83 wasn’t Sandberg, Gwynn or Boggs. It was the be-spectacled Ron Kittle, who slugged home runs a very, very far distance and at a rate that caught fans’ and collectors’ attention. Fleer was the only company that included a Kittle RC in its regular set, as Donruss and Topps passed. Make no mistake, the thrill of finding this card in a regular or cello pack was huge. And like Fernando Valenzuela two years before, Kittle – without question – was instrumental in advancing the chase of the Rookie Card in the industry.

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1983 Fleer Ron Kittle

43. 1985 Topps Dwight Gooden RC #620

After Doc’s record-breaking 1984 season, Topps opted for a non-pitching shot of the dominating righthander. Great choice, and everything works on this RC.

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44. 1984 Fleer Update Pete Rose #U-102

When it was included in Fleer’s legendary 1984 Update set, many collectors were baffled by the image of Rose in the rouge, blanc et bleu of the Montreal Expos. Many still are.

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45. 1985 Topps Eric Davis RC #627

Eric Davis was the choice of many collectors hoarding 1980s baseball cards, the age of the era of stash-and-sell. He stole 80 bases in 1986, and followed that up the next season with 50 steals. Of those 130 steals, he was caught just 17 times. From 1986-90, Davis averaged 30 home runs and 90 RBI, and finished with a .900-plus OPS in three of those seasons.

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46. 1981 Topps Traded Tim Raines #816

There’s no Roberto Ramos or Bobby Pate to have to share on the front of this Raines card. Unlike his regular ’81 Topps RC, the then future Hall of Famer is pictured on his own card, another gem from the ground-breaking 1981 Topps Traded set.

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47. 1983 O-Pee-Chee Tony Gwynn RC #143

The Canadian version of Gwynn’s Topps RC. It includes the O-Pee-Chee logo in the upper right in place of the Topps logo. And you get to learn that in French, you would refer to Outfield as Voltigeur.

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1983 O-Pee-Chee Tony Gwynn Rookie Card

48. 1987 Topps Bo Jackson RC #170

Look at Bo locked in. Future Star, indeed. A 1980s baseball cards classic.

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49. 1987 Donruss Barry Bonds RC #361

Barry appeared in several 1986 year-end releases that are considered XRCs. This was one of the most popular Bonds RCs pulled from packs in ’87.

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50. 1989 Donruss The Rookies Ken Griffey Jr. #3

Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Cards were so valuable to collectors in 1989, that if Oprah had been involved in baseball cards, she would have been saying to her studio guests, “You get a Griffey Jr. RC! And you get a Griffey Jr. RC! And you get a Griffey Jr. RC!“ which would have made fun viewing. But this isn’t a Rookie Card. That one’s found in the main 1989 Donruss set. Rather, it’s a card released during Junior’s rookie season. Big difference.

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51. 1985 Fleer Roger Clemens RC #155

Fleer used a great image for this Rookie Card, opting for a dialed-in Clemens, which seems appropriate. With this card, Fleer became the only manufacturer to produce an XRC and RC of The Rocket. Also, this seems to be available in fewer quantities than Topps’ and Donruss’ Clemens efforts in 1985.

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52. 1988 Score Rookie/Traded Roberto Alomar XRC #105T

An underappreciated card for much of Robbie’s career, it did gain some momentum as fans and followers began looking at his career as a whole and how good he was at second base. He won 10 Gold Glove awards, batted an even .300 over 17 years and finished less than 300 hits shy of 3,000. He played for seven teams, but is best remembered as the glue of the back-to-back World Champion Toronto Blue Jays in 1992 and ’93 when he batted a combined .347 over both Series.

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53. 1989 Upper Deck Randy Johnson RC #25

Another great ’89 Upper Deck RC. Baseball had two tall guys breaking in at about the same time: 6-foot-7 Ben McDonald and 6-foot-10 Randy Johnson. It was Johnson who fared better over his career, collecting five Cy Young awards – including four in a row – while winning 303 games and landing in Cooperstown. If it weren’t for his 1989 RCs, most probably wouldn’t even remember The Big Unit pitched for the Montreal Expos.

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1989 Upper Deck Randy Johnson RC

54. 1981 Topps Fernando Valenzuela RC #302

Fernando’s 1981 Topps Traded appears elsewhere on this list, but this is Valenzuela’s actual Topps RC. It’s one of just two cards available from packs the year he won the NL Cy Young Award and the NL Rookie of the Year award. Bonus points for this one as it also features former Dodgers World Series champion and longtime Angels manager Mike Scioscia.

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55. 1987 Classic Games Bo Jackson #15

Three years ahead of Ccore’s famous 1990 Bo Jackson baseball/football shot, this card was part of classic Games’ introduction of a box set game with baseball card content. The cards were designed and produced by Classic with a full license, and were well received, perhaps none more than this auburn shot of Bo with the baseball/football theme.

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56. 1984 Fleer Don Mattingly #131 RC

The third of Donnie Baseball’s three 1984 Rookie Cards from the major manufacturers of the time. A ho-hum image, maybe, but still a key card of one of the most popular players of the decade.

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57. 1988 Donruss Gregg Jefferies #657 RC

Who knew that the Donruss presses would be rolling with 1988 product from late 1987 until, presumably, the early part of the George H. W. Bush presidency in early 1989? You see why people got tired of the drab borders and card images of this set. But it was baseball in 1988, so buy it we did, mostly looking for the highly-touted Mets prospect who looked like the kid who sat near the back of your social studies class.

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58. 1983 Fleer Wade Boggs #179 RC

Another Boggs RC makes the list, and this Fleer was the only one of the three (Topps, Fleer, Donruss) with a non-action shot, providing a good look at the player who collected 3,010 hits, won five batting titles and hit better than .360 in four different seasons.

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59. 1987 Fleer Barry Bonds #604 RC

Bonds’ second Fleer card appeared the year after his inclusion in the 1986 Fleer Update Set, but this was the first pack-inserted card of the Pirates youngster and was highlighted as a key card from the first day of release. Barry looks thrilled to be getting his picture taken for this 1980s baseball card.

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60. 1988 Topps Traded Jim Abbott #1T OLY XRC

Winning the gold medal in the 1988 Olympic games, pitching against and beating Japan in the championship game, was one of the best things that could have happened to Jim Abbott. For after that victory, the narrative changed from the tired and repetitive sentence “Jim Abbott, born without a right hand, …” to “Jim Abbott, who pitched the United States to an Olympic gold medal, …” That alone was a great step forward in the Jim Abbott story.

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61. 1989 Bowman Ken Griffey Jr. #220 RC

The Tiffany version ranks high on our list due to a modest print run of 6,000 sets, but this regular non-Tiffany RC still ranks here because it’s Griffey. Topps introduced the Bowman line (remember, Topps purchased the Bowman name in the mid-1950s) with this oversized set in 1989. Oversized cards don’t fit into traditional sheets and are as popular as a gassy dog on a long car ride.

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1989 Bowman Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Card

62. 1988 Topps Tom Glavine #779 RC

At the time this card was pulled from packs of 1988 Topps, Glavine was en route to a 17-loss season as a rookie. Nobody – seriously, nobody – could have seen 305 wins and the Hall of Fame in his future. But three years after this RC was released, the lefthander won the first of his two Cy Young awards and went on to earn a plaque in Cooperstown.

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63. 1986 Donruss The Rookies Wally Joyner #1 XRC

Among the most anticipated cards of the late-1986 releases were the first MLB-licensed cards of rookie sensation Wally Joyner. Wally World took the league by storm by hitting .290 with 22 HR and 100 RBI as a 24-year-old getting his first taste of big-league pitching. Donruss knew something good when they saw it, and made Wally card #1 in the inaugural The Rookies box set.

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64. 1985 Donruss Roger Clemens #273 RC

The third Clemens RC (and fourth card overall) hails from 1985 Donruss, a solid set that was met with a great deal of interest from buyers figuring that if 1984 Donruss was good, 1985 would be even better. Yeah, about that. Production seemed to multiply from 1984 numbers, and who could blame Donruss for not wanting to leave money on the table?

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65. 1987 Fleer Update Greg Maddux #U-68 XRC

There wasn’t a lot to get excited about when the 1987 Fleer Update sets arrived, outside of the first Fleer card of A.L. Rookie of the Year Mark McGwire. Oh, there were some highlights such as Steve Carlton looking uncomfortable in a Cleveland Indians uniform. But the key card of the set would be of a 20-year-old guy who posted a 2-4 mark and 5.56 ERA in 31 innings the year before.

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66. 1982 Fleer John Littlefield #576A ERR/Pitching Lefthanded

It didn’t take long for those busting ’82 Fleer to realize that John Littlefield’s card featured a reverse negative, making the righthander a lefty on the card front. Fleer corrected it quickly, but the error fire had already been stoked. The Littlefield can still be found, but its value hasn’t changed much in the last 35 years. And there are plenty of people who want it.

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67. 1982 Donruss The Famous Chicken #531

Yeah, we know. It’s a dude dressed like a chicken. But it’s still a fun card, even if it is just a guy who made a living dressed as a chicken. And then got his own baseball card.

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1982 Donruss San Diego Chicken

68. 1989 Upper Deck John Smoltz #17 RC

In 1987, the Detroit Tigers were making one last attempt at a World Series appearance with the band that had gotten them a World Championship just three years before. And so they parted with a 20-year-old Michigan native named Smoltz, trading him to the Braves for 36-year-old veteran Doyle Alexander. Alexander went 9-0 from mid-August on. Even so … let’s just say the Braves won the trade.

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1989 Upper Deck John Smoltz Rookie Card

69. 1987 Donruss Opening Day #163A Barry Bonds ERR Johnny Ray

Produce an Opening Day box set, they said. It’s easy to do, they said. Meanwhile, this might be the only time Johnny Ray was ever mistaken for Barry Bonds.

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1987 Donruss Opening Day Barry Bonds ERR Johnny Ray

70. 1982 Fleer Cal Ripken Jr. #176 RC

A Ripken Jr. Rookie Card for the frugal shopper.

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71. 1984 Nestle Don Mattingly #8

One of the more difficult Mattingly rookie-year releases to find in Mint condition is this Nestle card, found on one of six different uncut sheets. The cards look exactly like their Topps counterparts, save for the Nestle logo in place of Topps. Sometimes you’ll find versions of these that look like they were hand-cut by a kid with plastic scissors and little use for even borders. Other times you will find versions that look like they were just pulled from a pack.

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72. 1984 Donruss Joe Carter #41 RR RC

Owner of one of the most famous World Series home runs ever hit, and one of the nicest guys to ever grace the front of a baseball card. Carter was class and it’s captured on the memorable 1980s baseball card.

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73. 1987 Topps Barry Bonds #320 RC

Nobody knew it at the time, but the presses ran day and night for ’87 Topps Baseball. That’s okay. It made this card settle into an affordable range so that even when he was on top of the baseball world, kids could still afford this Barry Bonds Topps RC.

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1987 Topps Barry Bonds

74. 1987 Donruss Barry Larkin #492 RC

Larkin hit .353 in his hometown Reds’ four-game sweep of Oakland in the 1990 World Series. Five years after that he was named the 1995 NL Most Valuable Player and in 2012, the Baseball Writer’s Association of America elected him to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Not a bad career for the kid who attended Cincinnati’s Moeller High School, the same school that later graduated Ken Griffey Jr.

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1987 Donruss Barry Larkin Rookie Card

75. 1987 Topps Rafael Palmeiro #634 RC

Back before his 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, and back before Raffy’s life became complicated, there was this.

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76. 1982 Topps Kmart MVP Maury Wills #2

In 1962, Topps had opted not to sign Wills to a trading card deal, apparently believing he was not major league material. Wills was slow to forget the slight, not signing a deal with Topps until 1967. So when time came to include the 1962 NL MVP in its Kmart MVP box set, Topps did the only thing they could – they produced a card that never was.

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77. 1988 O-Pee-Chee Delino DeShields #88 XRC

And you thought Lex Luthor had a lot of brain power . . . DD either sports a full noggin or that hat is about three stories too high. Haven’t seen this card before? It was only available in Canada’s O-Pee-Chee baseball packs, as part of the company’s emphasis on its nation’s teams – the Toronto Blue Jays and Montreal Expos. In recent years, OPC has been starting to get more collector love thanks in part to their rarity compared to Topps. So this is a little obscure for great 1980s baseball cards but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored.

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78. 1989 Upper Deck Gary Sheffield #13 COR RC

Those ripping packs of 1989 Upper Deck looking for Ken Griffey Jr. cards did find this RC of a Brewers shortstop who, at the time, was most known for being Dwight Gooden’s nephew and for his gold front teeth. But 509 home runs and a National League batting title later, Sheffield stood on his own name. There is an error version with the SS in the upper-right corner upside down. But just stick with this corrected version.

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79. 1980 Topps George Brett #450

On August 17 in the 1980 baseball season, George Brett doubled to reach the .400 mark – an amazing feat made even more spectacular considering he was batting just .259 after the first month of the season. Although he fell short of the .400 mark at the end of the season, he still finished at an eye-popping .390, to win his second batting title. He would win another ten years later, collecting three in three different decades. The All-Star designation on this card seems pretty appropriate.

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80. 1985 Donruss Tom Seaver #424B COR

In terms of errors, there are several greater 1980s baseball cards than this. But … how do you mistake a Hall of Fame righthander with a merely decent lefthander named Floyd Bannister? Donruss did, letting collectors believe Floyd Bannister was actually Tom Seaver in the first printing of ’85 Donruss. They did eventually fix things in their factory set and in the Leaf printing.

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81. 1981 Fleer Fernando Valenzuela RC #140

FernandoMania was on full display in the summer of ’81, and until Topps added him in its late-season Traded Set, the only card picturing the lefty alone and not paired with other prospects came via the good folks at Fleer.

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1981 Fleer Fernando Valenzuela

82. 1987 Topps Mark McGwire #366

Big Mac’s second Topps-issued card, but the first pictured with Oakland. A key card in the summer of ’87 when McGwire was belting a then-rookie record 49 home runs.

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1987 Topps Mark McGwire

83. 1984 Donruss Tony Gwynn #324

Near-perfect card of a near-perfect hitter. This second-year card of Gwynn may be the best looking of any of his other releases over the years.

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84. 1984 Fleer Darryl Strawberry RC #599

A popular card upon its release, this provided collectors with a great look at the young slugger fresh off of winning the 1983 NL Rookie of the Year Award.

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85. 1982 Donruss Diamond Kings Pete Rose #1

This Dick Perez-produced art was card #1 of the very first offering of his famous Diamond Kings cards that populated so many Donruss sets. Nice touch making Pete the leadoff hitter in the DK lineup. As the first sentence reads on the back of this card: “Every year Pete Rose shatters another baseball record.”

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86. 1984 Fleer Glenn Hubbard #182

Glenn Hubbard, he of the lifetime .244 batting average and .328 On-Base Percentage, wasn’t one of the top 250 players of the 1980s. But there is a snake in this picture. He made one All-Star appearance and never sniffed more than 136 hits in a single season. But there’s a freakin’ snake in this picture . . .

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1984 Fleer Glenn Hubbard Snake

87. 1988 Fleer Edgar Martinez RC #378

Lifetime .312 hitter, two American League batting titles, lifetime .933 OPS, more career walks (1,283) than strikeouts (1,202) and the guy you wanted to see at the plate when the game was on the line.

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1988 Fleer Edgar Martinez RC

88. 1981 Donruss “Best Hitters” #537

Let’s be honest. 1981 Donruss wasn’t littered with a lot of visually appealing cards. This, however, is a piece of art worthy of this list of great 1980s baseball cards. Rod Carew and George Brett never looked better.

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89. 1988 Upper Deck Promo Wally Joyner #700

Yep, looks like a 1989 Upper Deck card but it’s not. It’s actually a 1988 Upper Deck promo, released to stoke interest in the company’s inaugural baseball release that would make 1980s baseball cards history. Joyner and pitcher DeWayne Buice were integral in helping UD get off the ground and they both have promo cards that were huge during the 1988 National Sports Collectors Convention.

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1988 Upper Deck Wally Joyner Promo Card

90. 1985 Donruss Dwight Gooden RC #190 RC

As the kids of the era would say, Doc could “bring it.”

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1985 Donruss Dwight Gooden RC

91. 1988 Donruss Mark Grace RC #40

This RC was on fire when pulled from 1988 Donruss packs. Rated Rookie? Indeed, Grace went on to collect the most hits of any player during the decade of the 1990s.

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1988 Donruss Mark Grace

92. 1985 Fleer Kirby Puckett RC #286

One of three mainstream Puckett Rookie Cards in 1985, this is actually the Hall of Famer’s second Fleer release. His 1984 Fleer Update XRC is by far his greatest card released during the 1984-85 era.

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1985 Fleer Kirby Puckett RC

93. 1985 Donruss Two For The Title #651

The 1984 American League batting championship race came down to the final game of the season, with Don Mattingly edging teammate Dave Winfield to win the title. Nice move by Donruss to recognize both on card #651 in the 1985 set. There are two versions of this card – yellow lettering with red “Two For the Title” came from wax packs. The white lettering with pink “Two For the Title” came from factory sets.

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94. 1982 Topps Traded Ozzie Smith #109T

The Wizard’s first Cardinals card helped drive Topps’ second “Traded” box set.

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1982 Topps Traded Ozzie Smith

95. 1985 Topps Orel Hershiser RC #493

This Topps RC may have been slightly overlooked upon its release, but took center stage as Hershiser pitched the Dodgers to the 1988 World Series title.

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1985 Topps Orel Hershiser RC

96. 1981 Topps Joe Charboneau RC #13

This card of the 1980 AL Rookie of the Year is credited with making the “Rookie Card” a thing in the industry.

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1981 Topps Joe Charboneau RC

97. 1983 Topps Willie McGee RC #49 RC

Great ballplayer for much of the decade. You know, for a time there, he really did kind of look like a human version of E.T.

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98. 1986 Fleer Mickey Hatcher #396

Apparently there were some concerns over Hatcher’s defensive abilities. For collectors, that’s a good thing because this has one of the most fun photos depicted on 1980s baseball cards.

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1986 Fleer Mickey Hatcher

99. 1981 Topps Harold Baines RC #347 RC

Because he DH’d for much of the second half of his 22-year career, people tend to forget what a great player Baines was through much of the ’80s. He finished his career with 2,866 hits, 384 HR and an OPS of .820.

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1981 Topps Harold Baines RC

100. 1988 Fleer Update John Smoltz XRC #U-74

Just two years after the release of his first minor league card and shortly after his trade from Detroit to Atlanta, future Hall of Famer Smoltz made his major league card debut in Fleer’s 1988 Update Set. His mainstream Rookie Cards appeared the next spring.

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  1. Larry Sargent 1 April, 2020 at 20:58

    Who do i contact someone about old baseball cards and i also have old football cards

  2. Victor Dascanio 1 April, 2020 at 23:22

    Ryan any chance you can do other decades? I have 75 of these and am working on completing my little set!!

  3. Evan 2 April, 2020 at 15:29

    This was a really fun read and great for this time in particular. Well done. Puckett cracks the Top Ten!

  4. Robhl 2 April, 2020 at 18:05

    Top 100 cards of the decade of 80’s and not one of the king, Nolan Ryan? That’s a joke

  5. Fred 5 April, 2020 at 23:56

    Jerome Walton 89 Upper Deck should’ve cracked the top 100. A fantastic example of how a card could rise and fall.

  6. Steve 5 June, 2020 at 11:01

    Great article. Thank you! Your top 100 list more than anything else is what brought me back into the hobby last year — after a 30 year hiatus. My only wish is that a clearer example of the Randy Johnson Marlboro card was shown in #29.

  7. Michael 7 July, 2020 at 21:26

    Awesome article, definitely captured the essence of the 1980s. Great job on this!!!

  8. Hindsight 24 March, 2022 at 09:19

    I remember being in that late-80’s baseball card collecting frenzy, and seeing the majority of these cards. Turns out we were all stupid. We should have been hoarding up Michael Jordan cards back then…

  9. Joe 27 March, 2022 at 14:52

    For an era of cards that many call junk wax, the 80s have some decent cards. I grew up in the 80s and chased many of these cards and ripped hundreds of packs in my days. I personally love 80s baseball cards and have some in my personal collection that are worth more than just the monetary value. They also hold memories of pulling these cards from the packs or going to games and seeing these players in person.

  10. Ssmmy 27 January, 2023 at 11:29

    Got thousands baseball football basketball ,and hockey . all different years. If it looking for someone specifically. Ask i may have it for sslr

  11. Charisse guerra 7 May, 2023 at 17:24

    Hello my name is Charisse Guerra and I believe you may have bought my card collection of baseball cards at a San Bruno CA Storage Room Auction. Please Reply Thank you.

  12. Justin Entrekin 10 January, 2024 at 12:26

    This is excellent! I’ve been able to use this as my “bucket list” of 80s cards and condense my collection down a tad. I really wish that you would do the same for the 90s!

  13. JOHNATHON E REDMOND 30 January, 2024 at 02:20

    I wasn’t stupid, I collected all the superstars from that era, only thing is a friend stole a bunch of my cards and every time I think about it , it makes me sick to my stomach. His girlfriend moved to Texas after he passed away and she was supposed to give them back but didn’t. God I want to bring legal action against her. Bcuz now she’s taken away my two boys futures. I still have a lot of the top cards, but I’m missing over half what I had. I can name all them off the top of my head and I even bought up as many of the $20 boxes that was filled with the older cards the Diamonds I think they were called. Y’all won’t believe how those packs helped my super stars collection. I even bought some of the newer cards, oh that was between 2008 and 2010, I spent 1000’s on them. She doesn’t realize I have an error card that I’ll report and if it ever surfaces it’s gonna prove my collection was stolen. God people can be so greedy and cruel at the same time. Well to all my former friends/collectors enjoy your collections and my story I’ve just told is only a fraction I’ve told. There’s way more to it and it’s pretty astounding. Happy collecting y’all !!!

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