Which Rookie Card have you always found interesting — and why?

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By Chris Olds | Beckett Sports Card Monthly Editor | Commentary

Do you have one Rookie Card that you just find more interesting than all of the rest? If so, tell us why and we might showcase your answers as part of the next Beckett Sports Card Monthly that’s all about rookies.

For myself, the 1980 Topps Rickey Henderson RC has taken on that spot for me after it being held by the 1986 Donruss Jose Canseco Rated Rookie or his 1983 Fritsch Madison Muskies first minor-league issue for years.


Well, in my younger years I never owned one — it was simply too pricey — and when I did land one it was one that showed its age with some creases and wear and tear, nothing like the BGS 9 behemoth above.

For me, that card has become my model of cardboard perfection — not the graded 9 specimen, but any copy. To me, it’s become the model of what a baseball card should be. It is perfect. Its well-balanced and perfectly colored design is one thing. Another is its perfect action photo for the time — a photo that showcases a memorable part of the player’s game (in this case, his compact batting stance) with colors and composition that’s simply not topable. It’s even got a perfectly placed, perfectly legible facsimile autograph that can’t even come close to the real thing these days when Henderson signs them.

Plenty of cardboard has come and gone in the 34 years since this Rookie Card arrived — and I’d argue that not much has trumped it. It’s the perfect Rookie Card, so that’s why it stands out to me.

Which RC stands out for whatever reason to you? Tell me in the comments below …

Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball and Beckett Sports Card Monthly magazines. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an email to him at colds@beckett.com. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.


  1. Nick Tegeler
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    For me it would have to be the 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. because I got it out of a $1.50 pack in 1989 along with getting him to sign my baseball at the same show . My other would have to be the 1984 Topps Don Mattingly beacuse he is my favorite baseball player and I had to beg my dad to buy me that card for my birthday back then since I couldn’t afford it. Even though it’s the cheapest one, I as a kid thought it had the coolest design. Two of the best collecting memories I’ve ever had.

    Nick Tegeler

    Lawrenceville, Illinois

  2. Nick Tegeler
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    For me it would have to be the 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. because I puled it out of a $1.50 pack at a show in 1989 along with getting him to sign my baseball. The other one would have to be the 1984 Topps Don Mattingly because I begged my dad to buy it for me for my birthday since I couldn’t afford it. It was the cheapest one but I thought it had the coolest card design. Two of the best collecting memories as a kid.

    Nick Tegeler

    Lawrenceville, Illinois

  3. Jason Martin
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    Without a doubt, the rookie card that is most interesting to me is the 1989 Ken Griffey Jr. #1. It is the card that has defined the late 80s/early 90s era of collecting and the “changing of the guard” so to speak that happened when Upper Deck came on to the scene that year. Plus, it’s also an affordable card of a future Hall of Famer. This will always be my favorite card…not just my favorite rookie card.

  4. Kerry
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    ’98 Peyton Manning. His cards to me were the turn around from the mass produced cards of the 90’s. It’s what got me back into the hobby.

  5. Pete Gasperlin
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    I’ve always liked the Team USA Mark McGwire for some reason.

  6. David
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    I love Reggie Jackson’s rookie card, Chris. He looks so clean cut and innocent in it- probably when he more so enjoyed playing baseball-and being around people more…………………

  7. David J
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Picking just one is really tough. There are definitely a few truly iconic rookie cards. If I had to pick one per sport it would be tough, but here goes. Baseball: 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr only because the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle is technically not a rookie card. Basketball: 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan, though the 1980-81 Topps Magic/Erving/Bird is a close second. Football: 1957 Topps Johnny Unitas, though there are a lot of other really iconic football rookies to pick from. Hockey: 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky, as nothing else is close in hockey. With all that being said, I think some of the newer autographed jersey rookies could become iconic, particularly those like the 2003-04 Exquisite Lebron James. However if I had to pick just 1 rookie that has always been intriguing to me, it would definitely be the 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan. It has a great picture of Jordan and simply the most iconic basketball rookie card (if not most iconic rookie of all sports).

  8. chrisolds
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    This isn’t necessarily about picking iconic cards. It’s about picking ones that mean something to you — for any reason.

  9. Jonathan W. Iwanski
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s interesting that the same parent company can have multiple RCs for the same player. That really cheapens and waters down the RC idea when there are so many of them.

  10. Posted May 19, 2014 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    As a Red Sox fan, I really like the 1983 Topps Wade Boggs rookie. First, the ’83 Topps design is killer (I’ll say it is the best design from Topps in the 1980s), with the action shot and the portrait inset. The main picture on the card also reflects Boggs’s greatest skill: getting on base. A classic piece of 80’s cardboard.

  11. Ben
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    Derek Jeter ’93 Topps. I got into collecting that year working on that set but stopped for about a decade. When I realized how popular that card was I went and bought that set. That was the rookie card that truly got me back into collecting.

  12. J.R.
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    1991 Upper Deck Todd Van Poppel.

    Chris, you can appreciate the god-awful-ugly/still eye-popping yellow A’s uniform, along with the beautiful sky and hills in the background, and the young, grinning prospect. There is something about the green border and 91’Top Prospect logo that brings the card together.

    At one time, Todd was a can’t miss future HOF’er, sharing magazine cover space with Nolan Ryan. The card was a legit mover at $5, and everyone wanted one. I have about 100 somewhere in a 5000 count box buried in the recesses of my garage. If I got $5 for them all right now, someone would be overpaying.

  13. Dan
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    I could list several dozen, but the first two that popped into my head was the 1965 Joe Morgan breaking in with the Houston Colt .45’s and the 1952 Topps Eddie Mathews of the Boston Braves before he moved with the team to Milwaukee then on to Atlanta.

    Football: 1957 Topps Bart Starr where he is sporting #42.

    If not limited to RCs, it’s tough to beat the 1956 Topps Hank Aaron that shows Willie Mays sliding into home.

  14. Patrick
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    I’ve got to say mine is one of a former (should have been) potential HOFer and often injured Reds great. He still is my favorite player of all time. The 1985 Donruss Eric Davis. I already had the Topps and Fleer rookies but it was difficult finding his Donruss card as they were not widely distributed. In 1985 I had almost the entire Fleer set because they were sold a local grocery store. I finally got my prized card in 1987 when of course they were high demand after trading away almost the entire collection of high dollar 85 Fleer cards. My Clemens, Puckett, Gooden, Hershiser, and Saberhagen RCs, plus a Mattingly and Strawberry to acquire this highly sought after piece. To this day I still do not regret it and it is still my favorite card.

  15. emil joubert
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    defintely the UD Griiffey, got it 3 yrs ago… an exercise n patience I guess!?

  16. Ed
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    Mine is the 1980-81 Topps Basketball Magic/Erving/Bird Rookie.

    I have no idea why I don’t have one, I’ve had multiples of Jordan’s Rookies and probably most of the Rookies of most sports have passed through my hands. Yet somehow my favorite card is not mine….Is that why it is my favorite? I don’t know.
    What I do remember about this card (Pre-grading days) is that my Brother-in-law had one, and it was really nice and clean. So of course every time I went to see him he would show me his really nice Magic/Erving/Bird Rookie. Maybe I’m waiting for a nicer one than my Brother-in-law had, or other things just keep coming up.

    Rookies! I wonder how many Rookies I attached to my bike with clothes pins in the early 60s. Sorry, that’s what we did then, we didn’t have video games so we had to get out of the house and play.

    Great article…..gave me some good old days thoughts.


  17. Jason K
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    1987 Fleer Bo Jackson. Aside from Bo being a great player, 1987 had the most hyped rookie class of the decade, and Fleer had a GREAT design. Plus, Bo in his powder blue Royals uniform looked great on the blue bordered set (his ’88 Topps card was a beautiful blue masterpiece too… But, it isn’t a rookie, so I digress). During that era, “Bo Knows” made him a household name. ’87 Fleer set had lower production numbers than Topps and Donruss, and were not available in all areas. That’s an interesting card!

  18. Posted May 19, 2014 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    The 1982 Topps Cal Ripken Jr Rookie Card is the RC that will always bring a smile to my face. In the summer of 1982, my eleven year old son asked if he could have twenty dollar’s to buy his friend’s collection of cards (about 2000 cards from 1980, 1981 and 1982). My son only wanted the 1982 Cal Ripken RC but his friend said it was all or nothing.

    I collected when I was a boy from 1957 to 1963, but I hadn’t bought a pack of cards since 1963. My son’s sudden interest in baseball cards rekindled my interest in collecting. That Summer, the boys (eleven and nine) and I frequented every card shop within fifty miles of our home and we went to every card show within a hundred miles. The boys and I have a lot of great memories from those times together, looking for our favorite cards. Now, thirty-two years later, that nine year old son has since joined me in running our card shop. It all started because my son wanted a Cal Ripken RC.

  19. marc
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    I have ripped a lot of 1990 Topps wax/rak-pak/jumbo’s in the 90’s, 00’s and 10’s, usually on a whim of sorts, and I still am thinking the Frank Thomas RC #414 is one of my favorites. He’s not even my favorite player (that’s Johnny Damon btw) but that card is just so awesome. It still has the 80’s feel to it but the design is 90’s for sure. The color scheme is interesting for the 90’s Topps set, unlike that horridly bland 90’s Donruss set (in which the Hurt thankfully has no card). The photo is not crisp at all, but it looks as if the Big Hurt is posing as he tags out the base runner- very effortless on his part. It’s such a cheap card too, everyone should own one! or 50!

  20. Mike Pereira
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    The card that got me back into the hobby..2011 Topps Legends Von Miller auto. Nothing special about the product. Got produced for one year and had a very limited numbered autos. By the way I paid way over the market price because I didn’t know anything about the hobby. Now I’ve spent god knows how much money on cards that will never be worth what I put into it, but atleast it was fun opening them like I did when I was a kid.

  21. Jeff Russell
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    As a rookie card enthusiast, it’s difficult to pick just one. Whenever a player is mentioned my mind goes straight to the image of their rookie card. If I had to pick one, it would actually be two. I was going to a show in the early to mid 80’s determined to buy either the ’75 George Brett or Robin Yount. I went back & forth in my head on the merits of each… Brett-Yount-Brett-Yount. I finally settled on the Yount. Still in the collection today even after taking a break from collecting from ’93 to ’05. I picked up a nice graded Brett about a year ago, so now I have them both.
    Honorable mention: ’78 Jack Morris, ’80 Rickey Henderson, ’81 Fernando, ’82 Ripken, ’83 Tony Gwynn

  22. Greg
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    This question brings back memories. For me the most interesting rookie would be my first notable rookie card in my collection. Eddie Murray 1978 Topps. Yes there were a few other great HOF in that set, but they are multi-picture rookie cards. Murray’s card shows the iconic hairdo of the 70’s and the classic Oriole logo. Great card in my mind.

  23. Paul Angilly
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    OK, here’s a different one … the 1981 Drake’s Big Hitters card of Joe Charboneau.

    This was back in the day when you could find interesting cards in interesting places, including inside boxes of snack cakes. When I first started collecting cards in the mid-1970s, the annual Hostess issues were always among my favorites (possibly because the Twinkies they came with were much better than Topps’ bubblegum). I was disappointed in 1980 when there were no more baseball cards found on Hostess boxes, but was happy to see the Drakes cards show up the following year and soon found myself enjoying Drakes products in order to get some cool cards. At the time, Joe Charboneau was just coming off his Rookie of the Year season (he even had a song made in his honor), so his cards were the “hot rookies” in 1981 card sets.

    What made it special for me, though, was I got his Drake’s card out of a box of snack cakes my parents got for me while we were on our annual summer vacation at the beach in Rhode Island. Ever since then, that card has always reminded me of fun summer days and warm nights in a cottage spent with family, playing card games and watching a tiny portable TV.

    A couple years ago, he was at a card show about a two hour’s drive from me, and I just had to get an extra copy of that card so he could autograph it. It was a thrill, some 30+ years later, to get that (to me) iconic card autographed by that once iconic player.

  24. Posted May 19, 2014 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    1985 Topps Dwight Gooden RC was the card that got me serious into collecting. I was 9 years old and all I could think of was getting “Doc’s” RC card. There were no card shops in my area so I got my packs from the liquor store around the corner – $0.35 a piece and I ate the gum! – you couldn’t beat that deal. I kept buying packs with my allowance money and change found in the couch but no luck. Finally around my birthday I kept asking for money and saved up the $12 it would cost for the liquor store to “order” me a box!

    Till this day I don’t know if I will ever top the feeling of that box break and finally pulling a perfectly off-centered Dwight Gooden RC to call my own! I think trying to recapture those feelings of my youth are what keep me collecting till this day.

  25. Posted May 20, 2014 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    To me it’s probably my 1968 Topps Nolan Ryan/Jerry Koosman rookie card. Two fantastic talents yet unrealized, both wearing the beautiful blue unis and caps of the halpless Mets. A year later they would both be celebrating a World Series championship. Who knew then that what they’d pulled from their pack would go on to feature two very special players. It was that great unknown that makes this card stand out to me.

  26. David Blyn
    Posted May 20, 2014 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    In 1981, I was finally old enough to start buying packs of cards, not just getting my brother’s doubles. I also got a chance to play baseball and found out I was actually a pretty good outfielder. So as I busted pack after pack of cards, my favorite, that brought me further into the industry was 1981 Mets prospects with Hubie Brooks and Mookie Wilson. For years, even throughout my short Little League career, I was given the nickname Mookie and the uniform number 1. I wasn’t fast on the base paths like he was, but I could track down anything in the outfield and unlike Mookie I had a great arm from center field. I had several of those Topps rookie cards and eventually had the Donruss ones as well. Mookie Wilson lived on Staten Island for years and I met him at a school function. He’s a wonderful man and a great player we Mets fans will never forget. Go, Mookie, Go!!

  27. Ron Atkinson
    Posted May 20, 2014 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Wow…I was too young to have pulled a 51 Willie Mays (my favorite player) from a pack but when I rediscovered my old cigar box boyhood collection there was a 60 Yaz (in PSA 5 condition I later found out). Later my boys and I traded a 90 Leaf Frank Thomas rookie for a Todd Van Poppel rookie. You can guess how we feel about that one now!

  28. Paul K
    Posted May 20, 2014 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    The 1980 Topps Rickey Henderson RC – not only my favorite player of all time, but for all the reasons detailed above by Chris. I loved the image as a kid when it came out and it has only improved with time for me.

  29. AJ
    Posted May 20, 2014 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    I would have to say the 88-89 Topps Gretzky Hockey card. The one with him holding up the Kings jersey. Defining moment in late 80s early 90s for the NHL. I also always loved the design of the set with the names being pinned to the card. Just loved collecting that set.

  30. orainpa
    Posted May 20, 2014 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for posting this topic, it brings back some nice memories. Thinking back, I believe the most exciting rookie cards I pulled from packs were the 1975 Rookie cards of Fred Lynn and Jim Rice. During those days, I was putting together the Topps sets and periodically bought packs to open to feed my habit. I remember one day late in the year, I bought a few packs of 1975 Topps and when I opened them, I was wowed by those two cards. Although not from the same pack, they both were pulled on the same day. In 1975, my favorite team (the Red Sox) were doing better than they had in most years and these two players were a big part of the reason they were doing so well. I had never seen two players come up together and do so well before that year. Chris, keep up posting these great topics, they are much appreciated.

  31. Bkatto
    Posted May 21, 2014 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    As a vintage collector at heart, it’s always been the 1965 Topps Namath RC. I started collecting in 1970 at age 7 and even then it was hard to find much less get your hands on it. In all these years I’ve only seen a couple in person at shows and such. I love the “Tall Boy” style (big fan of 70-71 Basketball for the same reason) and that it’s a SP RC. I finally did manage, after 44 years of hunting, to find one affordable for me. Unfortunately I had to opt for “Authentic (Altered) as Beckett Grading determined the front had been restored. I’m still happy with the card. It’s been a long hunt, but man was it a fun one! Next 84-85 Star Jordan!

  32. David Quinn
    Posted May 22, 2014 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    Danica Patrick’s 2006 Topps Allen & Ginter. A race car drivers RC in a Baseball card set.

  33. Rick
    Posted May 22, 2014 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    Read the list

    1959 topps Bob Gibson, the card is true art work. Which is how I feel about most PRE 1959 cards. (hate the cardinal fans)

    ANY 1988 Mark Grace RC. To many reasons to list.

    Of course 89 Upper Deck Griffey and 80 Score Barry Sanders. To many reasons to list.

    1987 topps Bo Jackson

    1985 topps BIG MAC

    1982 Topps Cal Ripken

    1978 Topps Molitor/Tramell. Almost two HOF rookies on one card. Could you imagine if Alan would have had two more good years this card would be a beast, I truly believe that.

    1980 topps BIRD/MAGIC

    1989 Score Troy Aikman. Look at that hair. Perfect!

    I’ll finish my list tomorrow Chris. Stand bye and wait for it ;)

  34. Mike
    Posted May 23, 2014 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    A lot of people mentioning the Topps 1985 rookies, but no love for Orel Hershiser? He was one of the best pitchers of that era, but he played with some lousy Dodger lineups that cost him so many wins. The Donruss set that year had the black borders that made for sharp looking cards. I prefer that rookie card over the Topps rookie.

  35. Posted May 27, 2014 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    I’m with Chris on this. The ’80 Topps Henderson was a huge deal in the early 80’s–even with a book value of $5 back then. If you owned that card as a kid, you were like the Donald Trump of neighborhood collectors. I traded 3 Nike shoe boxes of cards to a buddy in ’83 or ’84 to get one. Evidently, he though he was coming out ahead with all those Juan Samuel and Greg Brock rookies! (No Gwynn, Boggs, Sandberg, Mattingly, Strawberry or Gooden RC’s included–I beat the dude down with sheer volume!). Something about that Henderson RC card I can’t explain. Maybe the photo or color scheme? The clean and vastly underrated design of the set? The fact it was his only RC? The mystique attached to all those SB’s? After that, it was the ’82 Topps Traded Ripken. Just bought a mint copy last year after selling mine in the late 80’s for date money. And finally, there’s the ’89 Upper Deck Griffey–once the king daddy of 80’s RC’s. But it’s lost some luster. Not real sure why, since he had an incredible career despite all the injuries. It’s still an iconic card, but to me, it’s harder to find a truly mint Henderson. Traded for a Henderson upgrade last year as well, finally saying goodbye to the slightly yellowish copy with 2 dog-eared corners from my youth. Bob Costas I’m not. Wow, great topic.

  36. Gary
    Posted May 28, 2014 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    its a GREAT memory, so i have to go with the 1983 Topps Ryne Sandberg RC. Hers’s the STORY of why.
    So its 1992 and Ryne Sandberg & Tony Gwynn are two of the hottest players in Baseball. My father and i are in a hobby shop in the suburbs of Philadelphia where we live called High Heat sports cards (no longer exists), but awesome store! In the store there is 3 packs left in a hobby box of 1983 topps. The store owner says to my father and one other client, “Lets have a pack war with the final 83′ Topps packs, nobody has pulled a Sandberg or Gwynn yet from the box and there is only 3 packs left”(Best card of all packs wins all cards). each pack was $5 at that time because of the great RC’s & Future HOF’s you could get. So the 3 packs get opened. first pack was the other client. (he pulled a Johnny Bench ALL-Star Card). Then the Store Owner opens his pack. (he Pulls the Tony Gwynn RC – WOW! whats the point in opening our pack now? lol). So now its my Dads turn to open his, and he passes the pack to me and says my son has the hot hand. So i open the pack and see the only card that could beat a Gwynn RC…..ITS THE Ryne Sandberg! we all went crazy and the owner “Jokingly” BANNED me from the store! LOL! Ok, now it gets even better. Fast forward to 2010. My father and i haven’t collected a baseball card since 1995. One day i decide to start collecting cards again and i want to get DAD back into collecting with me. This time however, i want to support the collecting habit and i start buying all the cards, like how my father did for me when i was a kid. We start going through our old cards we collected and find the 3 packs with the 1983 cards in them. we pull them out and immediately remember that awesome day. We were just learning about grading and its advantages to value and i decide to send in a whole bunch of cards to get graded. I decide to send the Sandberg and Gwynn into PSA in the lot they still looked pretty clean. When all the cards come back i finally get to the Sandberg and its GEM MINT 10! i know its not the most valuable card in the world, but that PSA 10 Sandberg that was pulled 15 years prior to win the most EPIC pack war of my collecting life means the world to me and my Father…..And oh yeah, the Sandberg stood the test of time and even won the Grading War…the Gwynn only graded at a 9. That’s my story! hope you enjoyed it!

  37. Astros fan
    Posted June 6, 2016 at 12:47 am | Permalink

    Any new baseball cards for Astros Jason Martin coming soon?

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