Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Card Guide: Values and Checklist

Posted on 7/6/2022

Look no further for the top five most valuable Ken Griffey Jr. rookie cards as well as the top five cards for new collectors.

Ken Griffey Jr. was a pop culture phenomenon beyond the game of baseball. He transcended the game early in his career, a feat that few others have been able to match until further along in their own. For baseball fans and sports card collectors, it was an absolute thrill to pull these cards when they were first released and thanks to the massive quantities in which they were printed, you can still pull them from packs today.

The Seattle Mariners selected Ken Griffey Jr. first overall in the 1987 Amateur Draft. Griffey would finish his rookie season with 120 hits, 61 RBIs and 16 home runs. He placed third in the American League Rookie of the Year race — a fracture in his hand kept him out for about a month, which likely contributed to his lower-than-expected finish.

Griffey’s 1997 season stands as the best of his career. He amassed 185 hits, 147 RBIs and 56 home runs that season with a .304 batting average and .646 slugging percentage. He was a member of the 1997 American League All-Star team, won a Gold Glove award, a Silver Slugger award and was selected as the American League Most Valuable Player that season.

Ken Griffey Jr. finished his career with 2,781 hits, 1,836 RBIs and 630 home runs. He won numerous awards, including 10 Gold Gloves, 7 Silver Sluggers, 13 time All-Star and 1997 American League Most Valuable Player. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2016 on the first ballot, a nearly unanimous choice.

Below you will find the top five most valuable Ken Griffey Jr. rookie cards as well as the top five Ken Griffey Jr. rookie cards for new collectors, along with descriptions of all the Ken Griffey Jr. rookie cards and a checklist.

Top Five Most Valuable Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Cards

  1. 1989 Bowman Tiffany #220
  2. 1989 Topps Heads Up Test #5
  3. 1989 Fleer Glossy #548
  4. 1989 Topps Traded Tiffany #41T
  5. 1989 Upper Deck #1

Top Five Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Cards for New Collectors

  1. 1989 Bowman Ken Griffey Jr./Ken Griffey Sr. #259
  2. 1989 Scoremasters #30
  3. 1989 Score Young Superstars Series II #18
  4. 1989 Score Rookie/Traded #100T
  5. 1989 Classic Travel #131

Ken Griffey Jr. 1989 Bowman Tiffany #220

This card features Ken Griffey Jr. in his Mariners outfit, kneeling with a rather serious expression on his face, but in a glossy finish. Originally sold as a special set, the print run is estimated at only 6,000 sets. This sounds like a large number, but in relation to the base card print run, it is low.

For a lackluster design, this card’s relative scarcity is what propels such high sales. The five-year average on the highest grade is between $9,000 and $10,000.

1989 Topps Heads Up Test #5

This set would make its official debut in 1990; however, a limited run was made and distributed to a few card shops in the Northeast. The 1990 version is identical, but a quick check of the copyright date will show it was produced in 1989. This die-cut card was originally meant to be stuck on or hung with a suction cup inside lockers or on walls. With a unique design and scarcity compared to every other Griffey rookie, this is a card that few collectors have.

This card is so rarely graded because of its size and limited release as a test card that a fair market price is hard to gauge. In the highest grade, this card could easily fetch $5,000.00+. As fewer high-grade cards make an appearance on the market this price can go higher.

Ken Griffey Jr. 1989 Fleer Glossy #548

The glossy version of this card is believed to have a very limited print run of only 3,000 cards. The design is bland with a gray striped background and an over-exposed photo of Griffey holding a bat.

The scarcity of this card is the driving force behind its value. With a five-year average of $2,750 the Fleer Glossy #548 is a card that collectors will want to keep an eye on.

1989 Topps Traded Tiffany #41T

Like the others, this glossy print card had a limited run of about 15,000 cards. More than double the Bowman set, this is still a low print run comparatively.

Compared to the standard version of this card the five-year average of a high-grade Topps Traded Tiffany #41T is around $2,350. A ten-fold increase over the base version makes this a card worth chasing.

1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. #1

This is probably the card you came here for — the card that collectors everywhere had to have in their collections. Considered a long-term investment, before Beanie Babies came around, this was the collectible to own. So it is no wonder that today, people getting back into the hobby after a long break come looking for this card (just like you might check online to see if those Beanie Babies you still have are worth something).

Sometimes referred to as Star Rookie for the star shape and rookie banner in the bottom right-hand corner of the card, only the first 26 cards in the set were labeled as Star Rookie.

Should you find yourself the proud owner of this card in a high grade, you will not be in a rare group, but the five-year average of the Upper Deck #1 is still very healthy. The prices have dropped a bit recently, but at $1,500 the market for this card is still quite hot.

1989 Donruss #33

A decent card, as far as Griffey rookies go, but the photograph quality is poor at best. Likewise, the blue to purple gradient along the top and bottom of the card compliment the blue of the Mariners jersey, but the black side borders aren’t doing this card any favors, as they tend to show damage more readily.

One of the second tier Griffey rookies available, this isn’t one of the better designs, but it is far from the worst. With a five-year average between $350-375 for the highest grades, the Donruss #33 is a great addition to any Griffey Rookie collection. The price disparity between this card and those higher is considerable.

1989 Donruss Baseball’s Best #192

Finally, a Griffey rookie that shows some action. While this card is not high up on the list of top Griffey rookies, it does show action that the other cards are missing out on. This was only sold in a box set — no chance of pulling it from a pack.

A great design and semi-scarce, this card is a great addition to any Griffey rookie card collection. You can expect the highest graded Donruss Baseball’s Best #192 to go for $330-350 on average.

Ken Griffey Jr. 1989 Bowman #220

The card features Ken Griffey Jr. in his Mariners outfit, kneeling with a rather serious expression on his face. In what appears to be a photo from Spring Training, the white and red border stand in sharp contrast to the background, but only hurt the overexposed photo.

This card is not one of the better-looking Griffey rookies, but in high grades the Bowman #220 has averaged between $250-$300 over the last five years.

1989 Star #1-11

This set of 11 cards was originally sold together. The back of the cards feature a short biography about Griffey when read in order, a checklist and a blurb on his career in the minor leagues. Most of the cards feature action shots, which is a big boost for a set that has little name recognition today and basic designs similar in appearance to the Classic Travel cards. Be aware that this set also features a few variations such as colors, short prints and blank backs.

This set is hard to pin down to just a single number because very few complete sets are sold on the open market. It suffers from a lack of name recognition by collectors, but also a lack of interest. Complete ungraded sets are not difficult to find. In the highest grades, a complete set of Star #1-11 could go for $200-250. Only time will tell.

1989 Bowman Ken Griffey Jr./Ken Griffey Sr. Tiffany #259

You can see a theme from card manufacturers in 1989. With a glossy finish only available from the limited edition set, this card had a very small print run. The design is lackluster, with just a hint of sentimentality for the father/son duo on the front of the card.

While it isn’t a great looking card, the scarcity boosts the Bowman Tiffany #259 card to $200 in a high grade.

1989 Topps Traded #41T

One of the better-looking Griffey rookies, this is a card design that has been replicated since by Topps. The value of this card, like many others, is hurt by the sheer number of available copies. No surprise, but this isn’t going to get you an early retirement.

For one of the best-looking Griffey rookie cards on the market, the Topps Traded #41T is within the reach of most collectors at $180-200 in the highest grades.

1989 Donruss The Rookies #3

Like the other Donruss sets from this year, this card features a color gradient top and bottom border along with black side borders. The borders close in the photograph, giving it a darker appearance overall. It also features a large “The Rookies” logo along with a baseball image.

This is a great middle-of-the-road rookie card, as it’s not out of reach for most collectors. At $130-150 in the highest grades, the Donruss The Rookies #3 should be on most collectors list for a Griffey Rookie card collection.

Ken Griffey Jr. 1989 Fleer #548

Like its flashier sibling the “Glossy,” this card suffers from a bland design of gray and white. Griffey was nearly always the most talked about card in 1989. This set is probably the exception to the rule, as Billy Ripken was/is the most talked about card from the set. The standard version of this card is still one of the better Griffey Rookies to own. It is a relatively easy pickup for anyone that is new to collecting Griffeys.

A staple of Griffey rookie cards, the Fleer #548 can be found easily and has held onto a decent value through the last five years at a $125 average.

1989 Classic Travel Purple #193

This card features a thick border that changes from gray at the top to purple at the bottom. With Griffey photographed at the plate, it is one of only a few action-oriented cards, which is this card design's redeeming quality.

The action of the card is the big boost here, and $115-130 for the Classic Travel Purple #193 is a great return on this card.

1989 Classic Travel Orange #131

This card features a thick border that changes from orange at the top to purple at the bottom of the card, with a close-up photo of Griffey. Unfortunately, the card doesn’t have much going for it in terms of design.

Often the Classic Travel Orange #131 is overlooked by collectors or just ignored, and at $75-80 the Classic Travel Orange #131 is an easy pickup.

1989 Score Young Superstars Series II #18

This card features a unique alternating thick and thin border design and frame along the bottom of the card. Score printed the Young Superstars set as a small series run that only included 42 cards. “The Kid” in mid-swing is the highlight of Series II.

One of the better Griffey action shots, the Score Young Superstars Series II has been running around $120 on a five-year average. This is a good addition to any personal collection for the action shot alone.

1989 Score Rookie & Traded #100T

Featuring Griffey in action after a hit, this is one of best action shots of any Griffey rookie card. The design is basic, so the action photo is what sets this card apart and gives it a slight value boost.

With an action shot, but lackluster design, $85-95 is a good average for Score Rookie & Traded #100T.

1989 Scoremasters #30

This is one of the more unique Griffey rookies available, with a highly stylized art style. The set was offered as part of a mail-in rebate program as well as being sold in hobby shops. The face of the card doesn’t show any text or information, shy of the Seattle “S” on Griffey’s batting helmet.

As one of the more uniquely designed rookie cards on the market and one of the more affordable — with a five-year average of $75 — the Scoremasters #30 can and should be on any collectors list of Griffey rookie cards.

1989 Bowman Ken Griffey Jr./Ken Griffey Sr. #259

Featuring two family members who would become Major League Baseball’s first father-son teammates in 1990, this card sees a boxy television framing the two players. It would not have been a shocking design for collectors of the 1980s, as this is what TVs looked like, but it isn’t one of the better Griffey rookie cards available.

Still, it is a must-have for any Griffey Rookie collection and one of the most easily found. For $30-50, the Bowman #259 hasn’t increased in value nearly as much as many of the Griffey rookie cards.

Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Card Checklist

  • 1989 Upper Deck #1
  • 1989 Bowman #220
  • 1989 Bowman #220 Tiffany
  • 1989 Fleer #548
  • 1989 Fleer #548 Glossy
  • 1989 Topps Traded #41T
  • 1989 Topps Traded Tiffany #41T
  • 1989 Topps Heads Up Test #5
  • 1989 Bowman Ken Griffey Jr./Ken Griffey Sr. #259
  • 1989 Bowman Ken Griffey Jr./Ken Griffey Sr. Tiffany #259
  • 1989 Donruss #33
  • 1989 Donruss Baseball’s Best #192
  • 1989 Donruss The Rookies #3
  • 1989 Classic Travel Orange #131
  • 1989 Classic Travel Purple #193
  • 1989 Score Rookie & Traded #100T
  • 1989 Score Young Superstars Series II #18
  • 1989 Scoremasters #30
  • 1989 Star #1-11

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