Rickey Henderson Rookie Cards: Values and Checklist

Posted on 4/14/2022

Learn all about the fair market value of Rickey Henderson rookie cards, and find out how Certified Sports Guaranty can grade your baseball card collection.

Rickey Henderson isn’t just a record-breaking Hall of Famer — he’s also an iconic baseball player who made an indelible mark on the game, and in more ways than one. For baseball fans, it's impossible to even mention the words “stolen bases” without Rickey Henderson coming to mind. In his 1980 rookie major league season with the Oakland A’s, he broke Ty Cobb’s record (which stood for 65 years) with 100 stolen bases. He surpassed this number in 1982, stealing 130 bases. Ultimately, the "Man of Steal" Henderson went on to become the all-time record holder, with 1,406 stolen bases during his 25-year career.  

And while Henderson’s image is synonymous with the art of stolen bases, he was also one of the greats as a leadoff hitter. In fact, former A’s general manager Billy Beane went on record to state that Rickey Henderson was the greatest leadoff hitter of all time.

In addition, Henderson set records for unintentional walks (2,129) and runs scored (2,295), won the American League MVP award in 1990, and was named on the All-Star team a staggering ten times. He also won two World Series — the first in 1989 with the Oakland A’s and the second in 1993 with the Toronto Blue Jays. Ultimately, he became a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009.

As one of baseball’s most exciting players, Rickey Henderson played for many other teams after his career with Oakland, including the Yankees, Blue Jays, Mariners, Mets, Red Sox, Dodgers, Mariners, and Angels. But for fans and baseball card collectors, Henderson will always be most closely associated with his first team — the team in which he won his first World Series — the Oakland A’s.

Starting with his rookie year in 1980, Topps, Fleer, Donruss, and Upper Deck began issuing Rickey Henderson cards that continue to be popular with collectors today. Also of interest to collectors are Henderson’s pre-rookie cards from his years in the minor leagues in the late 1970s.

Fair Market Values for Rickey Henderson Rookie Cards

Price-tracking services such as Sports Card Investor indicate that prices for Rickey Henderson cards can range from just a few dollars to more than $100,000. As with other baseball cards and sports collectibles, it all comes down to rarity, demand, and condition — with condition always paramount when it comes to investment and valuation.

Regardless of the listed prices you might see, it’s essential to track average prices over a period of time to get the best idea of a fair market value (FMV) for a specific card. One particular card may suddenly skyrocket at an online auction because interested collectors are indulging in a bidding war over it or because it’s being auctioned during the holiday season when people are more apt to splurge on collectibles. But the best way to identify a consistent FMV is to look at a number of past sales during a given time period and average them out.

Likewise, professionally graded cards tend to do much better, especially in online sales, where buyers don't have the opportunity to see the card in person.

Rickey Henderson Rookie and Pre-Rookie Cards

For Rickey Henderson fans and collectors, when it comes to his earliest baseball cards, the cream of the crop are his two pre-rookie minor league cards and his single major league rookie card.

1980 Topps #482

For diehard collectors, the holy grail card to look for is 1980, when Topps issued Henderson’s one and only major league rookie card. The 1980 Topps Baseball #482 rookie card shows a powerful image of a young Rickey Henderson crouched in at-bat position (and probably already contemplating a base to steal), with a facsimile autograph underneath, all in Oakland’s vibrant yellow and green colors.

The back of the card shows Henderson’s complete major and minor league batting numbers up to 1980, beginning with his first rookie year in 1976 with Boise, and including stats from 1977-1979 during his years with Modesto, Jersey City, and Ogden. Interestingly, this attractive rookie card also features a side panel showing a cartoon character wearing an old-fashioned burglar’s bandanna and states “Rickey had 7 stolen bases in one game at Modesto, May 26, 1977.” This fun bit of trivia was a forerunner of things to come for the talented young player.

While online auctions may reveal widely varying prices, Sports Card Investor, which tracks trending sales for cards in their database, shows that past sales for this particular card range from around $65 to a top price of $99,950.

Likewise, SportsCardsPro references one 1980 Topps #482 card, in Gem Mint condition, that sold at Heritage Auctions in February 2022 for $111,000. Likewise, another similar Gem Mint example, also at Heritage Auctions, sold for $168,000 in 2021.

For an accurate assessment of FMV for this card, it’s essential to look at grading. For example, SportsCardPro tracks the Topps #482 Henderson Rookie Card in six categories, from Ungraded (where the condition isn't good enough to grade) to a Perfect 10. And the gap between one grade and another can make a significant price difference. For example, in Ungraded condition, it tracks at $45. From there, the card's FMV can range from $125 for Grade 7 to $2,226.25 for Grade 9.5, and ultimately, all the way up to $118,500 for a Perfect Grade 10.

If found in good condition, trending prices show that the Rickey Henderson Tops #482 Rookie Card is a quality addition to any collection. And given Henderson’s record-breaking achievements, it’s also a vital piece of baseball memorabilia from arguably one of the greatest players of all time.

1977 Chong Modesto

Rickey Henderson’s two rookie minor league cards are of particular historic interest to collectors and fans. One such example is his rookie card from 1977, issued by Chong when Henderson was just 18 years old and playing for the Modesto A’s, Oakland’s single-A affiliate minor league team.

Aesthetically speaking, the Chong Modesto card doesn’t have the visual appeal of other cards. The photo is in a grainy black-and-white print that’s not very clear, and Henderson is posed at half-bat. Plus, the back is completely blank. However, the historic value of the card, as well as its rarity, has made it an especially desirable card for collectors and fans.

Today, the elusive Chong Modesto card only occasionally shows up on auction sites. According to a search of online auctions, these rare 1977 Chong Modesto cards can reach prices of more than $1,000, with highest prices being paid for Gem Mint and top-graded cards.

If you’re on the lookout for this rarity, you need to be aware that the card was reissued in 1989. This 1989 Chong Modesto A's #33 reissue card still has some collector interest, however, due to the scarcity of the original.

1979 TCMA Ogden A's 

Henderson’s other pre-rookie card is a 1979 minor league TCMA card, issued when he played with Oakland’s triple-A affiliate, the Ogden A’s. Artistically speaking, this card is far more appealing than the earlier Modesto card. It’s printed in vivid color and shows an attractive image of the young Henderson half kneeling with his bat and fully facing the camera. A search of online auctions shows this card selling in a range that starts below $100 and runs up to several hundred dollars, depending on the grading.

Rickey Henderson Post-Rookie Cards

While Rickey Henderson’s pre-rookie and first-year rookie cards are a desirable addition to any collection, his post-rookie cards are also popular with collectors. Here’s a look at several of the most collectible post-rookie Henderson cards from the early 1980s.

1981 Topps #261

A collector favorite, this 1981 Topps #261 shows a headshot of Henderson facing the camera, squinting in the sun with a half smile. The Topps #261 is of some historic interest because it's Henderson’s second-year card, issued at a time when he was already beginning to fulfill his promise as a future Hall of Famer.

According to SportsCardsPro, auction sites show that, depending on grading, this card can range from under $10 to more than $3,000.

1981 Donruss #119

Issued in 1981, the Donruss #119 is another early Henderson card consistently showing high collector interest. The card itself shows a vivid photo of a solemn-faced Henderson facing the camera and holding the bat to his shoulder.

A look at completed online auctions shows this particular card selling for as little as a couple of dollars, with higher-graded cards selling for more than $100. Likewise, SportsCardsPro shows Gem Mint examples of this card selling from $620 to $949.

1981 Granny Goose Potato Chips #35

If you were a kid in the early 1980s, you might have been lucky enough to find a brand new Rickey Henderson baseball card in your bag of Granny Goose potato chips. The promotion started in 1981 when Granny Goose included an Oakland A’s baseball card in every bag. In 1983, Granny Goose also distributed some of the cards as a stadium giveaway during home games.

For collectors interested in the Granny Goose series, the most elusive (and priciest) is the 1981 card, which is a fun headshot of Henderson facing the camera and smiling. You can see the difference between the 1981 card and later cards in the series by looking for the copyright year, which is printed on the reverse side.

As for FMV, trending online auction prices show this card selling at prices that range from over $100 to just over $1,000, depending on the grade.

1981 Squirt

This limited edition for Squirt soft drinks shows a headshot of Henderson set inside a baseball image, with stats included on the back. SportsCardsPro shows a range of around $22 for an Ungraded version. Graded versions range from $56 for a Grade 8 to $1,388 for a Perfect Grade 10.

For collectors with more modest budgets, the good news is that there are several early Rickey Henderson post-rookie baseball cards that you can obtain for lower prices, even at higher grades. Examples include:

1981 Kellogg’s 3D

Issued in 1981, these plastic-covered cards have a 3D effect and were distributed in boxes of Kellogg’s cereal. According to SportsCardsPro, these Rickey Henderson #33 cards have an FMV of just under $8 for Ungraded examples. Starting at Grade 7, they range from just under $19 to $710 for a Perfect Grade 10.

1981 Perma-Graphics Super Star

This novelty isn’t a traditional baseball card. Issued by Topps, it’s in the shape of a credit card, and like a credit card, it's made of plastic. SportsCardsPro shows online price ranges of $12.99 for an Ungraded example to $157.50 for a Perfect Grade 10.

Once again, and it can’t be stressed enough, grading is everything when it comes to determining FMV for baseball cards. While some cards listed above may range in the hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars, many of them may sell for less than $10 or $20 if they’re of a lesser grade.

If you’re a baseball card collector, or a fan just starting to collect, be sure to visit Certified Sports Guaranty to learn how to enhance your collection by having it graded by one of our professional appraisers.

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