Mark McGwire Rookie Cards: Values and Market Guide

Posted on 11/29/2022

When looking for Mark McGwire rookie cards, many collectors consider his 1985 and 1987 season cards. Learn more about the cards and their investment potential.

Mark McGwire's Major League Baseball career ran from 1986 to 2001, playing for the Oakland Athletics and the St. Louis Cardinals. He cemented himself as one of the best home run hitters in history and holds the major-league career record for at-bats per home run ratio (10.6) and the record for most home runs hit by a rookie (49). 

McGwire earned the nickname 'Big Mac' due to his impressive stature and significant impact on the field. After his record-breaking inaugural season, the Baseball Writers' Association of America named McGwire the 1987 American League Rookie of the Year. He continued to perform well in subsequent seasons, and as a result, Mark McGwire rookie cards initially drew the interest of collectors. However, difficult periods in McGwire's career have damaged his reputation somewhat, which may negatively impact the value of his cards.

A string of injuries put McGwire out of action in 1993 and 1994, but when he returned to the field, he performed better than ever. Unfortunately, rumors soon started about steroid use, and many claimed his status as one of the best home run hitters in history was undeserved. In 2010, he confirmed his steroid use but maintained that his ability to hit home runs was 'a gift' that performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) would never impact. Either way, this revelation may damage the popularity of McGwire and his cards. 

When looking for Mark McGwire's rookie cards, many collectors assess his 1985 season cards and some of the 1987 cards. Considered rookies, these are the first cards to show him in his Oakland Athletics uniform, even if they are not the first to feature him as a player. 

Investment Potential

Some collectors and investors may be cautious about purchasing Mark McGwire rookie cards because of his complex history of steroid use. It's right to be wary because the value of cards partly links to the player's popularity. Therefore, the fact that he broke most records while using PEDs will not sit well with many fans. That said, there are other factors to consider when valuing cards.

For some collectors, the revelations about steroid use make McGwire more unique and his cards more attractive. The rarity, historical significance, and card designs all play a role in the value, so many Mark McGwire rookie cards are still worth adding to your collection.

Although the card values may have fluctuated over the years, especially after McGwire admitted to using steroids, many collectors predict that the cards could hold their value well into the future. The Topps sets are particularly popular if you plan to invest in Mark McGwire rookie cards.

This guide will help you find the right cards to add to your collection.

The Best Mark McGwire Rookie Cards

1987 Leaf Rated Rookie Mark McGwire Rookie Card #46 ($1,100)

Leaf is the Canadian counterpart to the ever-popular Donruss sets. They produce similar cards that go alongside the standard Donruss set, so the same image and number appear on both. However, cards from the Leaf set are less common, which tends to be a good thing for collectors and investors. You can identify this card from the Leaf logo on the top left of the card.

SportsCardPro estimates that a mint condition example of this card could be worth more than $1,100. Even cards in less-than-mint condition sell for a few hundred dollars. That said, the value declines sharply and fluctuates wildly when the card isn't in mint condition, according to the historical sales data from PriceGuide.Cards. The card may be worth buying if you can find it when prices are relatively low, but tracking prices and ensuring you're getting a good deal will be the best approach. 

1985 Topps USA Mark McGwire Rookie Card #401 ($160)

This card is an early Mark McGwire rookie card, but it doesn't show him in his Oakland Athletics uniform. Instead, it features an image of McGwire in his USA Olympic team uniform. This card is another iconic Topps set, unique because it is part of the USA Olympic Team subset from the year. In addition, the design differs from the set's standard cards, with a large USA baseball logo in the corner and a big title banner.

If you can find this card in mint condition, you'll likely get a good investment. SportsCardsPro gives it an average value of $342.75 when mint, but even in less-than-perfect condition, #401 still picks up a value of around $160. Few players make it into the Olympic team, so rookie cards from the Olympic subset potentially have more collectible value. 

A different version of this card comes from the Topps Tiffany set. Between 1984 and 1991, Topps released an alternative set called Tiffany. Unfortunately, differentiating between the typical Topps and Tiffany sets can be difficult as they look relatively similar. The best way to tell them apart is to look for color and sheen. Tiffany cards have a glossy finish, and the card stock is white instead of the standard gray. If you find one of these versions, know that it may have more investment potential because of the unique nature of the card.

Uniqueness is undoubtedly the case with this #401 Mark McGwire rookie card, with PriceGuide.Cards valuing it at about $400 for a graded card in decent condition. They also show the card's value back in 2012 with an average of $146. If this card continues to increase in value at the same rate, it could become an excellent card for investors.

1987 Donruss Rookies Mark McGwire #1 ($140)

1987 saw a specific Donruss Rookies set on top of the rookie cards included in the standard Donruss packs. Mark McGwire has a nice rookie card in this set too, so it may be worth trying to find it. Although the basic design is similar to the Donruss Rated Rookie card, some key details have changed. So what's different with this card? For starters, the border design has slightly modified colors, and the image differs. The rookie logo has been changed on this card, too. 

This card is worth more than a Donruss Rated Rookie, with an average value of $140 if the card is in mint condition. However, the value drops quite significantly for anything less than mint. Since you can regularly get it for less than $20, you'll find this card an affordable one to add to your collection.

1987 Donruss Rated Rookie Mark McGwire Rookie Card #46 ($90)

Donruss Rated Rookie is one of the most recognizable sets for collectors. If you are building a collection of rookie cards for any player, you will do well to look at this set. It remains very popular, and the 1987 cards are an excellent example of the Rated Rookie design.

While the Mark McGwire card from this set isn't the most valuable, services like SportsCardsPro estimate that it is worth around $90 if in good condition. You'll find all of the typical features from this set, including the striking blue Rated Rookies logo and a close-up photograph of Mark McGwire. 

1987 Topps Mark McGwire Rookie Card #366 ($70)

Topps cards are always a good option for collectors and investors. Before Panini America gained exclusivity to sports card rights, Topps was probably the most-loved producer out there. They started in 1951, and their card designs and sizes set the industry standard. So, the old Topps cards tend to be highly sought-after, with the #366 Mark McGwire rookie card an excellent example. The #366 Topps is a simple card with a basic background, logo, and classic image of McGwire in batting position. It was the first Topps card to show McGwire in his Oakland Athletics uniform, and it was a popular card with collectors upon release. In other words, there are a lot of these cards on the market. 

SportsCardsPro gives a mint condition version of this card an average value of $70. However, some have sold for over $100 in the past, and less-than-mint condition cards go for much less. The relatively low price makes this card a good choice for somebody just starting to build a collection of McGwire rookie cards. Although it is not the most visually exciting card out there, it's a perfect example of the Topps brand, which remains popular with collectors.

A Tiffany set version of this card also exists. SportsCardsPro values the Tiffany McGwire rookie card #366 at an average of $266.31, although the card has sold for more than $300 in perfect condition.

1987 Fleer Update Mark McGwire Rookie Card #U-76 ($50)

Fleer cards are challenging for investors because they can be quite risky. While print numbers and oversaturation in the market mean that many Fleer cards have dropped in value, some of them may still be of interest to collectors and investors. The Mark McGwire Fleer Update Rookie Card is one of the more popular ones, and you should keep an eye out for it. 

Unlike other rookie cards, Fleer cards have a unique two-tone border color, which makes them instantly recognizable. The McGwire card shows this two-tone border, with a good portrait shot and a bold Oaklands Athletics logo in the corner. This card is not the most valuable at just under $50 in mint condition. Still, the #U-76 has a design that stands out, making it a desirable card for your collection. Additionally, the many Fleer cards on the market mean you can likely find the one you want for a low price.

1987 Donruss Highlights Mark McGwire Rookie Card #46 ($50)

The limited run of the Donruss Highlights set — it was only produced for three years in 1985, 1986, and 1987 — makes it exciting for collectors. As an alternative Donruss set, the Highlights was a smaller pack with 56 cards, highlighting players who had won awards and broken records during the season. The group also included a small puzzle. In terms of design, these cards showed strong similarities to the standard Donruss cards, with some border color and logo changes. 

Mark McGwire featured in the 1987 set, making the #46 an interesting card to look for, even if it's not the most valuable. SportsCardsPro estimates the value at around $50 for a mint condition card.

Even though the #46 won't turn too many heads in the investment community, PriceGuide.Cards shows that the average sale value for a graded version increased from $6.63 to $10.97 in the last decade. This is still a reasonable increase, irrespective of the lower inherent value. Either way, the limited nature of the Donruss Highlights set makes them an intriguing pack for personal collections.

Final Thoughts

Mark McGwire rookie cards have the potential to be a good investment, as long as you choose carefully. The Donruss sets and some of the alternatives are particularly good for collection purposes because they are priced reasonably.

Donruss remains a popular set, which may help these cards hold their value in the future. On the other hand, old Topps cards are also worth pursuing because they are one of the most iconic sets. You'll find many of them around for sale, and they are slightly more valuable.

Of course, some rarer, more expensive cards are out there, too, like the 1987 Leaf. The value of this #46 card changes often, so it's one you should keep a close eye on over time. It may be a very sensible investment choice if you purchase at the right time when prices are low. That said, if you are more interested in building a personal collection, focus on other cards with a more interesting history, like the USA Olympic team cards.

Stay Informed

Want news like this delivered to your inbox once a month? Subscribe to the free CGC eNewsletter today!


You've been subscribed to the CGC eNewsletter.

Unable to subscribe to our eNewsletter. Please try again later.

Articles List

Add CGC Card

Create a Set

Join CGC for free to add cards, track your collection and participate in the CGC Trading Cards Registry or CGC Sports Cards Registry.

Join CGC

Already a member? Sign In
Add to CGC Card Registry Example
Add to CGC Card Registry Example