Johnny Bench Rookie Card Market Guide

Posted on 1/23/2023

Interested in collecting Johnny Bench rookie cards? Here’s a look at current card values and why grading can enhance your collection.

As one of baseball’s most legendary players, Johnny Bench is widely regarded as the greatest catcher — and batting catcher — of all time. By using a hinged glove and a one-handed catch technique, which allowed him to transfer the baseball to his throwing hand quickly, Bench helped revolutionize modern catching.

He was the National League home run leader twice during his career and had the highest RBI average three times. And for five seasons during the 1970s, he had one of the top 10 on-base plus slugging (OPS) averages in the MLB.

From Teen Rookie to Superstar Catcher

The Cincinnati Reds drafted Johnny Bench in 1965, when he was only 17 years old. After two years in the minors, he joined the Reds in 1967. In 1968, Bench’s first full season, he batted .275, hit 15 home runs and 82 RBIs, and became the first catcher to be chosen as National League Rookie of the Year. He also became the first rookie to win the NL’s Gold Glove Award for catchers.

Bench had his breakout year in 1970 when he booted 45 home runs — an MLB record that held for more than 50 years until Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez hit 48 homers in 2021. Likewise, Bench’s 1970 record of 148 RBIs is still a franchise record for the Reds. That year, he helped lead the Reds to a National League Championship win and became the youngest player (at the time) to win the National League MVP Award.

Championships and Record-Shattering Numbers

In 1972, the Reds won the National League title again, with Bench winning NL MVP for the second time. Two years later, Bench led the National League with 129 RBIs and became only the second catcher in MLB history to record 100 or more runs (108) and RBIs in a single season.

In 1975, Bench helped lead the Reds to a World Series Championship against the Boston Red Sox. The following year, the Reds won the Series again in a matchup with the New York Yankees. Bench was named World Series MVP, with a batting average of .533, two home runs and six RBIs.

During his 17 seasons in the MLB, all played with the Reds, Bench won the Gold Glove 10 times and was named to the All-Star team 14 times.

When Bench retired in 1983, he held the MLB record for the most home runs ever hit by a catcher and the highest number of RBIs (148). In addition, he was the first catcher to lead either the National or American League in home runs. His career total of 389 home runs and 1,376 RBIs remains an all-time record for a Cincinnati Reds player. He was elected to the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in 1986 and the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989.

Are Johnny Bench Rookie Cards Valuable?

Johnny Bench played during an era when athletes typically had only one or two rookie cards issued. In keeping with the times, Bench only had three rookie cards, plus a couple of so-called “oddball” rookie cards issued by Kahn’s and Partridge Meats.

Because of his popularity, coupled with the difficulty of finding these cards in top condition, Bench’s rookie cards have continued to hold their value at auctions and sports shows.

Investment Potential for Johnny Bench Rookie Cards

As a legendary Hall of Famer who’s achieved “greatest of all-time” status as a catcher, Johnny Bench continues to have a huge fan base. For anyone who loves the game, Bench is an icon. This means that investment potential for his cards and memorabilia should remain high, especially as new generations of fans discover just how great he was.

Top Johnny Bench Rookie Cards

Here’s a look at how these Johnny Bench rookie cards are currently performing on auction tracking sites like SportsCardsPro and PriceGuide.Cards. All sales are updated daily, so prices are subject to change at any time.

1968 Topps #247 Rookie Stars Johnny Bench/Ron Tompkins ($93,000)

This is one of those holy grail cards that every serious collector wants to own, especially those fascinated by baseball history. And speaking of history, collectors delight in the fact that Bench shares card space with Reds rookie pitcher Ron Tompkins, who never even pitched a game for the Reds but spent his single MLB season with the Chicago Cubs.

The card features an image of Bench on the left, wearing his baseball cap backwards as catchers used to wear under their helmet. Graphics include Topps’ classic woodgrain background, with the caption “1968 Rookie Stars” above. In addition, an identical set, issued for the Venezuelan market, includes the first 370 cards of this huge 598-card set.

SportsCardsPro shows Ungraded trending at $112, Grade 7 at $623, Grade 8 at $1,422 and Grade 9 at $5,209. Prices spike for Gem Mint condition, with trending prices reaching $93,000.

At PriceGuide.Cards, Ungraded trends at an average price of $61 and a top price of $6,579. Graded trends at an average price of $295 and a top price of $26,100 (grades unspecified).

Venezuelan version: At PriceGuide.Cards, Ungraded trends at an average price of $827 and a top price of $2,299. Graded trends at an average price of $1,136 and a top price of $2,600 (grades unspecified).

1969 Topps #95 All-Star Rookie Johnny Bench ($30,000)

This iconic All-Star Rookie card celebrates Bench’s Rookie of the Year Award. It shows a posed image of Bench kneeling on the field in the catcher’s position, with his glove extended in front. The gold Topps “All-Star Rookie” trophy is pictured at the lower left, just above the “Reds” caption.

Cards in this 1969 set are known for having various manufacturing flaws, including sub-par centering and print defects. Also, the edges are vulnerable to chipping, so finding a card in pristine condition can be tough. In addition to the Topps issue, there’s also an O-Pee-Chee version of the exact set, with the O-Pee-Chee logo in the back, made for distribution in Canada.

At PriceGuide.Cards, Ungraded trends at an average price of $30 and a top price of $5,000. Graded trends at an average price of $242 and a top price of $30,000 (grades unspecified).

SportsCardsPro shows Ungraded trending at $89, Grade 7 at $405, Grade 8 at $895 and Grade 9 at $3,575. Grade 9.5 trends at $3,933, and Gem Mint at $9,562.

O-Pee-Chee Canadian Version: At PriceGuide.Cards, Ungraded trends at an average price of $40 and a top price of $335. Graded trends at an average price of $240 and a top price of $2,605 (grades unspecified). SportsCardsPro shows Ungraded trending at $41 and Grade 8 at $2,285.

1969 Topps All-Star “The Sporting News” #430 Johnny Bench ($3,200)

This unusual card features a portrait shot of a youthful Bench facing the camera, set against a black-and-white background photo of a catcher (presumably Bench) in action on the field. It’s set against a bright green background, with a yellow “The Sporting News” banner surrounded by a multitude of white stars.

At PriceGuide.Cards, Ungraded trends at an average price of $7 and a top price of $710. Graded trends at an average price of $80 and a top price of $3,200 (grades unspecified).

SportsCardsPro shows Ungraded trending at $10, Grade 7 at $77, Grade 8 at $182 and Grade 9 at $695. Grade 9.5 trends at $764 and Gem Mint at $1,061.

1968 Kahn’s Wieners Johnny Bench ($1,210.90)

In 1968, cards from this attractive 56-card set were issued in specially marked packages of Kahn’s hot dogs. This fan favorite features a great photo of Bench half-kneeling in a catcher’s stance, in the middle of taking his catcher’s mask off as if to catch a pop fly. In the distance, you can see a long line of old-school advertising billboards bordering the field. The image is set against bold white and yellow stripes, with the distinctive “Kahn’s” red rose logo above.

These cards are difficult to track online, with few of them appearing for sale. At Memory Lane auction house, a Grade 9 example of this card sold in April 2012 for $1,201.90. Today, you can see them offered at prices ranging from several hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the condition.

1968-1969 Partridge Meats Johnny Bench ($675)

Distributed at Kroger grocery stores in Cincinnati, these oversized cards (12 in all) were issued to coincide with Reds players' personal appearances. This card features a black-and-white portrait shot of Bench (who’s referred to as “John Bench”), with a logo saying he “likes Partridge, the meats with big league energy.”

An online search of recent sales shows that this card, in Ungraded condition, trends for around $406, while a Grade 5 trends for around $675.

Where Can I Find Johnny Bench Rookie Cards?

You can find Johnny Bench cards at auctions, sports collector shops and collector shows. If you’re interested in online sports collectibles auctions, you’ll want to visit these popular sites:

Sports collector shows are another great source for Johnny Bench rookie cards. To find out if one of these shows is coming to your area, you can check local newspaper listings, online sports collector forums and social media sites like Facebook and Instagram.

How Are Johnny Bench Rookie Cards Graded?

Professional appraisers use a universally recognized grading system that ranges from Ungraded to Pristine 10. Here’s what those grades mean, and how they’re calculated:

Pristine 10: These are the cream of the crop, in top condition across all four grading criteria: surfaces, corners, centering and edges. Even when viewed under 10x magnification, a Pristine 10 card is flawless.

Gem Mint: Gem Mint is the next best thing to a Pristine 10. Typically, a Gem Mint card will score a 10 in three of the criteria, with a slightly lower score in one area due to an almost-imperceptible issue.

Grade 9.5: Almost Gem Mint, with a very minor and unimportant flaw.

Grade 9: Almost Mint, with minor wear or a tiny manufacturing flaw.

Grades 8 and below: These cards have wear, condition issues and production flaws, and are graded according to the severity of these issues. Depending on rarity and customer demand, some of these cards, particularly in the higher grades, can still be quite valuable.

Raw: A Raw card has just been removed from its original packaging.

Ungraded: Not graded.

Sports card values are fueled by condition, rarity, and, most importantly, customer demand. Even the rarest Gem Mint card may be unsellable if customers don’t want it, while a lesser-grade card that’s more common can still sell for high prices if it’s in demand.

Player popularity can rise and fall, depending on their media presence and performance on the field. Likewise, buying factors like auction bidding wars and record-breaking sales can cause a player’s cards to increase in price, while sluggish sales may be a sign of a player’s waning popularity.

Should I Get My Cards Graded?

Professional grading can authenticate the originality of your sports cards. In addition, grading can give your cards an established quality rating recognized throughout the industry. During the grading process, professional appraisers certify your card with a grade representing its condition and originality. This information is then entered into an international database and kept as a permanent record.

Collectors and dealers are often more willing to pay premium prices for graded cards, which means graded cards can also be easier to sell. Grading will also officially authenticate your cards, so their originality will never be questioned.

No matter how large or small your collection, grading can be an excellent way to maintain and preserve your cards and can be especially helpful if you eventually decide to sell, trade or pass them on to other collectors. For further information on CGC Cards’ 10-point Grading Scale and to find out more about our industry-leading services, visit

*Any mention of "investment potential" is for entertainment only and should not be construed as investment advice. The Certified Collectibles Group does not provide investment advice and is not liable for any buy, sell or trade decisions made by any parties.

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