CSG-graded 1990 Donruss Nolan Ryan Error Card Teaches a Lesson

Posted on 1/19/2022

With sports cards, not all errors are rare or equal.

Donruss celebrated Nolan Ryan’s record 5,000th strikeout with a special notation — 5,000K’s — on one of his 1990-season cards. The cards were part of a 716-card set, which was the biggest produced by Donruss to date. To accomplish such a large print run, the company outsourced the work to multiple printers, some of which had never printed baseball cards before. This resulted in many errors and ushered sports card collecting into the junk wax era.

Certified Sports Guaranty® (CSG®) graded this 1990 Donruss #665 Nolan Ryan error card a CSG 8.5. Printed with a back intended for the King of Kings insert, it is one of at least three different errors afflicting Nolan Ryan cards printed for this set.

Click images to enlarge.

Unlike other collectibles, sports cards do not generally see a high rise in price for error cards. The sheer size of the print runs means that the errors are not particularly rare in many cases. With the 1990 Donruss set, millions of these cards were printed, leading to the nickname “Red Menace” among some collectors because of the cards’ red border.

However, many of today’s sports card collectors grew up or began collecting during the junk wax era, and cards like the #665 Nolan Ryan error card and others have a special place in their memories. Nostalgia has increased the allure — and prices — of some storied examples.

Nolan Ryan played a record-tying 27 seasons in Major League Baseball with four different teams. The “Ryan Express,” as he became known, won a World Series with the New York Mets in 1969; was an eight-time All-Star; and joined the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999. When he signed his contract in 1980 to join the Houston Astros, Ryan became the first player to earn $1 million per season in MLB history. In 1993, he retired with 324 wins, a 3.19 ERA and 5,714 strikeouts. The closest active pitcher to Ryan’s record is Max Scherzer with 3,020 strikeouts.

Due to Ryan’s popularity, many of his cards are sought after by collectors, including the error cards. But collectors should not assume a card is valuable because it contains error. Look at the whole card — sport, player, condition, rarity, etc. — not the sum of its correct, or incorrect, parts.

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