Thirty years ago, lots of things were happening in the baseball card industry. Topps brought the Bowman label back from the dead while Upper Deck entered a market that was starting to become a little crowded. Add it all up, and it was a pretty revolutionary year for the hobby.
Inserts are often the cards collectors want the most these days. But lost in the shuffle is that numerous memorable base and traded/update cards were featured that year. Here’s a look at some of those.
1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey, Jr. Rookie Card
This is not only the most iconic rookie card of The Kid but it also happens to be one of the landmark cards in all of modern collecting.
Upper Deck issued this card of Griffey back in 1989 and it instantly became an overwhelming hit. The fact that it was also the first card in the set only added to its intrigue. Its value soared and while it has come down from its early highs, PSA 10 graded examples command a lot of money.
Griffey’s cards have been helped by the fact that, unlike many of his peers, he avoided the steroids scandal of the 1990s. His numbers look even better in that light and should help his card values to remain somewhat strong, despite many having been produced in the junk wax era.
Today, most can be found for under $50 but a PSA 10 of Griffey’s 1989 Upper Deck card will generally cost around $400-$500 on eBay.
1989 Score Bo Jackson Cards
Bo Jackson was an incredible two-sport athlete, starring in both baseball and football. And while his cards aren’t generally high-priced, they are still collected a great deal.
The most famous Jackson pose, of course, is one featuring him wearing shoulder pads while holding a baseball bat. The picture was so popular that Score used varying poses in both its 1989 Score Baseball and 1990 Score Supplemental sets.
And given that you can find both cards for only a few bucks, that makes their appeal even better.
Nolan Ryan 1989 Upper Deck Cards
Famed hurler Nolan Ryan is found in the 1989 Upper Deck set. And his cards in both the low number series and the high number series are both works of art.
Ryan’s low-number card No. 145 showed off some of Upper Deck’s legendary photography. It’s a multi-frame card showing Ryan going through the motions of one of his pitches.
The image on his high number card isn’t that technologically challenging but is a really great shot nonetheless. On that card, Ryan is shown throwing a football. He’s in full baseball uniform, which makes you wonder about the pose even more. But it still makes for a really unique image of one of baseball’s best pitchers of the era.
What many collectors don’t know is that throwing a football was a routine part of Ryan’s training. As this page indicates, Ryan’s pitching coach actually sold him on the idea. But the fact that it was captured on a baseball card shows how forward-thinking Upper Deck’s photographers were.
Today, both cards are extremely affordable at around a buck or two.
Billy Ripken 1989 Fleer
What list of 1989 base cards from baseball sets would be complete without including Billy Ripken’s Fleer cards?
Hardly any Billy Ripken card these days holds much value. But the former player is famous for one very famous card in the 1989 Fleer set.
Ripken is posing with a bat and on the knob of it, an expletive was written. Fleer did eventually catch the swear word and made some alterations to cover it up. But not before many had already been printed and released into the public. It remains the most popular card in that set and one of the more interesting cards of the 1980s.
While the furor on the card has certainly died down quite a bit, it remains a very popular card with collectors. Decent raw copies of the unaltered version these days still sell regularly on eBay. Even the cards with the word obscured bring a few bucks.
Mike Schmidt 1989 Fleer Retirement Card
After a legendary career, Mike Schmidt called it quits after the 1989 season. The move, of course, was perfectly understandable.
Schmidt hit his 500th career home run in early 1987 on his way to belting 35 for the season. But he showed a sharp decline in 1988, hitting only .249 with six homers that year. By 1989, it was clear Schmidt was done as he batted only .203 through his first 42 games. The slow start prompted him to retire in late May during the season.
More tributes came later, but Philadelphia-based Fleer squeezed a retirement card for Schmidt into their year-end Update set. The card is titled, ‘Fleer Salutes a Champion — Mike Schmidt’ while listing his retirement date at the bottom.
It’s a great tribute card that came during his final season. Today, it’s often hanging around $1 boxes.