He was still only 18 when the photos for what became his first licensed baseball cards were taken and after a less than stellar start to his pro career, he was only the 44th best prospect in baseball in the spring of 1993. Derek Jeter rookie cards arrived that year and there were eight in all–more if you’re willing to count the variations that don’t officially get labeled as such. For those who hate the never-ending and confusing mountain of parallel and photo variation cards issued these days, Jeter’s relatively small rookie card checklist is sort of a breath of fresh air.
So which one is the best? Which is the coolest? Which might be a little underrated? As we add the “Hall of Famer” tag to his name, here’s a roundup of all of them; a Jeter Cheater, if you will.
Most Valuable Derek Jeter Rookie Card
You can argue which is the ugliest and which is the prettiest but there’s no question which is the most expensive.
The 1993 Upper Deck SP Foil is not rare, just rare in high-grade because of the shiny silver card stock. The crazy selling prices of the two dozen or so that are graded “gem mint 10” have generated headlines (the one above just sold for $180,000) but PSA alone has graded over 600 as mint 9. There’s nothing wrong with owning one that’s in slightly lesser grade. It’s still a nice copy of what’s become one of the modern era’s most desired cards. There are hundreds in various grades on eBay.
The Topps Jeter Quintet
Topps base rookie cards from all years still garner a healthy level of respect. They’re plentiful, but if you appreciate the history of the brand, it’s an easy go-to kind of card. It’s probably safe to say there are more standard Topps Jeter cards in existence than any others. Topps was still printing a lot of cards in ’93. PSA alone has graded nearly 23,000 of them. They’re kind of like an old school, blue chip stock. You can own a really nice one for a limited investment and feel pretty good about it for a long time.
The Gold Foil version that Topps produced is not as plentiful. It’s also not officially a rookie card, but collectors don’t really subscribe to that notion. Identical to the regular issue but with the lettering on the front in gold, it’s a little hard to find in a PSA 10 holder with only 357 listed as of this writing. Only those graded 8 and below can still be found for under $100.
Topps also produced factory sets meant for fans of the two expansion teams in 1993. Again, the cards were essentially the same as the standard issue except for the addition of Rockies and Marlins gold foil team logos on the front. There were supposedly 5,000 Rockies sets and 3,000 Marlins sets made but prices, even for nice ones, aren’t as high as you might think.
The fifth ’93 Topps Jeter is in the Micro factory set that Topps produced. These bite size cards are so small you can’t really enjoy them but they are harder to find than most of the other Jeter rookies and they’re readily available.
Most Underrated Derek Jeter Rookie Card
This is a tough one and our answer may not be popular. The photo on the 1993 Select Jeter shows him sort of suspended in mid-air with nothing below. Some call it goofy but looking at the grading company population reports indicates something else that’s worth noting. Of the eight rookie cards, it’s been graded the fewest number of times and has the second fewest number of graded 9s and 10s behind the Upper Deck SP–and you won’t pay nearly as much for this one. You might even be able to buy some ungraded ones and make a few bucks by doing just that.
Best Looking Derek Jeter Rookie Card
We like the Topps Stadium Club “Murphy” card a lot. It’s a traditional baseball card pose of a very young future Yankees captain posing with a stadium behind him, even though it would be a couple of years before he actually played in one. The clean photo and beautiful color on glossy stock is hard to beat. This one was part of a boxed set and it’s pretty easy to find high grade examples.
Runner up goes to the Pinnacle Jeter. The black borders with foil lettering look sharp and the photo is a close up of him offering that sneering sort of smile that gives you a glimpse of his confidence despite the tough road ahead.
You can also file this one in the underrated category as prices don’t seem to match some of the other Jeter rookies.
The Upper Deck Duo
Upper Deck baseball was riding high in 1993 and the company cranked out tons of product. Jeter’s card is popular with those who love the old school UD. It’s everywhere these days and thousands remain ungraded but there was another version that’s kind of flown under the radar of most collectors. Each case of 1993 Upper Deck factory sets had one set with gold holograms on the back instead of silver.
Big deal, right?
Well, yes, if you appreciate scarcity, no matter how miniscule the variation. PSA has graded only 205 gold holo Jeters with only 40 rated 9 and another 40 graded 10. The 9s have been bringing $600-$900 in recent weeks and a 10 just sold for $4,350, making it far cheaper than the much heralded SP. There are usually a few “raw” examples and graded ones on eBay.
There were Jeter rookie cards in the Score and Bowman brands, neither of which is tremendously exciting. Both are easy to find although fewer Score versions have been graded than Bowman. Bowman was years away from its current MO as the home of the prospect card. If Jeter were coming up today, we’d have mountains of parallels and autographs. In ’93, we just had one simple generic Jeter…not that there’s anything wrong with that.
In a mint 9 grade, the Bowman card is second only to Topps as the most plentiful of any Jeter rookie card but there are more than three times as many graded Topps Jeter rookies than Bowman, which tells us that there were far more Topps cards produced in ’93. Both can easily be had for a small investment.
Check out the most watched Jeter card auctions on eBay here.