He was so great he doesn’t really deserve to have his cardboard debut on the fringes of the junk wax era but the upside is that collectors can own high-end copies of Greg Maddux rookie cards without much of an investment.
Heralded as one of the best pitchers of any generation, Greg Maddux rookie cards remain incredibly affordable due to large production numbers. Maddux had some pretty large production numbers on the field, too. His 355 wins trail only Warren Spahn among post-1920 pitchers. From 1992-1995, he won four straight National League Cy Young Awards with a 1.98 ERA. Stellar defensively, no pitcher has won more Gold Gloves than Maddux’s 18.
Maddux in the Minors
The Hall of Famer first appeared on a card in the 1986 Pittsfield Cubs minor league set and high-grade examples can run several hundred dollars on eBay, but stick to graded examples as there are plenty of counterfeits out there.
Official Maddux rookie cards arrived in 1987 and here’s a look at them.
1987 Donruss and Leaf Rated Rookie
Of the big three manufacturers at the time, Topps, Donruss, and Fleer, only Donruss managed to fit Maddux into their regular base card set. Sporting a thin mustache, Maddux was included in the Rated Rookie subset highlighting the game’s top young players at the time. That prediction definitely panned out.
Leaf, Donruss’ partner in Canada also included Maddux as a 1987 Rated Rookie.
It’s easy to see why Topps and Fleer left Maddux out of their main sets in 1987. Maddux broke onto the scene in 1986 as a 20-year-old pitcher and was pretty disappointing in limited action. In six games (with five starts), he was 2-4 with a 5.52 ERA. Even 1987 wasn’t a good year for him as he was 6-14 with a 5.61 ERA. Still, Donruss and Leaf saw enough promise in him to include him in their sets and he’s one of the great rookies that can be pulled from those packs.
1987 Donruss The Rookies
Since Maddux already appeared in Donruss’ regular season set, this card technically isn’t a rookie. Still, many collectors treat it as one since it was also released in 1987.
Donruss doubled down on its interest in Maddux as he was included in this set despite that pretty forgettable 1987 season with the Cubs. These were sold only as boxed sets sold to dealers, so while it’s technically not his rookie card, it’s a much tougher find than his regular season Donruss cards.
These cards have the same design as the regular season 1987 Donruss cards. However, the glossy finish and the green borders (as opposed to black) make them easily distinguishable.
Prices for “The Rookies” Maddux cards remain relatively low.
1987 Topps Traded / Topps Traded Tiffany
As stated, despite a massive 792-card set, Topps did not find room for a young Maddux in their regular season set. But he did debut in their end of season 1987 Topps Traded release.
Only available as part of factory sets, the card wasn’t quite as easy to find as those pack-issued Donruss cards, but Topps didn’t skimp on production, either.
Like the company’s other Traded/Update sets of the 1980s, the ’87s had the same design as the flagship set but a bright colored back. Fronts also had a bit of a semi-gloss.
In addition to the standard Topps Traded cards, the company also issued its limited, premium Topps Tiffany sets that were identical to the flagship offering, but printed on a high quality, glossy stock. The hobby was catching fire and Topps cranked out 30,000 sets that were sold to dealers. Maddux is there, too, and that card is unsurprisingly much more valuable.
Finding high grade Topps Traded Maddux cards is not difficult.
1987 Fleer Update / Fleer Update Glossy
Like Topps, Fleer included Maddux only in their postseason Update set.
The card was only available in the factory sets but isn’t hard to find these days. The design of the cards in the set was just like Fleer’s regular season set with a blue and white border.
Fleer kept pace with its rivals from Topps by putting out a premium glossy set. Those cards were printed in smaller quantities but do not carry a large premium like the Topps Tiffany cards do.
In addition to his mainstream cards, Maddux is also found in some rarer sets, too.
Identified as ‘Gregory Maddux’, the ace is found in a rare 1987 Venezuelan League sticker set. Even in modest condition, those typically start around $200.
A second tougher Maddux card is in the 1987 David Berg set — a team issue (Maddux’s card from that set is pictured here) that was part of a Wrigley Field giveaway. “Raw” full Cubs team sets sell for around $20-$30, but Maddux PSA 10 examples often reach the $150-$200 range.
Finally, Maddux is also seen in the 1987 Canon Cubs set, which is another rarer team issue. These black and white photocards are hard to find and can be expensive.