It really didn’t matter whether Ken Griffey Jr. got every vote from those who cast ballots in the Baseball Hall of Fame election. He was a slam dunk before the new millennium. The most popular player of his generation—and it wasn’t really close—Griffey was the rare athlete who had genuine skills and could still made highlight clip plays on a regular basis.
The vote didn’t really matter to the legion of Griffey collectors who have bought up everything Junior—or try to. Even five years after his retirement, he’s collected with the fervor of a Mike Trout or Kris Bryant. For anyone who watched him play, Griffey was to baseball what Michael Jordan was to basketball.
Michael Doffing was one of those guys who decided to go all in on Junior cards back in 1991.
“I guess it was his smile, the backwards cap but most of all his love for the game,” Doffing told Sports Collectors Daily. “You know that once you make that decision, you are making a commitment to search high and low for their collectibles.”
Known as ‘Magicpapa’ in online forums, Doffing’s young son helped him get started 24 years ago. He owns piles of insert cards, many from the 1990s when Griffey collectors aggressively pursued every new card that entered the market, through trips to local card shops and shows and later, the new communication tool known as the internet. Today, those insert cards are still popular among collectors who have fond recollections of the era.
Doffing’s first significant Junior card was one of the then coveted and scarce 1992 Donruss Elite cards, pulled from a pack and an experience he still remembers as “a rush”. The photo on the left shows his son with the card in 1992.
In the wake of the Hall of Fame election, many will focus on Griffey’s memorable 1989 Upper Deck rookie card. It’s by far his most recognizable image and the card that serves as the starting point for most.
“Even if they are not Griffey collectors I think everyone should own a 1989 Upper Deck rookie,” Doffing stated. “They are pretty fair priced and most importantly it will always be iconic in the card collecting world.”
As dedicated Griffey collectors know, however, it’s just a small cog in a huge wheel that covers a career that spanned from 1989-2010; from basic cards to inserts to memorabilia cards to modern era issues that have both an autograph and a swatch of game-used gear.
Griffey, in fact, was featured in some of the very first relic cards ever made–the 1996 Upper Deck Game Jerseys, which carries a piece of one of his game-worn Mariners shirts.
If there was a baseball card set being issued during his career, chances are Griffey was on it. That makes finding some cards a challenge; one that never ends since he’s still being featured today.
“There are some prototypes out there that you hardly ever see, and a few rookie buyback autos that are very tough,” Doffing stated. Griffey’s 1996 Select Mirror Gold insert still eludes him and the 1998 Donruss Crusades Red and 1997 Finest Gold Embossed Refractor are among others on most collectors’ want lists.
Also on the favorites list for Griffey collectors is the 1994 Upper Deck Piece of History 500 Club. The set itself was a huge hit and ’04 marked Griffey’s debut. Part of the company’s Etchings product, there are two versions—one with a game-used bat numbered to 350 and the highly sought after version that also has Griffey’s autograph that is numbered to just 25.
Griffey’s Hall of Fame election validates what fans and collectors like Doffing knew would someday happen.