On June 4, 1986, a tall and wiry rookie from Riverside California, stepped to the plate for the Pittsburgh Pirates vs. the Atlanta Braves. Batting leadoff, this 21-year-old outfield phenom planted a fifth inning offering by Craig McMurtry into the left field seats at old Fulton County Stadium.
Barry Bonds’ solo home run that day was the first of his career. It was also part of a 4-for-5 day that saw Bonds miss hitting for the cycle by just a triple. For this the son of Bobby Bonds and cousin of the great Reggie Jackson, this was just one of what would become many great days for the budding star. In a couple of months, the first Barry Bonds rookie card would arrive and quickly became a hot property among collectors and speculators.
Bonds went on to have a remarkable 22-year career. Considered the best player of his generation (prior to his alleged steroid use), Bonds garnered seven NL MVP awards, eight Gold Gloves and 12 Silver Slugger Awards. Most strikingly, he broke Hank Aaron’s all-time record for home runs (762).
But on this the 27th anniversary of Bonds hitting his first career home run, Bonds’ alleged use of steroids has many collectors wondering if he is destined to be all but ignored by baseball card collectors.
Fair or not, it seems like the answer to this question is increasingly in the affirmative, much like it is with other MLB stars suspected of using steroids. Other players include Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro and Alex Rodriguez.
Supporting evidence lies not only in stagnant values of Bonds’ rookie cards in Beckett Magazine, but also in eBay selling prices for Bonds’ best rookie cards.
For example, Bonds’ 1986 Topps Traded XRC (valued at $15 in Beckett) sits largely idle in both graded and ungraded forms. This includes a Beckett graded 9 card selling for $15.95, as well as a PSA 10 graded card selling for $399.95. Many ungraded versions of this card also struggle in auction.
The Tiffany version of Bonds’ Topps Traded XRC (valued at $100 in Beckett) is not faring much better. Even in sealed sets, collectors are staying away.
Nor are collectors jumping at chances to get terrific deals on Bonds’ 1986 Fleer Update. Currently, two PSA 9 versions of this card are yielding an average of around $10 per auction in eBay. Even PSA 10 copies often sell for no more than $40-50.
Adding insult to injury, all Bonds’ 1987 rookie cards sit idle in eBay as well. Even a very rare (and ironic), PSA/DNA certified Bonds “Say No to Drugs,” auto (on his 1987 Donruss rookie card) recently flopped on eBay. According to CBS Sports, the owner of this auto charged $100,000 for the rights to own this card. Not surprising, this card failed to sell.
Ironically, the most valuable Bonds rookie card is one that doesn’t picture him on the front. Beckett graded 9 or higher versions of Bonds’ 1987 Donruss Opening Day error card (showing Johnny Ray’s picture), looks to be very popular with collectors. The most recent eBay auction of a 9.5 Beckett graded version of this rookie card fetched $1200. Unfortunately, the correct version of this card suffers the same ill fate as Bonds’ other rookies. Even Beckett graded 9 versions of Bonds’ 1987 Donruss rookie card find little to no interest from buyers.
As strange as it is to see collectors run from Bonds’ rookie cards considering his numbers, they may continue to struggle. Even if proof arises Bonds in no way, shape or form did steroids, this still may be the case. For in spite of never being officially convicted, the power of public opinion can be staggering.
You can see what Barry Bonds rookie cards are on eBay here.