No player’s trading cards were hotter as the 1998 baseball season turned from summer to fall. With every home run, every record set came a new round of price increases for Mark McGwire rookie cards. Those that once sold for a few bucks were flying on a young website called eBay. Hobby shop owners couldn’t keep them in stock. At card shows, the most popular tables were those that had a stack of them. The Great Home Run Chase had captured public attention and erased the negativity that came with the 1994-95 baseball strike.
A few years later, not only did baseball have a new single-season home run record holder, but the accomplishments of every player who made news for their unprecedented power were called into question.
There’s still no doubt McGwire is one of baseball’s all-time great power hitters. While his earliest cards arrived at a time when card companies were cranking out a lot of product, there has been increased demand for high grade examples of his toughest issues.
1985 Topps Team USA Rookie Card
While it was issued two seasons before he appeared on a pack-pulled trading card, McGwire’s card from this set is his most popular issue and considered by Beckett to be his rookie card. The first-ever Olympic team subset is far from rare but is prone to centering issues. The population of PSA 10 examples is barely over 300 as of this moment. There are over 6,000 PSA 9s and a whopping 29,000 PSA 8s.
Much rarer than the standard issues in the ’85 Topps Tiffany McGwire. Part of a boxed set sold to dealers, this card has powered past $1,000 in Gem Mint 10–not surprising, really, since only 35 exist as of now. There are 561 9’s and 815 graded PSA 8. The ’85 Tiffany run was only 5,000 sets so of all of the early McGwire cards, it’s the most rare. Even those graded 8 or 9 would seem to be a fairly decent long-term play.
McGwire’s 1987 Full Season Debut Issues
McGwire’s “true” rookie cards appeared in the 1987 Topps set (most common); 1987 Donruss; 1987 Donruss Leaf (issued in Canada); 1987 Donruss The Rookies, 1987 Fleer Update and the 1987 Topps Tiffany set.
The Leaf is a little harder to find, especially in high grade, but you can still own any of them, even in a 10 grade, for a relatively small investment. The 1987 Topps Tiffany set run was 30,000–six times as many were printed than the ’85 set. There are a little over 2,000 Tiffany cards that have been graded between 9 and 10 by PSA. Still, those numbers are a fraction of the standard issue cards from Topps, Fleer and Donruss. McGwire’s 1987 Topps Tiffany card would rank as his most valuable true rookie card.
You can see a live list of the ‘most watched’ Mark McGwire rookie cards on eBay through the live list below.