With his long career now in the rearview mirror, Henderson’s career achievements continue to make even diehard stats junkies do a double take. Most fans already know that he hit the most leadoff home runs in major league history (81), but just as astonishing is that it’s not even all that close since no one else hit even 60. Impressive as that is, it’s not nearly as important as the 1,406 bases he stole or the 2,295 runs he scored – both major league records.
- Henderson won a Most Valuable Player Award.
- He was named to ten All-Star teams.
- He won a Gold Glove and three Silver Slugger awards.
- He led the league in stolen bases and walks … at the age of 39.
Twenty-three years ago Tuesday, he became just the second player in major league history-and the first in 80 years– to open both games of a doubleheader with a home run.
Henderson even performed when it mattered in the postseason, helping two teams win World Series titles. He batted .400 in the American League Championships Series before upping his game in the World Series in the next round against the San Francisco Giants, hitting an unreal .474 while piling up 32 total bases in that postseason.
At some point, a review of Henderson’s achievements becomes a dizzying exercise. Forget being one of the best leadoff men or most disruptive baserunners of all time – Henderson is one of Major League Baseball’s best outfielders.
With such achievements, you might think that Henderson’s earliest cards would garner a little respect, even in the heavily-printed 1980s. But outside of a PSA 10 rookie card, which has achieved legendary status lately, cards from the early stages of his career–even some that are harder to find– remain mostly affordable to, well, just about everyone.
Rickey’s Reasonable Rookies (and Pre-Rookies)
If you’re willing to pass on a high-grade example, finding nice issues of Henderson’s 1980 Topps card for under $20 is entirely reasonable. To find a rookie card approaching 40 years old of a player with Henderson’s credentials at that price is borderline criminal. While his PSA 9 and 10 first-year cards are getting all of the publicity and selling for obscene amounts to collectors with deep pockets, finding high-quality ungraded examples is a winning proposition.
It’s not just Rickey Henderson’s first major league card that should be stealing the spotlight, either. Others that often can go under the radar and shouldn’t be left out of the mix are his minor league issues, which are growing in popularity.
Now, Henderson’s best vintage card, the 1977 Chong Modesto A’s issue (with mid-grade cards topping $1,000), will be out of reach for many collectors. But savvy fans and investors would be wise to take a closer look at his pre-major league issue from 1979. Henderson’s Ogden A’s card from that season remains very affordable. For a card not as mass-produced as Topps cards from that era, that minor league issue should have room for considerable revenue growth in the future.
Second Year Steals
And while Henderson’s post-rookie cards aren’t scarce by any means, his second-year cards are still nice finds. At $5 or less, his second-year 1981 Topps, Donruss, or Fleer cards are an easy way to start a Henderson collection. If those are too commonplace for your tastes with oddball issues more suitable, you can own the All-Star’s rarer issues from his second season. His 1981 Squirt, Kellogg’s 3D, and Perma-Graphics cards, for example, are more difficult to find but auctions for those often close at under $10, making them worth picking up.
Another option? Grab Granny Goose. Rickey appeared on the Bay Area snack company’s A’s sets in the early 80s. Issued only in bags of chips, the ’81 is far more scarce and can be a bit pricey, but others are relatively inexpensive and fun to own.
Many vintage collectors might steer clear of post-1970 editions but considering his place in the game, Henderson’s early cards are still worthy of consideration.