When baseball cards still sold for less than 50 cents a pack and at least one brand still packed them with gum, he was one of the guys you wanted to see inside. Today, thanks to his status as a Hall of Famer and one of the most memorable players of his era, Ryne Sandberg rookie cards are still popular with collectors.
Known for his hard work ethic and a great glove, Sandberg is still regarded as one of the best second basemen in baseball history. Almost every second of that was spent with the Chicago Cubs thanks to a pretty one-sided trade. He collected 9 Gold Gloves, an NL MVP (1984), and was a 10 time All-Star. “Ryno” was a third ballot induction into the Hall of Fame in 2005 with 76.2% of the vote.
“Sandberg is the best player I have ever seen,” once said Hall of Fame manager Whitey Herzog, who saw plenty of him while piloting the St. Louis Cardinals. There’s no doubt Chicago Cubs fans still have a special place in their heart for Sandberg, whose #23 jersey was retired by the team.
Sandberg was born in Spokane, Washington on September, 1959. He was a Parade All-American football player who was offered a scholarship to play quarterback at Washington State. The Philadelphia Phillies had other plans and drafted him in the 20th round of the 1978 amateur draft. Sandberg couldn’t turn down a lucrative and unheard of $30,000 signing bonus.
After quick stint in the minors, he reached the big leagues but didn’t play much for the Phillies. After just six at-bats there, he was traded to Chicago with Larry Bowa in exchange for Ivan DeJesus. It might be the worst trade in Philadelphia history (and the best for the Cubs).
Sandberg flourished at Wrigley Field. He hit .271 with 7 home runs and 54 RBI during his 1982 rookie season.
Just two years later, he was the National League MVP. Sandberg wasn’t just a great defensive player. He could smash the ball as evidenced in this 1984 video. He finished 1984 with a .314 batting average, 19 home runs and 84 RBI.
He’d later hit 40 home runs in the 1990 season. In 1992, Sandberg became the highest paid player in baseball. He signed a 4 year, $28.4 million dollar contract.
Ryne Sandberg Rookie Cards
Just like fellow Hall of Famers Tony Gwynn and Wade Boggs, Sandberg’s “official” rookie cards arrived in packs of 1983 Topps, Fleer and Donruss cards. He’s still listed as a third baseman (that or center field) because that’s where the Cubs intended to play him. He’d switch over to second base once the Cubs acquired Ron Cey.
Although all three are easily attainable in ungraded form (and quite inexpensive), here’s an overview of graded examples in Mint 9 and Gem Mint 10.
Sandberg’s 1983 Topps rookie card is far more plentiful in graded form. With over 600 PSA 10s on the population report, it’s still a little tough considering nearly 13,000 have been graded at this point. Sandberg’s 1983 Topps rookie card is valued around $370 in PSA 10. A 9 is still a good value around $30.
The 1983 Sandberg Fleer (and the 1983 Donruss) picture him at bat in his 1980s “Cubbie Blue” pinstripe uniform. The ’83 Fleer has proven to be the most plentiful in Gem Mint 10 and prices reflect the availability. It’s generally valued at around $80 in PSA 10. It’s far less plentiful in a Mint 9 grade than the Topps and only slightly more populous than the Donruss, but can still be had for $20-$25.
High grade examples of the Donruss are a little tough with only about 280 PSA 10 copies in existence. Those are valued at $175-$200 while a 9 can usually be had for around $20-$25.
You can check out all three rookie cards–in graded and ungraded form–on eBay here.
Sandberg was also in the O-Pee-Chee set distributed in Canada and has a Topps sticker in the 1983 set as well. Neither is expensive.
Sandberg has a couple of minor league cards from when he was in the Phillies organization and even a card from his stint in the Venezuelan winter league and those are popular with collectors on eBay.
Another rookie-related card that’s fun to own and actually dates to his rookie season is his card in the 1982 Red Lobster Cubs set (see above) that was a giveaway during a game at Wrigley Field and sponsored by the restaurant chain.