Do you remember the first time you saw a Donruss Rated Rookie card?

For me, it was a 1984 Donruss Mike Stenhouse (#29) that I pulled from a rack pack that summer, out shopping with my mom.

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

By then, I was a veteran hobbyist of more than a full year, with cards in my burgeoning collection stretching all the way back to 1981.

I knew a thing or two about baseball, in other words, and a thing or two about baseball cards.

And even I had never heard of this exotic new concept … “Rated Rookie.”

I didn’t know exactly what that meant, but I knew it was something special.

Could feel it.

And the evidence of such was right there in black and white and teal, too — Stenhouse had an “outstanding Triple A record,” the card back said:

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

Not only that, but this was card #29, which meant it had crashed the lineup just past the Diamond Kings, and I knew all about DKs.

And that waving banner on the front declaring once and forever that Stenhouse was, indeed, a Rated Rookie? Yeah, that cinched the deal — Mike Stenhouse was destined for greatness.

Pulling that card on that hot summer day was a collecting experience I’ll never forget, and one of those moments where you feel like you’re on the ground floor of something truly game-changing.

I was holding history in my chubby little hands, and even today, when I see a copy of that Stenhouse … or a Brad Komminsk … or an Angel Salazar … or — bestill my heart — a Kevin McReynolds, why, I feel like the thing should be slabbed in platinum.

The truth is, though, those twenty 1984 Donruss beauties, as game-changing as they were, were NOT actually the first Rated Rookie cards.

Here, take a gander at this:

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

Yeah, that is a card of Steven Leonard Senteney.

Now, you may or may not remember the Blue Jays’ erstwhile righty, but the salient bit of this image is there at the bottom of the card:

1983 DONRUSS RATED ROOKIE

And, in case the “1982” in the stat line, or the bit about “1983 DONRUSS” didn’t give it away, this is a 1983 Donruss card.

As in, a full year before 1984 Donruss cards were issued.

Here is the front of said Senteney, just to drive home the point:

Check prices on eBay (affiliate link)

Check prices on Amazon (affiliate link)

Confirmed — the 1983 Donruss Steve Senteney was, indeed, a Rated Rookie card, even if only the back of the card knew it.

In fact, Senteney was the first of six RRs that Donruss stealthily unleashed on the hobby in 1983. Here’s the complete lineup:

  • #52 Steve Senteney
  • #126 Mel Hall
  • #547 Brad Lesley
  • #574 Keith Creel
  • #579 Greg Brock
  • #649 Al Chambers

Some of those guys were actually pretty well-regarded prospects, and a couple did some stuff in the majors.

And Lesley, of course, was an animalistic legend.

Most importantly, these half-dozen players gave Donruss the platform to launch into Rated Rookies with the full force of their puzzle-packed hobby muscles in 1984.

After all, they had already put out this “test issue,” and, like, nobody complained.

For a full year.

And, sure, you might say that nobody noticed, either, but then you’re just being a naysayer.

You’re just hurting yourself, though, missing out on the greatness that is the 1983 Donruss Steve Senteney Rated Rookie — it’s the face that launched a million pack rips.

Because, really … who didn’t drop a summer’s worth of allowance trying to pull a Jim Lindeman* RR??

(* Feel free to substitute one of Ty Gainey, Al Pulido, or Gary Thurman. Ron Jones available for an extra surcharge. Tim Pyznarski unavailable in this context.)

Check Prices on eBay


He wasn’t a Rated Rookie, or even a rookie who rated all that highly, but Nolan Ryan recovered quite nicely from an inauspicious start. So did his cards, as evidenced by these recent high-rolling sales on eBay:

1983 Donruss Fergie Jenkins #300 HOF Cubs

$0.88 ( 1 Bid)
End Date: Tuesday 08/16/2022 21:11:52 EDT
Bid now | Add to watch list

1983 Donruss #115 Reggie Jackson

$2.49
End Date: Friday 09/16/2022 18:03:04 EDT
Buy it now | Add to watch list

1983 DONRUSS # 277 RYNE SANDBERG NICE CARD

$3.00 (4 Bids)
End Date: Saturday 08/20/2022 16:13:03 EDT
Bid now | Add to watch list

(2) 1983 Donruss Diamond Kings Mike Schmidt Philadelphia Phillies

$0.82 (3 Bids)
End Date: Saturday 08/20/2022 07:05:09 EDT
Bid now | Add to watch list

Pete Rose 1983 Donruss card #42 NM Philadelphia Phillies Reds MLB

$0.99 ( 1 Bid)
End Date: Monday 08/22/2022 15:58:55 EDT
Bid now | Add to watch list

1983 Donruss Ryne Sandberg Rookie RC #277 Chicago Cubs

$0.99
End Date: Monday 08/22/2022 20:55:49 EDT
Bid now | Add to watch list

1983 Donruss #31 Ron Guidry New York Yankees MINT

$1.00
End Date: Thursday 09/08/2022 16:59:12 EDT
Buy it now | Add to watch list