Once upon a time, 1986 Donruss baseball cards ruled the hobby with an exciting design and the strongest lineup of rookie cards anyone had seen since … well, since 1985, at least.

And for a lot of years, it seemed like the blue-and-black, striped-and-catercorner beauties could only go up, up, up.

Then came the hobby bust and the realization that 1986 Donruss wasn’t really very scarce.

1986 Donruss unopened wax pack

And then, the bottom sort of fell out of several of the careers that were driving the set.

Even so, some of these things are still popular today, and the most valuable 1986 Donruss baseball cards listed here will bring a smile to any old collector’s face.

(Prices based on recent eBay sales of PSA 9 cards.)

1986 Donruss Jose Canseco Rated Rookie Card (#39)

1986 Donruss Jose Canseco Rated Rookie Card

Canseco was the first player I can remember who came out of the baseball chute greased with both megahype and a rookie card while he still maintained his rookie status.

Even as a kid growing up in rural Indiana, I started hearing about Jose’s exploits in 1985 and, like the rest of the hobby, was excited to see both him and his RCs in 1986.

Neither one disappointed, as Canseco overcame a hot start by Wally Joyner to win the American League Rookie of the Year Award, and Jose’s Donruss Rated Rookie debuted at somewhere around $3.

It was all rosy from there over the next few years, when Canseco teamed with Mark McGwire to form the nucleus of the Bash Brothers and lead the Oakland A’s to three AL pennants and a World Series title.

Along the way, Canseco became the first 40/40 (home runs/steals) man, won the 1988 AL MVP award, started preparing his Hall of Fame speech.

Then … a ball off the head, and steroids, and Madonna, and … well, the wheel sort of fell off.

In the end, Canseco landed short of our lofty goals for him, but he still helped change the game and the hobby, and for that, his 1986 Donruss Rated Rookie card remains a $35 buy in PSA 9 today.

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1986 Donruss Cecil Fielder Rookie Card (#512)

1986 Donruss Cecil Fielder Rookie Card

Fielder didn’t make the Rated Rookie cut, but his Donruss RC did enjoy some early action from speculators who, um, speculated that his minor league power would translate into Major League power.

And it would, but only after a season in Japan and a trip home that included a relocation from the Blue Jays to the Tigers.

In Detroit, of course, Fielder became the first player since George Foster in 1977 to smack 50 homers in a season (51 for Cecil) and set his cards on an upward trajectory.

Big Daddy won’t make the Hall of Fame, but he and his son, Prince Fielder, did each end up with exactly 319 home runs and one 50-homer season.

That has to be worth something, right? 

Right, like a $20 Donruss rookie card (in PSA 9).

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1986 Donruss Fred McGriff Rated Rookie Card (#28)

1986 Donruss Fred McGriff Rated Rookie Card

Cecil’s teammate Fred McGriff caused more hobby stir out of the gate thanks to his appearance on a Rated Rookie card, but then he settled into a boring pattern — 30 home runs, 100 RBI year after year.

After 19 seasons across six franchises, McGriff fell just short of 500 home runs (493) and drove in 1550.

Crime Dog is not (yet) a Hall of Famer, but his RC checks in at $15 in PSA 9.

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1986 Donruss Paul O’Neill Rated Rookie Card (#37)

1986 Donruss Paul ONeill Rated Rookie Card

O’Neill spent parts of eight seasons with the Reds, putting up semistar numbers along the way, until they traded him to the Yankees for Roberto Kelly in November of 1992.

In New York, The Warrior became a key part of the 1990s Yanks’ mini-dynasty and boosted his hobby profile in the process.

His 1986 Donruss RR sits at $15 in graded MINT condition today.

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1986 Donruss Don Mattingly (#173)

1986 Donruss Don Mattingly

Canseco, McGwire, and all the other big-name guys with big-dollar RCs can thank Mattingly for making their cardboard fame possible.

And we can all thank Mattingly and his 1984 Donruss card for The Boom and for helping make the hobby what it is today, for better or worse.

For years, all Mattingly cards rode the tide of that ’84 Donruss masterpiece, and things aren’t much different today in that regard.

Expect to pay about $15 for 1986 Donruss Mattingly in PSA 9 condition.

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1986 Donruss Kirby Puckett (#72)

1986 Donruss Kirby Puckett

When this card debuted, Puckett was still just the little fire hydrant guy we’d pull aside into our rookie card piles, just in case, but all that was about to change.

In 1986, Kirby put up his first All-Star season, popping 31 home runs, scoring 119 runs, driving in 96, and batting .328.

Over the following nine seasons, Puckett strung together 200-hit seaons like they were tin-can telepones, won two World Series title with the Twins, and generally built himself into a legend.

This card from his breakout season is a $10 item in PSA 9.

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1986 Donruss Harold Reynolds Rookie Card (#484)

1986 Donruss Harold Reynolds Rookie Card

Reynolds was a typical 1980s (and before) second baseman — small, quick, fast (60 stolen bases to lead the AL in 1987), but with little power and middling batting averages.

Harold did learn to get on base later in his career, though, and he was one of the few stars for the mid-1980s Mariners.

His post-career television career didn’t hurt his exposure any, either, and Reynolds checks in here at $10.

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1986 Donruss Cal Ripken Jr. (#210)

1986 Donruss Cal Ripken Jr

Ripken, on the other hand, was not your typical shortstop — he was big, powerful, and steady.

And he was a superstar who had AL Rookie of the Year and MVP awards under his belt and a whole slew of history-making ahead of him when this $10 card was issued.

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1986 Donruss Andres Galarraga Rated Rookie Card (#33)

1986 Donruss Andres Galarraga Rated Rookie Card

Galarraga was another guy who got some hobby play based on his Rated Rookie status, but toiling in Montreal limited his Expos-ure to some degree.

It wasn’t until he started raking for the Rockies in the mid-1990s that his cardboard really took off, and some of that momentum remains today.

Expect a $10 price tag for Big Cat’s Donruss rookie card in PSA 9.

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1986 Donruss Nolan Ryan (#258)

1986 Donruss Nolan Ryan

Ryan is a big name in every set where he appears, and 1986 Donruss is no exception.

This sun-splashed action shot shows the power of The Ryan Express to good effect and sells for $5-10 in slabbed MINT condition these days.

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