If you were to pick one issue to mark the transition of the hobby from from Boom to full-blown Junk Wax Era, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better candidate than 1988 Donruss baseball cards.

Up until that point, most collectors were willing to look the other way as the supply of new cards inched up every year. After all, more and more folks were flocking to the hobby all the time, so we could absorb anything manufacturers spit out.

Besides, Donruss and Fleer, at least, seemed to have throttled production in 1987, seeing as how those cards were hard to come by … early on, anyway.

But, man, 1988 Donruss baseball was everywhere almost from the very first days of the new year. It was as if they had been planted as seeds on store shelves across America and blossomed into full bloom when the champagne flowed on New Year’s Eve.

Three decades has done little to attenuate the blue, red, black, white flow of 1988 Donruss cards into the market, and they’re still among the cheapest “old” cards ever issued.

Still, that doesn’t mean the ’88s are completely worthless. Donruss rolled out a pretty decent rookie card class that year, and there are several Hall of Famers in the set who will always have their supporters.

So, with that in mind, here are the ten most valuable 1988 Donruss baseball cards, presented in numerical order. Unless otherwise noted, you can pick up just about any of these babies for around $1 (or less) in raw condition, so we’ll be looking at the prices you might expect to pay for “perfect” PSA 10 copies.

(Check out our full series of posts on the history of Donruss baseball cards.)

1988 Donruss Roberto Alomar (#34)

1988 Donruss roberto alomar

Folks were only sort of excited about Roberto Alomar in the early stages of his career.

Sure, he was the son of a former Major Leaguer, but Sandy Alomar, Sr., was never a superstar, and Robbie seemed like he was destined to be a high-level middle infielder at best — great glove, possibly a high batting average, some speed, but not a ton more.

Many in the hobby were more anxious to see his brother, Sandy Alomar, Jr., who was a catcher with decent power potential.

As it turned out, of course, Robbie did all that stuff I mentioned above, but did it even better than we thought he might. Even added some decent power (210 home runs).

In the end, his even .300 batting average, 2700+ hits, nearly 500 stolen bases, and 10 Gold Gloves were enough to gain him Hall of Fame election in 2011.

Alomar’s 1988 Donruss Rated Rookie is pretty generic looking, but it can fetch more than $20 in PSA 10 condition.

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1988 Donruss Mark Grace (#40)

1988 Donruss mark grace

Truth be told, we were all grasping for great rookies to chase when the 1988 cards came out. After monstrous rookie-card classes from 1985 through 1987, Donruss had a lot to live up to.

The problem was, there just weren’t any of the usual big sluggers or power pitchers — Eric Davis, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Roger Clemens, Dwight Gooden — to stoke our interest, so we latched onto other types.

Mark Grace was one of those “others,” an imperfect rookie target at best. I mean, first basemen are supposed to knock home runs all over the field (or at least pull them to one field), not challenge for a batting title.

But Grace played for the Chicago Cubs, so that helped, and he hit from the the beginning of his career to the end, to the tune of 2445 hits and a .303 lifetime batting average.

His lack of milestone numbers or a big power stroke will likely forever keep Grace out of Cooperstown, but his 1988 Rated Rookie pulls in $15-20 in PSA 10 anyway.

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1988 Donruss Al Leiter (#43)

1988 Donruss al leiter

Al Leiter was another guy we pulled into our fraternity of “hey, we don’t have any better” rookie cards to follow in 1988.

He did have a few things going for him — he was a second-round draft pick in 1984, he made his Major League debut at age 21, and, mostly, he pitched for the New York Yankees.

Nothing ever clicked for Leiter in the Bronx, though, and the Yanks traded him to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Jesse Barfield in April of 1989.

After another four years of up-and-down minor/Major-league action, Leiter finally stuck in Toronto in 1993, just in time for the Jays’ second World Series title.

He went on to several solid seasons with the Jays,  Florida Marlins, and New York Mets, but you can lay much of the $10-15 price tag for his Donruss rookie card (in PSA 10) at the feet of his post-playing television career.

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1988 Donruss Nolan Ryan (#61)

1988 Donruss nolan ryan

You know all about Nolan Ryan, but one thing to point out about his 1988 baseball cards is that they were the last ones issued while he was still pitching for the Houston Astros.

The next summer, Ryan would still appear on Astros cards, but he was busy crafting his legend with the Texas Rangers in real life by that time.

This final Donruss-with-the-Astros-while-he-pitched-for-the-Astros card of The Ryan Express generally sells for $15-25 in PSA 10.

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1988 Donruss Don Mattingly (#217)

1988 Donruss don mattingly

Depending on how you look at things — through traditional or SABRose-colored glasses — Don Mattingly recorded his last truly great season in either 1986 or 1987.

As far as most of us were concerned, though, Mattingly was the man entering the 1988 campaign. Fresh off a season in which he hit .327 with 30 home runs and 115 RBI, he was a superstar among superstars and, as such, his cardboard was everywhere.

That power dropped dramatically in the summer of 1988, but many of us were too busy collecting his umpteen cards to really notice. Besides, we knew he would bounce back to 1985-86 levels, and better, in 1989.

That never happened, of course, but this blue-bordered 1988 Donruss Donnie Baseball still fetches around $25 in PSA 10.

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1988 Donruss Bo Jackson (#220)

1988 Donruss bo jackson

Bo Jackson played the entire 1988 season at 25 years of age, logging 124 games and 468 plate appearances for the Kansas City Royals. Those were both career highs, and we were starting to get a real handle on what type of player Bo would be — prodigious power, free-swinging, prone to highlight-reel catches but still rough in the field.

Even though he wasn’t a perfect player, though, the sheer potential rippling through Bo’s every move kept us coming back for more — more video clips, more speculation, more hand-wringing, more baseball cards.

All these years later, we’re still at it even though Jackson’s career was cut way too short, leaving his legacy shy of what it could have been.

This 1988 Donruss card, Bo’s second base issue from Big D, checks in at $10-15 in PSA 10.

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1988 Donruss Barry Bonds (#326)

1988 Donruss barry bonds

In 1988, Barry Bonds was young, lithe, cocky, and one of the best baseball players on the planet.

Thing is, he didn’t always get his due for that latter attribute, and folks threw around all sorts of trite phrases when speaking of him …

Lacks big-time power …

Maybe when his frame fills out …

Not really helping the Pirates win …

Great potential, but …

Not quite on par with teammate Bobby Bonilla

I poop you not, these were real sentiments surrounding Bonds.

Well, the dude filled out (no one was happy about that, either), found his power, turned the Bucs and Giants into winners, became a legend.

And people still have all kinds of beefs with him.

Not enough beef, though, to prevent his 1988 Donruss card for selling at $10-20 in PSA 10.

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1988 Donruss Mike Schmidt (#330)

1988 Donruss mike schmidt

Not many of us realized it at the time, but 1988 would be Mike Schmidt’s last sorta full-time season.

Guess we should have seen that coming when his games-played dropped from 160 in 1986 to 147 in 1987 to, eventually, 108 in 1988.

Schmitty managed only 12 dingers in that summer of 1988, but we (I, anyway) thought he’d be back at full-force in 1989.

Instead, he retired 42 games into the campaign.

No matter, though, because Schmidt stands as the game’s greatest third baseman, and even his overproduced 1988 Donruss card trades for around $15 in PSA 10.

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1988 Donruss Tom Glavine (#644)

1988 Donruss Tom Glavine

Among the non-Rated Rookies we tried to love from 1988 Donruss, Tom Glavine was maybe the top pitcher.

No one was too excited by the putrid Atlanta Braves teams of the era, but Glavine, at least, gave a glimmer of hope, with scouting reports that pegged him as a potential future rotation piece.

That worked out pretty well, even though early struggles (like a 7-17 record in 1988) may have made him think twice about that NHL career he turned down.

Soon enough, the Braves would turn things around thanks to guys like Glavine, John Smoltz, Sid Bream, Terry Pendleton, and, eventually, Greg Maddux and Chipper Jones.

Twenty years after this card was issued, Glavine finished up his 22-year run — including five with the New York Mets — as a 305-game winner and on beeline to the Hall of Fame (first-ballot inductee in 2014).

Today, his ’88 Donruss rookie sells for around $25 in PSA 10.

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1988 Donruss Gregg Jefferies (#657)

1988 Donruss Gregg Jefferies

Now this was the guy everyone really wanted from among the 1988 baseball card rookies.

Gregg Jefferies had it all — youth (20), budding power (20 homers with the Double-A Jackson Mets in 1987), big batting average (.367), huge-market team (New York Mets).

After his six-game cup of coffee with the Sheas in 1987, the hobby was convinced Jefferies was the second coming of Mickey Mantle, the Infield Version.

In reality, it took Jefferies most of another season before he stuck in the Big Leagues for good and, when he did, it was a bit of a struggle.

Low batting average (.258 in 1989), low-to-middling power (12 homers), no catchy nickname.

Eventually, Jefferies settled in and, though he was never as hot as the initial expectations surrounding him had been, he turned in an All-Star level career split among six different franchises over 14 years.

He’ll never make the Cooperstown cut, but the warm memories of Phenom Jefferies keep his Donruss rookie card at the $15-20 level (PSA 10) all these decades later.

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(Check out our other posts about baseball card values here.)