Donruss found itself at a crossroads as they rolled out their 1992 Leaf baseball cards to the collecting public.

On the one hand, the inaugural 1990 Leaf set had been an unmitigated success, rocketing to the top of the premium-card market and setting the hobby on its ear.

But on the other …

The 1991 Leafs were a bit less elegant in design and much more plentiful — maybe not quite as gluttonous as the base Donruss sets from 1990 and 1991, but still plenty, well, plentiful. They didn’t feature much of a rookie card crop, either.

As a consequence, the 1991 Leafs didn’t sell quite as well as the 1990s had … but then, it’s hard to catch lightning in a bottle two years running.

So, when it came to the 1992 Leaf set, how would Donruss proceed?

Would they keep the pedal to the medal, production-wise, or ease off?

Would they try to shoehorn in some specious “rookie cards” or maybe even some draft picks?

Would they lighten up on the design?

Would they try something new?

Would they even produce the cards at all?

Last things first — there was no way Donruss wasn’t going to produce a run of 1992 Leaf baseball cards, not when there was money to be made.

So, they …

  • Lightened up on the design elements compared to 1991, but kept the gray borders
  • Produced a lot of cards, but also added 5000 factory sets, perhaps trying to add an air of scarcity
  • Rolled with whatever rookies were available
  • Ran out a complete parallel set, called Black Gold, and inserted one per pack
  • Mixed in some promos and inserts

The result?

Mostly meh, though the Black Gold cards did help to establish parallel sets as a thing going forward.

As for the base cards, the good news is that there were enough of them made so that you can find pretty much any of them in PSA 10 condition today, if you’re so inclined.

Some of them even have a bit of value, though all are pretty accessible, pricewise.

What follows is a rundown of the most valuable 1992 Leaf baseball cards, by measure of recent sales of copies in PSA 10 condition. For this list, we’ll limit ourselves to the base cards — the Black Gold parallels range from roughly even with the base prices to a factor of 5-6 greater for the more expensive cards.

We’ll start at the bottom of the pile and work our way up to the big(ger) bucks.

Play ball!

(Note: The following sections contain affiliate links to eBay and Amazon listings for the cards being discussed.)

1992 Leaf Cal Ripken (#52)

1992 Leaf Cal Ripken

After hearing the naysayers whine on for years about how he should take a break now and then to save his body and become a more valuable player for the Orioles, Cal Ripken had had enough.

So, in 1991, and on the back of a general dwindling of his stats that might have supported his detractors’ arguments, Iron Cal went out and hit .323 with 34 home runs and 114 RBI while playing a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop.

And, of course, he played all 162 games.

That performance netted Ripken 11.5 WAR and his second American League MVP award (the first came in 1983), and it set him up for a date with Lou Gehrig.

It also lit Cal’s already popular cards on fire, with his 1982 rookie cards leading the way and dragging everything else along for the ride.

Those cardboard dandies, including this one, are still out there tooling around the hobby today.

Value: $10-25

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1992 Leaf Jeff Bagwell (#28)

1992 Leaf Jeff Bagwell

Jeff Bagwell entered the 1991 season in the sea of rookie cards the manufacturers of the day unleashed on collectors hoping to strike gold somewhere along the line.

It was unfamiliar territory for Bagwell, too, a Boston native who had been shipped by the Red Sox to the Houston Astros in a 1990 deadline deal that netted Larry Andersen for Beantown.

The consolation prize? Bagwell went straight to the bigs in 1991, playing 156 games as the Astros’ new first baseman and nabbing National League Rookie of the Year honors, thanks to a .294/15 HR/82 RBI performance.

Naturally, his cards were hot items by the next spring, when this one started popping out of packs.

And those rookie cards from the year before? They had become the sought-after pot of gold.

Bags held the bag in Houston through 2004, then played a partial year in 2005 before hanging up the spikes and meandering over to Cooperstown by 2017.

Value: $15-20

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1992 Leaf Dave Winfield (#171)

1992 Leaf Dave Winfield

Winfield crafted a career arc that bore some resemblance to that of ballyhooed former teammate Reggie Jackson: start in a small west coast market before making some hay with the New York Yankees and then moving on to the California Angels at the tail end of your career.

But, while Reggie returned home to the Oakland A’s after leaving the Halos, Winfield made a one-year stop with the Blue Jays. That gave him a chance to mimic another Reggie trademark: October success.

That’s where we find Big Dave here, swatting for the Jays on his way to 4.1 WAR and his only World Series title – and Toronto’s first – in 1992.

From there, it was on to the Minnesota Twins, Cleveland Indians, 3000 hits, the Hall of Fame, and hobby immortality.

Value: $15-25

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1992 Leaf Greg Maddux (#294)

1992 Leaf Greg Maddux

Maddux reeled off four straight double-digit-win seasons for the Cubs after struggling in 1986 and 1987. During that run from 1988 through 1991, his ERAs bounced around a bit, from a low of 2.95 to a high of 3.46.

He was a young pitcher with some decent success toiling for a sometimes-decent, sometimes-indecent northside squad.

And then — BAM!

In 1992, Maddux went 20-11 with a tiny 2.18 ERA to win his first National League Cy Young Award.

And THEN … he left in the offseason, signing as a free agent with the Atlanta Braves.

History unfolded, untold additional Cy Youngs and victories unfurled, and Maddux became a legend.

Mad Dog.

The Professor.

A Hall of Famer.

And all of his cards remain appropriately popular.

Value: $15-30

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1992 Leaf Barry Bonds (#275)

1992 Leaf Barry Bonds

In 1991, Bonds followed up his 1990 MVP showing with a .292/25 HR/116 RBI/43 SB campaign that was good for 8.0 WAR and could have won him more hardware.

Alas, the ‘91 award went to Terry Pendleton, and we’d have to wait a year for our next sighting of Bonds the MVP.

While Barry was putting together that 1992 masterpiece, we got to gawk at this powerful shot and wonder when his cards would start to climb the hobby hot lists.

Value: $20-25

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1992 Leaf Roger Clemens (#19)

1992 Leaf Roger Clemens

After a few seasons of mere All-Star-level pitching, Clemens stepped back into the lights-out realm in 1990, when he went 21-6 with a ridiculous 1.93 ERA.

Then, in 1991, he won his third Cy Young Award and started re-climbing the hobby mountain that he had summitted in 1986 and 1987.

That’s how we find him here on his 1992 Leaf, rearing back and powering toward immortality.

(Who could have seen that big speed bump up ahead??)

Value: $20-25

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1992 Leaf Frank Thomas (#349)

1992 Leaf Frank Thomas

Frank Thomas debuted for the Chicago White Sox in August of 1990 and put together a fine 60-game rookie run that included a .330 batting average, seven home runs, and 31 RBI.

That generated some collector buzz and helped light the spark that was 1990 Leaf.

But the next summer, the Big Hurt unleashed his full force on the Windy City – .318, 32 home runs, 109 RBI, 104 runs scored, 1.006 OPS.

Suddenly, he was being compared to Ted Williams and Babe Ruth and all sorts of other greats, and his cards were burning down the hobby. So, while 1992 Leaf as a whole was never very exciting, you can bet your last Nugenix that Thomas was a Big Pull.

Still is.

Value: $20-30

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1992 Leaf Tony Gwynn (#206)

1992 Leaf Tony Gwynn

Leaf decided to capture one of the greatest pure hitters who ever lived in one of the most awkward looking swings you’ll ever see on a pasteboard for their 1992 set.

Tony Gwynn deserved better, even if he was in the middle of four-year batting title drought.

Of course, neither that “slump” nor Leaf’s slight hurt Gwynn’s card values at all, and he remains a collector favorite.

Value: $25-30

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1992 Leaf Kirby Puckett (#98)

1992 Leaf Kirby Puckett

As he entered his 30s, Puckett kept plugging along, hitting better than .300 every year from 1986 through 1995 with the exception of barely-missed marks of .298 and .296 in 1990 and 1993, respectively.

In 1991, Puck hit .319 to help the Twins to their second World Series title in five seasons. That’s the vintage of the swing we see on this card, and Puckett was busy hitting .329 while we were pulling this card in 1992.

It all added up to a bigger-than-life hobby profile that carries his cards along even today.

Value: $20-40

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1992 Leaf Mark McGwire (#16)

1992 Leaf Mark McGwire

After four seasons of prodigious power, Big Mac bottomed out in 1991, batting a paltry .201 with 22 home runs and 75 RBI in 154 games.

His cards tumbled in popularity, peppering hobby cold lists like so many snowflakes on fresh asphalt.

But a funny thing happened on the way to oblivion – McGwire came roaring back with 42 dingers and a league-leading .585 slugging percentage in 1992, reigniting his cards and setting the stage for a BIG hobby push when he started smashing records later in the decade.

Value: $30-35

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1992 Leaf Jim Thome (#299)

1992 Leaf Jim Thome

Thome played all of 27 games for the Indians in 1991, connecting on a single home run. Things wouldn’t change much in 1992 (40 games, 2 homers) or 1993 (47 games, 7 homers).

So, it would be a couple of years before this card or any of his others registered more than a blip for collectors. Thome eventually made up for lost time, of course, becoming one of nine players to surpass 600 career home runs.

You can bet most of Thome’s early cards end up on lists like this one today.

Value: $35-40

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1992 Leaf Nolan Ryan (#41)

1992 Leaf Nolan Ryan

If there was one man who drove the hobby with complete control – unwittingly or not – during the gluttonous years of the early 1990s, it was this man.

Whenever Ryan took the mound, something spectacular was bound to happen – a no-hitter, a demolished record, a whippersnapper schooling.

And the hobby ate it up, driving every Ryan Express to the top of whatever set it appeared in. That part hasn’t changed at all in the intervening years, so it’s no surprise to see old Nolan high up on this list.

Value: $35-45

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1992 Leaf Ken Griffey, Jr. (#392)

1992 Leaf Ken Griffey

By the time this card debuted, Griffey was drawing rave reviews for his all-around game, but us plebes were still waiting for the power show to break out.

It would be another year or so before those fireworks developed, but Junior’s powerful swing on this card at least gave us a preview of what was to come.

Today, it stands near the top of the heap of all 1992 Leaf baseball cards, both value-wise and history-wise.

Value: $40-50

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1992 Leaf Rickey Henderson (#116)

1992 Leaf Rickey Henderson

Henderson won the American League MVP in 1990 and then broke Lou Brock’s career stolen base record in 1991. The man was a dynamo on the field, and that fire carried over to the hobby in a big way.

Indeed, there were few hotter names among collectors in the early 1990s, and that love has only grown over the decades, it seems.

This may not be a barn-burning rookie card, but it’s a classic shot of Rickey doing what Rickey did best.

Value: $41-50

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1992 Leaf Jeff Kent Rookie Card (#445)

1992 Leaf Jeff Kent Rookie Card

Even debuting at the height of the Junk Wax era, Jeff Kent only managed to score about five “true” rookie cards. That makes this action-packed shot of Kent as a Blue Jay an unusual sight for the time.

And, as the most accomplished player with an RC among 1992 Leaf baseball cards, Kent is left to carry pretty much the entire value load for the whole set.

If he ever makes it to the Hall of Fame, you can expect even higher prices for this card, and maybe a bit of extra love for 1992 Leaf overall (probably “nah” on all of that, though).

Value: $180-200

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So, which of these most valuable 1992 Leaf baseball cards is your favorite? Or is there another card in the set that you love more than all of these? I’d love to hear your picks!