In a lot of ways, Cal Ripken, Jr., rookie cards are as constant as Cal himself, baseball’s own Iron Man.

After all, Ripken’s rookie cards hit the hobby less than a year after his 23-game cup of coffee in 1981, which began the day the season-ripping strike ended.

The world was a different place back then, huh?

Yeah, a lot has changed in the 40+ years since we got our first glimpse of Cardboard Cal, not the least of which is the profile of the hobby itself.

Back in 1982, Fleer and Donruss were still the new kids on the block, and their very existence was sort of touch-and-go in the face of Topps’ dominance.

A couple years later, when the hobby exploded, cardboard gold ran in the streets for all the manufacturers, including the ones who came along later — Sportflics, Score, Upper Deck, and about a million others in the 1990s.

All along the way, Ripken’s rookie cards sat right at the top of collector want lists, even as other, flashier players eclipsed his hobby limelight from time to time.

And, all these years later, those same Ripken rookie cards are about as blue-chip as you can get…just like the man himself.

What else would expect from the RCs of a Cooperstown insider?

What follows is a rundown of the complete stack of Cal Ripken, Jr., rookie cards with values culled from actual selling prices for cards in PSA 9 condition (as of June 2022).

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

1982 Donruss Cal Ripken, Jr. Rookie Card (#405)

1982 Donruss Cal Ripken, Jr. Rookie Card

If you wanted to get a good, clear, up-close look at Ripken’s face on a baseball card in 1982 and didn’t want to wait until November, then his Donruss rookie card was the one for you.

Though the 1982 Donruss cards suffered from many of the same maladies that afflicted the 1981s, there were some improvements – thicker card stock, generally clearer photos, a more distinctive design. And the Ripken rookie took advantage of most of those to deliver a solid presentation showing Cal with a bat on his shoulders in front of a sea of empty stadium seats.

Sure, Ripken is darn near scowling, and a decent number of these cards show up with funky tints, but it’s still a solid first Donruss card of an all-time great.

Value: $75-100

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1982 Fleer Cal Ripken, Jr. Rookie Card (#176)

1982 Fleer Cal Ripken, Jr. Rookie Card

On the other hand, if you wanted an (almost) action shot of young Cal in the field, and you didn’t want to wait until…uh…that 1985 Donruss foldout thing of his, I guess–well, his Fleer rookie card was your thing.

Sure, it’s a blurry photo and shot from far enough away to make you wonder if Ripken was wandering through the same desert as 1971 Topps World Series Brooks Robinson. And, yes, the backs of 1982 Fleer baseball cards were as depressing as the mailer tear-outs for old-people coffin insurance in 1982 TV Guides.

Still, though, you can’t gripe too much about a pre-rookie Ripken basking in the 1981 sunshine as he waits at third base for the pitch action at the plate to unfold.

Pretty sweet when you look at it that way, and another hobby classic.

Value: $85-100

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1982 Topps Cal Ripken, Jr. Rookie Card (#21)

1982 Topps Cal Ripken, Jr. Rookie Card

Of course, even though Fleer and Donruss managed to capture Ripken on single-player rookie cards, they never did hold a candle to this three-dude Topps special.

When Ripken hit the ground running in 1982 and started making noise for an Orioles Team that would get back to the playoffs (for the first time since 1979) the next year as Cal won the MVP award, it was his Topps RC that we all ogled and chased in our wax packs that first summer (1982, that is).

After all, Topps was “The Real One,” and so was the Topps Ripken rookie…even if it was also the Topps Bob Bonner rookie and the Topps Jeff Schneider rookie.

Indeed, Cal’s impending greatness was enough to overcome the mere there-ness of his cardmates and turn this pasteboard into an all-time hobby great.

Value: $130-150

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1982 Topps Traded Cal Ripken, Jr. Rookie Card (#98T)

1982 Topps Traded Cal Ripken, Jr. Rookie Card

If you’re looking for a true hobby legend among Cal Ripken, Jr., rookie cards, though, there’s only one choice: his 1982 Topps Traded beauty,.

Though Topps had debuted their dedicated boxed Traded set in 1981, the new issue had tenuous footing in the hobby. But, after his ROY season, Ripken had collectors itching for a dedicated Topps rookie card even before the 1980s Hobby Boom proper came along a couple years later.

In fact, this Ripken RC had a lot to do with the coming boom, as collectors had a new, limited card of a new hero to chase.

That pursuit only intensified the next season when Iron Cal won the American League MVP award and the Orioles won the World Series.

And, while the 1982 Topps Traded Ripken sort of got lost in the bright light of 80s darlings like 1984 Donruss Don Mattingly, 1984 Topps Darryl Strawberry, the 1984 Traded and Update biggies, 1985 Topps Mark McGwire, 1986 Donruss Jose Canseco, and 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr., it came roaring back in the early 1990s.

Precisely in 1991, to be exact, when Ripken shrugged off a few seasons of declining plate performance to win his second MVP award.

That magical season (for Ripken, if not for his putrid O’s) propelled him into the Nolan Ryan stratosphere and shot prices for his 1982 Topps Traded rookie card to three figures and beyond.

It never looked back as Ripken finished his assault on Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played (2130 for Larrupin’ Lou) to help revive baseball in 1995 after The Strike and then strolled into the Hall of Fame in 2007.

Today, this card stands with the 1980 Topps Rickey Henderson rookie card as perhaps the most important pieces of all 1980s cardboard.

Value: $400-450

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1982 All-Star Game Program Cal Ripken, Jr. Hand-Cut (#)

1982 All-Star Game Program Cal Ripken, Jr. Hand-Cut

From 1981 through 1986, MLB All-Star programs featured a paper insert showing all the players on the AS ballot, each in his own little rectangle – just like a card, except part of a page.

Not surprisingly, plenty of collectors cut those things apart over the years, leaving little hand-cut slips of star memorabilia jammed in shoe boxes, stuck to lockers, crumpled under beds, or just tossed in the trash.

In 1982, a rookie named Cal Ripken, Jr., appeared on the ballot for the Baltimore Orioles, and he also got his due on that summer’s All-Star insert.

This is the rarest of all Ripken rookie “cards,” and you’ll be lucky to ever see one live and in person, let alone own one in great shape.

Still, it’s out there, and it’s chase-worthy if you’re trying to complete your run of Cal Ripken, Jr., rookie cards.

Value: $100-500

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1982 Fleer Cal Ripken Jr #176 CEDC 8 Orioles Rookie RC

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1982 Donruss Baseball Complete Set #1-660 Cal Ripken Jr. Rookie Card

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1982 Topps Baseball Cal Ripken Jr Rookie RC #21 Baltimore Orioles (B)

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