(Check out our other player card posts here.)
Part of that is due to his timing — Jones was the first overall pick in the 1990 draft, right in the middle of the rookie card craze.
That combination came with some crazy expectations, both on the field and in the hobby.
And, although Chipper didn’t make his Big League debut until 1993, he made his cardboard debut in 1991 (if you don’t count a spate of minor league cards in both 1990 and 1991).
The heck of it all, though, is that Jones pretty much lived up to the hype.
Over a 19-year career, he collected 2726 hits, 468 home runs, and a .303 batting average, numbers that make him something like the fifth or sixth greatest hot corner man ever.
When you add in all those World Series appearances with the Braves, his 1999 National League MVP award, and his 2018 Hall of Fame election, it’s little wonder that Jones’ baseball cards still cause a stir after all these years.
As a mini (micro?) celebration of one of the great players of the Junk Wax Era, here is a quick rundown of each Chipper Jones rookie card.
(Affiliate links to Amazon and eBay are included in the price checks below.)
This was the third year of the resurrected Bowman line, which Topps brought back in an oversized format in 1989. They clipped the card size to the standard dimensions (2-1/2″ x 3-1/2″) in 1990 and beefed up the rookie card content to almost obscene levels. Of course, that trend has only continued over the years, with Bowman becoming the place to go for rookies and pre-rookies.
In 1991, Topps made sure to capitalize on the still-booming rookie craze by not only jamming their Bowman full of first-year cars but also peppering the U.S. with enough product to sop up the tears of “investors” when the bubble inevitably burst.
Today, Chipper Jones leads the pack, but you can usually find his raw card for less than a buck. Slabbed copies in Mint condition or better will set you back $20 or more
In 1991, O-Pee-Chee broke with tradition and produced a set of baseball cards that was not a near-exact copy of the Topps set from the same year. O-Pee-Chee Premier was a venture into the world of premium cards, and came heavily hyped, as those sets tended to do.
Although OPC never really panned out as a super-duper brand, they didn’t abandon their roots completely in 1991. For collectors, that meant a Topps parallel set that you could only tell was not a Topps set by the premium white cardstock and the French copy on card backs.
Aside from those differences, the Chipper Jones OPC rookie is identical to his Topps issue, but the Canadian cards were issued in much smaller quantities. As a result, this card can bring $15-20 even ungraded, with PSA 10s busting through the $500 mark.
1991 Score Chipper Jones (#671)
Ah, yes … here we have young Chipper Jones swinging away from the surface of the sun.
This card was hot hot HOT!!
Well, sort of.
It looked — and still looks — actually hot.
But like most baseball cards from 1991, Score pumped out enough of these to keep your family feeling Chipper for generations.
Expect to pay about a dollar for ungraded copies and maybe $50 for GEM slabbed specimens.
1991 Topps Chipper Jones (#333)
This is a classic rookie card forged by the classy design Topps rolled out for their 40th anniversary, but it’s just so plentiful that it’s had a hard time building up much value over the years. Even with huge numbers available, though, the first base Topps card of Chipper Jones *feels* like a bargain at a dollar or two each, ungraded. That price climbs to $100+ for graded GEM copies.
1991 Topps Desert Shield Chipper Jones (#33)
In 1991, Topps made a parallel set of their base issue for distribution to US troops serving in what would become the (first)
Gulf War. The cards were identical to “normal” Topps cards from that year, except each was graced with a foil stamp of the Operation Desert Shield emblem.
Colloquial estimates put the print run at 6500-7o00 of each card, which was tiny for the day.
As a consequence, even ungraded copies of this Chipper Jones rookie card can reach well into three figures. If you’re looking for a GEM graded specimen, be prepared to pay thousands, and to wait a long time to do it.
You should also beware that counterfeits exist — take a look at this piece from Cardboard Connection for tips on how to spot the fakes.
1991 Topps Micro Chipper Jones (#333)
Topps always did like to experiment, and their lab work in 1991 produced a “micro” set, with each card measuring a scant 1″ x 1-3/8″.
These cards were never very popular with collectors and that, coupled with wide availability at retail outlets, limits the resale value of complete sets to less than $10. Most of that price is wrapped up in Chipper Jones, though, and his rookie card from the set brings $3-10 in nice ungraded condition.
But that’s not the end of the story for this card. Even though more than half of the micros submitted to PSA for evaluation have graded out at a GEM-MT 10, less than one-seventh of Chippers make that cut. As of this writing, only 31 Jones rookie cards exist with a PSA 10 rating.
As a consequence, you’ll have to pay well into three figures for a perfect 1991 Topps Micro Chipper Jones card, if you can even find one.
1991 Topps Tiffany Chipper Jones (#333)
And up there, in the Desert Shield listing.
And up there, in the Micro listing.
Yes, they all sport the same design, same photo, same Chipper.
But at least the Tiffany card is glossy and printed on creamy white stock and pretty limited, compared to most other 1991s, at any rate.
And … PSA says only about 6% of the Chippers it has seen rate a perfect 10.
Put all that together, and you’re looking at close to 100 bucks for a raw copy and five grand or more for a GEM MT graded version.
By 1991, we all knew that Upper Deck cards would be thick, feature blazing white borders, dazzle with the best photography in the industry, and twinkle at us with their holograms.
The cards were great looking, and the Chipper Jones rookie card was no exception.
But it was all kind of … boring … after three years of pretty much the same (great) design. And there were so many UDs issued that year.
So now, decades later, we can either lament the fact that Chipper’s first Upper Deck card struggles to bring $1 on the open market (about $50 for a PSA 10) … or we can be happy that such a nice card is the rough equivalent, monetarily, to a Keurig pod.
(Check out the rest of our posts on the 2018 Hall of Fame class here.)
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