For a few years there in the early and mid-1990s, hobby heat didn’t come much hotter than Frank Thomas baseball cards.

From 1991 through 2000, the Big Hurt hit .320 with 337 home runs, 1152 RBI, and 1044 runs, while posting an OPS of 1.020.

In case you were trying to do the math in your head, that’s a full decade averaging nearly 34 home runs, 115 RBI, and 104 runs scored.

Mere mortals don’t do that, and they especially didn’t do that before the season-long home run derbies got underway in earnest in 1998.

Thomas slowed down, of course, but still finished his 19-year career with 521 dingers (hello, Willie McCovey and Ted Williams) and 2400+ hits.

April 1992 Beckett Baseball Cards Monthly Frank Thomas

It was good enough for big Frank to breeze into Cooperstown in 2014, his first year on the Hall of Fame ballot.

These days, we all know all about Thomas, and, while his baseball cards aren’t what they once were, they’re still plenty popular.

The problem when trying to run down a list of cards for any modern player, though, is that there are thousands of them — the PSA Master Set lists nearly 2600 different Thomas pasteboards!

So, what follows is a compromise …

Rather than list them all, we’ll focus on those heady early days by profiling the early Thomas cards.

Welcome, then, to the complete guide to Frank Thomas Baseball Cards, Rookie and Pre-Rookie Edition.

Batter up!

1984-1991 O’Connell & Son Ink Mini Prints Frank Thomas (#235)

1988 Ballpark Cape Cod Prospects Orleans Cardinals Team Card

This card was produced by well-known sports artist T.S. O’Connell in seven series over the course of seven years.

In all, there are 244 different cards, which feature prints of ink drawings over various colored backgrounds.

You may recognize O’Connell from the pages of Sports Collectors Digest, where his articles appeared for many years. He even served a stint as editor for a few years there.

And … you may recognize Frank Thomas because he’s the Big Hurt.

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1987 Auburn Tigers Tiger Great Frank Thomas

1987 Auburn Tigers Tiger Great Frank Thomas

This set was produced by McDag Productions out of Louisiana in 1987 and featured athletes in multiple sports.

One of those guys himself was featured in multiple sports on these cards — yeah, Bo Jackson scored in football and baseball, just like in real life.

And Big Frank shows up here, too, making this tough and limited set a popular get for diehard collectors.

This is generally considered Thomas’ first card, and it gets pricey.

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1987 Team USA Baseball Pan-Am Games Blue Frank Thomas (#36)

1987 Baseball Usa Pan-Am Games Blue Frank Thomas

These cards were issued by BDK to honor the US team that played in the 1987 Pan American Games (in Indianapolis, baby!).

While scarce and popular, it’s not quite as hard to find (or expensive) as Frank’s Auburn Card.

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1987 Team USA Baseball Pan-Am Games Red Frank Thomas (#23)

1987 Bdk Pan-Am Team Usa Frank Thomas

This is basically the “Red” version of the “Blue” card listed above.

And, though this set also honors the 1987 Pan-Am team, it was actually issued by BDK in 1990.

The motivation for the reprint was undoubtedly to capitalize — again — on the guys who were making their way to the Big Leagues … Thomas, Tino Martinez, Jim Abbott, Pat Combs, Ty Griffin, and others.

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1988 Ballpark Cape Cod Prospects Frank Thomas Orleans Cardinals (#14)

1988 Ballpark Cape Cod Prospects Frank Thomas Orleans Cardinals

Ballpark Cards fired up the presses in 1988 to print off about 6000 sets of “Cape Cod Prospects,” to the delight of local collectors.

In addition to Thomas, the set feature future Major Leaguers like Chuck Knoblauch, Jeff Bagwell, Mo Vaughn, Jeromy Burnitz, and others.

Today, Bagwell is the gem of the bunch, with Big Hurt not far behind.

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1988 Ballpark Cape Cod Prospects Orleans Cardinals Team Card (#22)

1988 Ballpark Cape Cod Prospects Orleans Cardinals Team Card

You can see Thomas — I think — sort of slumping there in the back row of the Orleans Cardinals team card.

Maybe he just didn’t want to make his teammates feel inadequate by thoroughly dwarfing them?

Could be.

Whatever the case, if you truly want to complete your Thomas collection, you gotta have this one.

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1988 P & L Cape Cod League Frank Thomas (#126)

1988 P&L Cape Cod League Frank Thomas

Another Cape Cod set (this one by P & L Promotions), another batch of budding MLBers …

Eric Wedge, Joe Conti, JT Snow, Steve Parris, Kirk Dressendorfer

And Frank Thomas, of course, still two years out from his first mainstream hobby card.

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1990 Best Frank Thomas (#1)

1990 Best Birmingham Barons Frank Thomas

By 1990, Best was setting about building a new model for minor league cards, which meant tons of sets, improved card quality, and enhanced distribution from the backroom jobs mailed to collectors from PO boxes in years past.

Here, in the base Best set, Thomas starts to get his due as the #1 card in a full-bleed set that could have easily been mistaken for a Borders issue … but that was legit.

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1990 Best Birmingham Barons Frank Thomas (#1)

1990 Best Frank Thomas

And Thomas also scored the #1 card here in the Birmingham Barons team set.

Such are the spoils for a monster slugger who would slam 18 homers and hit .323 in Double-A that summer before making the jump to the Majors.

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1990 Best Frank Thomas Bonus Card (#318)

1990 Best Frank Thomas Bonus Card

Best couldn’t rest with just two cards of Big Frank as he streaked toward the Majors.

Nope, they thought it best to issue a bonus and show Thomas’ designation as a Draft Pick.

Because, you know, most players aren’t draft picks … or something.

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1990 Bowman Frank Thomas (#320)

1990 Bowman Tiffany and no Tiffany Frank Thomas

This is one of the first cards to show Thomas as a member of the Chicago White Sox, and it looks great.

Of course, there’s enough 1990 Bowman product out there — still — to soak up Noah’s flood, so even a Thomas rookie isn’t super valuable.

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On the other hand …

1990 Bowman Tiffany Frank Thomas (#320)

This card is identical to the one above, except, like all Tiffany cards, it has a high-gloss finish and was printed on premium white card stock.

Some estimates put the print run for this set at about 3000, which is a good deal less than infinity.

Expect this Thomas to bring a premium over the base Bowman version.

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1990 Classic Series 3 Frank Thomas (#93T)

1990 Classic Series 3 Frank Thomas

Classic began life in 1987 as a board game that came with/utilized baseball cards.

By 1990, though, they had graduated to being another card manufacturer, doing what card manufacturers do.

Like pooping out the occasional OMG design and issuing traded sets.

Hence, this Classic Frank Thomas rookie card.

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1990 Coca-Cola White Sox Frank Thomas

1990 Coca-Cola White Sox Frank Thomas

These Coca-Cola cards were issued at Comiskey Park during the 1990 season, and they’re pretty thin and fragile.

Already pretty scarce, the condition sensitivity makes them really tough to find in higher grades, all of which helps boost Thomas’ price tag.

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1990 Fleer Update Frank Thomas (#U87)

1990 Fleer Update Frank Thomas

Fleer didn’t take a chance on The Big Hurt in their 1990 set, which made sense considering that he began the season two rungs below the Majors.

After tearing up the Southern League, though, Thomas skipped Triple-A and hit .330 in 60 games with the ChiSox at the end of the season.

And so, that fall, Fleer corrected its wrong with this Update card.

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1990 Leaf Frank Thomas (#300)

1990 Leaf Frank Thomas

This was one of the cards that helped drive the premium Leaf issue to unprecedented heights for new cards in the summer of 1990.

Coupled with guys like Larry Walker and Sammy Sosa, Thomas caught collectors’ attention and made the arrival of a box of Leaf on any show floor a real event.

We know now that 1990 Leaf isn’t as scarce as we once thought, but Frank still sits at the top of the mountain where this set is concerned.

This card also sort of redeems Donruss’s efforts for 1990 since they didn’t include the slugger in their base set.

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1990 O-Pee-Chee Frank Thomas Number One Draft Pick (#414)

1990 O-Pee-Chee Frank Thomas Number One Draft Pick

As if the hobby needed yet another version of the 1990 Topps Thomas rookie card (see below), we got this O-Pee-Chee edition.

Nothing too exciting here, other than, you know, being the RC of a Hall of Famer.

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1990 ProCards A & AA Minor League Stars Frank Thomas (#46)

1990 Procards A & Aa Minor League Stars Frank Thomas

If you didn’t like Best in 1990, or if you just wanted to load up on Frank Thomas minor league cards, you could have turned to ProCards and still found plenty of variety.

This one comes from a 200-card offering that spanned the middle reaches of the minors and brought us luminaries like Bob Ayrault and Brian Turang, but also Javy Lopez, Reggie Sanders, Luis Gonzales, and other future standout Major Leaguers.

And, at #46, a smiling Big Hurt.

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1990 ProCards Birmingham Barons Frank Thomas (#1116)

1990 Procards Glossy Birmingham Barons Frank Thomas

Just how many different 1990 ProCards were there in the base set that covered the minors team by team?

According to the Trading Card Database, the number is 2461.

One of those is this closeup of Thomas.

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1990 ProCards Glossy Birmingham Barons Frank Thomas (#818)

1990 Procards Birmingham Barons Frank Thomas

And then there’s this one, which seems to be a zoom-out from the same session as the card above.

This one’s glossy, too, and the ProCard glossies seem to be a decent bit harder to come by than the “flats” in general.

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1990 Score Frank Thomas (#663)

1990 Score Frank Thomas

Score joined Topps as the only major manufacturers to include Thomas in their base sets in 1990.

And Score even one-upped T.C.G. by showing Thomas in a White Sox uniform.

Not an extremely valuable card, but a popular one for three decades now

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1990 Score Traded Frank Thomas (#86T)

1990 Score Traded Frank Thomas

Score wasn’t done with the Big Hurt for the year with that 1st Round Pick card, either.

Nope, when you position your late-year set as “Rookie and Traded,” you have some leeway.

Like including a single of the same guy with the same team in your base and R & T set because he was a rookie that the year.

So that’s what Score did here with Thomas, and we get an in-the-field look at the big guy as part of the bargain.

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1990 Southern League All-Stars Donn Jennings Frank Thomas (#11)

1990 Southern League All-Stars Donn Jennings Frank Thomas

Donn Jennings was one of those shop owners you always saw advertising in SCD back in the 1980s and 1990s.

For several years during that era, he also produced minor league cards, including these 1990 Southern League All-Stars deals.

And you couldn’t have a Southern League All-Stars set in 1990 without Frank Thomas, so Jennings got the Big Hurt in his set.

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1990 Southern League All-Stars Donn Jennings Frank Thomas (#44)

And then Jennings got the Big Hurt in his set again.

The difference is that this card, #44, is an “In Action” card.

See how Thomas is holding his glove up close to his right shoulder?

Presumably, getting said glove from, say, his hip area to that shoulder area required some sort of action, or at least movement. Same for the smile.

So … explained.

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1990 Southern League All-Stars Donn Jennings Thomas/Conine (#46)

1990 Southern League All-Stars Donn Jennings Thomas-Conine (#46)

And then there was this other other Frank Thomas card in the Southern League All-Stars set.

This one pairs Frank with Jeff Conine, who is sort of a cult figure in Florida Marlins lore.

Which shows you how strange and wonderful baseball can be.

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1990 Topps Frank Thomas Name On Front (#414)

1990 Topps Frank Thomas Name On Front

So, thanks to their “#1 Draft Pick” subset, Topps was able to get the Big Hurt under wax wraps for 1990 while some of their competitors snoozed.

It’s a popular card that can be had on the cheap because, well, it’s as common as infield dirt.

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There’s nothing really special about this card aside from its being the RC of a Hall of Famer.

So, why do I bother calling out “Name on Front.”

Well …

1990 Topps Frank Thomas No Name On Front (#414)

1990 Topps Frank Thomas No Name On Front

Aside from the occasional Billy Ripken profanity or intentional/not-intentional flipped negatives from Upper Deck, the error card mania had pretty much run its course by 1990.

But then rumors of this thing started showing up.

Did a Topps Frank Thomas rookie card with no name on front really exist?

Turns out, it did, and does.

As of October 2019, PSA has seen about 200 of them come through the door for grading.

So what’s going on here?

Well, if you look closely at this card, you can see that there is some black ink missing from the left-hand border, some missing from the bottom border, and all missing from the nameplate box thing.

It seems, then, that something went wrong during the printing process that wiped out a diagonal swath of black across the lower part of the card, but not for too long of a period.

It’s a printing defect, really, like when you get a fly on the plate or the fronts and backs misaligned.

Normally, printing defects don’t impart a lot of value to the cards involved, but this one is different.

For one, well … Big Hurt.

For two, the way this defect manifests makes it look very exotic — like Topps just forgot to turn on the “name” bit when they were programming the Thomas rookie card.

And for three, there are enough of these to make them at least possible to dream about owning.

If you ever do get the chance to own one, though, you’re likely going to have to drop four figures-plus to get it.

And be careful with counterfeits and reprints because folks have had a lot of fun with this card over the years.

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1990 Topps Tiffany Frank Thomas Number One Draft Pick (#414)

1990 Topps Tiffany Frank Thomas Number One Draft Pick

And then, of course, there is the Tiffany version of the Topps rookie card.

You know the drill …

Same card, better stock, blinding gloss, limited print run, higher prices.

In this case, “limited” meant about 15,000 of each card were printed.

So, it’s more expensive than the corrected base card, but it’s no Honus Wagner.

A Leon Wagner? Maybe …

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1990 Topps Frank Thomas No Name on Front NNOF Error REPRINT Rookie Baseball Card

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Sports Collectibles Lot (Frank Thomas, Marino, Dave Winfield Auto, 1987 Fleer Up

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1990 Topps Frank Thomas RC Auto 💥

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