Fred McGriff rookie cards have maintained a fairly quiet but comfortable hobby existence over the decades, like the actuary down the street who drives the same 1999 Honda Civic he already owned when you moved in ten years ago.

Indeed, like McGriff himself, Crime Dog’s rookie cards have never really spiked in price, and they’ve never really tanked in demand.

But as the slugger moved from town to town in the majors, building a (yes) quiet but admiring fanbase who appreciated his 30-homer, 100-RBI consistency, McGriff’s RCs gradually accreted value as more collectors stepped gingerly onto the bandwagon.

Now, nearly two decades after he hung up his spikes, and with his writers-ballot Hall of Fame candidacy in the rearview mirror, McGriff continues to stir appreciation among fans old and new. And, with the taint of the PED era staining the Cooperstown cred of the era’s biggest sluggers, Crime Dog’s exploits loom all the more monumental.

After all, he finished his 19-year career with 493 home runs, and with nary a whisper of improriety on his part, you have to think he’d have sailed into the Hall had he connected just seven more times.

As that realization hit home in recent years, there has been a groundswell of support for McGriff’s candidacy via the various incarnations of the Veterans Commitee, and his cards have seen renewed interest across the hobby.

And, as is usually the case, McGriff’s very first cards have garnered the biggest hunk of attention.

What follows is a rundown of Fred McGriff rookie cards, with a few extras thrown in to spice things up just a bit. Even a reliable old car likes a splash of premium fuel now and then, dontcha know.

Except where noted, values shown are based on recent sales of these cards in PSA 10 condition.

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

Baseball Cards

1986 Donruss Fred McGriff Rated Rookie (#28)

1986 Donruss Fred McGriff Rated Rookie

McGriff found his way onto a big league baseball card before he even debuted in the majors, thanks to the developing power game he displayed as he climbed through the minor leagues AND to card companies’ desire to get a jump on the next guy.

Even though McGriff lost most of 1985 to a stress fracture in his right foot, he had put up 28 and 22 home runs in 1983 and 1984, respectively, carving a spot for himself in the Blue Jays future plans.

So it’s not all that surprising in retrospect that Donruss also carved a spot for McGriff, sliding him into the collector-favorite Rated Rookies subset, right after that year’s Diamond Kings.

Slightly more surprising, maybe, is that they granted that RR slot to a dude with *no* MLB experience, when teammate Cecil Fielder had already splashed down in Toronto and showed some decent major-league power in a 1985 cup of coffee.

But by that time, Donruss had fully embraced their rush-to-cardboard approach for Rated Rookies (see Russ Stephans), so getting a more prospect-y guy in that slot probably made sense.

What it didn’t make was a huge hobby splash, not considering that 1986 Donruss Rated Rookies also featured bigger-hype players, many of whom also turned in more immediate results: Jose Canseco, Cory Snyder, Andres Galrraga, Todd Worrell, Danny Tartabull, even Paul O’Neill.

And non-Rated players like Vince Coleman and Ozzie Guillen, too.

So collectors nodded and smiled when we pulled a 1986 Donruss Fred McGriff card, then slid it into our “check later” box … you know, to come back to later and see who had broken out in the meantime.

On the field, the future Crime Dog got his first call-up in May of ‘86, but he played in only three games for the Jays, instead spending almost the entire summer with the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs.

The next year, though, McGriff stuck in Toronto, playing in 107 games and connecting on 20 long balls as a rookie. He also OPS’d to the tune of .881, good for an OPS+ of 130 when that stat was just a twinkle.

It was a better-than-solid start to a big league career that got almost zero notice.

In case you forgot, 1987 was a Summer of the Long Ball, like 1962 had been, and like 1998 and 2019 would be. And with Mark McGwire pacing rookies – and the majors (along with Andre Dawson) – with 49 home runs, there was hardly room for any other first-year guys on hobby hot lists.

(Benito Santiago, Matt Nokes, Kevin Seitzer, Mike Greenwell, and Devon White gave it a good shot, though.)

In 1988, McGriff played full time and hit 34 home runs.

Then, in 1989, his 36 long balls led the American League, the first of two homer crowns.

By then, most of us had pulled his 1986 Donruss Rated Rookie into a more prominent place in our collections, and the card had cleared most of its cardboard brethren, pricewise, with Canseco a notable exception.

From there, McGriff’s main rookie card was a model of consistency in the chaotic hobby world of the 1990s, just like the man himself was during the chaotic baseball decade of the 1990s.

Fielder’s RC crashed the top of the 1986 Donruss leader boards for a few years when he returned from Japan in 1990 as a bona fide slugger.

Darren Daulton joined the party for a while, too, when the Phillies were phun in 1993.

Lenny Dykstra, too, a couple of times.

And Teddy Higuera.

And others.

They all came and went, but McGriff just kept chugging along, putting up 30-homer, 100-RBI seasons for team after team, and no matter what else was going on in baseball.

His rookie card just kept climbing, slow and steady.

Today, the McGriff Rated Rookie still lags behind its Canseco counterpart, valuewise, but you gotta figure a Hall of Fame plaque might change all that in the long term.

And if not, well, we can all use a bargain now and then, right?

Value: $320-350

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1986 Leaf Fred McGriff Rated Rookie (#28)

1986 Leaf Fred McGriff Rated Rookie

If you’re looking for a set where the Fred McGriff rookie card leads the way, look no further than 1986 Leaf.

Issued in Canada by Donruss, the Leaf cards are identical to their American counterparts with the exception of the company logo (Leaf v. Donruss), some bilingual text, and the card numbers.

That last is a consequence of a disparity in set sizes, with Leaf sporting a 264-card checklist, diminutive compared to the 660-card Donruss issue.

A lot of cards bit the dust in the translation, obviously, including most of the Rated Rookies.

Indeed, Leaf featured only three RRs: McGriff, Andres Galarraga, and Dave Shipanoff, who was born in Canada.

That means no Jose Canseco rookie card, and THAT means McGriff has held the top spot in this set for a long time.

Add in much more limited availability than the Donruss equivalent, and the condition-tough blue-green borders, and you have the recipe for one expensive rookie card in top grades.

Indeed, when it comes to prices, this is the king of all Fred McGriff rookie cards.

Value: $1300-1700

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1987 Fleer Update Fred McGriff (#75)

1987 Fleer Update Fred McGriff

Fleer generally took a more conservative approach to their rookie card lineup in the 1980s than Donruss did.

For one thing, the swath of real estate they dedicated to rookies took the form of two-player Major League Prospects cards. And for another, most of the guys they so featured came with at least some major league experience under their polyester belts.

So, for example, there was a 1986 Fleer card of Cecil Fielder, which he shared with Cory Snyder, but there was no 1986 Fleer Fred McGriff card.

And, apparently McGriff’s brief stint with the Blue Jays in 1986 didn’t impress Fleer, either, because they also didn’t include him in their 1987 base set.

But after his 20-homer rookie season, Fleer finally jumped into the Crime Puppy game and pushed out their first McGriff card in their year-end 1987 Update set.

This isn’t technically a rookie card since Donruss doomed the rest of the companies in that regard with their two efforts (Donruss and Leaf) in 1986, but this is McGriff’s first Fleer card, so it’s horseshoe-close enough.

Value: $39-41

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1987 Sportflics Rookies Fred McGriff (#12)

1987 Sportflics Rookies Fred McGriff

It’s not like the baseball card world was chomping at the bit to get our first Magic Motion look at McGriff on a Sportflics card, but for the few collectors who were, the wait stretched on for a while.

Just as Fleer had done, Sportflics skipped the young Toronto first baseman in their 1986 debut set … and in their 1986 Rookies set … and in their 1987 base set.

Finally, in the fall of his rookie season, Sportflics gave us a Fred McGriff card in their second year-end Rookies set.

And, like every other lenticular lovely, you can’t really distinguish the player amongst the mushy visuals. Still, it’s an early McGriff issue, so that’s something in itself.

Value: $10-15

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1987 Topps Traded Fred McGriff (#74T)

1987 Topps Traded Fred McGriff

Like Fleer and Sportflics, Topps held off for a good, long while on granting any cardboard real estate to Fred McGriff – nothing in 1986, nothing to start 1987, either.

But that solid rookie season of his came along just in time to secure a slot in the 1987 Topps Traded set, ensuring that Crime Dog would appear within those iconic woodgrain borders forever more.

And, of all of McGriff’s “first” cards, this one easily provides the most striking visual, showing the young Blue Jay with a first baseman’s mitt, awaiting a throw – and maybe some verbal response – from some out-of-frame catch partner.

Value: $40-45

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1985 TCMA Syracuse Chiefs Fred McGriff (#2)

1985 TCMA Syracuse Chiefs Fred McGriff

OK, so this isn’t a Fred McGriff rookie card in the strict sense, much like nothing outside of 1986 Donruss and 1986 Leaf are Fred McGriff rookie cards.

But this is the first card that McGriff graced as a professional, part of a 31-card issue from TCMA showcasing members of the 1985 Syracuse Chiefs. McGriff was part of that team for a little less than half the season (owing to an injury), but his is easily the most desirable card in the set.

Value: $70-75

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1986 Procards Syracuse Chiefs Fred McGriff (#)

1986 Procards Syracuse Chiefs Fred McGriff

McGriff was back with the Chiefs in 1986, playing 133 games and cracking 19 home runs in his final minor league warm-up before he stuck with the Blue Jays in 1987.

The team set was back, too, but this time it was issued by ProCards instead of TCMA.

Though this isn’t a rookie card, either, and though it’s not super valuable, you won’t find many PSA 10s in the wild – only two have been graded at that level as of early December 2022, and ZERO have traded hands through any trackable means (i.e., eBay sales or auction houses).

Thus, this one gets values for PSA 9 copies …

Value: $35-30

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So, yes, technicall not all of these are Fred McGriff rookie cards, but they are all early cards of the underrated slugger … and they’re all must-haves when you’re putting together a Crime Dog collection.

1986 Donruss Fred McGriff Rated Rookie Card RC #28 Raw

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End Date: Saturday 09/30/2023 18:57:22 EDT
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