Gary Sheffield rookie cards were once among the most exciting “pulls” in the hobby, and it wasn’t hard to see what all the clamor was about.

After all …

Here was a former first-round draft pick who had wowed his way up the Milwaukee Brewers’ minor league ladder with a combination of power and speed that made scouts salivate.

Then, after three summers on the farm, Sheffield splashed down at County Stadium for the first time in September of 1988 … at just 19 years of age.

In the bigs that fall, the phenom hit just .238 in 24 games, but he did connect on four home runs while driving in 12 and swiping three bases. Exciting, indeed, especially coming on the heels of his .327, 28 HR, 119 RBI showing at Triple A during the hot months.

Oh, and did I mention that Sheffield’s uncle is Dwight Gooden?

In that era of explosive Rookie Card Mania and Dr. K Dominance, it was a mouth-watering combination.

And, so, collectors rubbed our sweaty little hands together all through the winter, cackling every so often at the thought of pulling a Gary Sheffield rookie card from one of our first packs of the 1989 collecting season.

Not to be confused with our Gregg Jefferies Rookie Card Cackle, you understand. That one was slightly less hopeful, seeing as how Jefferies had already (ahem) Scored RCs in most of the major sets in 1988.

The Real One had held off on Jefferies, though, which meant we might even pull both a Sheffield and a Jefferies rookie card from a single golden pack of 1989 Topps.

So you’re saying there’s a chance!

As it turned out, there was probably more of a chance than we knew, given the quadrillions of each 1989 card that ended up on the market.

And, as it also turned out, the Yellow Brick Road leading from wax pack to Cooperstown was a tiny bit bumpier for both young stars than us starry-eyed hobbyists could have ever imagined back in 1989.

For Jefferies, his Shea Stadium victory lap turned into more of a pit stop. He exited pointing toward Missouri instead of upstate New York, and he never regained that bearing.

For Sheffield … well, Sheffield basically went off-roading, dumping franchises out his open truck-cab window and into the mud as he tore through MLB pitchers and cities. Mix his general discontent (perceived, at least) with persistent PED whispers, and you have a 60-WAR, 500-home-run guy who may or may not ever get the Hall of Fame call (I’ll take the under at this moment).

That doesn’t mean his cards are dead in water, though. Not at all.

Sheffield still has plenty of fans among the now-older set, and his numerous RCs still hold decent value potential as long as there is a Veterans Committee in some form that might one day make him a HOFer.

While you could fill several album pages with Sheffield cards issued in 1989 or before, some simply rise above the rest.

And some are at least quasi hobby classics.

Here, then, is a complete rundown of the ten best Gary Sheffield rookie cards, with values listed for PSA 9 copies based on actual recent auction sales.

Play ball!

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

1989 Baseball Cards Magazine Repli-Cards Gary Sheffield Rookie Card (#14)

1989 Baseball Cards Magazine Repli-Cards Gary Sheffield Rookie Card

Back in the 1980s, we didn’t have the internet, but we did have a fairly regular and mostly spectacular lineup of baseball card magazines.

One of the best was called just that: Baseball Cards Magazine.

Part of the Krause Publications stable of rags and a paper sister to the legendary Sports Collectors Digest, Baseball Cards was a monthly magazine that was magazine shaped (as opposed to SCD‘s ledger-ish shape). Baseball Cards featured a mix of slick color pages and the standard black-and-white pulp, and they ran regular features that kept us coming back for more.

One of those was an ongoing series of “replic-cards” inserted into the middle of each issue as two panels of three cards each that you could cut apart if you dared. Each year, Baseball Cards would pick one classic design and run with it, plopping down then-current players inside the old-school design.

If that sounds like Topps Archives or Heritage, that’s because it pretty much was, just without the officialness.

Anyway, in 1989, Baseball Cards copied the 1959 Topps design for their replic-cards, including a dollop of “rookie stars,” replacing the original The Sporting News banner with a Baseball Cards banner.

And you guessed it: Gary Sheffield made the cut, on card #14.

It wasn’t all that easy to make a clean cut of these cards, so top condition Sheffield singles (or any other singles from the set) aren’t all that plentiful. Still, if you do find one, it probably won’t break the bank.

Value: $20-25

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1989 Bowman Gary Sheffield Rookie Card (#142)

1989 Bowman Gary Sheffield Rookie Card

The resurrection of the Bowman line was one of the most exciting and anticipated hobby developments of the 1980s … at least until we saw the cards.

Sure, the design was simple beauty and the photography was top-notch, but by choosing an old-school large format that just felt oddball at the time, Topps forever doomed the issue to a life of exile in boxes and sleeves that didn’t fit other cards, or to getting the heck smashed out of them as we shoehorned them into “regular” holders.

The explosive entrance of Upper Deck into the hobby at the same time, touting the same elegance but with better execution (and card size) didn’t help Bowman’s profile any, either.

Still, this is a great looking Gary Sheffield rookie card, and one that comes at a non-premium price point. If you are looking to pay a premium, though, you might prefer the Tiffany version, limited to a print run of appoximatetly 6000 of each card. If that’s your bag, expect to cough up 3-4 times the value of the “normal” Bowman Sheffield.

Value: $9-10

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1989 Classic Travel Update Gary Sheffield Rookie Card (#101)

1989 Classic Travel Update Gary Sheffield Rookie Card

By 1989, and with a couple years of “game” production under its belt, Classic had pretty much given up the pretense that they were really all about family tabletop funtime.

Sure, you could still by the Classic baseball board game, but these guys were producing baseball cards, just like all the rest of the burgeoning marketplace.

And, when they couldn’t fit all the hot names into their base set card deck, they came back later with a traded/rookie travel update.

Sheffield made the cut in the 1989 Travel edition, checking his swing within a set of borders that somehow summed up the transition we were all making from 1980s to 1990s.

Value: $5-10

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1989 Donruss Gary Sheffield Rookie Card (#31)

1989 Donruss Gary Sheffield Rookie Card

This is the first truly mainstream Sheffield rookie card on our list, but it’s not just a rookie card: It’s a Rated Rookie card!

By 1989, collectors had grown to love RRs, right alongside Diamong Kings, as a quintessential part of Donruss’ yearly offering.

And, while Big D whiffed on their “ratings” plenty often enough (Chris Smith, Dave Shipanoff, Bruce Fields, etc.), they also hit it big on many of the game’s brightest — or at least budding — stars. Jose Canseco, Fred McGriff, Mark McGwire, Greg Maddux, Kevin McReynolds, and many others lit up the hobby over the years from the friendly confines of their Rated Rookie cards.

And, so, it was fitting that Sheffield found his way into this prime real estate, too, even if 1989 Donruss was the thinnest thing since 1981 Donruss or Twiggy.

Or leaves — they’re about as common as leaves, too.

Still, this is a decent looking Sheffield RC that maintains a collector base even today.

Value: $9-12

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1989 Fleer Gary Sheffield Rookie Card (#196)

1989 Fleer Gary Sheffield Rookie Card

The 1989 Fleer Gary Sheffield is about the only one on this list that can rival the Topps entry (see below) when it comes to iconic looking Sheff RCs.

I’m not sure why, but it was those two cards you saw most often in ads of the day whenever Sheffield was one of the featured stars. In the case of Fleer, maybe it was because of the eye black, which makes the young hitter look like a bit more intimidating hitter.

Or, maybe it was infamy by association — who can look at a 1989 Fleer card and not think of the Billy Ripken error card, after all?

Whatever the case, this dirt-common cardboard icon is now just about the cheapest of the lot when it comes to Gary Sheffield rookie cards.

Even the more limited Fleer Glossy version of this RC checks in at about the same price level (maybe a few bucks more) even though “only” about 30,000 of each shiny card were produced.

Value: $5-8

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1989 Score Gary Sheffield Rookie Card (#625)

1989 Score Gary Sheffield Rookie Card

If you wanted a rookie card that really showcased the brutal power of Sheffield’s swing, Score was the one for you.

The image here has the Brewers phenom stepping downhill into (hopefully) a baseball that’s about the cease existing. Though, come to think of it, you can’t really see the head of the bat, so Sheffield just may be wielding an ax, about to Paul Bunyan some poor, unsuspecting tree to splinterines.

As cool as the pic is, this lumberjack rookie card is about as common as pine needles, with prices that reflect that fact.

Value: $8-10

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1989 Sportflics Gary Sheffield Rookie Card (#41)

1989 Sportflics Gary Sheffield Rookie Card

The 1989 Sportflics Gary Sheffield rookie card probably featured some really snazzy images of the slugger.

Maybe even three of them.

But it’s impossible to know for sure, seeing as how the very super-duper awesome space-age Lenticular Magic Motion technology rendered every Sportflics card a mush of indecipherable shadows.

Still, you can definitely see the green and yellow color bars at the bottom of the card, which makes it vaguely reminiscent of 1976 Topps. And that’s sorta cool, at least.

Value: $5-10

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1989 Topps Gary Sheffield Rookie Card (#343)

1989 Topps Gary Sheffield Rookie Card

This is the one everybody remembers, right?

I mean, along with maybe the 1989 Fleer and its standout eye black (see above), the 1989 Topps Gary Sheffield rookie card was the one to make all the media rounds.

When a dealer wanted to feature Sheffield RCs for sale in a magazine ad, they’d show this one.

When you and your friends were searching for a Sheffield RC at a card show, you were looking for this one.

And even today, when someone says, “Gary Sheffield rookie card,” this is the one you picture.

It’s the one I picture, at least, which still doesn’t do all that much for card values.

Value: $5-10

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1989 Topps Big Gary Sheffield Rookie Card (#55)

1989 Topps Big Gary Sheffield Rookie Card

All the problems that came along with 1989 Bowman baseball cards (see above) were right there to dog the 1989 Topps Big Gary Sheffield rookie card, too.

Namely, it was too “big” to fit in with the rest of your cards.

And this Sheffield RC, like all other Topps Big cards, had another strike against it: it was horizontal.

You just didn’t do that back in 1989. Of course, Topps had done that in 1988, too, and came back for more verbal abuse from collectors in Sheff’s rookie year.

Also of course, on the plus side, this card is big and looks pretty good, and it’s also printed on premium white cardstock and coated with such a glossy finish that it might just slide right out of your oddball eight-pocket plastic sheet.

For all that, this is a pretty tough card to come by in top condition, and it’s one of the pricier entries on this list.

Value: $25-30

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1989 Upper Deck Gary Sheffield Rookie Card (#13)

1989 Upper Deck Gary Sheffield Rookie Card

The 1989 Upper Deck Sheffield RC presents a bit of a historical disconnect.

Today, this card is right there at the top of the list of sort of normal, base varieties of Gary Sheffield rookie cards.

But back in the day, as the kids say (or used to say, at least), it just didn’t get the play that the Fleer and, especially, Topps versions did.

Or at least that’s the way it was here in this little corner of the collecting world. Could be, I suppose, that the UD Sheffield rookie card just sort of got lost in the glare of THE Ken Griffey, Jr., rookie card.

Could easily be.

Whatever the case, this is the only card on our list the features a full-out, bona fide, indisputable smile.

And, of course, every 1989 Upper Deck baseball card is a part of hobby history. This one is definitely no exception.

Value: $7-10

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Gary Sheffield 1989 Fleer Glossy #196 RC

End Date: Thursday 06/20/2024 09:59:46 EDT
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Gary Sheffield Rookie Card 1989 Upper Deck #13 PSA 8

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1989 Fleer - #196 Gary Sheffield (RC)

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1989 Bowman Tiffany Gary Sheffield RC #142 Rookie

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1989 Donruss Rookie #1 Gary sheffield Beckett 8.5 NM-MT+

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