One of the harsh realities of the 2018 Hall of Fame induction class is that just about every Jim Thome baseball card — at least the early ones — falls squarely into the Junk Wax Era.

That even goes for the many varieties of the Jim Thome rookie card that you can add to your collection.

But the good news is — well, you can probably afford just about all of those early Thome cards, including the rookies.

To help you with that quest, below is a quick rundown of Thome’s first card from each of the major brands on the market while he was making an early name for himself with the Cleveland Indians.

And, after you revel in the cheap glory of a young Thome, be sure to check out the rest of our posts on the 2018 Hall of Fame class here.

1991 Bowman (#68)

1991 Bowman Jim Thome

After a couple of years of fumbling around with oversized cards and an uncertain identity, Topps seemed to hit their stride with Bowman in 1991.

They would focus on … rookies!

Of course, the two — Bowman and rookie cards — are almost synonymous these days, but no one was quite sure how it would work out in 1991. Just like Thome’s career.

In the end, both Bowman and Thome did just fine, and their marriage on this 1991 rookie card seems just about perfect.

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1991 Upper Deck Final Edition (#17F)

1991 Upper Deck Final Edition Jim Thome

By 1991, Upper Deck was well-established but starting to fight the sameness of their cards from year to year. Apparently even sustained greatness can get boring if it’s nearly identical each time out.

So, late that season, UD changed things up a bit by issuing a Final Edition in addition to their traditional low and high series.

So that was different.

And this Thome rookie card gets an additional splash of differentiation with the “Minor League Diamond Skills” shield.

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1992 Donruss (#406)

1992 donruss jim thome

In 1992, all three old-school manufacturers — Donruss, Fleer, Topps — stepped up their games to try and compete with the premium offerings from Upper Deck.

For Donruss, that meant improved card stock, a cleaner design with more emphasis on photos and photo quality, and photos on card backs.

For Jim Thome, that meant a sharp Rated Rookie card where he looks young, agile, and athletic.

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1992 Fleer (#125)

1992 fleer jim thome

The 1992 Fleer issue also showcased improved card stock and on-the-back photos, but the design was fairly heavy-handed.

Pretty much, you loved or hated the fadeout green borders and massive block lettering.

Even if you fall into the “hate” camp, you might be able to make an exception for Big Jim Thome, whose power is on full display on his first Fleer card.

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1992 Leaf (#299)

1992 Leaf Jim Thome

Two years after Leaf broke the hobby with their limited 1990 set that was jam-packed with big-name rookie cars like Frank Thomas, Sammy Sosa, David Justice, and … um … Scott Coolbaugh, Donruss was struggling to keep the brand alive.

Emboldened by their inaugural success in 1990, Big D cranked up the presses in 1991 and pretty much choked the market.

As a consequence, the 1992 Leaf set was met with hardly any enthusiasm, but this skulking Thome rookie (first Leaf card, anyway) is still a worthy addition to any Hall of Fame collection.

As a bonus, each Leaf card came in a Gold parallel version that today sells for about the same prices as the base card.

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1992 O-Pee-Chee (#768)

1992 o-pee-chee jim thome

This would be the last time that O-Pee-Chee cards exactly mimicked the year’s base Topps set, so if you love parallel Thome cardboard, 1992 OPC has to be part of your collection.

And this is a great shot of a smiling young future Hall of Famer waiting his turn in the batting cage — what’s not to love?

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1992 Pinnacle (#247)

1992 pinnacle jim thome

Score jumped into the premium card market with their Pinnacle line in 1992.

Apparently big fans of the 1985 and 1987 Donruss sets, Score layered player photos inside of two black borders for their inaugural stab at Pinnacle.

As a result, the cards are pretty dark. Couple that with the standard overproduction of the era, and you have a set that doesn’t sell for all that much on the secondary market a quarter century later.

Still, this is Thome’s first Pinnacle card, for what that’s worth.

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1992 Score (#859)

1992 score jim thome

Now, the 1992 Score baseball card set is not dark at all. In fact, it’s pretty light and colorful, even if in a cheap sort of way.

But, hey, it was issued in the heart of the Junk Wax Era, even if it came in those funny little plastic packs instead of real wax.

So what do you expect, anyway?

The good news about all of 1992 Score’s junkiness is that you can find Jim Thome’s first Score card — in the high number series, no less — for a song most days.

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1992 Stadium Club (#360)

1992 stadium club jim thome

The 1991 Topps Stadium Club issue represented the next step forward in super premium baseball cards and drove the hobby price scale all through that summer.

In 1992, though, Topps fell victim to the Leaf Syndrome, wherein one year’s breakout set engenders a huge increase in the next year’s production run …

… rendering that second set virtually worthless in the process.

The good news is that young Thome looks pretty good in this action shot on cardstock that’s about as thick as your standard knotty pine paneling.

Classic, cheap Junk Wax at its finest!

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1992 Topps (#768)

1992 Topps Jim Thome

Sure, this first Topps Jim Thome card is pretty much identical to the O-Pee-Chee issue, but that Canadian cardboard only comes first on this list through a consequence of the English alphabet.

You know and I know that Topps always has been The Real One, so you can’t very well have a Jim Thome rookie card collection — or blog post — without a Topps card.

So here it is.

Besides, the 1992 Topps set was the first one with those creamy white borders for which collectors had long clamored, which almost makes up for its Junk Wax status.

And don’t forget those tasty Gold and Gold Winner parallels!

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(Check out the rest of our posts on the 2018 Hall of Fame class here.)

 

 

 

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