How many different Ken Griffey Jr rookie cards do you think there are?

Three, four, ten, a hundred?

Whatever your answer, you just might be right!

See, while the quasi-official answer is “six” (see the PSA Set Registry Rookie Checklist for Griffey), the truth is, there were at least 50 different cards issued featuring the Mariners’ young phenom in 1989. And, given that’s the year his Big Six hit collections across the lands, the rest of those dozens have to count for something … right?

Right.

We’re not going to run through ever one of those first-year Juniors here, but we are going to take on the most important ones, as determined by hobby history and the “weight” assigned to each card in the Griffey Master Set listing from PSA.

So, if you’re ready for some monumental cardboard — cardboard befitting of a hobby Mt. Rushmore — let’s dive into the best of the best among Ken Griffey, Jr., rookie cards!

(Prices as of July 2021, as culled from the PSA Auction Prices Realized tool.)

1989 Baseball Cards Magazine Repli-Cards Ken Griffey Jr. (#63)

Ken Griffey Jr Rookie Cards 1989 Baseball Cards Magazine Repli-Cards Ken Griffey Jr. Hand Cut

If you missed out on the old Baseball Cards Magazine, well … you really missed out.

In the late 1980s, BBCM would come up with a theme in January and then issue cards all year long that fit the theme. That usually meant six cards per issue, inserted as two three-card panels in the middle of the magazine.

In 1989, Krause Publications rolled back to a 1959 Topps design for their replicards, and that run included several “rookie stars” cards, Junior among them.

Since these were issued in panels and jammed into the middle of a magazine that got mailed everywhere, the cards aren’t all that easy to find in decent condition.

If you find a Griffey that’s been nicely hand cut and can pull a MINT grade, expect to pay three figures to make it your own. A copy in PSA 10? That’ll run you a cool grand or more — probably a LOT more.

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1989 Bowman Tiffany Ken Griffey Jr. (#220)

Ken Griffey Jr Rookie Cards 1989 Bowman Tiffany Ken Griffey Jr.

The 1989 Bowman baseball cards didn’t quite live up to the excitement we (old collectors) had when Topps announced they were resurrecting their defunct competitor’s brand.

They were oversize, the backs were sort of strange with their team-by-team statistical splits, and there were just too many of them on the market.

But even that initial Bowman set was fairly loaded with rookie cards, including Brady Anderson, Gary Sheffield, John Smoltz, Jerome Walton, Rob Dibble, Chris Sabo, Sandy Alomar (Jr.) … and, naturally, Griffey.

And then, Topps upped the ante by issuing a “Tiffany” version of the set, just like they’d been doing with their base set for half a decade.

Featuring high-grade creamy card stock and a thick, glossy coating, Bowman Tiffany was limited to just 6000 complete sets. That may not sound so “limited” today, but it was like hen’s teeth in the late 1980s, and the Junior RC is the key to the set.

Expect to pay $1200-1500 for a PSA 9 copy, stretching well into five figures for a specimen in PSA 10.

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1989 Fleer Glossy Ken Griffey Jr. (#548)

Ken Griffey Jr Rookie Cards 1989 Fleer Glossy Ken Griffey Jr.

Griffey made it into three base sets in 1989, and, while neither the Fleer nor Donruss card can hold a candle to the Upper Deck (see below) in terms of historical hobby significance, Fleer followed Topps’ lead by issuing a more limited “glossy” version of their mass-produced main set.

Some hobby estimates put the total print run at around 30,000 complete sets, which again is a ton by today’s standards but miniscule for the original boom years.

And, of course, the Griffey RC leads the whole hit parade in the “desirable card” department.

Today, this is about a $500 card in PSA 9, with the price tag ballooning into the $3500-4000 range for perfect “10”s.

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1989 Topps Traded Ken Griffey Jr. Tiffany (#41T)

Ken Griffey Jr Rookie Cards 1989 Topps Traded Ken Griffey Jr. Tiffany

Topps somehow missed out on including Junior in their base 1989 set, an oversight which no doubt helped amplify the impact of UD even more.

But leaving out Griffey from the start also eventually led to a pretty great looking 1989 Topps Traded card that has become a classic in its own right.

And, when you add the Tiffany treatment to the thing, with an estimated print run of about 15,000 sets, you get a pretty sweet (and hot/simmering) old hunk of cardboard.

Expect to pay $500 or more for a copy in PSA 9 condition, and onward toward five grand for a PSA 10.

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1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. (#1)

Ken Griffey Jr Rookie Cards 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr.

Upper Deck had a perfect read on the market they were entering in 1989. In particular, collectors were clamoring for:

  • High-quality photos
  • Thick, premium card stock
  • Some sort of assurance that the cards they were buying were authentic
  • Limited print runs
  • Rookies

So, UD took that research and gave us:

  • High-quality photos on card fronts and backs
  • Thick, premium card stock
  • Holograms and “tamper-proof” Mylar packs
  • A high price, which seemed to imply limited print runs
  • The rookie card of all rookie cards at card #1

Making the Griffey rookie card the first card of the first-ever Upper Deck set virtually guaranteed the company would get off to a rousing start. And, with any cooperation from young Griffey on the field, the card could just become legendary.

As it turned out, Junior did just about all you could have ever imagine he might have on the field, and so did his UD rookie card.

Today, this is a $300-400 card in PSA 9, easily topping two grand in PSA 10. It’s not really scarce, either — just a stone-cold hobby icon.

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1989 Bowman Tiffany Ken Griffey (#259)

Ken Griffey Jr Rookie Cards 1989 Bowman Tiffany Ken Griffey

One of the really neat things about Griffey’s career is that he began playing in the major leagues while his dad was still there, back “home” for the Cincinnati Reds.

Eventually, Senior would join Junior in Seattle, and they would uncork some magic baseball moments there in the Emerald City, just like fathers and sons have been doing on ballfields across the land for more than a century now.

Topps took a moment of their own to capitalize on some of that magic right away, including this Griffey-Griffey, father-son combo with a TV motif — shades of 1955 Bowman — in their Bowman reboot.

Today, the Tiffany version of that double-duty card is about an $80 buy in PSA 9, stretching north of $200 for copies in slabbed GEM-MT condition.

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1989 Mother’s Cookies Ken Griffey Jr. Arms Folded (#1)

Ken Griffey Jr Rookie Cards 1989 Mothers Cookies Ken Griffey Jr. Arms Folded (4 cards on list)

Mother’s Cookies issued at least four different Junior cards in 1989, in both single and panel form.

This one is numbered #1, so it gets the call here. Doesn’t hurt that we get an exuberant smile from “The Kid” who was known for his overall enthusiasm for the game, top to bottom.

Not quite in the same class as Upper Deck or the Tiffany/Glossy cards from a price perspective, the Mother’s cards excel in presenting affordable first-year options for collectors who want to snag some great early Griffeys without breaking the bank.

This one checks in around $25 in PSA 9 condition, or $50+ in PSA 10.

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1988 Star Ken Griffey Jr. Silver Edition (1-9 cards on list) (#3)

Ken Griffey Jr Rookie Cards 1988 Star Ken Griffey Jr. Silver Edition (1-9 cards on list)

Like Mother’s, Star issued several Griffey cards in 1989 … and in 1988.

This card is one of at least nine Juniors that carry the 1988 tag, representing the year before Griffey made his actual big league debut (on April 3, 1989).

As the series name implies, these “Silver Series” cards were adorned with silver-foil print that gave them a little extra pizzazz.

Though not many of these (technically) pre-rookie cards have been graded, they remain pretty affordable all these years later.

Expect price tags in the $50-60 range for PSA 9 copies, and about $100 more for PSA 10s.

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1988-89 Star Nova Edition Ken Griffey Jr. Career Stats (#118)

Ken Griffey Jr Rookie Cards 1988-89 Star Nova Edition Ken Griffey Jr. Career Stats

The 1988-89 Star Nova edition offered up another ten Griffey cards, with each one featuring a different theme (career stats, season 1, season 2, etc.).

Like the Silver Edition, these aren’t all that plentiful, especially in graded form, and they also tip the scales a little heavier than their 1988 counterparts.

Expect prices north of $150 for PSA 9 copies, with 10s pretty much nonexistent.

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1989 Classic Travel Ken Griffey Jr Update I (#131)

Ken Griffey Jr Rookie Cards 1989 Classic Travel Ken Griffey Jr Update I

The first Classic card of Griffey came in their first update of 1989, appropriately titled Classic Travel Update I.

While the photo looks like it’s from DMV Photo Shoot Day at the ballpark, the colorful borders and (very) basic text give the thing a pretty vintage, era-specific feel.

Not really scarce in any sense of the word, this is nevertheless a first-year Griffey, and one that brings about $25 in PSA 9 (up to $100 or so in PSA 10).

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1989 Score Traded Ken Griffey Jr. (#100T)

1989 Score Traded Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card

Like Topps, Score missed out on Griffey in its base 1989 set and, who knows — if they had slotted Junior at #1, maybe they wouldn’t have lost so much ground to upstart Upper Deck that first summer.

As things stand, Score made things righter in the fall with their traded set, including Griffey at #100T on a card that’s bright and action-packed, leaving us with a great looking, affordable, and largely forgotten RC of a legend.

Today, the 1989 Score Traded Griffey sells for about $25 in PSA 9 and $125+ in PSA 10.

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1989 Donruss Ken Griffey Jr. (#33)

1989 donruss ken griffey jr rated rookie

Donruss not only had the foresight (?) to include Griffey in their base set, they also made him a Rated Rookie.

Seems like a no-brainer looking back, and it did even at the time, really, considering the hype surrounding Griffey.

Still, Donruss, ahem, scored where Topps and Score failed, so that’s bonus points for old Big D.

Alas, this base card has logged behind its glitzy counterparts in value over the years, but that just means it’s an affordable (if way overproduced) hobby classic.

Expect prices in the $25-35 for PSA 9 copies, and $300-400 for slabbed specimens in perfect GEM-MT condition.

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