Did you have your Ryne Sandberg rookie cards all lined up, slabbed up, and ready to go when Ryno broke out in the summer of 1984?

If you did, well, you must be some sort of seer.

Because, for the rest of us, Sandberg came out of nowhere to lead his Chicago Cubs to their first-ever division title and set himself on a course for the Hall of Fame.

He also sent us all scrambling to dredge up his rookie cards, most of which had already begun sliding toward the commons bin.

In case you’ve forgotten, or never knew, here are the Ryne Sandberg rookie cards we went spelunking for.

1982 Red Lobster Ryne Sandberg (#23)

1982 Red Lobster Ryne Sandberg

I know, I know …. all of Ryno’s rookie cards came out in 1983.

Except they didn’t.

The 1982 Cubs weren’t very good, finishing at 73-89 and fifth place in the old National League East division. OK, not really all that terrible by Cubs standards.

Still, they were bad enough to slot a rookie as their starter at third base — that kid was 22-year-old Ryne Sandberg.

He might have made the cut at second, but Bump Wills was there, and I’m here to tell you that if you have Bump Wills on your team, you gotta run him out there every ding-dang day.

So anyway, on August 20 of that lost season, the Cubs gave away a 28-card issue to fans at Wrigley Field. Young Sandberg was in that set at #23, because the cards were numbered by uniform number. Because, why not?

Anyway, these cards were pretty nifty looking for the time, featuring full-bleed photography that sort of made them look like the bootleg Broder’s cards that were all the rage and outrage a few years later.

Card backs look like a Red Lobster restaurant manager banged them out on his office typewriter.

Still, it’s a Ryno RC, and horizontal to boot. And not all that easy to come by in high grades.

Awesome, in other words.

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1983 All-Star Game Program Inserts Ryne Sandberg

1983 All-Star Game Program Inserts Ryne Sandberg

Sandberg wasn’t an All-Star in 1983, though he did win his first Gold Glove as the Cubs moved him over to second base.

His status as a starter for a MLB team got him on the All-Star ballot, though, and that was enough to land him a slot on the foldout poster thing that came in each ASG program.

Any time you find a single, of Sandberg or any of the others, you can be sure they were handcut since the “cards” weren’t perforated.

Oh, and there’s this —

If you weren’t a Cubs fan and saw this pic of young Ryno in that program, you might have struggled with his first name since he was just, “R.”

Was he Rheinhold?

Roger?

River?

You had no way to know. You know, except for by flipping the page.

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1983 Donruss Ryne Sandberg (#277)

1983 Donruss Ryne Sandberg

Alright, now we’re all warmed up and ready to get into the classics.

Who woulda thunk that a 1983 Donruss card could ever be classic, right? But this one is, right along side the Tony Gwynn and Wade Boggs rookie cards.

And the Willie McGee and David Greene RCs, for that matter.

And Cesar Cedeno of course.

As for the Ryno Donruss rookie card, it’s a pretty good looking affair, certainly better than what we would have seen a couple of years earlier.

Here, Sandberg is at the plate, and he is very considerately holding his left shoulder just so, affording us a great view of the Cubby logo on his pinstriped powder blue jersey.

Given that Sandberg is wearing long sleeves under his uni and that there appears to be a dude in an Oakland A’s home uniform behind him, maybe this is a Spring Training game?

Or maybe it’s the 1910 World Series.

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1983 Fleer Ryne Sandberg (#507)

1983 Fleer Ryne Sandberg

This Fleer rookie card shows Sandberg in what appears to be the exact same get-up as the one he’s wearing on his Donruss RC, which make you wonder …

Was Harry Caray able to pronounce Sandberg’s name right off the bat, or did it come out as “Ron Santo“?

Oh, it also makes you wonder if these photos were taken on the same day, maybe even in the same game? It’s happened before, even across company lines … even with the exact same photo. I mean, 1982 Topps In Action Rod Carew has 1982 Fleer Rod Carew egg all over its face, or vice versa.

This Fleer card looks gloomier than the Donruss entry, but that could just be a pterodactyl flying across the sun, or photographic problems.

At any rate, it’s another must-have if you’re knocking off your Sandberg collection, and the brown-gray borders present a different look than anything else going at the time.

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1983 O-Pee-Chee Ryne Sandberg (#83)

1983 O-Pee-Chee Ryne Sandberg

Topps, and by association, O-Pee-Chee, also chose to show Ryno in long sleeves on his 1983 rookie card.

At least they had the decency to pick a shot with the Cubs’ home white pinstripes rather than the powder blue roadies … so we know this is a different game than the one(s) that yielded the Donruss and Fleer cards.

With some Topps designs, there’s not much use in actually showing a picture of the OPC version in these types of pieces, but that’s not the case here.

That’s because the 1983 cards feature the O-Pee-Chee logo prominently on card fronts and also show the player’s position in both English and French.

So Ryne Sandberg, 3rd base is also Ryne Sandberg, troisième-but.

Even though the OPC version has creamier stock and is somewhat scarcer than its Topps cousin, prices for the two cards are about the same … until you get all the way up to PSA 10 copies, where condition scarcity pushes the Canadian issue into four-figure territory.

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1983 O-Pee-Chee Stickers Ryne Sandberg (#328)

1983 O-Pee-Chee Stickers Ryne Sandberg

This is one of those cases where it doesn’t make much difference if you’re looking at a Topps or O-Pee-Chee “card” from the front — the stickers are virtually identical to each other.

Turn them over, though, and OPC gives you English and French text blocks, while Topps is all English.

Either way, these are stickers, so they’re not the most popular items ever, but they’re still solid first-year collectibles from a legendary player.

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1983 Thorn Apple Valley Cubs Ryne Sandberg (#23)

1983 Thorn Apple Valley Cubs Ryne Sandberg

At first glance, you might mistake this card for the Red Lobster issue. Closer inspection, though, reveals that …

  • The Red Lobster card was issued in 1982; Thorn Apple Valley waited until 1983.
  • This one shows a cold-weather Ryno taking a lead on the basepaths, while the Red Lobster shows Sandberg in shirt sleeves fielding at third.
  • The Red Lobster card features a facsimile autograph; this one does not.
  • This one shows the Wrigley Field ivy, while the Red Lobster card does not.
  • This is a Thorn Apple Valley card, while the Red Lobster card is a Red Lobster card.

Also, Red Lobster does not sell packaged meat, as far as I know, while Thorn Apple Valley makes their living doing such things.

Otherwise, yeah, these Sandberg rookie cards are exactly the same.

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1983 Topps Ryne Sandberg (#83)

1983 Topps Ryne Sandberg

This is the iconic card among all iconic cards on this list.

It’s the one that took off when Sandberg and the Cubs took off in the summer of 1984.

It’s the one that sent us on an expedition to dredge through our stacks of already-forgotten 1983 cards looking for the lost treasure we never knew was a treasure at all.

And, while Sandberg took a more uneven path from wax packs to Cooperstown than did his fellow 1983 rookie card royalty (that would be Boggs and Gwynn), he did get there.

He’s every bit the legend those dudes are, too, at least in some circles (Cubbie nation, especially).

This card will forever be a hobby favorite.

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1983 Topps Stickers Ryne Sandberg (#328)

1983 Topps Stickers Ryne Sandberg

Yep, same sticker as the OPC version, except the backs, where you’ll find only English on the Topps stickies.

Which just goes to prove the old saying — “We’re all the same once you take our backs off.”

Or something like that.

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