October is coming to a close, and winter is nearly upon us here in New England. As seems to be the case every year, I've got a whole backlog of interesting cards purchased in 2012 that I just haven't gotten around to posting yet. While I don't have the time to devote to something like last year's Top 20 Under $25 countdown, I am still going to make an effort to get many of them posted by year end. Today we'll start with a familiar junk wax era rookie card that I finally got around to picking up this past May:
I haven't given this card a ton of thought myself, but I guess I fall somewhere in the middle. I don't find it to be a particularly striking card based solely on its appearance, but as a child of the late '80s/early '90s it was impossible not to admire Griffey, and this was the rookie that everyone wanted. Not only that, but one thing you cannot argue is the significance of this card (and this set) in our hobby's history. For better or worse, Upper Deck changed the game for good when it burst onto the scene in 1989. At a minimum, the '89 Upper Deck Griffey is undoubtedly in the top tier of sought-after rookies from the '80s, alongside the '82 Topps Ripken, '83 Topps Gwynn, '84 Donruss Mattingly, etc. In fact, off the top of my head the only '80s rookie I can think of that does better in the secondary market would be the '80 Topps Rickey Henderson. Whatever your point of view, I think we can agree that this little cardboard square has left a larger footprint on the hobby than most others.
I love the rookie cards from this era in particular; so sought after and so instantly recognizable. Because of the shape of the baseball card landscape at the time, they've really become iconic works of art in a way. You basically had one single, solitary, true rookie card of any player from each brand. Not like today's watered down sets with dozens of inserts, serial-numbered cards, patches and autographs. While those cards may be fun to chase, the result is that they just don't seem to mean as much. I would say that nearly every single baseball card collector, whether they own one or not, recognizes this Griffey card and can visualize it in their head even if they haven't seen one in person in years. Think of your favorite active player in the league right now though...can you do the same for them? I can tell you that without looking it up I can't visualize what Justin Verlander's rookie card looks like right now. How about Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, can you picture his rookie card? CC Sabathia? Felix Hernandez? You get the point. Maybe it's just me.
Maybe this is my imagination glorifying my memories, but I could swear that at one point this card had a book value north of $80. As it stands in my latest Beckett (which is over a year old, shows you how much I care about book value), the card books at $12. The point is, people went absolutely crazy for 1990 Leaf when it hit the shelves, the same kind of buzz I remember for sets like Flair and Finest a few years later. To this day I think it holds up better than most sets from the era. Thomas was the card to have from the set. The Sosa rookie was up there as well, but looking back on it now which one would you rather have? I'll take Frank here, easy decision.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the Upper Deck Griffey RC...cardboard classic, or not impressed? If you had to pick one single baseball rookie from 1987 - 1993 what would it be?
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