1980 Topps Rickey Henderson Rookie Card: A Closer Look

February 5, 2023

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henderson rookie card

Our definition of a vintage card is 'loosely defined as anything pre-1980, but we make exceptions for some landmark 1980s sports cards.

The 1980 Topps Rickey Henderson rookie card is one exception. Despite a healthy production run, Henderson's rookie card is a must-have for any baseball card collector

Rickey Henderson is still one of the most underrated players of his generation and considered as one of the best five-tool baseball players of all time

Thus, let's dive into the 1980 Topps Rickey Henderson Rookie card, which has experienced a bit of a renaissance in recent years. A recent Gem Mint (PSA 10) copy of the card sold for $180K at auction

Here we examine the scarcity of Henderson's rookie card, the latest values, and thoughts on the future investment potential of the card.

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The 1980 Topps Rickey Henderson Rookie Card 

Rickey Henderson's official major league rookie card is his 1980 Topps #482 card. Issued inside wax, rack, and cello packs of 1980 Topps baseball cards, it is far and away the most valuable card in the 726 card set.    

The Henderson rookie card features the legendary outfielder in his classic batting pose. The 1980 Topps cards wouldn't win any design awards and could be one of the ugliest Topps sets of all time. (side note - if you want to see our votes for the best Topps sets, visit this link).  

1980-topps-wax-pack

A PSA Graded 1980 Topps Baseball Wax Pack

The back of the card (#482) has a few stat lines, some career info, and a factoid showing that Henderson stole seven bases in a game in the minors (at Modesto in 1977).  The stat lines didn't quite give us the real story of Henderson, as it did not include stolen bases. 

The 1980 Topps set is short of any other major rookie cards but features a second-year card of Ozzie Smith. It also has cards of HOF players, including Carlton Fisk, Eddie Murray, George Brett, and others. The 1980 Topps cards are also notorious for poor print quality, including centering issues and print marks.  

How Much Is A Rickey Henderson Rookie Card Worth?

Rickey Henderson's official rookie card is his 1980 Topps #482 card.  A gem mint copy of the card (PSA 10) is worth on average between $100,000 to $150,000. 

Lower graded copies can be found for much less, depending on how much you are looking to spend. In fact, a Henderson RC only one grade lower (PSA 9 Mint) sells today for around $2000.  A PSA 8 (NM-MT) sells for $400, with values declining from there as the grade falls (see chart below). 

I should note that higher grade Henderson rookie cards have nose dived of late.

A 2021 PWCC auction sale of a PSA 10 Henderson rookie netted over $180,000. However, a little over a year later, another PSA 10 Henderson sold for $120,000.

Thus, its clear the market got a bit too excited and has corrected of late. 

How Rare Is Rickey Henderson's Rookie Card?

Rickey Henderson's rookie card was printed in heavy quantities.

In total, PSA has graded more than 30,000 copies of Henderson's rookie card. This doesn't include graded totals from Beckett or SGC or the existing raw (ungraded population). Thus, Henderson's Rookie card is by no means rare. 

Why Are Rookie Cards More Valuable?

As shown below, PSA has only graded 25 Gem-Mint, PSA 10 copies of Henderson's rookie card. Hence, one of the reasons the card is worth over $100K.

hendersonpsapop

Rickey Henderson Rookie PSA Graded Population

PSA 9, Mint copies are easier to find, with more than 2000 graded by PSA.  But, drop into the PSA 8's and below and it's clear there is a massive increase in the graded population.

PSA has graded over 12,000 copies of PSA 8 (NM-MT) copies and nearly 8,000 PSA 7 (NM) Henderson rookie cards. 

How Much Is An Autographed Rickey Henderson Rookie Card Worth?

On average, autographed Henderson rookie cards sell for between $200 (for low-grade cards) to $10,000 for nicer autos on mint rookie cards. Pricing depends on the condition of the card and the auto-grade.

An authentic Henderson rookie autograph.

As we discussed with the Montana rookie card, for rookie cards with a high supply, it's prudent to look for a signed copy of the card. More unique and in the end, likely a better investment.

The one caveat to all of this: Henderson's rookie card already has an existing facsimile auto, so it can look a bit odd with the two signatures. I can ignore this--maybe some can't get over it, but it's something to consider, based on your personal preference.

1980 TOPPS #482 RICKEY HENDERSON RC ATHLETICS HOF PSA 8 DNA AUTO AUTH A1780-064

$290.00  (13 bids)
End Date: Thursday Sep-21-2023 21:15:00 EDT

Bid

1980 Topps Baseball #482 Rickey Henderson Autograph RC Gem Mint PSA DNA 10 Auto

$204.50  (12 bids)
End Date: Sunday Sep-24-2023 22:44:36 EDT

Bid

1980 Topps #482 Rickey Henderson Autograph Auto Rookie RC PSA Authentic

$224.99  
End Date: Tuesday Sep-26-2023 23:00:01 EDT
Buy It Now for only: $224.99
Buy It Now

Rickey Henderson's Minor League Rookie Cards

Rickey Henderson has two minor league 'pre-rookie' cards that make for an interesting rookie card alternative. A 1979 TCMA Ogden card and a very rare 1977 Chong Modesto A's minor league card. 

79-tcma-ogden-henderson

1979 TCMA Ogden A's Rickey Henderson Minor League card

ogden back

Back of TCMA Ogden Henderson card

The TCMA Henderson card is the one most familiar to collectors and had a more sizeable distribution, but nothing close to the 1980 Topps release.

PSA has graded about 1000 of the TCMA Henderson cards and less than 40 of the Chong Modesto A's Henderson.

chong-modesto-henderson

A 1977 Chong Modesto A's "Ricky" Henderson minor league card.

chong-back

1977 Chong Modesto Henderson, blank back

There are no PSA 10 Chong Modesto cards, and PSA 9's are estimated at $10,000 or higher. Even lower grade Chong Henderson cards are in the thousands. 

If looking for a non Topps rookie alternative, a PSA 9 TCMA Ogden Henderson is a good choice. It can often be found for $300 or less. 

PSA Total
PSA 10 Value
PSA 9 Value
1977 Chong Modesto
35
N/A
$10,000
1979 TCMA Ogden
1,000
$2,000
$300
1980 Topps
30,000
$130,000
$2,000

Is Rickey Henderson's Rookie Card A Good Investment?

Recent high-priced auction sales fueled a renewed interest in Rickey Henderson rookie cards.  

pwcc-10-henderson

This PSA 10 Henderson Rookie broke a record at auction in 2021, selling for $180,000. This was near the peak of the card market. Since then PSA 10 Henderson values have dropped by about 30%.

For the everyday collector, this has led to over-optimism in valuing their own Henderson cards.

This is due to a need for more understanding of the existing (and somewhat massive) supply.  Let's remember it's almost impossible to get a PSA 10 grade. And unless it’s a PSA 9, there’s not much to get excited about. 

The surge in pricing for PSA 10 Henderson rookies makes sense.  The card has an existing supply of 25 copies. However, I hesitate to see the future massive appreciation in lower-grade Henderson rookie cards.

PSA 9 Henderson's might do ok. A PSA-graded supply of over 2000 isn't exactly rare, but collector interest in Henderson rookies remains strong as investors plow money into the 'GOAT's.' 

I recommend autographed copies of Henderson's Topps rookie card. They are not rare but provide a more differentiated and unique variation versus a regular old rookie card.  

Collectors looking for another option could consider higher grade copies of the TCMA Ogden minor league Henderson pre-rookie card

Rickey Henderson - The Man Of Steal

Rickey Henderson played for nine teams over twenty five seasons in Major League Baseball, earning a reputation not only as one of the most talented but most hard nosed players to ever play the game.  

Image Credit: Larry Neuberger

If there's maybe one critique about Henderson, it's that he stayed around for just a bit too long--as the end of his career might be remembered as less than stellar (from a stats perspective), while he also missed many games due to injuries.

Still, we can't let Henderson's final years define his career.  When Henderson was in his prime, which might be thought of as the years 1980 thru 1993 (up until when Henderson was 33), he was one of baseball's best.  

Rickey Henderson was the definition of a five-tool baseball player. He had blistering speed, and still holds the record for most stolen bases in one season (130) and is baseball's all time stolen base leader.  

Henderson also had great efficiency as a batter, with the ability to wisely take a pitch, holding both all-time records for runs scored (2,295) and unintentional walks (2,129). Henderson was a ten time all star, won the AL MVP in 1990, while winning two world series championships. 

"As with all great athletes, Henderson's ability insulated himself from the common slings and arrows . His physical gifts were unparalled in Oakland's history.  Forget Reggie and Rollie and Vida and the Catfish, all great players in their own right. This was Rickey Henderson, the most complete player ever to wear an Oakland uniform. Rickey could do things other players could only dream of. He was, and still is, a truly magical talent."

Sportswriter Bob Padecky in The Santa Cruz Sentinel (12/17/1984, The Magic and Mystery of Rickey Henderson, Page B-3)

Henderson was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009, cementing his legacy as one of the best to ever play the game.  Henderson's legacy as a stolen base wizard along with a profile as an above average hitter and fielder has led to a renewed interest in Henderson from an investment perspective. 

Rickey Henderson Rookie Cards For Sale on eBay

1980 Topps Set-Break #482 Rickey Henderson Rookie BVG 8 NM-MT

$168.50  (19 bids)
End Date: Thursday Sep-21-2023 21:41:00 EDT

Bid

1980 Topps Rickey Henderson RC Rookie #482 Oakland Athletics PSA 8 NM-MT

$200.00  (16 bids)
End Date: Thursday Sep-21-2023 14:24:14 EDT

Bid

1980 Topps Rickey Henderson BVG 8 rookie

$205.00  

Buy It Now for only: $205.00
Buy It Now

1980 Topps Rickey Henderson #482 Rookie RC HOF

$127.50  (30 bids)
End Date: Thursday Sep-21-2023 22:51:14 EDT

Bid

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    1. Hi Joe, yes, certainly an interesting alternative. The TCMA Ogden card is definitely a harder find in graded condition, but still available so that you won’t break the bank. The Topps rookie card will always be recognized as a true rookie card, as minor league cards are typically not as highly sought after, but if you can find one in high grade at a good price, I think it makes for a decent longer-term investment.

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