Barry Bonds Rookie Cards: Ranking By Investment Potential

October 6, 2021

barry-rookieI typically stay away from writing about cards from the Junk Era.  This website as you might have noticed is dedicated to ‘vintage’ cards, whose definition is still a bit fuzzy among collectors -although usually consensus is that ‘vintage’ is anything pre-1980.  

So, when a reader wrote in recently asking my thoughts on the investment potential for Barry Bonds rookie cards I started to think about it for a while. 

Immediate reaction — ‘eh Junk Era, don’t bother’.   But then I started thinking–hmm, there is still an outside shot at the HOF….so maybe, just maybe some of Barry’s rarer cards from the 80’s are worth another look.  We write about Jordan rookies all the time and it’s from the same exact year, so maybe, just maybe it’s something I need to examine a bit closer.

And so I did.  This piece will take a look at the Barry Bonds rookie cards, and try to determine whether his cards might have good appreciation potential over the next few years. 

As always if you have any questions on Barry Bonds rookie cards, shoot me an email at chris@allvintagecards.com.

What Year Are Barry Bonds Rookie Cards?

Barry Bonds' first major league issue cards were released in 1986, via various subsets from the major card manufacturers.  These included the 1986 Topps Update, 1986 Fleer Update and 1986 Donruss Rookies sets.  His first major issue cards that were a part of complete sets issued via wax packs came in 1987 from Topps, Fleer and Donruss. 

Bonds 1986 Fleer Update card is technically considered his 'Extended Rookie Card' or XRC

Many collectors refer to the Bonds 1986 cards as his Extended Rookie Cards (or XRC) given that they were not issued in packs.  This is similar to the 1985 Star Michael Jordan #101 card which is considered to be an 'Extended Rookie Card'.   Thus, while the 1986 Bonds cards carry more value due to relative scarcity, his 1987 major issue cards are considered his true 'rookie cards'

Does Barry Bonds Have A Shot At Getting Into The Hall Of Fame?

This is the key question in buying into any Barry Bonds rookie cards and would be the number one catalyst to move his cards higher from here. Sure, they could move higher regardless, but a HOF election would make everything different.   

To date, Bonds is still known as the steroid guy.  But, it feels as if that association and negativity keeps declining each year.  It's well documented that Bonds used steroids, but it's also clear that before he started using-- he was one the best baseball players of his generation.  Even the late Hank Aaron thought that Bonds should be in the Hall of Fame.

bonds-steroids

This USA Today article reminds readers of the 'Game of Shadows' book's findings which discovered that Bonds likely didn't start his steroid use until 1999.   Thus, voters need to examine the abilities of Bonds as a player from his rookie season in 1986 to 1998-- a period in which he did reportedly not take any performance enhancing drugs.  

And Bonds was one hell of a player during this time, averaging 35-40 homeruns, with 100+ RBI's, 30+ stolen bases, .300 + BA and an OPS above 1.00. 

Barry Bonds received 61% of the votes last year, short of the 75% required, but a marked improvement from the 36% he received in his first year of eligibility in 2013.   This year wasn't much of an improvement over 2020, with Bonds earning 62% of the vote, only a 1% improvement.

Note that Bonds (and Clemens) now only have one year of HOF ballot eligibility left.  

bonds-stats

My thoughts are that writers are crazy for excluding Bonds (and Clemens) -- I have to think that he gets one final push of support in 2022. 

A Closer Look At Barry Bonds Rookie Cards

Even if he doesn't make the HOF, I still believe that Bonds' rookie cards are still worthy of a look.  There will still be a massive amount of support from baseball card collectors even without the Hall nomination, although it would really, really help in the case of prices going higher.  

In what follows, we examine each of Bonds' rookie cards--note as mentioned previously, his 1986 cards are technically his rookie cards since they were the first issues, although nearly all were issued in Traded/Update sets.  

Remember this is the junk era, so for many cards, the investment potential is limited, but we discuss each one in detail below. 

Note that we also provide an 'Investment Potential' score from zero to ten. This is meant to be just a relative ranking among all of Bonds rookie cards and not any indication that we believe the card is going to increase in value. 

1986 Donruss Rookies #11 - Bonds (RC)

Investment Potential: 7.5 out of 10

bonds-donruss-rookies

If you were a collector in the 1980's you might remember these small boxed Donruss Rookies sets which were super popular at the time.  The set featured Bonds, Jose Canseco and Bo Jackson among others.  Yes, Donruss made a lot of these sets.  I have no idea of the final print runs, but if you see an 80's collection for sale, there is bound to be one of these sets included.

PSA has graded over 12,000 Donruss Bonds rookie cards, with nearly 1500 graded a PSA 10.  Who knows how many more boxed sets will get graded in the coming years.  If buying this card, I would only invest in the PSA 10 copy, which as of this writing is selling for around $200+.  

bonds-rookies-donruss

1986 Fleer Update #14 - Bonds (RC)

Investment Potential: 8.5 out of 10

Also issued in a small box, similar to the Donruss Rookies sets, the 1986 Fleer Update Bonds card actually has a much larger population--over 20K graded by PSA, although less PSA 10 cards---only 1300+ versus nearly 1500 for his Donruss Rookies card.  

Translation-it's a lot harder to get a PSA 10 Fleer Update Bonds card due to the blue edges which chip quite easily.

And they actually sell for a bit more; recent PSA 10 Fleer Update Bonds cards have been fetching close to $500. 

bonds-fleer-1986

1986 Sportflics #13 - Bonds (RC)

Investment Potential: 5.5 out of 10

bonds-sportflics-image

While still a bit of an oddball card, the Sportflics Bonds does still qualify as a rookie card, and from an overall supply standpoint has far few graded issues versus any of the other 1986 issues.  However the cards are quite thick and don't get dinged up very easily---out of ~4400 graded PSA copies nearly have have earned a PSA 10. PSA 10 copies can be found for under $200.

bonds-sportflics

1986 Topps Traded #11T - Bonds (RC)

Investment Potential: 7 out of 10

topps-traded-bonds

Of all the 1986 Bonds issues, the 86 Topps Traded card has the largest graded supply according to PSA data.   Nearly 47K Bonds cards have been graded by PSA! And roughly 10% (~4700) have earned a PSA 10, slightly higher than the PSA 10 Fleer Update Bonds, which has earned about 6.5% of overall submissions. 

The average selling price for the PSA 10 Bonds is around $600, which is think is too high relative to the Donruss or Fleer issues---I just believe that the Topps card is more recognizable--however supplies would point to the other two as being better investments. 

bonds-86-topps-traded

1986 Topps Traded Tiffany #11T - Bonds (RC)

Investment Potential: 8 out of 10

barry-rookie

Here's where things get interesting.  The 1986 Tiffany Topps card is much much harder to find...not rare by any means, but 1/20 of the entire Topps Traded population.  PSA has graded ~2400 copies with only 440 PSA 10's.  Thus this makes it a much more valuable card as well. 

bonds-tiffany-psa

PSA 10 Traded Tiffany Bonds cards are selling at around $4000, and for good reason, they are rarer than any other Bonds rookie card by a long shot.  Even the PSA 9 population is at 1350+ copies, which is about par with the existing supply for the Donruss Rookies and Fleer Update Bonds cards--hence the reason that the PSA 9 on its own sells for over $1000.  

1987 Classic Travel #113 - Bonds (RC)

Investment Potential: 5 out of 10

classic-bonds

An oddball insert set, these Classic cards were part of a board game yet they produced some super cool cards, including this Barry Bonds card.  There are two variations--based on the color of the back of the card, with the Green back a lot harder to find.  Note that there are only 31 PSA 10 Green Back Classic cards, and nearly 400 of the Yellow Back PSA 10's. 

Yellow backs can be found for around $100, whereas Green Backs are nearly 10x that amount.  It's a cool card, but I think I would rather a collector steer towards more of the mainstream issues. 

classic-bonds-psa

1987 Donruss #361 - Bonds (RC)

Investment Potential: 6.5 out of 10

donruss-87-bonds

Not quite the graded population of the 86 Topps Traded, but it's quite a huge sum, with nearly 25K cards graded by PSA!  Of that total however only around 1700 have earned a PSA 10 grade, owning to the black borders on the cards which turn white quite easily.  

PSA 10 copies have been increasing in value of late and selling for around $150.  It will be interesting to see if this card and his others fall of due to his lack of HOF election this year.

bonds-donruss

1987 Donruss Opening Day #163 - Bonds (RC)

Investment Potential: 4.5 out of 10

bonds-opening-day

A Donruss subset that wasn't all that popular, the issue had lower production than the normal 87 Donruss set and PSA had graded only a fraction of the cards--2600+ copies with 237 PSA 10's, thus a much lower population than many, but still an oddball set.  Note there was a much rarer error card that featured an image of Johnny Ray-but I wouldn't be looking at that one as an investment. 

bonds-opening-day-psa

1987 Fleer #604 - Bonds (RC)

Investment Potential: 7 out of 10

An almost identical population to his '87 Donruss rookie card...PSA has graded roughly 1250 PSA 10's, lower than the Donruss card.  PSA 10's have been selling for around $250, which I think is a pretty good investment if looking for a Bonds rookie card to hold onto for a while.

1987 Fleer Glossy #604 - Bonds (RC)

Investment Potential: 8.5 out of 10

fleer-glossy-bonds

While there are nearly 1300 PSA 10 1987 Bonds Fleer rookies, there are less than half of his glossy variation from the same year.  This were issued in complete sets in a tin from Fleer and had much lower production than the base set.  I'd consider this one to be one of the better Bonds rookies to invest in--but a PSA 10 is now commanding around $500.  

bonds-glossy-psa

1987 Fleer Glossy Barry Bonds ROOKIE #604 PSA 10 GEM MINT

$325.00  (17 bids)
End Date: Monday Aug-08-2022 22:59:11 EDT

Bid

1987 Topps #320 - Bonds (RC)

Investment Potential: 6 out of 10

barrybonds87topps

I was sort of shocked to learn that PSA has only graded ~15,000 Bonds 1987 Topps cards whereas Donruss and Fleer cards from the same year have been both graded nearly 25,000 times.  I think it just owns to the fact that collectors know the Topps set was massively produced, likely more than Donruss or Fleer....and that it wouldn't be worth getting graded.

Thus believe it or not there are actually less 1987 PSA 10 Topps Bonds cards than there are 1987 Donruss PSA 10's and only a few hundred more than PSA 10 Bonds cards from the 1987 Fleer set.   The Topps PSA 10 card sells for a bit less than his Fleer card but for more than his Donruss card. 

bonds-87-topps

1987 Topps Tiffany #320 - Bonds (RC)

Investment Potential: 7 out of 10

tiffany-bon87

Similar to the Fleer Glossy set, Topps issued the Tiffany sets in a specialized box with a much lower production run than the base Topps issue.  Much, much rarer than the Topps version--only 241 copies graded a 10 by PSA.   And expect to pay up---PSA 10's are now averaging between $2000-$3000

bonds-tiffy-psa

1987 Topps Tiffany Baseball Barry Bonds #320 PSA 9 MINT

$62.00  (12 bids)
End Date: Sunday Aug-07-2022 22:02:21 EDT

Bid

1987 Topps O-Pee-Cee (OPC) #320 - Bonds (RC)

Investment Potential: 8.5 out of 10

opc-bonds-rookie

The third variation from the 87 Topps issue, the OPC variation is a Canadian issue that is much rarer than either the Topps or Topps Tiffany versions. Only ~1000 OPC Bonds rookie cards have been graded by PSA, with less than 40 earning a Gem Mint grade (or PSA 10).  Ultimately, I believe high grade OPC Bonds rookie cards are among the best investments for all of his rookie cards.

bonds-opc-psa


1987 Toysrus #4 - Bonds (RC)

Investment Potential: 5.5 out of 10

bonds-toysrus

Another oddball set, with some cool looking cards that has some popularity with Bonds collectors.  It is rarer than most of the major issues--PSA has graded roughly 2100 cards with 336 PSA 10's---which are now selling at around $200.  If you want rarer oddball subsets, it's a cool one to have. 

bonds-toysrus-psa

1987 Topps Toys R Us Rookies Box Set Barry Bonds #4 PSA 10 GEM MT Rookie RC

$133.50  (12 bids)
End Date: Wednesday Aug-10-2022 22:51:14 EDT

Bid

BARRY BONDS 1987 TOYS R US ROOKIE #4 PSA 10 WELL CENTERED!

$790.00  
End Date: Thursday Aug-11-2022 20:52:38 EDT
Buy It Now for only: $790.00
Buy It Now

Barry Bonds Rookie Card Checklist (with Investment Ranking)

Here is the final checklist of all Barry Bonds rookie cards, with our final investment rankings.

Note these investment rankings are primarily centered on our thoughts on the PSA 10 graded cards from each issue.   

1.  1987 Topps OPC #320 - 8.5 out of 10
2.  1986 Fleer Update #14 - 8.5 out of 10
3.  1987 Fleer Glossy #604 - 8.5 out of 10
4.  1986 Topps Traded Tiffany #11T - 8 out of 10
5.  1986 Donruss Rookies #11 - 7.5 out of 10
6.  1986 Topps Traded #11T - 7 out of 10
7.  1987 Topps Tiffany #320 - 7 out of 10
8.   1987 Fleer #604 - 7 out of 10
9.   1987 Donruss #361 - 6.5 out of 10
10.  1987 Topps #320 - 6 out of 10
11.  1986 Sportflics #13 - 5.5 out of 10
12.  1987 Toysrus #4 - 5.5 out of 10
13.  1987 Classic Travel #113 - 5 out of 10
14.  1987 Opening Day #163 - 4.5 out of 10

Barry Bonds Rookie Card Value

Bonds rookie cards have increased in value over time, even despite his omission from the Hall Of Fame

The good news for investors is that even Barry Bonds' most valuable cards can be found for very affordable prices in grades below PSA 9 and PSA 10.

donruss-87-bonds

Raw (ungraded) versions of these cards are also a great opportunity for investors looking to buy into some of Bonds' rarer rookie cards.

The Bonds rookie cards with the highest production runs, such as the 1987 Topps, Donruss or Fleer cards can typically be found in ungraded conditions for between $5 to $10.  

Barry Bonds Most Valuable Cards

Barry Bonds' most valuable cards include the 1987 OPC, 1987 Topps Tiffany rookie cards, along with the 1986 Topps Traded Tiffany extended rookie card. 

For collectors looking for the best Bonds rookie card investment, these would be the three to target in any higher grades.  

However, it won't be cheap - for example, PSA 10 1987 OPC Barry Bonds rookie cards have been selling for in excess of $18k to $20k.  Lower grade Mint (PSA 9) OPC copies typically can be found for under $1000. 

bonds-values

Comparing Barry Bonds PSA 10 Rookies To Michael Jordan 86 Fleer Rookie

This might be completely insane, but since the cards came out of the same exact time frame in sports, and the two players (despite the steroid stuff with Bonds) were basically the best among their peer group..maybe we should well compare values?  

Of course it's slightly insane--one, (aside from his Star cards) there really is only one accepted Jordan rookie card.   Bonds has many, and most trounced the production of the 86 Fleer set.  Although some didn't and some have much lower populations.  

We can see in the comparison below that many of Bonds harder to find PSA 10's--notably the 86 Topps Tiffany, 87 Topps Tiffany and 87 Fleer Glossy cards are quite near the graded population for Jordan and at tiny fraction of the value.

bonds-vs-jordan

Yep, we get it...Bonds has the stain...Jordan is well the GOAT and really can do no wrong.  What do you think?  Should the Bonds rookies be worth more?  Let us know in the comments section! 

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  1. I believe the market has spoken. His cards have only increased, and rapidly since the vote denied him for a 9th time. Iconic cards like his are being viewed like art. And with all the institutional money coming into the business, the sky is the limit on the 1986 Topps Traded Tiffany card. Your side by side with Jordan’s rookie mat not be too far off. Time will tell.

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