When it comes to the best two sports athletes in the history of sports, only a handful typically come to mind.
Throughout my life, I witnessed a few: Deion Sanders, Danny Ainge, even Brian Jordan. However, there is one player that rises to the top of them all: Bo Jackson.
It might seem like a no-brainer to invest in Bo Jackson’s rookie cards, but his cards were issued from 1986 to 1987, the peak of the Junk Era, and produced in the tens of millions.
Still, I wanted to review Bo’s rookie cards to see if there might be one or two that could be attractive investments for the long run.
Let’s dig in.
Bo Jackson As A Player
Bo Jackson was the epitome of a two-sport athlete. Unfortunately, a hip injury derailed what might have been a long history for Bo as one of the best two-sport players in professional sports.
As a football player, Bo Jackson spent his college years as a running back for the Auburn Tigers, winning the Heisman Trophy in 1985 and finishing his four-year collegiate career with an impressive 4,575 total yards and 45 total touchdowns.
While playing collegiate football, Jackson started to show more interest in baseball and refused to report to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who drafted him #1 in the 1986 NFL Draft.
Instead, Jackson opted to play baseball for the Kansas City Royals minor league system after the Royals drafted Jackson in the 4th round of the 1986 MLB draft. However, things changed when the Los Angeles Raiders drafted Jackson in the 1987 NFL Draft.
Jackson was comforted that the Raiders were willing to let Bo play both baseball and football and even miss some NFL games to do so.
Jackson was a fantastic athlete, and, unfortunately, he didn't get to have a longer career. His football career lasted only four seasons, and he was a part-time player, so when examining his stats, the numbers are hard to compare to anyone else. But when on the field, Jackson was an electric running back, and in my mind, one of the best I've ever seen.
In my opinion, Jackson was a better football player than a baseball player.
But Bo was still a damn good baseball player; he had power, speed, and a ridiculous arm in center field. He struck out a lot, so he wasn't much of a contact hitter. But his 1989 season was the example of what Bo could do - batting .256, with 32 home runs and 26 stolen bases, but 172 strikeouts in 515 at-bats.
Here's a taste of Bo's cannon arm in the outfield:
All Vintage Cards - Bo Jackson Rookie Card Top Picks
Best Overall Value 1987 Fleer Glossy
Best Overall Design 1987 Donruss
Best Investment 86 Topps Traded Tiffany
Bo Jackson: Best Rookie Cards
Since Bo played two sports, he has several rookie across baseball and football. Here is my choice for his best six rookie cards, spanning both sports.
1986 Topps Traded Tiffany #50T (XRC)
Bo Jackson's 1986 Topps Traded and Topps Traded Tiffany are considered his XRC (or Extended Rookie Cards). An XRC is a precursor to a player's rookie card from a major issue set.
Often times, a company will include a very popular player in update or traded sets in order to get a jump on excitement from collectors. This was certainly the case with Bo Jackson, as fans were soon starting to realize how much of a beast this guy would be on the diamond.
While the print run on the 1986 Topps Traded factory sets is unknown it is likely a fairly large quantity. A quick look at PSA's population reports shows us that Bo's 1986 Topps Traded card has a graded population of nearly 9,000 (note Barry Bonds 86 Topps traded card has a population closer to 50,000).
Note that the Tiffany cards are identical to the Topps Traded cards but have a glossy coating on the front of the cards.
However, Bo's 1986 Topps Traded Tiffany card is a lot harder to find, with Topps printing only 5,000 total sets. Bo Jackson's 1986 Topps Traded Tiffany card has a population of only ~700 . A number I'm much more comfortable with a number and why I view it as Bo's best rookie card from a long-term investment perspective.
PSA 9 (Mint) copies of Jackson's Traded Tiffany card sell for around $1000, which I think is a steal. And of course, if you have the big bucks, a PSA 10 can be bought at auction for over $10K.
Note that there are less than 200 graded PSA 9 or PSA 10 copies.
1987 Donruss Bo Jackson #35 (RC)
I grew up collecting during the '80s, and I always loved the 1987 Donruss set.
The funny thing is, at the time, the 87 Donruss set felt like a super premium issue, more expensive and harder to get than Topps.
And while the scarcity difference is somewhat true ( estimates pin 87 Topps production at around 3x that of Donruss ), the fact is that the print runs for 87 Donruss were close to approximately 1 million copies of each player.
So, it's hard for me to say that Bo's 87 Donruss rookie card is a great investment (given the supply), however the cards are quite condition sensitive, due to the black borders.
Thus, I think you could buy a PSA 10 copy NOW and see a pretty good long term return on your investment.
There are only ~1300 Gem Mint PSA 10 Bo Jackson Donruss rookies in existence and they can be found quite easily for less than $200. Sure there's still a massive, raw, ungraded population (and tons of wax out there). But these cards are not easy to grade a Perfect 10.
1987 Leaf Bo Jackson #35 (RC)
The Candian Donruss issue was issued in scarcer quantities and much harder to find versus the base Donruss set. The only difference on the front of the cards is the big Leaf logo on the top left.
In examining the PSA Population reports, the Leaf Bo Jackson card has only around 1/10th the graded population as the Donruss card. And a PSA 10 (GEM Mint) copy can be found for between $500 to $600. Note, less than 100 have been graded.
1987 Fleer Glossy Bo Jackson #369 (RC)
I voted Bo Jackson's 1987 Fleer Glossy card as the Best Overall Value and here's why. It is believed that 75,000 Fleer Glossy sets were produced, so higher than the 86 Topps Traded Tiffany (5,000 produced) or the 1987 Topps Tiffany (30,000 sets produced).
However, in one look at the population reports, it is clear that the card hasn't been graded all that much: only ~1100 copies in total have been graded. And a PSA 10 (with an existing population of less than 200 cards) can be found for around $200.
1987 Topps Tiffany Bo Jackson (Future Stars) (RC)
Another of Bo's true rookie cards, the Topps Tiffany set was a parallel issue to the base 87 Topps set and similar to the Fleer Glossy set of the same year.
An estimated 30,000 Topps Tiffany sets were produced, meaning that the potential supply is still fairly high.
Nearly 1600 copies of the Bo Jackson Tiffany rookie card have been graded, with over 400 earning a PSA 10 grade. So, certainly easier to find versus the 86 Topps Traded Tiffany but a higher population than the 87 Fleer Glossy set, even despite a shorter print run.
A PSA 10 copy sells for under $700, so pricier than the 87 Fleer Glossy Bo.
1988 Topps Football Bo Jackson #327 RC
I would feel remiss not to include Bo's only true football rookie card.
So, here is Bo Jackson's 1988 Topps Football card, one that was produced in massive quantities. Thus, encouraging as an investment is a struggle, however, I would look towards PSA 10 Gem Mint copies as a potential investment.
Out of over 7,000 cards that have been graded, PSA has only awarded ~500 a PSA 10 grade. Collectors can typically find a PSA 10 Bo 1988 Topps RC for less than $1000.
Bo Jackson Rookie Card Values
See below for Bo's Most Popular Rookie cards and the corresponding values and cards graded in PSA 10 (Gem Mint) grade.
PSA 10 Value
PSA 10 Population
Topps Traded Tiffany
What's The Most Valuable Bo Jackson Rookie Card?
Bo Jackson's most valuable rookie card is the 1986 Topps Traded Tiffany XRC (Extended Rookie Card). In PSA 10 (Gem Mint) condition, the card sells for over $10,000.
What's The Rarest Bo Jackson Rookie Card?
Bo Jackson's rarest rookie card is the 1986 Topps Traded Tiffany XRC. The set was issued in limited quantities (estimated production run is 5000 sets).
Bo Jackson Rookie Card Investment Potential
I like the investment potential for the Bo Jackson rookie cards, especially the harder to find cards in PSA 10 grade. I would focus on the 1987 Leaf, 1987 Fleer Glossy or 1987 Topps Tiffany in PSA 10 grade. And then the 1986 Topps Traded Tiffany Bo in PSA 9 grade.
I'm not sure if there's any specific catalyst to spur prices for Bo's cards higher, but I think the legend and the mystique for Bo's greatness will remain and collectors of the era will likely circle back and look for Bo's more valuable and harder to find cards.
Bo Jackson Rookie Card Checklist
Bo's Baseball Rookie Cards:
1986 Southern League All-Stars Bo Jackson #13 (RC)
1986 Donruss Highlights Bo Jackson #43 (RC)
1986 Topps Traded Bo Jackson #50T Silver (RC)
1986 Topps Traded Tiffany Bo Jackson #50T Silver (RC)
1986 Sportflics Bo Jackson #40 (RC)
1987 Auburn Tigers Tiger Great Bo Jackson (RC)
1987 Classic MLB Game Bo Jackson #15
1987 Classic Travel Update Yellow Bo Jackson #109
1987 Donruss Bo Jackson #35 Rated Rookie
1987 Donruss Opening Day Bo Jackson #205
1987 Fleer Bo Jackson #369
1987 Fleer Glossy Bo Jackson #369
1987 Leaf Bo Jackson #35
1987 Sportflics Bo Jackson #190
1987 Topps Bo Jackson #170 Future Stars
1987 Topps Tiffany Bo Jackson #170 Future Stars
1987 Toys R Us Rookies Bo Jackson #13
Bo Jackson Football Rookie Cards
1987 Auburn Tigers Bo Jackson
1988 Ace Fact Pack Bo Jackson
1988 Raiders Police Bo Jackson #9
1988 Raiders Smokey Bo Jackson
1988 Topps Raiders Team Leaders #325
1988 Topps Bo Jackson #327
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