ken-griffey-rookie-cards

Investor’s Choice: Best Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Cards to Buy Now

From the iconic 1989 Upper Deck rookie card, to the rarer Bowman Tiffany issue, these Griffey Jr Rookie Cards Are The Ones To Consider For Investment

Updated Oct 21, 2023

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Ken Griffey Jr rookie cards were released at the height of the junk era in 1989.

Sadly, these first release cards saw massive print runs, limiting today's value.

However, some card companies produced a few Griffey Jr rookie cards in more limited quantities, most of which have increased in value over time.

Today, demand for Griffey Jr's baseball cards remains high.

Ken Griffey Jr is on a short list of superstars from the 90's who emerged from the steroid era unscathed, finishing his career as one of the best players ever.

For collectors looking for the best Ken Griffey Jr rookie cards, this guide will provide more information on the rarer, more valuable Griffey Jr issues to invest in.

More...

griffey
Key Points
  • Ken Griffey Jr's Most Valuable rookie card is the 1989 Bowman Tiffany edition, with Gem-Mint, PSA 10 copies today selling for $14,000. 
  • While Griffey's Upper Deck #1 rookie card is the most iconic and most sought-after, it was produced in massive quantities. Over 85K copies have been graded by PSA to date. 
  • Autographed copies of Griffey Jr's rookie cards are affordable and can be found on eBay starting at $200.  
  • Griffey's rarest issue is the 1989 Topps Test Heads up 'card' although some debate whether it should be considered a card or not. 
Conclusion

Ken Griffey Jr has a total of 27 pre-rookie (minor league) and rookie cards. However, only a few warrant investment. We chose six more mainstream cards with limited supplies (in PSA 10 grades), which should increase in value over time. A recent correction in values from the peak pandemic-driven card bubble allows collectors to buy top Griffey rookie cards at a discount. 

The Best Ken Griffey Jr Rookie Cards

1. 1989 Bowman Tiffany Ken Griffey Jr (RC) #220

  • Value (PSA 10): $10,000
  • PSA Population (PSA 10): 157
  • Highest Sale Price (PSA 10): $23,800 in February 2021 (source)

The 1989 Bowman Tiffany set had a limited release of 6,000 sets, making it rarer than the regular Bowman set. Its scarcity makes it the most valuable Griffey rookie card and a prime choice for long-term investment.

bowman-tiff-griff

The Bowman Tiffany cards were not released in packs and instead were sold as a factory set to collectors. Those smart enough to store an unwrapped set from 1989 to today would have amassed a decent sum, as unopened Tiffany sets sell for around $1500 on eBay.

bowman-factory-set

An unopened 1989 Bowman Tiffany set.

The Bowman Tiffany cards are identical to the regular Bowman issue. The only major difference is that the Tiffany variations have a glossy front and white backs.

Notably, both Bowman cards have slightly larger dimensions than regular-sized baseball cards.

griffey-bowman-base

The back of the base Bowman Giffey Jr rookie card has a dark grey background.

bowman-griffey-tiffany-back

The back of the 1989 Bowman Tiffany Griffey RC has a white background and is much lighter than the base Bowman card.

In terms of rarity, Ken Griffey Jr's 1989 Bowman Tiffany card has a population of only ~1600 PSA Graded cards. Whereas Griffey's base Bowman card has a PSA Graded population of 24,000 copies.

The Bowman Tiffany Griffey rookie is a good investment, especially given its scarcity relative to his other popular rookies. 

tiffany-griff-pop

PSA Population Report and Values for the 1989 Bowman Tiffany Griffey Jr Rookie Card

A perfect Gem-Mint, PSA 10 copy of Griffey's Tiffany rookie card sells for around $10K, and less than 200 exist. 

So, unfortunately out of budget for most collectors.

I like Mint, PSA 9 graded copies for longer term investment potential.

Today, there are less than 500 PSA 9 graded copies, yet they sell for a fraction of PSA 10 graded cards, selling for an average price of $1250 at auction.

2. 1989 Topps Traded Tiffany Ken Griffey Jr Rookie #41T 

  • Value (PSA 10): $3,000
  • PSA Population (PSA 10): 338
  • Highest Sale Price (PSA 10): $11,995 in February 2021 (source)

Topps goofed and didn't get Griffey in the 1989 Topps set, so they created a baseball card for him in the Topps Traded set of the same year.

89-topps-traded-tiffany

1989 Topps Tiffany Traded Ken Griffey Jr RC

Topps once again issued a limited print Topps Tiffany set that replicated their base Topps Traded set.

The 1989 Topps Traded Tiffany set was limited to a release of 15,000 sets, more than double that of the 1989 Bowman Tiffany set.

If you're buying to invest, it helps to know the print run of the issue. A huge difference between the unknown production runs of the junk base card sets.

griff-traded-tiff

PSA Population Report and Values for the 1989 Traded Tiffany Griffey Jr Rookie Card

It's important to note that Griffey's base 1989 Topps Traded baseball card was printed in massive quantities - over 76K copies were graded by PSA!

PSA has graded nearly 2100 copies of Griffey's 1989 Topps Traded Tiffany card, with only 330 cards earning a PSA Gem Mint 10 grade.

Top condition (PSA 10) copies sell for over $3K, but a PSA 9 copy is much more affordable, trading hands at around $600.

The PSA 9 variation has a higher graded population (over 1300 cards) than the PSA 10 (no surprise), but given the relative scarcity, it's one of the better values among all valuable Ken Griffey Jr Rookie cards

3. 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr Rookie Stars #1 (RC)

  • Value (PSA 10): $2,000
  • PSA Population (PSA 10): 4100
  • Highest Sale Price (PSA 10): $2,760 in June 2021 (source)

Upper Deck revolutionized card collecting in 1989 with its premium designs and foil packs. This contrasted with the basic cards from brands like Topps and Donruss. This move by Upper Deck set a trend for more high-end cards in the market.

psa-10-griffey-ud

1989 Upper Deck Griffey Jr Rookie Card (RC)

As a collector at the time, I remember breaking apart a foil pack, praying for a Ken Griffey Junior Upper Deck rookie card.

It was THE hobby's hottest card and the 'holy grail' for kids at the time. 

upper-deck-packs

An unopened box of 1989 Upper Deck baseball.

*Side note: if you want to read a great story about the Upper Deck company and its mark left on the hobby in the 1990's, check out the book 'Card Sharks', which we listed here as one of the best baseball card books for collectors.

1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr #1 Rookie RC PSA 9

$160.00  
End Date: Sunday Mar-03-2024 23:26:04 EST
Buy It on eBay for only: $160.00
Buy It Now on eBay

1989 Upper Deck #1 Ken Griffey Jr. RC Rookie Autograph Gem Mint PSA DNA 10 Auto

$5.50  (4 bids)
End Date: Thursday Feb-29-2024 23:02:00 EST

Bid

Many assumed that Upper Deck had a limited print due to its premium look. However, this was a misconception.

Over 1 million Griffey Jr Upper Deck rookies were printed according to a 2008 Slate piece.

More than 1 million Griffey cards were printed. In Upper Deck’s original mailing to dealers, the company said it would sell 65,000 cases of card packs. With 20 boxes in a case, 520 cards in a box, and 700 different cards in the set, there would be about 965,000 of each card produced for the boxes. Combine that number with the amount of Griffey's in the untold number of “factory sets,” and you’d have your production run.

In examining the PSA Population reports for the 89 Upper Deck Griffey, there is no doubt that the card was printed in big quantities.

PSA has graded over 85,000 copies of the 1989 Upper Deck #1 Ken Griffey Jr card, making it the most graded of all his rookie cards, even more than his Donruss and Fleer rookies.

A PSA 10 (Gem Mint condition) Upper Deck Griffey rookie is very hard to come by, with less than 4,000 copies (4.7% of the  PSA graded population) graded by PSA.

Graders are very strict, especially on the back hologram on the card. If it isn't centered and unscratched, there is zero likelihood of earning a PSA 10. 

griffey-hologram

Back of the 1989 Ken Griffey Jr Rookie Card. Graders are very focused on the condition of the hologram on the back and will not award a high grade if it's scratched or way off center.

In my mind, a PSA 10 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr card is still an excellent investment, even at $2000.

It remains an iconic card that will forever be in demand amongst collectors.

Alternatively, a PSA 9 graded copy is more affordable, selling on eBay for about $200.

However, there are nearly 27,000 PSA graded copies making it a good, albeit, not great investment. 

griffey-psa

PSA Population Report and Values for the 1989 Upper Deck Griffey Jr Rookie Card

4. 1989 Fleer Glossy Ken Griffey Jr #548 (RC)

  • Value (PSA 10): $3,600
  • PSA Population (PSA 10): 118
  • Highest Sale Price (PSA 10): $7,500 in March 2021 (source)

Like the 1989 Bowman Tiffany card, the 1989 Fleer Glossy Ken Griffey Jr rookie card offers a rarer version of a base, junk set.

fleer-glossy-griff

1989 Fleer Glossy Ken Griffey Jr RC

An estimated 30,000 1989 Fleer Glossy sets exist, well above the estimated 6,000 set print run for the 1989 Bowman Tiffany set.

However, based on pop reports, the Fleer Glossy Griffey card has a low supply: only ~1800 graded copies.

A top condition copy (PSA 10), with an existing population of less than 120 graded cards, sells for $3600.

How To Tell The Difference Between A 1989 Fleer Griffey and A 1989 Fleer Glossy Griffey

The Fleer Glossy Griffey rookie card has a glossy finish on the front, whereas the regular 1989 Fleer Griffey card has a matte finish to the front.  The backs are also noticeably different.  The Glossy Griffey rookie has a blue background and a blue stamp with the words 'Collector Edition'.  The base Griffey has a yellow background without the blue stamp. 

fleer-glossy-griffey-back

The back of the 1989 Fleer Glossy Griffey rookie card.

griffey-back-fleer

The back of the base 1989 Fleer Griffey rookie card.

It's important to note the limited quantity of the Glossy version versus the 1989 Fleer main release Griffey card, which has a total of 55K PSA graded copies.

There are only 600 PSA 9 Fleer Glossy Griffey Jr rookie cards, which sell for $375 and are a more attractive value for collectors on a budget.

This is my choice for the best overall investment value among all of Griffey's rookie cards. 

griffey-glossypsa

5. 1989 Donruss Ken Griffey Jr Rated Rookie #33 (RC)

  • Value (PSA 10): $350
  • PSA Population (PSA 10): 1940
  • Highest Sale Price (PSA 10): $1,400 in Feb 2021 (source)

Investing in a card with such massive quantities (in the 1 Million + range) is hard, but I must list it here.

The 1989 Donruss Griffey Jr rookie remains one of the most recognized, yet more affordable Ken Griffey Jr rookie cards.

donruss-griff

The legendary 1989 Donruss Rated Rookie Griffey Jr Rookie card

The design is impeccable.

Griffey's 1989 Donruss card is iconic with its "Rated Rookie" logo and vibrant colors.

With 37,000 PSA-graded copies, collectors often eye the PSA 10 Gem Mint condition cards for investment.

griffey-banged-up

1989 Donruss Griffey Jr rookie, which shows how easily the dark borders can chip and show damage.

The dark borders do make the card somewhat 'condition' sensitive, but given the massive production of the set, there are quite a few Gem Mint cards in circulation.

As of this writing, there are nearly 2000 PSA 10 Donruss 'Rated Rookie' Griffey Jr cards, and each one is gonna set you back $350

Step down to a PSA 9, and it's a big difference, only $30, more than it costs to grade a card with PSA nowadays. 

SIDE NOTE and interesting factoid--is there some sort of graded card arbitrage when the price of the graded card is well below the costs to grade?

donruss-griff

6. 1987 Bellingham Mariners Ken Griffey Jr #15 (XRC)

  • Value (PSA 10): $600
  • PSA Population (PSA 10): 792
  • Highest Sale Price (PSA 10): $1,500 in Feb 2021 (source)

I went with Griffey's earliest released pre-rookie minor league card for the last card on this list.

The card is an all-time classic, featuring Ken Griffey Jr in his minor league Bellingham Mariners uniform.

griff-bellingham

The sets were issued by the Bellingham Mariners, and according to PSA, there are 3000+ graded copies. 

This is the best choice if you want to invest in any Griffey Minor League rookie card. It is also one of my favorite Ken Griffey Jr rookie cards.

A top condition (PSA 10) copy of the card can typically be found for around $600; less than 800 have been awarded the prestigious PSA Gem Mint grade

Ken Griffey Jr Rookie Card Values

See below for Griffey's Most Popular Rookie cards and the corresponding values of each card graded in PSA 10 (Gem Mint) grade. The most expensive Ken Griffey Jr card is the 1989 Bowman Tiffany.  

Year
Set
PSA 10 Value
PSA 10 Population
1989
Bowman
$300
2168
1989
Bowman Tiffany
$10,000
156
1989
Donruss
$350
1869
1989
Donruss Rookies
$160
1707
1989
Fleer
$160
4888
1989
Fleer Glossy
$3,600
118
1989
Score Traded
$100
4616
1989
Topps Traded
$130
12750
1989
Topps Traded Tiffany
$3,000
330
1989
Upper Deck
$2,000
3990


What's The Most Valuable Ken Griffey Jr Rookie Card?

The most valuable Ken Griffey Jr rookie card is the 1989 Bowman Tiffany card #220 in a PSA 10 (Gem Mint) grade.  

bowman-tiff-griff

The 1989 Bowman Tiffany Griffey Jr Rookie Card is his most valuable and hardest to find in a PSA 10 grade.

Gem-Mint PSA 10 copies of Ken Griffey Jr.'s Bowman Tiffany Rookie card have consistently commanded strong prices, with recent sales reaching as high as $14,000.

Notably, in February 2021, a record was set when the card fetched an impressive $23,000 at a PWCC auction.

It's important to note that this record price was reached during the peak of the sports card market, and since then, prices for many valuable cards have undergone significant corrections.

fleer-glossy-griffey-values

PSA 10 Ken Griffey 89 Fleer Glossy Prices.

For collectors on a budget, the Fleer Glossy Griffey, graded at Mint PSA 9, presents an appealing alternative, typically available for approximately one-tenth of the price.

What's The Rarest Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Card?

1989 Topps Heads Up Griffey Jr Test Card

griffey-heads-up

1989 Topps Heads Up Griffey

Some might not consider it a baseball 'card', but Griffey's rarest rookie issue is the 1989 Topps Test Heads Up card.

The odd cards featured cutouts of a player's head with a suction cup on the back meant to stick on surfaces.

Shown: 1990 Topps Heads Up Cards, the much harder to find 1989 Test Heads Up Cards have a 1989 copyright on the back of the card.

There was a widely available issue of the Topps Heads Up baseball cards in 1990, but in 1989 Topps tested the product. And folklore has it that few were distributed. Here's a great writeup from the Collectors Universe forum:

heads-griff

The back of the very rare 1989 Topps Heads Up Ken Griffey

Legend goes that the release was test marketed to a couple of stores in the Pennsylvania area and that an estimated 24 total boxes were produced that contained 24 single item packs inside, thus making it one of the most elusive and rare items ever produced by Topps

PSA has graded only 17 of the 1989 Topps Test Heads Up Griffey Jr cards, and the last sale was back in 2000, for under $1000. Given the legend and rarity of these sports cards, I'd guess that a sale today would net in the many thousands of dollars, dependent on condition. 

What Is The Rarest Ken Griffey Jr Base Rookie Card?

Besides Griffey's oddball Heads Up issue, his rarest regular rookie card issue is the 1989 Bowman Tiffany #220.

There are only 1600 PSA graded copies; a pittance compared to the massive graded populations of some of his other mainstream issues from the likes of Fleer, Donruss and Upper Deck.

Regarding PSA 10 graded cards, the 1989 Fleer Glossy Griffey Junior has the lowest count. Only 118 copies, versus the 1989 Bowman Tiffany Griffey PSA 10 which has over 150 copies.

How Hard Is It To Get A PSA 10 Grade?

Total PSA Graded Population For Griffey's Best Rookie Cards


Are Ken Griffey Jr Rookie Cards A Good Investment?

Ken Griffey Jr was one of the best ever to play the game, and common sense tells us that his rookie cards are an excellent long-term investment

He's already made the HOF, so the clear catalyst for a surge in value isn't there, but there's enough collector demand to keep values stable.

griffey-jr-auto

Autographed copies of some of the more widely produced Griffey Jr rookie cards are affordable and make a great investment.

However, we must consider the massive quantities of supply for his rookie cards and, as an investor, focus in on those with more limited supplies.

Those would be the 1989 Bowman Tiffany Griffey Jr, the 1989 Fleer Glossy Griffey Jr and the 1989 Topps Traded Tiffany Griffey in PSA 10 grades, or PSA 9 if the budget doesn't allow.

Also, consider a Griffey Jr autographed card as a good alternative. There are plenty which are authenticated from various grading companies up for sale on eBay and are quite affordable if you shop around for a bit. 

Ken Griffey Jr.: Beyond the Backward Cap and Sweet Swing

stadium-club-griffey

Ken Griffey Jr. is one of the greatest players in baseball history.

He made a name for himself as an incredible hitter and a tremendous defensive outfielder.

Griffey won an amazing ten straight Gold Gloves from 1990 to 1999.

From the outset, Griffey was destined to play baseball.

ken griffey reds

Although Ken Griffey Jr spent most of his career with the Seattle Mariners, he spent nine seasons with the Cincinnati Reds and a short stint with the White Sox at the tail end of his career. 

As a kid, he grew up hanging around the clubhouse of the Cincinnati Reds, where his father, Ken Griffey Sr played as a part of the "Big Red Machine".

He got his start at Archbishop Moeller High School, (also the launching pad for one Barry Larkin) where he excelled at baseball and football.   

It was no surprise to anyone when the young Griffey, groomed to replace his old man, was drafted by the Seattle Mariners with the #1 Pick in the 1987 MLB Draft

Griffey's first years in the minor leagues didn't go exactly as planned. While he dominated the Northwest League, he also faced racial issues and a lot of pressure to succeed, nearly taking his own life.

griffey-san-bernardino

But, Griffey turned it around, joining the Seattle Mariners in 1989, bringing hope to one of the league's most beleaguered franchises. 

In his twenty-two years with both the Seattle Mariners and the Cincinnati Reds, Griffey amassed 630 Homeruns, good for seventh-best all-time. 

Ken Griffey Jr Lifetime Stats and Records (source)

Batting Average: .284
Hits: 2,781 (53rd overal)
Homeruns: 630 (7th Overall)
Runs Batted In (RBI's): 1836 (17th Overall)
Extra Base Hits: 1,192
Stolen Bases: 184
All Star Games: 13
Gold Gloves: 10
Home Run Derby Winner: 1994, 1998, 1999
HOF Election: 2016 (99.3%)

But not only was Griffey an amazing player but he was well respected by his teammates and coaches alike.

His father, early on, had taught him the importance of humility.

Juan Castro

Former teammate of Griffey Jr.

“Junior was one of those athletes born every 30 or 40 years with that special talent. Playing with and being around him was such a privilege because I got to know not only a great baseball player but a good teammate who was always so secure about what he was doing.”

Ken Griffey Jr was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2016. Here's a look at his impressive hall of fame induction speech...warning, a dry eye might not make it through this one alive. 

Here's a look at some of Griffey's standout performances over his career:

Ken Griffey Jr Rookie Card Checklist

Below is a checklist for all of Griffey's Pre-Rookie and Rookie Cards.

Pre-Rookie are those cards issued when Griffey was still playing in the minor leagues. 

Many of the Griffey pre-rookie card releases are not what I would consider 'true' rookie cards, especially those not part of a major issue, like the Star cards or Mother's Cookies, but given the 1989 release, I list them here for reference. 

Note that if you want a spreadsheet with PSA Population links for each card, please feel free to use this Google Sheet here

Griffey's Pre-Rookie Cards

1987 Bellingham Mariners Ken Griffey Jr #15 (XRC)
1988 Best San Bernardino Spirit Ken Griffey Jr #1 (XRC)
1988 Best San Bernardino Spirit Platinum Ken Griffey Jr #1 (XRC)
1988 Cal Cards San Bernardino Spirit Ken Griffey Jr #34 (XRC)
1988 Cal League All-Stars Ken Griffey Jr #26 (XRC)
1988 ProCards Vermont Mariners Ken Griffey Jr (XRC)


Ken Griffey Jr Rookie Cards

1989 Bowman Ken Griffey Jr. #220 
1989 Bowman Ken Griffey/Ken Griffey Jr. #259
1989 Bowman Tiffany Ken Griffey Jr. #220 
1989 Bowman Tiffany Ken Griffey Jr. #259 
1989 Classic Travel Update 1 Ken Griffey Jr. #131
1989 Classic Travel Update 2 (Purple) Ken Griffey Jr. #193
1989 Donruss Ken Griffey Jr. #33
1989 Donruss Baseball's Best Ken Griffey Jr. #192
1989 Donruss Rookies Ken Griffey Jr. #3
1989 Fleer Ken Griffey Jr. #548
1989 Fleer Glossy Ken Griffey Jr. #548
1989 Mother's Cookies Ken Griffey Jr. (#1 to #4)
1989 Pacific Candy Bar Card (3 Colors)
1989 Score Rookies Traded Ken Griffey Jr. #100T
1989 Score Young Superstar Series 2 Ken Griffey Jr. #18
1989 Scoremasters Ken Griffey Jr. #30
1989 Star Griffey Jr. Ken Griffey Jr. (#1-#11)
1989 Topps Heads Up Test Issue Ken Griffey Jr. #5
1989 Topps Traded Ken Griffey Jr. #41T 
1989 Topps Traded Tiffany Ken Griffey Jr. #41T 
1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. Star Rookie #1


Ken Griffey Jr Rookie Cards For Sale on eBay

ERROR 1974 Topps Ken Griffey Sr. 598/398 Reds Rookie Card WRONG BACK PSA 9 Mint

$2,500.00  
End Date: Thursday Feb-29-2024 03:41:53 EST
Buy It on eBay for only: $2,500.00
Buy It Now on eBay

1989 Upper Deck #1 Ken Griffey Jr. Star Rookie ICONIC Card RC PSA 10 Gem Mint

$1,525.00  (15 bids)
End Date: Sunday Feb-25-2024 22:26:56 EST

Bid

1989 Donruss - Ken Griffey , rated rookie card #33 Seattle Mariners (RC)

$5,000.00  
End Date: Tuesday Feb-27-2024 13:10:35 EST
Buy It on eBay for only: $5,000.00
Buy It Now on eBay

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About the author

Chris Rogers, is the founder of All Vintage Cards. Launched in 2018, All Vintage Cards is the hobby's leading resource for vintage sports cards. Chris is also the author of 'The Complete Guide To Selling Your Sports Cards'. Chris remains an avid collector and can be reached at chris@allvintagecards.com.

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  1. Great article, thank you! Question. You stated in your article…If you’re buying to invest, it helps to know the print run of the issue. A huge difference versus the unknown production runs of the junk base card sets.

    How / where do you locate the print run of the base card set? I am most interested in 1993 Pinnacle, 1987 Leaf, 1985 Leaf, and 1987 & earlier OPC. I feel like the production is less based on PSA submissions, but I have no idea on the actual print run. Thanks again!

    1. Hi Drew, this is a good resource that someone put together. https://www.net54baseball.com/showthread.php?t=281357. You are definitely right that production runs and PSA populations don’t always correlate with one another. I don’t think that link has all the ones you’re looking for…but Pinnacle was definitely massively produced, albeit probably less than some of the junkier Topps/Fleer etc. Leaf likely produced less than regular Donruss in most cases – Pop Reports on valuable card can help to distinguish differences.

  2. I have a 1989 #33 Ken Griffey Jr. Rated Rookie card it is in a sleeve followed with a 1"screw on case the card looks absolutely pristine! There are no major or league records listed on the back I would be interested in selling only to serious collectors and the price has to match the true value of card

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