Top 20 Frank Thomas Cards
Frank Thomas cards were some of the most popular during the 1990s. One of baseball's top hitters at the time, he could hit for average and power. Thomas could be counted on to do just about anything at the plate.
Hitting his peak at a time when the hobby was big into experimenting, there are a lot of flashy Frank Thomas cards out there. Actually, there are a lot of different Frank Thomas cards, period. These range from cheap base cards in overproduced sets to modern hits that come with autographs and memorabilia pieces. Collectors have literally thousands to choose from.
Below is a list of 20 (and change) of some of the best and most iconic Frank Thomas cards of all-time. While value certainly comes into play, it's definitely not the sole criteria.
Top Frank Thomas Cards
The first Frank Thomas card is extremely rare. Produced for Auburn University, the set focuses on greats who attended the school. It has a very plain design, but its notoriety for being the legend's cardboard debut is impossible to overlook.
Honoring the slugger's time with Team USA, this bright card comes with a black and white photo. It's not nearly as rare (or as pricey) as the Auburn card. A similarly designed card with a red border was released in 1990.
Tough to find, but not impossible, Frank Thomas leads the 20-card set Ballpark Cape Cod Prospects set. Also on the checklist is another of the era's top first basemen, Jeff Bagwell. The overall layout of the card is very plain and not very flattering, but it does have a solid posed photo. The back looks like a stick of gum.
Frank Thomas doesn't have a lot of minor league cards that came out before his official MLB rookie cards in 1990. The 1988 P and L Promotions Cape Code Prospects is the most common. Reasonably priced and dreadfully designed, it's an affordable card for those looking for something early and different.
Regular 1990 Bowman Frank Thomas rookie cards are about as hard to find as a cigarette butt on a downtown street corner. But if you're looking for some rarity, go for the more premium Tiffany version. Available only in a special factory set, 1990 Bowman Tiffany cards come with a glossy finish. More importantly, the set has a print run of just 10,000.
Frank Thomas rookie cards don't get any more iconic than 1990 Leaf. When the Big Hurt was in his prime, this was the card almost everyone wanted. Once upon a time, you could expect to pay $100 or more for this card. Today? Not even close. Even high-grade PSA and BGS versions can be found for around that price. So if you always dreamed of owning a 1990 Leaf Frank Thomas but couldn't afford it, now's a great time to give it a second look.
Long the overlooked stepchild of the main Topps line, O-Pee-Chee baseball cards offer the same overall look. And much lower print runs. 1990 O-Pee-Chee Baseball looks even more like Topps than most years as the Canadian cards kept the main name. However, backs have a different copyright line and the bilingual text. When it comes to picking Frank Thomas rookie cards, none are wildly valuable anymore. However, the 1990 O-Pee-Chee Frank Thomas offers more of a challenge than Topps or Score, particularly if you're looking for ultra high-grade copies.
Normally, printing defects are treated as such and don't carry much widespread appeal. The 1990 Topps No Name on Front Frank Thomas is a big exception. While the card does have some black on it, Thomas' name got left off for some reason. The rarity often sells for more than $1,000 still today.
This is the same situation as Bowman Tiffany. Rarer card + better quality = more valuable card. It's believed the 1990 Topps Tiffany set has a print run of 15,000. The design is much the same as the regular 1990 Topps Frank Thomas. The biggest differences are the slick glossy finish and light card stock on the back.
The significance here is not Frank Thomas in a bow tie. And while holograms are always cool (it's on the front), the key here is that it's the first certified Frank Thomas autograph card. Hand numbered to 1250, there are actually 2,500 total cards. The print run is split evenly between silver holograms and gold ones. Gold cards also have his jersey number inscribed with the signature. Despite its early release, this is one of the most affordable Frank Thomas autograph cards. The lack of license, signature on the back and said bow tie are some of the biggest reasons for this.
1991 Topps Baseball is a beautiful set in its own right. But that's not the card that's on the list (though it is $1 well spent). This is the 1991 Topps Desert Shield version. Noted for its special logo on the top, these cards were made specifically for troops in the original Gulf War. History and rarity combine to make it one of the most desired sets of the 1990s, especially when it comes to superstars like Frank Thomas.
"Limited edition" is in the eye of the beholder. Today, a print run of 10,000 would get branded as a travesty. In 1992, it really was rare. Although not as iconic as the 1991 Donruss Elite inserts, the cards are widely recognized for kicking off the serial number craze. The follow-ups have a lot of flash along with a young Frank Thomas on the checklist. A fun photo only adds to its odd appeal.
Remember when this was the hottest card in the hobby? I remember watching a lot of Perfect Strangers around then too. Times change. And so do card values. This isn't the juggernaut that it once was, but to a lot of long-time collectors, the 1992 Fleer Rookie Sensations Frank Thomas still ranks among his most iconic cards. A big part of its appeal is the fact that the inserts were only found in jumbo packs.
Leaf did lots of things with Frank Thomas when he signed on as a company spokesman in 1993. From a collecting perspective, none were more important than this card -- the first pack-inserted Frank Thomas autograph. Simple but impressive, the card comes numbered to 3500. It was inserted in 1993 Leaf Update Baseball packs.
Not many parallel sets can make the claim of being iconic in the hobby. 1993 Topps Finest Refractors are a huge exception. They marked new territory that is still a major force in sports card collecting today. With a print run that's believed to be 241, 1993 Topps Finest Frank Thomas Refractors still bring big prices.
1996 Leaf Signature Series broke new ground for a MLB set, delivering an autograph in every pack. With Frank Thomas as their spokesman, the White Sox great played a big part in the release including signed promo cards. He has Bronze, Silver and Gold Autographs in the first release, each differentiated by the medallion on the front. Not only that, but completists may also want to track down black and blue ink variations. Thomas can also be found in the Extended Series, which comes with a different design.
1996 Select Certified took rarity to a new level with their Mirror parallels. Although not serial numbered Mirror Red cards are limited to 90. Mirror Blue cards have half that. Mirror Gold parallels are even tougher, limited to just 30 copies each. Although print runs were shrinking across the board at this point, these were still extremely hard to find and still command a lot of attention today.
There was a big change in baseball cards in 1997. That's when the first MLB game-used memorabilia cards came out. While Upper Deck beat Leaf to the punch as far as being first, the 1997 Leaf Thomas Collection is still very impressive. Inserted in 1997 Leaf Series 2 packs, the set has six different cards, each numbered to 100. Memorabilia swatches include a game-used hat, bat, batting glove, sweatband, a home jersey, and an away jersey.
Precious Metal Gems don't have the same history and love in baseball as they do in basketball where Michael Jordan, Kobe and other top stars can pull in thousands of dollars. However, it is starting to rub off on their diamond cousins. Prices on 1998 Metal Universe Baseball PMGs have been creeping up in recent years. Limited to 50 copies each, most have made their way into permanent collections so be prepared to pay should one pop up.
When the 1990 Leaf Frank Thomas first came out, the hobby landscape was very different. When it came to autographs, we only had a faint hope of finding the Reggie in 1990 Upper Deck High Number packs. Today, autographs are king. With 2012 Leaf Memories paying tribute to 1990 Leaf, a signed Frank Thomas rookie was a perfect piece of nostalgia. Numbered to 35, the card is an original rookie card that has been autographed. A foil stamp was also added to the card showing that it's from the release.
Seeing as how this is a redemption, let's call this a bonus. But when this card finally goes live, how cool will it be? It's tough to argue against having autographs and memorabilia from three of the biggest names from their era on the same card. The basic version has 36 copies but there are also several parallels.