The 1990s had its ups and its downs. The decade began with the hobby hotter than ever. But then came the inevitable crash, which was further fueled by the baseball strike that killed the 1994 World Series and carried into 1995. But the latter part of the decade saw memorable moments when Cal Ripken Jr. broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive games streak and Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa chased 60 home runs. For collectors, the 1990s brought tons of great rookie cards that remain must-haves today.
Compared to a lot of modern high-end cards, almost all 1990s rookie cards can be seen as a bargain (at least raw copies). But just because they may not bring future riches doesn't mean that these cards should be ignored or shunned like Jose Canseco at an official MLB function. Below are the top MLB rookie cards from the 1990s that every fan of the era should consider.
Only one rookie card is included for each player, although most have several. However, the featured card below is generally perceived as being the player's best rookie.
Did we miss one? Let us know in the comments.
Top 1990s Baseball Rookie Cards to Collect
Click on the card listing to shop on eBay or check current values. Bolded links go to detailed profiles.
One of the decade's most beloved players, the Frank Thomas rookie card in 1990 Leaf Baseball benefits from a clean design and premium card stock. Long one of the era's most popular cards, it now stands far above the 1990 Leaf Sammy Sosa rookie.
Other than a small line of text and white card stock, the 1991 O-Pee-Chee Chipper Jones looks rookie card almost exactly like its Topps MLB counterpart. Intended for the Canadian market, it's much rarer than his other rookie cards and has started to spike, particularly graded copies.
Like the Chipper Jones card, a ridiculous print run will forever keep the Jim Thome rookie 1991 Upper Deck Final Edition from ever gaining any significant value. There does seem to be something wrong with getting a member of the 600 Home Run Club's rookie for less than a cup of Starbucks coffee. This card won't give you bad breath either.
Mariano Rivera has but one rookie card. And until recently, it was largely ignored. Now that many recognize the Yankees great as the best closer to ever play the game, the Mariano Rivera rookie in 1992 Bowman Baseball has become hot in the hobby. It's also a great reminder of early-'90s fashion.
It was a toss-up as to whether to include the 1992 Fleer Update rookie for Mike Piazza or the catcher's 1992 Bowman rookie card. The Bowman card looks better and is more iconic but the Fleer is less common. Ultimately, Piazza's 1992 Fleer Update rookie has long been the one that collectors chase. That said, both are reasonably priced cards for one of baseball's best-ever catchers.
Does this card need justification? Next to the 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr, the Derek Jeter rookie card in 1993 SP Baseball may be the hobby's most important and recognized baseball rookie of the past 40 years. The foil card stock makes it extremely condition-sensitive and high-grade versions go for big money.
Admitted steroid usage, huge contracts and tabloid drama put Rodriguez out of favor with a lot of collectors. But the 1994 SP Baseball rookie card for Alex Rodriguez is still a standout from the decade thanks to his productive career. Like the 1993 SP Derek Jeter, foil edges wreak havoc with this card.
Vladimir Guerrero's career did not end the same excitement as when it began. His 1995 Bowman's Best rookie card may be worth only a fraction of what it once was but it's still one of the decade's best.
The Roy Halladay rookie card in 1997 Bowman Chrome Baseball took a while to emerge. That comes easy when you're playing in Toronto. Now in the Hall of Fame, Doc has taken up the mantel as the go-to card for the landmark 1997 Bowman Chrome set.