When it comes to the modern hobby, there's nobody in baseball as beloved as Ken Griffey Jr. Even today, he's still one of the most collected players around. Being at the forefront of many of the trading card innovations from the 1990s, there are literally thousands of amazing Ken Griffey Jr. cards to choose from, but our aim is to narrow that down to some of his very best.
Here are a few of the Ken Griffey Jr. cards that have left a lasting impression on the hobby. Some may not be the rarest and others aren't the most valuable, but they all have made a major impact on collectors. The cards are listed in chronological order.
Top 10 Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball Cards to Collect
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Regarded as the earliest official Ken Griffey Jr. card, it shows "The Kid" with his first professional team, the Single-A Bellingham Mariners. Design-wise, little stands out for the team-issued card. Given its historical significance, it's reasonably priced. If you are interested in additional minor league options, view our detailed Ken Griffey Jr. Minor League and Pre-Rookie Card Guide.
The regular 1989 Topps Traded Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card suffers from being massively overproduced. However, the Tiffany version benefits from a relatively limited print run (although not confirmed like some other Topps Tiffany sets, it's believed to be 15,000 copies) and a glossy finish.
1989 Topps Baseball sometimes has a negative association simply based on its plentiful quantities. That shouldn't take away from the fun look. Traded also has one of the best Griffey photos among his rookie-year cards. Fans of the Tiffany cards may also want to consider the 1989 Bowman Tiffany Ken Griffey Jr, which is more limited but not nearly as nice looking.
It's not an understatement to say the 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. changed the hobby. The first card in the first official set from a company that pushed the boundaries of the hobby, it's one of the most iconic cards ever made. Sure, they may have been printed by the brick and they don't hold the same value as they once did but that doesn't make this 1989 Upper Deck Baseball rookie card any less classic. It is also the clear favorite among Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Cards.
It's hard to imagine the hobby today without Refractors. Topps launched the popular insert in 1993 with an extremely limited print run. Today, any 1993 Topps Finest Baseball Refractor is held in high regard. It just happens that Griffey's is held even higher than most.
Back in 1994, autograph cards were still relatively new and tough to come by. So when Upper Deck paired Griffey with Mickey Mantle, the dual autograph became an instant hobby classic. Limited to 1,000 copies, the card also comes in individually signed versions.
The mid- to late-1990s were filled with strange inserts. Few capture this more than 1997 E-X2000 A Cut Above. Inserted 1:288 packs, these extremely tough cards are die-cut into a circular saw blade. The shiny foilboard adds further flair. There are several other rare inserts from this era that could also be up for discussion, however, this particular Ken Griffey Jr. card mixes both the rarity and the look.
Today, one-of-one cards are a part of nearly every set. Many of them no longer get much attention. But that wasn't always the case. When Fleer introduced one-of-a-kind cards in 1997 Flair Showcase Baseball, they stirred up lots of conversation. It was an acknowledgment that rarity was a driving factor in the hobby, with sets trying to outdo each other. Once Flair Showcase took the ultimate step, there was no turning back. The release featured a tiered base set where every player had three different cards: Row 0, Row 1 and Row 2. Numbering and style for each were different. Because of the tiered structure, each player also had three different one-of-one Masterpiece cards.
Not surprisingly, it was Griffey's cards who led the charge. According to BaseballCardPedia, a collector bought two of the cards shortly after release for nearly $30,000. The collector who pulled the third one-of-one allegedly turned down an offer of more than $20,000.
An image wasn't available, but here's Griffey's Row 1 base card. Masterpieces are noted by the numbering on the back and purple foil lettering.
Believe it or not, there was a small window of time when game-used jersey cards held tremendous value and appeal. For baseball collectors, memorabilia cards can be traced back to 1997 Upper Deck, which included one of three jersey cards every 800 packs. Tough in their own right, they became iconic for their part in launching one of the biggest trends in hobby history. While collectors still clamor for the Tony Gwynn and Rey Ordonez cards from the set, it's the Ken Griffey Jr. card that became the face of all the game-used baseball cards that followed.
With its elegant design and cross-generational checklist, Upper Deck's Piece of History 500 Club is one of the greatest insert sets the hobby has ever seen. How appropriate then that Griffey, the face of the company since the beginning, was added to the set in 2004.
Inserted randomly in boxes of 2004 Upper Deck Etchings, regular versions with a game-used bat piece are limited to 350 copies. Autographed bat versions are numbered to 25.
Perhaps the greatest father-son combo to ever play the game, Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr. even spent a little time playing together with the Mariners. Upper Deck paired up their signatures in 2005 Upper Deck Reflections. The card has several similar versions of varying rarity, including some with jersey swatches. There are also other father-son autographs out there for the Griffeys, if you can't locate this exact one.
Do you have a favorite Ken Griffey Jr. card? Feel free to comment below.
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