Understanding the Value of Your Old Sports Cards

understand mobile hero
Jason Koeppel/ONE37pm

As the sports card market experiences its most recent boom and values are soaring, you might be asking yourself if a trip to the attic at your parent's house is in order. You find yourself daydreaming, remembering the time that you ripped open a pack of 1989 Upper Deck in those fancy foil wrappers, hoping that the next card you uncovered would be the holy grail - a Ken Griffey Jr rookie. That sense of excitement you felt after you finally found one, immediately protecting it in a top loader and displaying it proudly in your bedroom. You're probably wondering what kind of condition it's in and what other gems are in those taped up boxes that you haven't thought about in years. But most importantly, you're curious as to what those cards might be worth.

While the Ken Griffey Jr rookie was arguably the most iconic card at the peak of baseball card popularity, there were many other cards in that era that continue to elicit a similar vibe amongst collectors. To help you understand what your cards might be worth, here are six of the era's most highly sought after cards, and some recently sold comps on eBay.

1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr.

griffey interior

You may have noticed that the number of PSA graded cards takes a significant dip as the grades go lower than a PSA 8. That's due to the fact that it simply isn't worth it to have a card graded that won't bring back at least a PSA 8. Check out PSA's Grading Standards to give you an idea of where your card may grade out and what PSA looks for.

Total Graded by PSA: 74.811

PSA 10: 3,839 (5 percent)

PSA 9: 24,533

PSA 8: 31,001

griffey pop interior

1990 Topps Tiffany Frank Thomas

thomas interior

Only 15,000 1990 Topps Tiffany sets were produced, and they were only made available through hobby dealers, making this Frank Thomas card ultra-rare.

Total Graded by PSA: 896

PSA 10: 101 (11 percent)

PSA 9: 414

PSA 8: 310

thomas pop interior

1985 Donruss Roger Clemens

clemens interior

Although Roger Clemens was one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball for well over a decade, he is one of the most polarizing athletes in modern history due to his connection to steroids. He has maintained a strong collectors market due to his large market appeal, playing for both the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. If Clemens finally makes the Hall of Fame one of these days, this card could see a spike in value. However, the black border on the card makes any damage pop and makes bringing back a PSA 10 very unlikely. 

Total Graded by PSA: 8548

PSA 10: 519 (6 percent)

PSA 9: 2197

PSA 8: 2851

rofer pop interior

1980 Topps Rickey Henderson

henderson interior

Only .1 percent of these Rickey Henderson rookie cards grade out to be a PSA 10, making it one of the rarest cards on the market today. There are no sold PSA 10 listings currently on eBay. 

“The blue ink backs and the white gloss front almost highlight corner and edge wear. But even cards that have been locked away untouched in packs or boxes are victims of the factory,” says Beckett Senior Vintage Grader, Andy Broome. “Centering plagues this set when it comes to condition. Whether it is diamond cut cards or just-off side-to-side, finding a card with gem mint or better centering is extremely tough. It’s that perfect storm of condition that is required for a perfect card.”

Total Graded by PSA: 20,866

PSA 10: 24 (.1 percent)

PSA 9: 1986

PSA 8: 9680

PSA 7: 5123

rickey pop interior

1993 Topps Gold Derek Jeter

jeter interior

Derek Jeter, the "Captain" of the New York Yankees, is about as collectible as they come. A superstar who played his entire career under the big lights of New York City. Jeter was a 14-time All-Star and always seemed to play his best baseball in the most clutch spots on the biggest stage. Combine these facts with a total population of only 379 total PSA 10's, and you can see why the most recent one sold on eBay went for $3,000. However, if you have one of them sitting in a box somewhere, the odds are very long that it will grade out as a PSA 10. 

Total Graded by PSA: 5934

PSA 10: 379 (6 percent)

PSA 9: 2923

PSA 8: 1985

jeter pop interior

1992 Bowman Mariano Rivera

mariano interior

You can copy and paste everything written about Derek Jeter and fill it in for Rivera. The best relief pitcher of all time, doing it on the biggest stage and thriving in the biggest moments. PSA has graded only 6297 of these cards, however, 1398 of them (22 percent) have come back as PSA 10's. This is by far the highest percentage of any of the six cards listed in this article. 

Total Graded by PSA: 6297

PSA 10: 1398 (22 percent)

PSA 9: 3337

PSA 8: 1150

mariano pop interior

As you can see, merely owning these cards does not mean that you are sitting on a windfall. However, if you took great care of your cards throughout the years, it may very well be worth it to send them off for grading. To better understand the current state of the sports card industry, be sure to check out our Ultimate Guide to Selling and Investing in Sports Cards.

Did you like this article?
Thumbs Up
Thumbs Down