Collecting Topps baseball cards has become synonymous with Americana, prompting many to fondly reminisce about their youthful days of trading cards with their friends.
After struggling for the first 2 decades of the 20th century, the sports card industry has again taken off, as another generation of Americans start to market their old baseball cards to an expanding market.
The 1990 Topps baseball set in particular has gained notoriety among collectors of all ages. Below are what we consider to be the Topps USA 15 most valuable or memorable cards from the 1990 Topps baseball checklist.
The values vary wildly as some are rare cards but there is more to collecting than just knowing if your card is worth money. We have mixed the list up to for all budgets in the price guide, but they are all popular players who you will all be aware of.
In terms of value and rarity we have kept the best card until the very end. So keep reading to find out if you are sitting on a small fortune.
15. Bo Jackson, Card #300
Approximate PSA 9 Value – $11.50
An electrifying 2-sport athlete, Bo Jackson was one of the few athletes to play both professional football and baseball and is the only player to ever be named an all-star for both sports.
After winning the Heisman trophy during his senior year at Auburn, Jackson would go on to play 4 years in the NFL for the Los Angeles Raiders and 8 years in the MLB for the Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox, and California Angels. He became a cultural icon, starring multiple endorsements and media deals.
Most famously, Jackson was one of the stars of the original Tecmo Super Bowl video game and was almost impossible to tackle in the game.
The 1989 season was the high point of Jackson’s professional baseball career, as he had career highs in home runs and RBIs. The legend of Bo Jackson still generates nationwide interest that helps to increase the value of collectibles related to him including baseball cards.
14. Rickey Henderson “Record Breaker”, Card #7
Approximate PSA 9 Value – $12
One of the most talented and versatile baseball players in MLB history, Rickey Henderson compiled 3,055 hits, was a 10-time all-star and is the all-time leader in both runs scored and stolen bases. He played an incredible 25 seasons for 9 different teams, most notably with the Oakland Athletics and New York Yankees.
The 1990 “Record Breaker” card featuring Rickey Henderson celebrated his 40th career leadoff home run during the 1989 season, an MLB record. He had surpassed Bobby Bonds that season, the previous record holder, and ended his playing days with 81 career leadoff home runs, 27 more than Alfonso Soriano, the 2nd highest leadoff home run hitter.
13. Mark McGwire, Card #690
Approximate PSA 9 Value – $12.50
With 583 home runs over a 16-year career, Mark McGwire was one of the most feared power hitters during the 1990s. He briefly became legendary 1998 MLB season when he and Sammy Sosa engaged in one of the most storied home run chases in baseball history.
Both players would end up breaking Roger Maris’s sacred 61 home run total from the 1961 season, with McGwire edging out Sosa and setting a new MLB record with 70 regular season home runs.
Unfortunately, steroid use has severely tainted both McGwire’s and Sosa’s home run records and has probably destroyed any chance of either player making the hall of fame. McGwire’s steroid use has also hampered the value of sports memorabilia including sports cards.
However, the national fervor against steroid uses has cooled somewhat over the last decade, which has helped create some value in some of the earlier baseball cards featuring McGwire, including the #690 card from the 1990 set.
12. Greg Maddux, Card #715
Approximate PSA 9 Value – $13
Although he finished 3rd in CY Young voting during the 1989 season, few could have imagined just how great a career Greg Maddux would have. With 355 career wins, a career ERA of 3.16, and 3 CY Youngs, Maddux was arguably the best starting pitcher in baseball during the 1990s.
Maddux’s only blemish was his ability to replicate his regular season success in the post season. Although his post season era of 3.27 was nearly the same as his career regular season era, his 11-14 record reflected his struggles to finish the job against the most elite teams in baseball.
However, he was still one of the greatest pitchers of all time, which is reflected in the high valuation of his #715 card of the 1990 set.
11. Cal Ripken Jr., Card #570
Approximate PSA 9 Value – $14
Cal Ripken Jr. is the ultimate ironman athlete of all time, playing in an unbelievable 2,632 consecutive games, over 500 more than the previous record holder, Lou Gehrig. Ripken Jr. amassed 3,184 hits over a 21-year career, was named an all-star 19 times, and was a 2-time MVP. The 1989 season saw Ripken Jr. finish 3rd in the MVP award voting, while also winning a Silver Slugger award.
While so many other players during his era were tainted by steroid use, Ripken Jr. remained a clean player, making his consecutive games played streak even more remarkable. Any sports cards with his likeness during the 1980s and early 90s should continue to increase in value.
10. Bernie Williams Rookie, Card #701
Approximate PSA 9 Value – $14.25
While most people may think about Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera when evaluating the Yankees championship runs of the late 90s, Bernie Williams was probably the most important player of those teams. Williams played his entire 16-year career with the Yankees and became famous for getting huge postseason hits. Williams was named an all-star 5 times, had a career batting average of .297, and won 4 golf glove awards for his excellent defensive play in center field.
Although Williams never garnered much support from the hall of fame voters, it is a possibility that the Veterans Committee, which has begun to have a significant impact on the HOF voting process, could vote him into the HOF. The Bernie Williams rookie card is the 2nd most valuable rookie card in the 1989 set behind only Frank Thomas. His rookie card probably has the most potential for value increase over many other rookie cards from this era.
9. Tony Gwynn, Card #730
Approximate PSA 9 Value – $16
Tony Gwynn is one of the greatest hitters of all time with a lifetime batting average of .338 and an impressive hit total of 3,141 for his career. He was named an all-star 15 times and finished in the top-10 in MVP voting 7 different times. He led the league in batting average 8 times, while also compiling the most single-season hits on 7 different occasions.
The 1989 season saw Tony Gwynn compile another stellar season with a .336 batting average and 389 OBP, while also leading the league in hits with 203. Gwynn tragically passed away due to complications from parotid cancer in 2014, which has increased the value of any sports memorabilia featuring him including baseball cards.
8. Nolan Ryan Team Set, Card #4
Approximate PSA 9 Value – $10-20
Nolan Ryan is one of the most popular baseball players in MLB history, which is reflected in the high valuations of many baseball cards bearing his likeness. The 1990 Topps set honored Ryan for his incredible accomplishment of surpassing 5,000 career strikeouts.
The team cards vary in value, as is characteristic of many specialty sports cards, but generally range in value from $10 to $60 for PSA10’s depending on the source.
7. Frank Thomas Rookie, Card #414
Approximate PSA 9 Value – $17.50
The Frank Thomas rookie card is one of the most collected rookie cards of the entire Topps set. Thomas aka the big hurt, possessed incredible power and ended his career with 521 home runs and 1704 RBIs, all while batting an impressive .301 and amassing an OBP of .419. He was a 5-time all-star and 2-time MVP, and also won 4 Silver Slugger Awards.
Probably the only major blemish of Thomas’s career was that the teams he played for struggled, resulting in him making the postseason only 3 times in his career. Frank Thomas was one of the few power hitters from his era that wasn’t tainted by steroids, a testament to his outstanding individual talent, work ethic, and high character.
He has had a very successful post-career in business and is currently the CEO and founder of W2W Records.
The Topps Tiffany version #414 RC can reach up to $300 for a high grade card. Keep an eye out for error cards as there are a few with no image on the front of the card and only the rear printed.
There are also a few with some of the red ink missing across the front photo. There are a plenty of these still around. Depending on condition, expect to pay from $150 upwards.
Keep reading til the end though as there are more variations of this card that could make you very wealthy indeed.
6. Nolan Ryan, Card #1
Approximate PSA 9 Value – $19 upwards
Topps honored Nolan Ryan with the #1 card, in honor of his recent accomplishment of surpassing 5000 strikeouts for his career, as mentioned earlier.
Topps had a history of honoring great players in their baseball sets, perhaps most notably in their 1974 set honoring Hank Aaron, who had just broken Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record. The 1990 set features Ryan in several different settings, but the basic #1 card of Nolan Ryan is the most valuable and collectible of the set.
5. Don Mattingly, Card #200
Approximate PSA 9 Value – $19.10
Don Mattingly was one of the few bright spots for the New York Yankees during the late 80s and early 90s. The Yankees had some of the most disappointing seasons during this time, and Mattingly was the biggest reason to go to Yankees stadium. He was one of the best offensive players in baseball from 1984 to 1989, being named to the all-star team every year during this span and also winning the 1985 AL MVP award.
Mattingly hit an impressive .307 for his career, and was also an outstanding defensive first baseman, amassing 9 gold gloves over his career. Unfortunately, back issues would begin to severely hamper Mattingly starting in 1990, which would plague him for the rest of his career. Mattingly, like Bernie Williams, is another top candidate to be inducted into the HOF by the Veterans Committee, which will increase the value of any sports cards featuring him.
4. Rickey Henderson, Card #450
Approximate PSA 9 Value – $19.25
The traditional #450 Rickey Henderson card is more valuable than the specialty “Record Breaker” Henderson card which celebrated his all time stolen bases record.
The 1989 season was a year of transition for Henderson, who was traded from the New York Yankees to the Oakland Athletics in a midseason trade. Henderson had been struggling for most of the year with the Yankees but rebounded quickly with the Athletics and quickly resumed his all-star likeness. Henderson would spend several more years with the Athletics before spending the latter portion of his career traveling from one team to another.
This hall of famer is still highly regarded and well collected by many.
3. Ken Griffey Jr., Card Topps #336
Approximate PSA 9 Value – $23.25
The #336 Ken Griffey Jr. card is probably the most popular and collectible card of the 1990 Topps set. Griffey Jr. was arguably the best player in baseball during the 90s and sported an engaging personality that match his elite playing style.
He was a marketing treasure, being featured in a wide array of commercials and video games. He, along with Frank Thomas, was one of the few sluggers during his era that wasn’t tainted with steroids and was a great role model on and off the field.
Griffey Jr. was named to 13 all-star teams, won the 1997 AL MVP, and was a 10-time gold glove award winner. He hit 630 home runs for his career, 7th most in MLB history, and drove in 1,836 RBIs. Griffey Jr. spent the 2nd half of his career with Cincinnati, where he struggled to replicate his previous success with the Seattle Mariners, largely due to several different injuries.
Whilst not within the scope of this article. Keep an eye out for the 1989 upper deck ken griffey jr. If you can get your hands on one in gem mint condition then you are looking at a card worth over $3000.
2. George Bush (Limited Edition), Card USA #1
Approximate PSA 9 Value – $10,000
In honor of then-president George H.W. Bush, Topps issued about 100 limited edition cards featuring Bush from his days at Yale where he played college baseball.
The card itself simply reads “George Bush” instead of “George H.W. Bush” because George W. Bush wasn’t in the public eye yet. Because so few of these cards were made, and because they feature a president who has since passed away. The George Bush card has an incredible value but there are copies and reprints out there so do be careful.
Professional Sports Authenticator have some interesting facts on their website if you want to learn more.
1. Frank Thomas Rookie (No Name on Front), Card #414
Approximate PSA 9 Value – $20,000
The top of our Topps card list is a misprint version of a card we mentioned earlier.
A limited number of Frank Thomas Rookie cards were printed without Thomas’s name listed on the front. These cards are extremely rare and carry incredibly high price tags. Copies of this card with a PSA value of 5 or 6 can still fetch thousands of dollars, making it the most valuable card on our list from the 1990 Topps set.
There are some fake Frank Thomas rc cards out there, so do your research and buy from a reputable source.
Most collectible 1990 Topps Baseball Cards – Conclusion
1990 Topps MLB cards are a great addition to any collector. As is always the case, baseball card values vary dramatically, with graded card prices being the highest. If you don’t mind owning one that isn’t in perfect condition and it is more about holding on to memorable moments from the 80s and 90s then you won’t need to spend a small fortune.
Having said all that…. If you can find one from the bottom end of this list in good condition then it may well turn into one of the most valuable baseball cards in your collection!