When collecting baseball cards, even as a kid, there is a tendency to look into the crystal ball and wonder if the rookie card of that up and coming player will be worth something. It's easy to make assumptions about your collection based on what is happening today. However, the baseball card collecting world can present a lot of surprises too. Perhaps you noticed a printing error or something else odd on the card, but considered it a throwaway because of the mistake. A lot of times, whether you think the cards in your collection will have value or not, they often get stored away in a shoebox and get forgotten about for years. A lot can happen over the course of time that can really change history. Those of us who grew up during the 80's and 90's are well aware of how the perception of some ballplayers have changed through the eyes of the public. These opinions seem to affect the value of baseball cards too.
This list will take a look at the surprises that have occurred over the course of time. Some of these cards will be more valuable than you might think while others will shock you for how little they are actually worth today. It might even get you to think about wiping the dust off your old shoeboxes and sort through that childhood collection of baseball card relics. This list may bring some disappointments to your attention, but it might leave you feeling pleasantly surprised too!
30 Worth A Fortune: Billy Ripken, 1989 Fleer
Billy Ripken may have had a pretty average career compared to his brother Cal, but there is one thing he is known for: his infamous 1989 Fleer baseball card. Although pricing on the different variations of his card varies depending on your source, the uncensored version of this card tends to go for the most money (not counting the very rare white out version which goes for approximately $700).
There is also a version of the card that shows a black box and one with the words scribbled out with marker.
According to PSA Card's website the uncensored mint condition version can go for up to $70.
29 Surprisingly Cheap: 1985 Mark McGwire Topps
Placing Mark McGwire's 1985 Topps card in this category may seem a little unfair considering its current $650 price tag. However, regardless of what you might think of his legacy, it's surprising that this particular card isn't worth a little more. Although this one isn't worth as much as it might have been at the height of his career, this is one card that might be worth holding onto if you have it. If popular opinion changes in the future, this card could shoot up in value again.
28 Worth A Fortune: 1986 Barry Bonds Topps
A lot has been said about Barry Bonds and the career he had. If you research the value of his cards you will find that many of them may not be as valuable as you might expect. This is despite the controversy surrounding his career. However, you might be surprised to learn that his Topps Traded Tiffany rookie card is currently worth $1,100. Despite his candidacy for the baseball Hall Of Fame being up in the air, this might be a good card to hold onto. There is always a chance this one could go up much higher if the Hall ever calls.
27 Surprisingly Cheap: 1986 Jose Canseco Donruss
Some might consider this 1986 Donruss rookie card for Jose Canseco overpriced considering its current $90 mint condition value.
Much like fellow "Bash Brother" Mark McGwire, the post 'user' era hasn't been kind to his baseball card value.
Although you certainly can't expect the card of a controversial non-Hall Of Famer to be worth thousands of dollars, this still seems a little low. If you own this one, it might be worth holding on to just in case attitudes about his legacy change in the long run.
26 Worth A Fortune: Ken Griffey Jr. 1989 Upper Deck
Ken Griffey Jr. has managed to overcome a decline in play during the second half of his career and emerge as one of his era's premiere home run hitters. This is well deserved considering the stats he put up. Although you might expect his Upper Deck rookie card to be worth more than $350, that is still pretty good all things considered. The price tag on this card should go up as his Hall Of Fame legacy grows. He stands out considering he played his entire career clean during the steroids era. That might be worth something to collectors as time goes on.
25 Surprisingly Cheap: Mike Piazza 1992 Fleer
The $150 price tag for this Hall Of Famer's rookie card is a little surprising. Although Piazza's career didn't have quite the luster that some of his flashier counterparts had, he is still a solid Hall Of Famer nonetheless. He was arguably one of the best catchers of his era as well. The fact that his card isn't worth much more than Jose Canseco's Donruss rookie card is also very surprising. This one is sure to go up a little more as time passes.
24 Worth A Fortune: Don Mattingly 1984 Donruss
Don Mattingly may not be in the Hall Of Fame, but his rookie Donruss card has modern era Hall Of Fame pricing. In mint condition, this card is worth up to $650. This is a pretty good accomplishment for a guy who didn't achieve quite as much as his steroid era counterparts.
Even players whose legacy hasn't been tainted don't have rookie cards worth quite this much.
According to Cardboard Connection, this one is hard to find. If you have it, you may want to hold onto it.
23 Surprisingly Cheap: Randy Johnson 1989 Fleer
Not all versions of Randy Johnson's rookie card are worth a whole lot of money. However, if you happen to have the version that shows a Marlboro ad instead of the black box, it could be worth up to $300. Some might say this is a low price tag for a rookie card with a mistake, but in reality this is a pretty good price for a card of a player who just retired and got into the Hall Of Fame not too long ago. Either version might be good to hold onto as the price could likely go up in the future.
22 Worth A Fortune: Roy Halladay 1997 Bowman
The untimely passing of a famous person can sometimes send memorabilia skyrocketing in value. Roy Halladay's story is no different. Although his non autographed rookie Bowman card is worth $80 in mint condition, his autographed Bowman from the same year is currently worth $750. Although Halladay was a great pitcher, it's doubtful that his card would be worth this much if he were still with us today. If you happen to own this one, you will probably do very well if you ever trade it in.
21 Surprisingly Cheap: Tony Gwynn 1983 Topps
Tony Gwynn was arguably the best pure hitter of his era or perhaps any other. However his iconic 1983 Topps rookie card only goes for $475.
Considering his Hall Of Fame legacy and untimely passing, this is very surprising.
Although you certainly will get a decent value for a mint condition version of this card, it certainly seems low considering we are talking about the rookie card of one of the greatest hitters of all time. Hopefully time will be good to Gwynn's rookie card and it will go up in value.
20 Worth A Fortune: Alex Rodriguez 1994 Leaf Limited Rookie Phenoms
Considering the fact that Alex Rodriguez was one of the most polarizing figures of the steroids era, it's surprising that this card goes for $1,000 in mint condition. Especially since many of his steroid era counterparts don't have a rookie card that is worth near as much as this one. This particular card appears to somehow defy conventional wisdom in the eyes of the baseball card buying/trading public. It will be interesting to see if this card's value holds up over the course of time.
19 Surprisingly Cheap: Kirby Puckett 1984 Fleer
The legacy of Kirby Puckett seems to be one that deserves a little more respect based on the value of his 1984 Fleer rookie card. Despite putting up Hall Of Fame numbers during a career that was cut short, it is currently only worth $375. Certainly not a bad price tag, but maybe a little low all things considered. Hopefully this is a card that will be sought after a little more in then future and consequently go up in value.
18 Worth A Fortune: Roger Clemens 1984 Fleer
Roger Clemens is another steroid era player with a baffling rookie card price tag. However, somehow his card seems to actually be worth a lot more than many of his other counterparts.
This card currently has a $550 price tag despite public opinion of his legacy.
If Roger Clemens ever manages to defy the odds and get into the Hall Of Fame, this card's value could potentially be one of the most valuable among players of his era. The current pricing on this one makes it a good card to hold onto if you own it.
17 Surprisingly Cheap: Cal Ripken 1982 Donruss
Cal Ripken might be a Hall Of Famer and a modern day Iron Man, but his rookie card hasn't aged well with baseball card enthusiasts. Currently, a mint condition copy of this 1982 Donruss card only goes for $225. Although Ripken was a great player, his stats weren't monstrous. Perhaps this part of his legacy is what keeps this card from reaching a higher echelon of value. Much like many other cards on this list, the passing of time might be a better indicator of this card's true value.
16 Worth A Fortune: Rickey Henderson, 1980 Topps
When baseball fans think of greatness during the last few decades of the 20th century, more than likely Rickey Henderson's name is one of the first that comes to mind.
Despite retiring and entering the Hall Of Fame fairly recently, his 1980 rookie card is currently worth $27,500.
According to PSA Card's site this one appears to be going up in value as we speak. This price tag and the positive prospects for its future value make this one of the most valuable cards on this list.
15 Surprisingly Cheap: Jim Thome, 1991 Bowman
Bowman rookie cards tend to go for a decent amount of money, but unfortunately this Jim Thome rookie card would barely leave you with enough money fill up a tank of gas. It currently only goes for $40 and it also appears to be trending downward. There doesn't appear to be any logic behind its low value, especially since he was just inducted into the Hall Of Fame. Perhaps there are some who believe he made it into the Hall a little early by default, but he made it nonetheless. Expect to see this one go up a little bit as time passes.
14 Worth A Fortune: George Bush, 1990 Topps USA
George H.W. Bush never played in the major leagues, but his 1990 Topps USA baseball card is worth a pretty impressive amount of money. In mint condition, this rarity is worth up to $9,000. Not only does it feature a picture of him in his Yale baseball uniform, there weren't very many of these made. If you happen to own this one, you're extremely lucky. Very few baseball cards that have been made over the past 30 plus years is worth as much as this rarity.
13 Surprisingly Cheap: Jeff Bagwell, 1991 Bowman
Jeff Bagwell is a Hall Of Famer who hit well over 400 home runs in his career. However, despite owning a Hall Of Fame legacy, his Bowman rookie card is only worth $50.
This seems awfully low for a Hall Of Famer.
Although he just got inducted last year, this card is surprisingly cheap. Much like some other cards on this list, the low price tag shouldn't discourage anybody from holding onto this one. It might take some time, but it wouldn't be surprising to see this one go up in value a little bit as time goes on.
12 Worth A Fortune: Craig Biggio, 1988 Score Glossy
Craig Biggio is one of the greatest second basemen to play the game so it's no surprise that his rookie card might be worth something. However, when it comes to Score, be sure you own the "Glossy" version of his rookie card. This one goes for $225 and is growing according to PSA Card's website. This is a big deal for a card that appeared to look more like a throwaway than it did a potential collector's item. This is one of those cards you may have to look in the old shoebox and double check it to make sure you didn't discard it.
11 Surprisingly Cheap: Sammy Sosa, 1990 Leaf
Sammy Sosa is yet another example of how a tarnished legacy has affected the baseball card industry. He might have tallied some outstanding numbers, but baseball purists are still shying away from placing significant value on his cards. Despite being printed by Leaf, this particular card is only worth $20. Much like some of the other players from his era on this list, don't give up hope if you happen to own this one. If attitudes about Sosa's legacy ever change, this one could go for a lot of money in the future.
10 Worth A Fortune: Roberto Alomar, 1988 Score Glossy
Roberto Alomar's 1988 Score Glossy rookie card is worth almost as much as Craig Biggio's. Although this card looks like more of a throwaway, it is actually worth $200.
Much like Biggio's card, you might want to hold onto this one as there is a chance it could go up in value as time goes on.
Especially if enough people didn't hold onto them over the course of time. The stars were truly aligned for rookie second basemen in 1988.
9 Surprisingly Cheap: Barry Larkin, 1987 Topps
Barry Larkin had an excellent Hall Of Fame career for the Cincinnati Reds. It's a career that includes several All Star game appearances, a World Series title, and many other impressive accolades. However, his Topps rookie card is only worth $35. This is much less than other Hall Of Famers on this list. Perhaps the passing of time will help bring the value of this card up. However, despite having an excellent career, Larkin's rookie card may not be on the highly sought after list of baseball cards.
8 Worth A Fortune: Chipper Jones, 1991 Topps
Chipper Jones is just entering the baseball Hall Of Fame in 2018, but that is not preventing his rookie card from being worth a lot of money. Currently a mint condition copy of this card is worth $8,500 and growing according to PSA Cards. This is pretty unusual for a player who only retired a few years ago. If you happen to own this one and took good care of it, then it might help to make a nice dent in the mortgage. It might be worth it to hold onto it for awhile and see if it continues to grow in value.
7 Surprisingly Cheap: Pedro Martinez, 1991 Upper Deck
Pedro Martinez might have been one of the greatest pitchers of his era, but his rookie card doesn't appear to be worth too much at this point. In mint condition, his Upper Deck Final Edition rookie card is only worth $20.
The very low price tag for this one could simply be due to so many of these being out in circulation.
Also, while Martinez was obviously pretty dominant in his career, he may not yet be standing out enough among his generation of Hall Of Famers to warrant a higher value for his card. As a Hall Of Famer, this could very well change in the long run.
6 Worth A Fortune: Derek Jeter 1993 Topps Micro
Derek Jeter's 1993 Topps Micro is another oddity on this list. As a result, it currently goes for $1,500 in mint condition. There may very well be other Derek Jeter cards out there that are worth more than this one, but the fact that it is so unusual and is worth a decent amount of money makes it a good candidate to be featured here. This era of baseball cards has some interesting treasures, but this one is definitely a good one to hold on to if you have it.
5 Surprisingly Cheap: Mariano Rivera, 1992 Bowman
Considering the fact that Mariano Rivera only retired a few years ago, his rookie Bowman card is actually doing pretty good.
The current price tag for this card in mint condition is $250.
This may not seem like a lot of money. Especially compared to some others on this list. However, this one is actually worth a decent amount of money compared to other Bowmans from that era. Rivera will probably get a lot of consideration for the baseball Hall Of Fame next year so that should help the value of this rarity in the future.
4 Worth A Fortune: Bo Jackson, 1986 Topps Tiffany Traded
Bo Jackson was on his way to a Hall Of Fame career in baseball and possibly football when he injured his hip during an NFL playoff game in the early 90's. Despite not having longevity in his sports career, there is one thing that has managed to survive the test of time: his 1986 Topps Tiffany Traded baseball card. It is currently worth $2,250 according to PSA Card's website. That is very impressive considering how short of a career he had.
3 Surprisingly Cheap: Darryl Strawberry, 1984 Donruss
Some might say that the $75 price tag on this 1984 Daryl Strawberry rookie card is surprisingly expensive as opposed to surprisingly cheap. However, when you compare his legacy to some others on this list, you might expect this once coveted rookie card to be worth a little more than it is.
Strawberry's tumultuous post Mets career will probably keep him out of the Hall Of Fame, but the legacy he produced is still pretty impressive despite all his issues.
If this card is worth this much after all he went through, then imagine how much this card would have been worth had his play stayed consistent.
2 Worth A Fortune: Frank Thomas, 1990 Topps
If you happen to own a Frank Thomas 1990 Topps rookie card, then you will do pretty good. However, if you own a card that doesn't display his name, you really are going to make a fortune. A mint condition copy of Thomas's rookie card goes for up to $50,000. That puts the "Big Hurt" in a league of his own compared to other players of his generation. This is all thanks to a Hall Of Fame career and a silly mistake by Topps.
1 Surprisingly Cheap: 1987 Greg Maddux, Donruss
One of the biggest surprises on this entire list is the value of this 1987 Greg Maddux Donruss rookie card. Although its price currently seems to be on the rise, it is only worth $70. Although Maddux only got inducted into the Hall Of Fame a few years ago, there was never any doubt about his greatness. This might be another case where it's still too early to project the true value of his card, but you would like to think that this one would atleast be worth a few hundred dollars.