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Ken Griffey Jr.

Summary & Career Highlights

Rookie Year: 1989

Iconic Rookie Card: 1989 Upper Deck #1

Highest Public Sale 1998 Upper Deck A Piece of the Action 3 Patch Auto /24 for $84,000 on 10/21/2022

Similar Career Players: Frank Robinson, Gary Sheffield, Reggie Jackson, Sammy Sosa, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Chipper Jones, Willie Mays

Players with Similar Cards to Check Out: Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Greg Maddux, Mike Piazza, Derek Jeter

Career Highlights

  • 1997 AL MVP

  • 630 HR's

  • 4x HR Leader

  • 13x All Star

  • 7x Silver Slugger

  • 10x Gold Glove

  • 3x Home Run Derby Champion

Iconic Cards

Icon Key

Prospective Card Cost:

💰 - Under $250

💰💰- Under $1,000

💰💰💰-  Under $5,000

💰💰💰💰-  Under $15,000

💰💰💰💰💰- Over $15,000


💎 - Common & High Serial Number

💎💎- Serial Numbered or Pop Under 200

💎💎💎 - Serial Numbered or Pop Under 100

💎💎💎💎 - Serial Number or Pop Under 50

💎💎💎💎💎 - Does this card even exist? Serial Number or Pop under 10

1989 Bowman Tiffany

1998 Metal Universe PMG Front
1998 Metal Universe PMG Back

Prospective Card Cost: 💰💰-💰💰💰💰

Rarity: 💎

About the Card: The 1989 Bowman Tiffany is the Griffey rookie card for collectors who value rarity not derived from the card's grade. Issued as a premium variant of Bowman, Bowman Tiffany boasts a glossy finish, superior printing quality, on more durable card stock. With far fewer copies than its regular Bowman, Upper Deck, or Topps counterparts, its rarity is what makes this card stand out. Despite being rated a single diamond on The Smarter Collector scale, it represents the pinnacle of rarity for Griffey rookie cards.

1989 Upper Deck

1999 Metal Universe PMG Front
1999 Metal Universe PMG Back

Prospective Card Cost: 💰-💰💰💰

Rarity: 💎

About the Card: The card that launched a card manufacturer. The 1989 Upper Deck #1 Ken Griffey Jr. is one of the most recognizable cards in the hobby. Long rumored to have been printed well beyond the completion of the initial set, the Upper Deck Griffey rookie also holds the record as the most highly graded cards of all time. While the population is exorbitantly high, gem mint copies are relatively rare with the gem rate hovering just under 4%. That gem rate is low for the era, but also shows the collector's eagerness to get their favorite card slabbed regardless of its condition.

1991 Topps Desert Shield

1997 E-X2000 Credentials Front
1997 E-X2000 Credentials Back

Prospective Card Cost: 💰💰-💰💰💰💰

Rarity: 💎

About the Card: Like Topps Tiffany and Bowman Tiffany, the Topps Desert Shield set is one of the most valuable of the early 90's for one reason: rarity. In an era where sets were mass-produced, these sets stand alone as the exception. The Topps Desert Shield cards mirror regular 1991 Topps set but feature a unique gold foiled shield printed on the front of the card. The special edition set was packed into wax packs and provided to soldiers serving in the Desert Storm conflict. Among the set, Griffey ranks just behind Chipper Jones as the most coveted player in the set.

1994 Upper Deck

#JR Mantle/Griffey Dual Autograph
1998 E-X2001 Essential Credentials Now Front
1998 E-X2001 Essential Credentials Now Back

Prospective Card Cost: 💰💰💰-💰💰💰💰

Rarity: 💎

About the Card: Pack issued autographs were introduced in 1990 Upper Deck with the Reggie Jackson 500 Club auto. Other manufacturers quickly introduced their own chase autographs, but none achieved what Upper Deck did with the 1994 Griffey Jr./Mantle dual autograph. This was a dual autograph featuring the most popular players in the sport's history not named Babe Ruth. Upper Deck issued three variants: 500 copies each of Mantle's solo auto, Griffey's solo auto, and the dual autograph. It was and is a card that helped to define an era.

1996 Select Certified

#47 Mirror Gold /30
1999 E-X Century Essential Credentials Future Front
1999 E-X Century Essential Credentials Future Back

Prospective Card Cost: 💰💰💰💰💰

Rarity: 💎💎💎💎

About the Card: The 1996 Select Certified set introduced one of the earliest rainbow chases in the hobby, with six parallel levels. The Mirror Gold, serial numbered to just 30 copies, stands as the rarest. Griffey appears in the base set (#47) and in the "Pastime Power" subset (#136). Public sales of Mirror Gold cards are even more rare than the 30 copy print run indicates. However one lucky buyer got both Mirror Gold Griffeys when a collector parted ways with a complete run of the Mirror Golds at a Goldin auction for $159k in December 2023.

1997 Donruss Crusade

#39 Purple Refractor /100
1998 Fleer Brilliants 24-Karat Gold Front
1998 Fleer Brilliants 24-Karat Gold Front

Prospective Card Cost: 💰💰💰-💰💰💰💰

Rarity: 💎💎💎

About the Card: The 1998 Donruss Crusade set didn't introduce the hobby to rainbow chases but created a compelling rainbow chase featuring three colored parallels: Green /250, Purple /100, and Red /25. The choice of photo for Griffey is... a choice. The front captures The Kid fouling a ball up the third base line, while the back shows a confused Griffey that might remind you of a deer in headlights. Prices for the Green, Purple, and Red parallels align with their rarity, offering accessible entry points for collectors with varying budgets.

1997 Finest

#342 Gold Embossed Refractor
1999 Skybox Premium Star Rubies Front
1999 Skybox Premium Star Rubies Back

Prospective Card Cost: 💰💰-💰💰💰

Rarity: 💎💎💎

About the Card: Griffey's Finest cards from the '90s are among the era's most sought-after chromium-based cards. While collectors often seek Griffey cards from the set's 1993 debut, the 1997 Finest release stands out as particularly unique. Distributed in two series, the checklist is divided into seven themes: Finest "Blue Chips," "Hurlers," "Warriors," "Power," "Masters," "Acquisitions," and "Competitors." Griffey appears in three themes: "Power" (#342), "Masters" (#238), and "Warriors" (#139). The "Power" theme features the set's rarest parallel, the Gold Embossed Refractor, with pack odds of 1:1152. 

1997 Flair Showcase

#24 Legacy (Row 0, 1, 2) /100

Prospective Card Cost: 💰💰💰💰

Rarity: 💎💎💎

About the Card: 1997 Flair Legacy is most well known for introducing the first true pack issued one-of-one (Gem Masters parallel) and providing collectors with another rare parallel chase with the 'Legacy Collection'. The 180 card base set, featuring 3 unique designs per player (Row 0, Row 1 and Row 2), effectively expands to 540 cards. Each card has a 'Legacy Collection' parallel, serial numbered to 100. True, non-backdoored, 'Legacy Collection" copies feature a blue foil stamp on the front of the card and the player's name in blue foil script back of the card. 

1998 Circa Thunder

#100 Super Rave /25

Prospective Card Cost: 💰💰💰💰💰

Rarity: 💎💎💎💎

About the Card: The 1998 Circa Thunder  set is quintessentially '90s. The big block lettering used for the player's name feels like an introduction to an MTV music video, while the psychedelic background mesmerizes collectors with a bright 90's color pallette. The Super Rave parallel, limited to 25 copies, uses gold foil to emphasize the player's name and the Circa Thunder logo. For collectors looking for a bit more obtainable chase, the Rave parallel, limited to 100 copies, replaces the gold foil with silver foil.

1998 E-X2001

#10 Essential Credentials Now /10 & Future /91

Prospective Card Cost: 💰💰💰💰💰

Rarity:  Essential Credentials Future 💎💎💎; Essential Credentials Now 💎💎💎💎💎 

About the Card: The 1998 E-X 2001 and its Essential Credentials Now & Future parallels were revolutionary for late '90s card design and technology. The use of multi-layered acetate card stock, silver holofoil designs, and dynamic action shots of players set a new card design standard. The 100-card checklist strategically placed top players ('Now') at the beginning of the checklist and prospects ('Future') at the end. Griffey, at #10 on the checklist, has his Essential Credentials Now limited to /10 and his Essential Credentials Future to /91.

1998 Metal Universe

#161 Precious Metal Gems /50

Prospective Card Cost: 💰💰💰💰💰

Rarity: 💎💎💎💎

About the Card: Baseball didn't receive the red and green Precious Metal Gems (PMG) treatment from Metal Universe like football and basketball did. Yet, the 1998 baseball PMG debut remains just as iconic. Among the most recognizable parallels from the '90s, Griffey's PMG, limited to 50 copies, showcases him against a stylized mountain backdrop. The reverse features his signature backwards hat and ear-to-ear grin. The '98 PMG ranks among Griffey's most valuable cards to ever hit the market.

1998 Upper Deck

#KGS A Piece of the Action Jersey Auto /24

Prospective Card Cost: 💰💰💰💰💰

Rarity: 💎💎💎💎

About the Card: The 1998 Upper Deck A Piece of the Action Jersey autograph holds the record for the highest single sale of any single Ken Griffey Jr. card. Upper Deck pioneered game-used jersey autographs in 1997 and 1998. Following the success of the 1997-98 basketball release featuring the Michael Jordan Game Jersey Autograph, Griffey was chosen for the baseball version. This is baseball's first pack issued jersey autograph card and the market has highly valued it, cementing its position in hobby history.

1999 Fleer Brilliants

#24TG 24K Gold /24

Prospective Card Cost: 💰💰💰💰💰

Rarity: 💎💎💎💎

About the Card: GOOOOOLLLDDDD. Long before Panini's Gold Prizm /10 became a sensation, the 1999 Fleer Brilliants 24K gold set the gold standard for rare gold refractor parallels. A favorite among collectors for its aesthetic appeal and scarcity, its allure is heightened by 1999 being the sole year Fleer Brilliants was issued. If you're seeking a 24K gold, there's only one choice. Additionally, the card was also issued in a gold parallel /99 which offers a more accessible option for those wanting to add a touch of gold to their collection without the steep price of the 24K edition.

1999 Skybox Premium

#137 Star Rubies /50

Prospective Card Cost: 💰💰💰💰💰

Rarity: 💎💎💎💎

About the Card: The 1999 Skybox Premium, in its inaugural year, was absolutely loaded. It featured several notable/iconic inserts (Intimidation Nation and Soul of the Game), however, the Star Rubies parallels, numbered to 50, were the standout. Griffey is depicted mid-slide in a full-bleed photo, enhanced with color trails that convey The Kid in motion. Besides the card shown here, Griffey also appears in a checklist card and a Spring Fling subset card, both of which were available in the Star Rubies parallel.

1999 Upper Deck Century Legends

#Jr. Epic Signatures /100

Prospective Card Cost: 💰💰💰-💰💰💰💰

Rarity: 💎💎💎

About the Card: Concluding our coverage of Griffey's iconic cards is the 1999 Upper Deck Century Legends Epic Signatures Autograph. This set was among the first to showcase both active and retired legends, honoring the game's best players. The Epic Signatures insert set was LOADED with autographs from the sport's all-time greats, featuring 25 Hall of Famers out of 30 players on the checklist. A-Rod and Barry Bonds as notable exceptions. Each card was hand-numbered to 100 copies. The set remains one of the most ambitious and sought-after autograph set chases by collectors.

A Few of My Favorites

Griffey collectors have an embarrassment of riches regarding the breadth and depth of collecting options available, as evidenced by the length of the 'Honorable Mentions' below. As the poster child for many '90s baseball products, Griffey was prominently featured across every significant, important, and even unpopular set. Here are a few of our favorites.

1996 Pacific

#CC8 Cramer's Choice Award

Why It's a Favorite: Pacific was the underdog of '90s baseball cards for me. It lacked Topps' heritage, Skybox's design flair, and Upper Deck's innovation. However, Pacific had one insert I LOVED: Cramer's Choice Awards. This die-cut insert debuted in 1996 and was remarkably rare for the time, with odds of 1:721 packs. The cards were bilingual, printed in both English and Spanish, targeting collectors overlooked by legacy brands. The 10 card checklist highlighted baseball's best players at each position on the diamond plus designated hitter. It almost served as another "All-Pro" list. The set continued through Pacific's tenure until 2001. High grade copies are rare due to condition sensitivity of the die cut.

1998 Donruss Preferred

#1 Precious Metal Gems /50

Why It's a Favorite: Did you know that in the '90s, two completely different companies issued Precious Metal Gems (PMGs)? Interestingly, only one type, the 1998 Donruss Preferred PMG, contained real precious metals—1 gram of platinum. Despite this card having real tangible value, Skybox's Metal Universe PMG is the version that have captured the hearts and minds of collectors. The Donruss Preferred PMG will cost you a fraction of the Skybox PMG and has a neat little story to accompany it.

1998 Select

#3 Numbers /56?

Why It's a Favorite: Select, a Pinnacle brand, produced some of the shiniest baseball cards of the '90s. However, their most awe-inspiring creation, the 1998 Select Numbers insert, was never meant to be released. Pinnacle filed for bankruptcy in July 1998, months before the scheduled release of the product. A bankruptcy judge ordered all non-issued cards to be destroyed, yet some have surfaced on the market in the decades since. The "Numbers" insert, intended to be serial numbered to a player-specific key statistic (for Griffey, 56, representing his home runs in 1997), was never stamped or serial numbered. It's HIGHLY unlikely that all 56 copies exist, leaving collectors to wonder what could have been. h/t to RodFest on IG for letting us use his photo!

2004 SP Game Used Patch

#KG1 HOF Numbers Autograph /10

Why It's a Favorite: The 2004 SP Game Used set gained immense popularity across sports for incorporating game-used patches, especially the striking two, three, and four-color patches. The HOF Numbers set featured a beautiful design, with the inner die-cut surrounded by rainbow holofoil. As it relates to Griffey, three-color patch autographs from his playing days are scarce. Most available copies were made after he joined the Reds, making his Mariners patches and patch autos even rarer. Special thanks to Rodfest for allowing us to feature his photo of this card.

2004 Upper Deck Etchings

#KG A Piece of History 500 Club

Why It's a Favorite: Upper Deck's "A Piece of History 500 Club" set was remarkably ambitious, aiming to incorporate game-used bats from each member of the 500 home run club into memorabilia cards. The company faced significant backlash after purchasing a cracked Babe Ruth bat at auction to cut up for inclusion in these cards. Despite the backlash from memorabilia collectors and game historians, the set became immensely popular among collectors, and offered a challenging chase. Upper Deck expanded the "A Piece of History" series in 1999 and 2000 to celebrate retired legends in the 500 home run club. Following his 500th home run in June 2004, Griffey joined this elite group, and his card was included in the 2004 Upper Deck Etchings packs.

Honorable Mentions

  • 1993 Finest Refractor #110

  • 1994 Collector's Choice Gold Signature #117

  • 1994 Flair Hot Gloves

  • 1996 Topps Chrome Refractor #70

  • 1997 Donruss Limited Star Factor Limited Exposure #19 /40 

  • 1997 E-X 2000 Essential Credentials #40 /99

  • 1997 E-X2000 A Cut Above #2

  • 1997 Finest Refractor Silver Embossed Refractor #139

  • 1997 Pinnacle Team Certified Mirror Gold #12 /25

  • 1997 Score Stand and Deliver Red Letters #9 /25

  • 1997 SPX Grand Finale /50 #45

  • 1997 Topps Chrome Refractor #101

  • 1998 Bowman's Best Atomic Refractor #27 /100

  • 1998 Bowman's Best Mirror Image Dusion Atomic Refractor #MI6 /25

  • 1998 Donruss Preferred Prized Collection #PC718 /55

  • 1998 Finest "The Man" Refractor #TM1 /75

  • 1998 Finest Centurion Refractor #C5 /75

  • 1998 Finest The Man Refractor #TM1 /75

  • 1998 Metal Universe Hardball Galaxy #206 Precious Metal Gems /50

  • 1998 Pinnacle Epix Emerald Moment #E1

  • 1998 Pinnacle Plus Artist Proof Gold  #AP5 /100

  • 1998 Skybox E-X2001 Destination Cooperstown #7

  • 1998 SP Authentic Chirography Autograph #KG 

  • 1998 Topps Stars 'N Steel Holographic Gold #15

  • 1998 UD Retro Quantum Leap #Q7 /50

  • 1998 Ultra Pizzazz Platinum Medallion #476 /100

  • 1998 Ultra Platinum Medallion #1 /100

  • 1999 Finest Gold Refractor (#101, #200) /100

  • 1999 Fleer Brilliants Shining Stars #1SS

  • 1999 Fleer Mystique Established #1E /100

  • 1999 Fleer Traditions Starting Nine #3 /9

  • 1999 Metal Universe Precious Metal Gems /50 #95

  • 1999 Skybox Molten Metal Fusion Titanium #33F /50

  • 1999 Skybox Premium Spring Fling Star Rubies #287 /50

  • 1999 UD Choice Prime Choice Reserve #142 /100

  • 1999 UD Choice Starquest Gold #SQ1 /100

  • 1999 UD Ionix holoGRFX #HG1

  • 1999 Upper Deck MVP Super Script #190 /25

  • 2000 Upper Deck 2K Plus Silver #2K1 /100

  • 2003 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection Dual Patch Gold (#GP, #GD, #IG) /35

  • 2009 Ultimate Collection Materials Signature Quad Patch (#UMSQ-JR, #UMSQ-KG /24)

  • 2009 Ultimate Collection Ultimate Patch #UP-JR /35, #UP-KG /35

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