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The 1980s were an interesting period for card collectors. It’s a time of new card brands and new technologies being used in the hobby, which drove crowds to buy baseball cards in bulk in particular.
In the early 1980s though, you could still see the influence of the 1970s on baseball cards, as many of these cards featured a more classical look.
This is one of the main reasons why cards from the 1980s are still so hugely popular. Not all cards from that era are worth a lot, but Rickey Henderson is an exception.
He’s known as the Man of Steal, featuring 1406 steals in his career, which trumped the previous record at the time by a huge margin (938).
Best Rickey Henderson Rookie Card
You’ll see that there is one main option for Rickey Henderson rookie cards – the 1980 Topps rookie card is the best of them all.
While there are some other options out there, they’re not as valuable as the Topps card. That’s why we’ll first go through this one in a bit more detail, and then focus on the rest of the cards that you might want to consider.
1980 Topps Rickey Henderson Rookie Card #482
This 1980 Topps card of Rickey Henderson is THE GOAT when it comes to Rickey Henderson rookie cards. It’s the only true rookie card option you have, so this is your best bet – if you can afford it.
It’s among the most expensive baseball cards from the 1980s, so you might have to dig deep to get it.
Along with Nolan Ryan cards, Rickey Henderson’s 1980 Topps rookie card ranks near the top of the most expensive baseball cards of the 1980s.
Conditioning and grades will be your biggest challenges while looking at this card.
There are quite a lot of cards of this type that are graded PSA 8 or below, which means the prices will be slightly subdued. But for the highest grades like seen on the card above, you can expect to pay a five-figure sum.
About the Card
This 1980 Topps Rickey Henderson was a part of a huge Topps set from 1980. The set contained a whopping 726 cards, and this one was number 482 in that set.
It’s a classic card in many ways.
First of all, the design. You’ll get that typical Topps look which was still in action right before the updates that came out for Topps card in the mid and late 1980s. In many ways, this card is a throwback to the good old days of the 60s and 70s.
The image is bordered by a blue border with two floating graphical elements on each side of the card. These two elements contain the player’s position information and his team information.
Then, there’s the image. You’ll see Rickey Henderson in his typical batting stance on the image, with a signature printed in black on the bottom of the image.
The design is minimalistic but it works very well for this card. You get a feeling that you own something special and unique, and just by looking at it, you’ll know that you are holding a retro card that’s worth a lot.
The back of the card looks like this:
You’ll see his stats for each season, a short description, and some special statistics on the left-hand side, where you’ll find an interesting stat:
“Rickey had 7 stolen bases in one game at Modesto, May 26, 1977”.
Typical Rickey Henderson – the man with the most steals in baseball history.
Conditioning and Availability
According to PSA, there are thousands of Rickey Henderson cards out in circulation. The print run for this card (or rather, the 1980 Topps set) was quite high, so luckily for us collectors, the card should be available out there.
However, one of the major problems with this card is its conditioning.
While these exact numbers won’t be the same as there’s cards graded every day, the ratio is important here.
As you may see from the graph, there is an abundance of PSA 7 and PSA 8 cards – the vast majority of Rickey Henderson cards belong to this grading category. There are also quite many PSA 6 and 5 graded cards, which might be a bit less expensive.
As a result of this high level of population for PSA 8 cards, they might be available for a sensible price – may be even lower than $1000.
However, this graph also shows us just how scarce PSA 10 and 9 are.
There are only 2046 PSA 9-graded cards of this type. And if you’re looking for that PSA 10, then you might have huge problems – firstly because there are only 25 cards of this type (officially) out there as graded by PSA, although you might also find cards of this type that are graded by other services.
This means that if you’re looking for that perfect 10, you’re going to have to search deep – and be prepared to spend great amounts of money along the way.
What about the value of the 1980 Topps Rickey Henderson rookie card?
As we’ve already mentioned, the biggest determining factor of the value for this card will be its conditioning.
If the card is graded a PSA 10, it instantly becomes one of the most, if not the most, expensive cards from the 1980s, period. In this condition, the card can cost you a six-figure amount, easily.
PSA 9s are a bit less expensive, but you still might need to spend a five-figure sum to get one; you might find yourself lucky if you find a card with this grade that is listed for a sum that is below the five-figure level.
PSA 8 and lower-graded cards tend to be less expensive, but the prices can still go into thousands for some PSA 8 cards.
A lot will also depend on the state of the market, so if there is great demand for these cards (as there always seems to be), then the prices will be on the higher end of the spectrum.
Rickey Henderson Rookie Card Alternatives
Let’s take a look at some other cards that you might want to consider as Rickey Henderson rookie card alternatives.
Note that these cards are not true rookie cards – the only recognized mainstream rookie card is the 1980 Topps card, but if you don’t have the budget for it, you might want to take a look at some of these options.
1979 TCMA Ogden A’s Rickey Henderson #9
This Ogden card is your next best bet when it comes to Rickey Henderson rookie cards.
While it is not a true rookie card, it came out in 1979, which means that it’s a pre-rookie card.
Henderson started the 1979 season playing for Ogden A’s, which was a minor league team playing in the Pacific Coast League. This was a league where talents get developed and reserve players play, so Henderson had the chance to impress here.
And impress he did.
Henderson played 71 games for Ogden A’s and recorded a batting average of .309 and 44 steals, which already indicated his ability to steal bases. This attracted the attention of the main team of the Oakland A’s which allowed Henderson to spend the next season in the Major League.
This card is not as easy to find as the 1980 Topps rookie card of Rickey Henderson. However, it is also a bit less expensive than the true rookie card, which means it could be a decent option for you if you’re on a budget. It’s still a popular card though, and it tends to get a lot of attention from collectors anyways.
Just know that this is not the true Henderson rookie card, but rather a pre-rookie.
1981 Donruss Rickey Henderson #119
Because this Donruss card was one of the earliest Rickey Henderson cards to be released, it was deemed by many to be his rookie card, although it wasn’t his true rookie.
It was the first Henderson card ever to be included inside a Donruss pack, which is an achievement in and of itself.
Even though Donruss was a bit late in releasing this Rickey Henderson card as they got overtaken by Topps in the race to release his rookie card, it is still a popular choice for many reasons.
Firstly, as we’ve already mentioned, it was the first instance where Rickey Henderson was included in a Donruss set. This means that the card was hugely popular among Donruss card collectors and those who are loyal to this brand.
Secondly, and most importantly, it’s not as easy to find as the Topps card.
This is especially true for higher graded cards of this type – so if you can find a card that has a decent grade, then you might need to spend a bit more to get it.
This card can cost thousands of dollars, especially in the better grades – although you might also find some cards that cost less than that, although they will probably not be of the highest grades.
1981 Topps Rickey Henderson #261
Last but not least, the 1981 Topps Rickey Henderson card.
We’ve included this card on this list because it’s one of the most popular Rickey Henderson cards overall, even though it is not his rookie card officially.
It’s still quite easy to find nowadays, although, in the best conditions, this card can cost several thousand dollars.
The card is also slightly different than the 1980 edition of Rickey Henderson’s card.
It doesn’t have an action image but rather a portrait shot of Rickey, which might suit some people a bit better, although the image itself could be a bit better as well.
The design is also a bit changed as it doesn’t have that typical look with two different graphical elements – you only have one here, which comes in the shape of a cap where the player’s team is mentioned.
Consider this card if you can’t afford to buy the rookie card, or if you want an alternative to the 1980 rookie card. It’s also a decent option if you’re looking to fill your collection of Rickey Henderson cards as well.
Rickey Henderson Rookie Card Buyer’s Guide
If you want a true rookie card of Rickey Henderson, then you’ve really got just one option – the 1980 Topps card.
Even though it is one of the most expensive baseball cards from the 1980s, it is worth a buy if you can afford it in the first place, and if you’re willing to wait for a good opportunity to get the best possible version for yourself.
You do have some alternatives to this card but none of them come from 1980. Perhaps the closest alternative is the 1979 TCMA card which is a pre-rookie card, as it came out even earlier than the Topps card.
If you’re on a budget, consider the 1981 Donruss card or the 1981 Topps card, which are both excellent options as Rickey Henderson cards, just not true rookie cards. Alternatively, you might want to go for a lower-graded 1980 Topps Rickey Henderson rookie card.
How Much Is a Rickey Henderson Rookie Card Worth?
Rickey Henderson’s 1980 Topps rookie card is one of the most expensive baseball cards from the 1980s. It can cost you a six-figure amount in the best condition, while PSA 9 or PSA 8 can cost several thousand dollars as well. The card is a bit less expensive in lower graded instances.
Are Rickey Henderson’s Cards Worth Anything?
This will depend on several factors. The most important factor is when the card was created. The 1980 Topps Henderson card is the most expensive Rickey Henderson card, but 1979 or 1981 cards can also be quite expensive. Later Henderson cards can still hold value, but a lot of it will depend on the condition of the card.