4 Great Rookie Cards From 1980s Sports Icons


Four very unique sports figures traveled very different roads to greatness during the 1980s. The rookie cards of these four superstars have wide-ranging values between them, but they all did it with their own unique style, to say the least. If you were a young sports card collector at that time, it was wise to load-up on these 4 great rookie cards from 1980s sports icons.

Wayne Gretzky Rookie Cards Value

Although technically, the Wayne Gretzky rookie card is from the 1979-80 year, I always think of it as one of the most iconic hockey cards from the 80s. Recently, the Wayne Gretzky rookie card sold for $1.29 million at Heritage Auctions, making it one of the most valuable sports cards of all-time.

The greatest hockey player to ever play the game will have an incredibly valuable rookie card, but what puts the Wayne Gretzky rookie card on a whole new level of value is the actual card itself. The 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee hockey cards were designed with blue borders and very susceptible to dings. Very few cards from the 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee year made it through the decades in perfect condition.

Wayne Gretzky Rookie Cards Value
The Wayne Gretzky rookie card, which sold recently for $1.2 million.

The card manufacture was notorious for printing cards with rough edges and photos that were out of center. It’s estimated that only about 10% of the cards produced by O-Pee-Chee would hold a PSA 10 rating brand new right off the factory floor. Add 40 years of possible wear and tear, and you have a formula for a very rare asset.

Out of a few thousand Gretzky rookie cards graded by PSA, one of the leading authentication and grading companies, only 2 have received a perfect 10 rating. Not only that, but only 89 have even registered a 9 rating. As great as “The Great One” was in his day, the extreme rarity of a perfectly conditioned card factors into the recent $1.29 million sale as much as any other factor.

In 1979, an entire box of O-Pee-Chee hockey cards cost $10 for 48 packs of hockey cards. Inside each pack is 14 cards making up the 672 card set. The recent million-dollar sale will definitely boost all Wayne Gretzky rookie cards value, even for lower PSA rated examples.

Incredible highlights from Wayne Gretzky’s career. No matter how small the goalie pads were, there’s no doubt he was The Great One.

Ozzie Smith Rookie Cards

One of the fan favorites from the 1980s, Ozzie Smith rookie cards are highly desirable and hold tremendous value. The 1979 Topps Ozzie Smith rookie cards can be difficult to find in PSA 10 condition. In fact, there are only 5 identified in PSA 10 pristine condition. Even the PSA 9 rated cards are relatively rare; only 374 have been authenticated.

What makes the 1979 Topps year especially challenging to find in top rated form is the centering. For some reason, most of the Ozzie Smith rookie cards are found severely off-center, dropping the value for these cards significantly.

Ozzie Smith Rookie Cards
The 1979 Topps Ozzie Smith rookie card is notorious for it’s off-center photo, making a PSA 10 rated card worth over $30,000.

With the 1979 Topps Ozzie Smith rookie card the gold standard, there are also a few other cards to be aware of. The 1978 Family Fun Centers Ozzie Smith is selling for $500 – $600 currently. The card was produced as a promotional giveaway the Padres issued the summer before Ozzie’s rookie season. There’s also a 1979 Hostess Ozzie Smith rookie card that’s especially hard to find in good condition.

Back in the day, Ozzie Smith would take the field with a backflip, earning his nickname, “The Wizard.”

Steve Yzerman Rookie Cards

After he was drafted 4th overall in 1983, Steve Yzerman became the Red Wings captain at age 21, and the rest is history. He led the team to three Stanley Cup championships and will go down as one of the great leaders in hockey history. Yzerman would become a hockey Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings.

1984 Topps Steve Yzerman rookie cards come in two versions. The Canadian O-Pee-Chee card and the American Topps card. Its values are generally higher than the Topps Yzerman rookie due to the lower printing volume and rarity of the O-Pee-Chee card.

Steve Yzerman Rookie Cards
The 1984 Steve Yzerman rookie cards were more commonly found from Topps, while the smaller production numbers from the O-Pee-Chee version value the card at over $1,000.

PSA 9 rated 1984 Topps Steve Yzerman rookie cards are currently selling for $300 – $400 on eBay. While the O-Pee-Chee card in PSA 9.5 condition will sell for over $1,000.

Yzerman is not only an NHL Hall of Famer, but he’s also a member of the Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame, the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame, and the Canada Sports Hall of Fame. His 19 years of service as team captain of the Detroit Red Wings is the longest streak in professional sports history.

Even with the incredible career Yzerman had on the ice, he’s still working to cement his legacy as one of the greatest General Managers of all-time. If he turns around the struggling Red Wings team and leads them to a championship, Steve Yzerman could become one of the most iconic hockey masterminds in sports history.

The Captain led the Detroit Red Wings for 19 seasons. Hockey fans remember Yzerman for his clutch goal scoring and three-time Stanley Cup championships.

Barry Bonds Rookie Cards Value

Some travel the road to greatness by their soft-spoken persona and incredible leadership abilities, like Steve Yzerman. And then there’s Barry Bonds.

It doesn’t really matter what your opinion of Barry Bonds is; he’s one of the greatest hitters ever to walk the face of the earth. The game of baseball may never see talent on the level of Barry Bonds again. All the controversy aside, he was captivating every time he stepped to the plate.

During a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Barry Bonds was intentionally walked with the bases loaded. The score was 8-6 in the bottom of the ninth, and Arizona manager Buck Showalter decided it would be best to walk Bonds with the bases loaded and make the score 8-7, rather than pitch a ball anywhere near the strike zone, where Bonds might launch it into the Pacific Ocean for a game-winning grand slam.

If this doesn’t give the clearest example of the fact that Barry Bonds was the most feared hitter in the world, I don’t know what does.

Barry Bonds launching a home run and doing a twirl out of the box. The confidence and swagger of this guy was something to behold. I’m sure there are pitchers still having nightmares, twenty or thirty years later.

Let me remind you that Barry Bonds is the all-time leader of home runs in baseball history with 762, passing Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron in the final few seasons of his career. The controversy surrounding Bonds during the end of his career might make some baseball fans ignore his mind-blowing stats, and it seems baseball card collectors might be ignoring Barry Bonds rookie cards as well.

Values for his rookie cards are not as high-flying as one might think for an all-time home run leader. Maybe his fan popularity problems have something to do with this fact, or perhaps it’s because the card years for Bonds rookie seasons were produced in much higher quantities than, say, the early 80s cards.

There’s a 1986 Topps Traded Tiffany Barry Bonds rookie card valued at well over $1,000, and a 1987 O-Pee-Chee Barry Bonds rookie card selling for over $2,000, but my favorite Bonds rookie card might be the 1987 Fleer card.

Barry Bonds Rookie Cards Value
The 1987 Fleer Barry Bonds rookie card. There are others valued higher, but this is my personal favorite.

The 1987 Fleer Barry Bonds rookie card is the most popular, with a glossy and base version printed for the year. With the recent sale of a PSA 10 Fleer glossy card for $700, that’s almost triple the standard Fleer card’s value, which is selling for $245. (PSA 10)

There have been 1,245 PSA 10 Fleer Barry Bonds rookie standard cards graded to date, while the glossy version of the card currently shows a population of 564 PSA 10s. If you’re looking for a great Barry Bonds rookie card to add to your collection, the glossy ’87 Fleer might be the best bet.

In his day, Barry Bonds could be a polarizing figure, but when you had the ability to turn around a 100 mile per hour fastball and hit it into the ocean – I don’t really care what you eat or drink or inject, to be honest.