For many baseball fans and card collectors, the Mark McGwire rookie card brings up a mix of emotions and memories.
Some remember the monster home runs, and the incredible power at the plate. Others remember the scandal, cries of cheating, and congresional testimony.
Make no mistake, Mark McGwire is not without his share of controversy. But he sure could crush a baseball.
Nicknamed Big Mac, he played in the MLB from 1986 to 2001 for the Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals as a first baseman.
He was also a part of the United States Baseball Team and a silver medalist in the Olympics. A prolific home-run hitter, he’s broken and set many records for both home runs and a host of other categories. While his career wasn’t without controversy, he remains a fan favorite and widely respected and revered baseball legend.
Unsurprisingly, his baseball cards are legendary too. His card values continue to appreciate, and his rookie cards are widely sought-after by card collectors and baseball fans alike.
Mark McGwire Background and Stats
Big Mac was significant in many ways. He stood at 6’5″, and played like a giant. Out of all his talents, he was best known as one of baseball’s greatest power hitters.
As part of the “Bash-Brothers” duo, along with Jose Canseco, Big Mac set a record in his rookie season with 49 home runs.
The 1993-94 season was not a good one for Mark “Big Mac” McGwire, and he sat most of the season out with injuries. He found his form again in 1996, though, and he was a man possessed for the next couple of seasons.
Big Mac became one of the most popular players in the Big Leagues. He became the first player ever to have four consecutive 50+ home run seasons, hitting 245 home runs in that period.
For all of his many accomplishments, being a Hall of Famer isn’t one of them. There is no doubt that his on-the-field warrant inclusion, but unfortunately, like Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and many other baseball stars of the 1990s, he succumbed to steroid use.
In 2010, after many years of speculation and accusations, he admitted that he used steroids during the 1990s to recover from injuries quickly.
The significant allegations began in 2005, when his name, among many other prominent stars of that era, in Jose Canseco’s tell-all biography, Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big.
In the book, he made various claims of McGwire’s steroid use. Among them that McGwire had used performance-enhancing drugs since the 1980s and that he (Canseco) had personally injected him with them.
In 2005, McGwire and Canseco were among 11 baseball players and executives subpoenaed to testify at a congressional hearing on steroids. During McGwire’s testimony on March 17, 2005, he declined to answer any questions but made the following statement:
“Asking me or any other player to answer questions about who took steroids in front of television cameras will not solve the problem. If a player answers ‘No,’ he simply will not be believed; if he answers ‘Yes,’ he risks public scorn and endless government investigations. My lawyers have advised me that I cannot answer these questions without jeopardizing my friends, my family, and myself. I will say, however, that it remains a fact in this country that a man, any man, should be regarded as innocent unless proven guilty.”
The National Baseball Hall of Fame voters have still not voted to include him to this day, although many campaigns and large groups of fans are still hopeful for his inclusion one day.
McGwire Comes Clean
Later, in 2010, McGwire would admit to using human growth hormone on and off for a decade or so.
My baseball steroid take remains in effect for McGwire. As soon as the first hitter began taking performance-enhancing drugs, the major league pitchers were right behind them. Don’t forget that Big Mac had to launch home runs off of roided out pitchers day in and day out.
And if you don’t think HGH can add five mph to a major league fastball and help the slider drop an extra 4 inches, you might be out of your mind. Long story short – let him in the hall of fame already!
Mark McGwire in Retirement
After his playing days, McGwire spent time during his retirement as a bench coach for the San Diego Padres until the 2018 season.
A few of his career highlights include:
- 12× All-Star (1987–1992, 1995–2000)
- 2× World Series champion (1989, 2011)
- AL Rookie of the Year (1987)
- Gold Glove Award (1990)
- 3× Silver Slugger Award (1992, 1996, 1998)
- 5× MLB home run leader (1987, 1996–1999)
- NL RBI leader (1999)
- Athletics Hall of Fame
- St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame
- Major League Baseball All-Century Team
Mark McGwire Rookie Cards
Like his career, Mark McGwire’s baseball cards have had quite a few ups and downs. First, values were extraordinarily high, and then they came down in average value over the late 1990s. Mint condition signed versions of his rookie cards still command high values.
Let’s take a look at the 6 Mark McGwire Rookie cards.
1985 Topps Mark McGwire Rookie #401
The original is the only “first” Mark McGwire rookie card. The first cards we’ll be discussing are from 1987 and are only considered rookie cards as they are the first McGwire cards to show him in his famous Oakland A’s uniform.
This original 1985 Topps Mark McGwire RC features him in his USA Baseball Team Olympic Team uniform.
Specific facts might have hurt the value of this rookie card over the years, including:
- Overprinting leading to a surplus
- Heavy distribution with cards being available everywhere
- Steroid abuse admissions and the ensuing personal scandal
The Topps Mark McGwire rookie card #401 is part of a massive set of 792 cards.
Topps Rookie Card Design Elements
The Topps card changed to a vertical layout in the mid-eighties and included the team logo and name along with the player name and position at the bottom of the card.
However, for the Olympic team cards, which ran from cards number #389 to #404, Topps featured a baseball in the upper left corner with “USA” in bold. Also included was a titled banner that reads “1984 United States Baseball Team”.
As you’ve probably guessed by now, Mark McGwire’s rookie card was one of these Olympic subsets, and you can see him in all his Olympic glory wearing the USA uniform on the front of the card.
In this version, like all the Olympic subsets, the player’s name and position are included below the dominant player images.
Back of the Card
The reverse side has the usual horizontal format and includes Big Mac’s bio and College stats. The same 1980s lime-green colorway is in full garish force, and there is also an apt mention of his sublime hitting ability, which was already a powerful force in College.
The reverse side of the card is printed with a horizontal layout and features McGwire’s personal information and statistics from each of his three years playing for USC.
There is also a section including the stats of his USA Baseball career.
Real-Time Google Trends Chart
Here’s a real-time google trends chart of Mark McGwire search activity since 2004. You can see the increase in search volume over the last few years as the sports card market has gained momentum.
Card Condition Variables
As with many cards from this era, you need to check for off-centering as this will seriously affect the card’s value. Other issues include worn corners and general wear and tear issues that decrease the resale value.
The highest value cards are graded by the Professional Sports Authenticators (PSA) as PSA 10 Gem Mint condition. Therefore, these cards can fetch some reasonable prices on resale.
Current market values are as follows:
- PSA 10 GEM MINT – $750
- PSA 9 MINT – $45
- PSA 8 NM-MT – $10
1985 Topps Mark McGwire RC Tiffany #401
As with many Topps sports cards of that era, there is also a Tiffany version of the Topps Rookie Card.
From 1984 to 1991, Topps included limited-edition Tiffany cards of many players. A lot less were produced, and the quality was higher, making these cards much more valuable than the regular versions.
Visually, they appear to have a whiter finish and are much glossier. This is due to a special treatment included when producing the card. The goal was to keep them preserved for longer, and it worked.
When comparing the two cards almost 40 years later, the Tiffany version has retained its looks and shape better than the original, especially as a PSA card with a 9 or 10 rating.
There is also a significant difference on the reverse side of the Tiffany version of this card, with the 1980s lime coloring being much more prolific. This changes the color scheme significantly, and as a result, the Tiffany version of the card is much easier to read.
What is a Mark McGwire rookie card worth? Current market values for the Topps Tiffany card –
- PSA 10 GEM MINT – $5,000
- PSA 9 MINT – $275
- PSA 8 NM-MT – $125
As mentioned, there is also a series of 1987 cards that are also considered by many in the industry as Rookie Cards based on the first appearance of Mark McGwire in an MLB uniform.
1987 Donruss Rated Rookie #46
The 1987 Donruss Mark McGwire Rated Rookie range from Donruss is a firm fan favorite, and the 1987 versions are particularly popular. The design, including colored borders, gives the cards a unique look and feel, although the colored borders vividly show the age and often appear faded and cracked.
The estimated PSA 10 value on these cards is $25.
1987 Donruss Rookies #1
The Donruss Rookies set that came out in 1987 had Mark McGwire as their very first version. It has the same look and feel as the Donruss Rated Rookie card, except for a slightly different picture and a “The Rookies” logo on the bottom.
The estimated PSA 10 value on these cards is $30.
1987 Fleer Update Mark McGwire Rookie Card #U-76
The 1987 Fleer Update Rookie cards are instantly recognizable with their blue borders, and this version features McGwire posing as if following through on a big ball swing.
The estimated average selling price of a Fleer Mark McGwire PSA 10 card is $15.
1987 Leaf Mark McGwire Rated Rookie #46
Leaf was the Canadian version of the US-only Donruss cards. As such, they also released a Rated Rookie card for Mark McGwire. The look and feel of the two cards are virtually identical, with the only difference being the Leaf logo on the top left of the Leaf version.
Since they are scarcer than the Donruss version, the Leaf cards are more expensive on resale.
The estimated PSA 10 value on this card is $80.
1987 Topps Mark McGwire #366
The 1987 Topps McGwire rookie card is considered the second most popular one besides the 1984 Topps version. It was the first Topps McGwire Rookie Card featuring him in his Oaklands Athletics uniform and was also a significantly popular card when it came out in 1987.
The estimated PSA 10 value on these cards is $30.
Other Valuable Mark McGwire Cards
There are other valuable Mark McGwire cards beyond his baseball rookie cards. While the regular card from any random 1990s year probably won’t be worth much, there are a few special edition cards to familiarize yourself with.
Of the modern cards, there are several valuable McGwire’s that you might want to keep your eye on.
The Topps Project 2020 include 20 iconic baseball cards from 20 different cultural artists.
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