5 Great Early Career Frank Thomas Baseball Cards

Frank Thomas was a statistical monster between 1991 and 1997 (which I featured in the 13th Post War Cards Newsletter). He wrapped up his career with a .301 batting average, 2468 hits, 521 home runs, and 1704 runs batted in, leading to a first-ballot Baseball Hall of Fame induction in 2014. Given his extraordinary accomplishments at the plate and the fact that I grew up in the Chicago suburbs during Frank’s early playing days, I thought I’d reminisce and share a few of my favorite early career Frank Thomas baseball cards.

First, though, I won’t be including the 1990 Topps NNOF card on this list; I wrote about it in a dedicated post back in March 2021. I also won’t include minor league cards. By the way, Frank excelled during the junk wax era, and his PSA Master Set requires a whopping 2613 cards!

Anyway, here are five cards you might want to buy or pull a pack-fresh copy of.

1990 Bowman #320 Frank Thomas

1990 Bowman #320 Frank Thomas

I like the 1990 Bowman Frank Thomas card because he looks so happy! I also really like the design of this set. Wikipedia notes, “Thomas was one of the few major league stars who never fell under suspicion during the performance-enhancing drugs controversies of the late 1990s. An advocate for drug testing as early as 1995, he was the only active player who agreed to be interviewed for the Mitchell Report in 2007.”

The 1990 Bowman Frank Thomas card isn’t as massively graded as his 1990 Leaf card from the same year; there are “just” 3800 PSA-graded examples, and Gem Mint 10 copies are selling for around $100 these days.

Bowman distributed their 1990 baseball set in a ton of different ways, including wax, cello, rack, super cello, jumbo, and via factory set. Collect auctions sold a wax case of 24 boxes for $468 in March 2022.

1990 Bowman Baseball Wax Case

1990 Leaf #300 Frank Thomas

1990 Leaf #300 Frank Thomas

The 1990 Leaf Frank Thomas card is one of the jewels of the early “premium” junk wax era. As kids, we were all desperate to get our hands on this card, which features a great action shot. Today, it’s not that hard to find, PSA has graded over 20k examples, but it’s still so popular that despite those numbers, gem mint examples are still pushing $200.

You can find the Frank Thomas card in Series II boxes which sell for between $125 and 150.

1990 Leaf Baseball Series II Boxes

1991 Topps Desert Shield #79 Frank Thomas

1991 Topps Desert Shield #79 Frank Thomas

I’ve been writing about the 1991 Topps Desert Shield set a lot lately, so it shouldn’t be surprising that I included the Thomas card on this list. The card features another great photo of Thomas at bat, too.

PSA has graded 469 examples of the Frank Thomas Desert Shield card, and the last PSA 10, according to PSA’s records, sold for $860 in January 2021.

Now, authenticated Desert Shield packs are scarce and pricey. Robert Edward Auctions sold a pack in their Summer 2022 Auction for $1020.

1991 Topps Desert Shield Wax Pack

1992 Donruss Elite #18 Frank Thomas

1992 Donruss Elite #18 Frank Thomas

The 1991 Donruss Elite set was the first stamped serial numbered insert set in the hobby. But Frank wasn’t a part of it. So I’m including the 1992 version. Its print run was just 10k, and the card helped propel the serial number craze. The 1992 set is sequentially numbered as a follow on to the 1991 set. I prefer the 1992 edition, though, as I think the gold holofoil, diamond-shaped, green borders are really attractive.

PSA has only graded 308 of the 10000 Donruss Elite Frank Thomas cards, and the last PSA 10 in their records sold for $810 in January 2021.

The Elite Series cards were available in both series of 1992 Donruss cards, whose boxes sell for around $25. 

1992 Donruss Baseball Series I and II Boxes

1993 Finest Refractor #102 Frank Thomas

1993 Finest Refractor #102 Frank Thoma

The 1993 Finest Refractors are an iconic parallel set. They were the first refractor insert in the hobby, and Topps made just 241 of each card since, according to Topps, just 4000 12-box cases were released, and each box had just one refractor parallel card (the set has a 199-card checklist).

The Thomas refractor is one of the most expensive in the set. PWCC sold a PSA 10-graded Thomas Refractor for $7400 in April 2021. More recently, a PSA 9 was sold on eBay for $1753 in October 2022.

Robert Edward Auctions sold the following 1993 Topps Finest box for $960 in their 2021 Spring auction.

1993 Topps Finest Baseball Box

I hope you enjoyed what was, for me, a very nostalgic trip back to early 1990s baseball card collecting. Happy Collecting!

PS, I mentioned the Post War Cards Newsletter in the introduction, don’t forget to subscribe.

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