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A Closer Look at Cal Ripken Jr’s 4 Rookie Cards

Cal Ripken Jr. is a baseball legend. There’s not a lot that I need to say about his on-the-field achievements. But, if you want to read more about him, check out Cal’s Wikipedia page. I’ve been collecting Cal Ripken Jr for years, he’s my all-time favorite athlete, and a lot of his cards seem to have been garnering a lot of attention lately, so I thought it was worth taking a deeper look into his three base rookies (Donruss, Fleer, and Topps) and his Topps Traded card from 1982.

1982 Donruss #405 Cal Ripken Jr.

1982 Donruss Cal Ripken Jr.

Cal’s Donruss rookie is his “least” desirable by reputation. Therefore it follows that it’s the most affordable in PSA 10. Another big reason for this is that 1982 Donruss cards weren’t very condition-sensitive out of the pack. On the other hand, it’s widely believed that fewer Donruss cards were printed than Fleer in 1982, so it makes sense that Cal’s Donruss PSA 8s would be slightly more expensive than his Fleer PSA 8s. I will note that finding a signed Ripken Donruss rookie has been an arduous task for me, and I’m still trying to land one.

Recent Sales (Population):

PSA 10: ~$700+ (646)

PSA 9: ~$125 (2571)

PSA 8: ~$45 (4176)

If you are looking to pull a Ripken rookie from an unopened product, Donruss cards came in 36 pack boxes, and the packs had 15 cards plus a puzzle piece (no gum to ruin cards). There were also triple wax pack racks and fun bags. Additionally, there were some hobby-only factory sets released.

1982 Fleer #176 Cal Ripken Jr.

1982 Fleer Cal Ripken Jr.

Cal’s Fleer rookie card photo is pretty average to me, perhaps because it always looks out of focus. However, there are the fewest 10s of all four rookies with only 300. And that’s because of centering issues. Therefore, of the three base rookies, Fleer commands the highest prices. 

Recent Sales (Population):

PSA 10: ~$2200 (300)

PSA 9: ~$125 (2458)

PSA 8: ~$35 (4959)

Like Donruss, Fleer couldn’t include gum with cards since an appeals court ruled that Topps still had the exclusive right to sell cards with gum. So stickers were included with the cards. They came in 36 pack boxes of 15 cards plus that sticker. There were also cello packs that came 24 to a box (28 cards plus two stickers). Additionally, you can track down triple wax racks and 500 card vending boxes of Fleer cards if you’re looking to pull a fresh Ripken rookie.

1982 Topps #21 Bonner/Ripken/Schneider

1982 Topps Cal Ripken Jr.

1982 Topps is considered one of the first “clean” designs. There are a lot of these Ripken rookie cards around. However, there can be centering issues, but the thing that keeps many Topps Ripken rookies from achieving a 10 grade are print defects.

Recent Sales (Population):

PSA 10: ~$1600 (539)

PSA 9: ~$150+ (6301)

PSA 8: ~$55 (15459)

1982 Topps Baseball cards were distributed in 15 card wax packs with a stick of gum. They were also available in 36 card grocery rack packs and 51-card regular racks, and 28 card cellos. Topps also produced 500 card vending boxes.

1982 Topps Traded #98T Cal Ripken Jr.

1982 Topps Traded Cal Ripken Jr.

The 1982 Topps Traded Ripken is famously considered a Top 200 card in the hobby. Cal’s most desirable rookie card (even though some purists will argue only the base cards count as rookies) is the traded variant. But Topps “Traded” is a bit misleading; it’s how Topps printed players who were called up from the minors during the regular season along with traded players. Many people prefer Topps to the other brands of this era, and since the Topps base card includes two other players, many people prefer the Traded Ripken as it features Cal by himself. The cardboard used for these cards was pretty low quality, causing some condition sensitivity. Considering it’s advantageous to get the Topps traded card graded since the floor of the price is highest, there are surprisingly few PSA 10s.

Recent Sales (Population):

PSA 10: ~$6000+ (390)

PSA 9: ~$600 (3830)

PSA 8: ~$240 (5899)

The set was released in boxed form only to dealers in 100 set cases.

You really can’t go wrong adding a classic rookie card to your collection, so any of the four would be a great addition. Which 1982 Ripken is your favorite? Let me know down in the comments.

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