Greg Maddux had an incredible Major League Baseball career. His on-the-field accomplishments will be challenging for any modern pitcher to match. Even though, from a hobby perspective, he came into the league at the beginning of the junk era, his rookie cards have been getting a bit more attention lately. So I thought I would take a deeper look at a pair of them, the 1987 Donruss and Leaf cards, since they’re the only ones collectors could pull from a pack.
First, let’s take a minute to appreciate how consistently good Maddux was. To me, his most impressive statistic is that he put up 15+ wins over 17 consecutive seasons. But overall, Maddux finished his career with 355 wins, a 3.16 ERA, 3371 strikeouts, and 4 Cy Young Awards (consecutively between 1992 and 1995). He was also an incredible fielder earning 18 gold glove awards. Maddux won the 1995 World Series with the Atlanta Braves; he was astonishingly dominant that season.
Historians often consider Maddux’s 1995 season one of the most dominant pitching seasons in baseball history. He went 19-2 with a 1.63 ERA. He only walked 23 batters (and hit 3) against 181 strikeouts, over 209.2 innings pitched. Over his 28 starts, Maddux completed ten games with three shutouts. He earned the Cy Young award, was 3rd in MVP voting, and won the gold glove.
Maddux was, of course, a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee earning 97.2% of the vote.
Despite that fantastic career success, Maddux didn’t start his career in a dominating manner. In 1986, as a 20-year-old, he made five starts (with six appearances) and went 2-4 with a 5.52 ERA. His 1987 season wasn’t great either, with a 6-14 record and 5.61 ERA. So it’s no surprise that of the major card manufacturers, only Donruss (and their Canadian brand, Leaf) put Maddux in their base set. So I’ll concentrate the rest of this article on the Donruss and Leaf cards with more information about the products for people looking to find a pack-fresh copy of Maddux’s rookie card.
1987 Donruss #36 Greg Maddux
Donruss printed their 1987 baseball set in huge numbers, and you can see the impact of that printing in the population report for the Greg Maddux rookie card, #36.
Recently Sales (Population):
- PSA 10: ~$240 (2,577)
- PSA 9: $30 (13,480)
- PSA 8: $10 (11,725)
What’s nice about the set, though, is the design. The black borders pop, and for the Maddux card, the “Rated Rookie” designation on the front now has a classic feel.
You have a few options if you’re looking to get a factory fresh Donruss Greg Maddux rookie card. The traditional way is through wax packs, and they came 36 to a box, and BBCE authenticated ones sell for around $80.
The cards also came in rack packs. An authenticated one featuring Maddux on top sells for around $90.
In 1987, Donruss also produced Factory Sets and Bilser Rack Packs.
1987 Leaf #36 Greg Maddux
The 1987 Leaf Greg Maddux rookie is one of the priciest cards of this hobby era. As collectors realized that Donruss didn’t print as many Canadian Leaf releases, they have become more popular, so low supply with high demand. The average sales prices and population counts for PSA-graded Leaf Maddux cards are substantially more expensive and rare than Donruss rookies.
Recently Sales (Population):
- PSA 10: ~$1300 (493)
- PSA 9: $95 (1130)
- PSA 8: $20 (11509)
The 1987 Leaf set only has 264 cards and has a nearly identical design, except the Leaf logo on the front, and the backs are bilingual (English and French)
If you want to pull a pack fresh Leaf Maddux rookie, it will cost a bit more than Donruss. Recent sales prices have been a bit all over the place, with sales of $326, $459, and $473 for BBCE authenticated 1987 Leaf wax boxes.
You can find cases of the boxes and dual Donruss/Leaf cases, too.
I don’t want people to think the 1987 Fleer Update or 1987 Topps Traded (and other Maddux Rookies) are somehow inferior. They just aren’t pack pullable; if you buy a boxed set, you know what you’re getting.
Ultimately, adding any early-career Greg Maddux card would be an excellent addition to a baseball card collection, but which is your favorite? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter, and happy collecting!