Since the 1991 Topps Desert Shield set is celebrating its 30th anniversary, I thought it was appropriate to take a deeper look into the top card in the set, and that would be card #333, Chipper Jones. Jones was an 8x All-Star, NL MVP in 1999, and a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2018 who hit 468 home runs while batting .303 over his 19-year MLB career, all with the Atlanta Braves.
First though, a little about the 1991 Topps Desert Shield set. Then we will jump into the graded population and prices. Topps released their standard 792-card 1991 Topps set with a unique gold foil stamp in the top right-hand corner and intended them for the troops deployed to Iraq. They packaged the cards in packs and boxes identical to the regular issue 1991 Topps set. It’s rumored, within the hobby, that Topps made about 6000-7000 of each card. Many of those cards, though, were lost in transit (never made it overseas) or never made it back with soldiers from the Middle East. Collectors have been paying a lot for high-grade cards since they’re pretty scarce, were never sold in retail, and complete sets were never released, not to mention their historical significance. Plus, the cards that made it back weren’t in the best condition.
Now, moving into the 1991 Topps Desert Shield Chipper Jones card specifically. It is one of Chipper’s most sought-after rookie cards, and it’s the only key rookie in the set.
From a population perspective, there are just over 700 of them graded by PSA, with 31 grading a perfect PSA 10, 158 PSA 9s, 32 PSA 8.5s, and 272 PSA8s.
The card doesn’t come cheap. The last PSA 10 sold for over $21K in March 2021, almost a year after the previous two PSA 10 sales in the summer of 2020 for $13k and $14k, respectively.
Even if you go a grade lower, PSA 9s are still out of the reach of many collectors, with the last three selling for $1560, $1775, and $1932 in June and July 2021.
PSA 8 1991 Topps Desert Shield Chipper Jones cards are a little more affordable but by no means cheap, with the last three selling for $760, $860, and $787 in April and May 2021.
If you think you can save a few dollars by buying raw, that might be true, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Buying authenticated copies is essential because 1991 Topps Desert Shield cards are commonly forged, so buying raw is extremely risky. There is a good thread on the net54Baseball forums explaining how to spot a fake.
If the graded cards are too expensive for you and you think you might want to try to pull one out of a pack, that’s going to be a cost-prohibitive way of obtaining one since boxes now sell for >$30k, and there’s no guarantee there will be a single Chipper Jones card inside. Remember, 1991 Topps Desert Shield is a 792 card set, and a 36-pack box only has 540 cards.
The 1991 Topps Desert Shield set is historically significant and particularly popular for anyone who grew up collecting cards during the junk wax era, and the Chipper Jones rookie card is the “biggest” card in the set. Suppose you’re in search of one for your collection. In that case, I highly recommend buying one authenticated by a third-party grader from a reputable dealer or auction house. There is still some risk, as third party graders aren’t perfect, so do your research before spending big money.
If you have anything else to share about this fantastic set or the Chipper Jones card, please leave a comment below or reach out to me over on Twitter.