By Darren Rovell
Posted 3 June 2010
On June 2nd 2010, Ken Griffey Jr, one of the most prolific home run hitters in baseball history, announced his retirement from Major League Baseball after 21 years playing the game.
In honor of Ken Griffey Jr.'s retirement, I've put together my list of the most iconic baseball cards of all-time, taking a look at the cards that have most dramatically caught the eye of collectors around the country. Griffey Jr’s cards were highly coveted early in his career – not only because he was a fan-favorite and highly marketable – but also because his early career put him on a trajectory to shatter records.
Keep in mind that the cards listed here aren’t necessarily the most valuable, instead, they have received the most chatter from collectors and baseball enthusiasts over the years. But to give context, we’ve included price information from Beckett.com.
So, what are the most iconic baseball cards of all time? Click ahead to see the list!
Approx Value: $3,000
The Red Sox slugger had signed with Topps exclusively, yet somehow he showed up on the competitor's card. Topps forced Bowman to get rid of their Williams' cards and thus this became his more important card.
Approx Value: $30
The Olympic team cards were always exciting to get and this one was no exception. What's interesting about this card is that it might have been hotter in the 90s as the business was dying down and McGwire was in the home run chase than it was in the 80s when the card was produced.
Approx Value: $8,000
Autographs of the "Bambino" seem to generate more buzz, but if there's a card that people go after, it's this one. The 1933 Goudey set was the first baseball card set that included bubble gum in it.
Approx Value: $15
His brother Cal might be a Hall of Famer, but this card is Billy's moment thanks to the obsenity that was on his bat. Fleer produced so many different versions to cover up the "error," but the obsenity card was the prize. At its height, it sold for $500. Ripken told us exclusively how it all happened.
Approx Value: $500
This card really gained popularity in the 1980s as baseball card prices boomed. Partly helping the chase for this card was the fact that Ryan doesn't share this card with some guy that didn't pan out. Jerry Koosman had a decent 19-season career including four seasons in which he won 17 games or more.
Approx Value: $10
By 1986, Donruss had clearly established itself as the leader in the marketplace, partly because it's "Rated Rookie" cards and this card was the ultimate card in that franchise.
Approx Value: $25
This card in many ways was the first card bought up by the "investors." Prior to this, collecting was fun for most. But when the card shows blossomed in the 1980s, everyone was running around looking for this card.
Approx Value: $30,000
This card would have been worth something anyway, but there are fewer Mantles out there for two reasons. One, it was the second part of the set, which wasn't made in the same quantity as the first part. Then when things didn't sell, the folks at Topps dumped hundreds of leftover cases into the Atlantic Ocean, leaving the kids who still had Mantles in their shoe boxes a chance to make money -- if only their moms didn't throw them out.
Approx Value: $350,000
The rarest of all cards only owned by the very elite, including Wayne Gretzky, who bought it with Bruce McNall for $451,000 in 1991. The price continued to rise, as a collector paid $2.8 million for it in 2007.
Approx Value: $40
This card represented the very height of baseball card collecting. Upper Deck's very first card in its first-ever set was surely going to pay for all of our college educations -- if only we knew how many "limited edition" cards Upper Deck was making.