Almost from the moment the very first collector cracked open the very first wax pack of 1990 Donruss baseball cards, the reaction was something along the lines of … “is this some sort of joke??”.

That, or a roiling stomach … or hands clasped over the mouth … or just a disgusted head shake.

What the heck was Donruss thinking??

Bloody red borders, complete with speckles of, what, paint drippings? Bird droppings?

Egad!

About the best we could say was that the cards had the sort of flair that only Donruss could roll out. And, definitely not in a good way.

Add in the fact that these cards flooded the market like every other base set in the Junk Wax era, and you have the makings of a distinctly unvaluable run of cards all these years later.

But …

Well, there are some interesting cards in this set, including some solid rookie cards, and some unusual and collectible errors and variations.

And the red borders actually present some condition challenges, to the point that the most common condition returned from PSA’s grading services, according to their Population Report, is a mere PSA 8 — that’s a NM-MT rating, in case you’re wondering.

So, while 1990 Donruss baseball cards are certainly not the most popular in the hobby, they have their merits, and plenty of collectors still seek them out AND pay decent money for them.

What follows, then, is a list of the most valuable 1990 Donruss baseball cards, by measure of actual selling prices for copies slabbed in PSA 8, as reported in the PSA Auction Prices Realized tool.

(Note: The following sections contain affiliate links to eBay and Amazon listings for the cards being discussed. Check out our full series of posts on the history of Donruss baseball cards.)

25) 1990 Donruss Tony Gwynn (#86)

1990 Donruss Tony Gwynn

In 1989, Tony Gwynn had won his third straight National League batting title, hitting .336 for the San Diego Padres. It would be his last hitting crown until he made a run at .400 during the strike-shortened 1994 season.

So, in a way, this 1990 Donruss card represented the intermission – the seventh-inning stretch, if you will – of Gwynn’s storied Hall of Fame career.

Definitely worthy of leading off this list.

Value: $2-4

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24) 1990 Donruss Randy Johnson (#379)

1990 Donruss Randy Johnson

The Montreal Expos traded Randy Johnson to the Seattle Mariners in May of 1989 in exchange for Mark Langston. Sure, Gene Harris, Brian Holman, and Mike Campbell were involved, but this one went down as Johnson for Langston.

And, mostly, as “The Trade that Turned Randy Johnson’s Career Around.”

Before he came to Seattle, Johnson was a towering blur of elbows and knees on the mound, with all sorts of promise, but also with frightening “control.” After … well, still some of the same, but he also became one of the greatest left-handers of all time, and an ace of aces in his generation.

This Red Menace of a card was the Big Unit’s first base Donruss issue showing him with the Mariners, so … it’s historical. In a hobby sort of way, at least.

Value: $2-4

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23) 1990 Donruss Nolan Ryan King of Kings – correct back (#665)

1990 Donruss Nolan Ryan King of Kings - correct back

Nolan Ryan spent 1989 proving to the Texas Rangers that they made a wise investment in signing him to a free agent contract the previous December.

After notching his sixth no-hitter and 5000th strikeout, the Ryan Express had ascended from mere baseball superstar and elder statesman winding down a stellar career in his home state to an outright diamond legend and the hottest thing the hobby had seen since Mickey Mantle himself.

Donruss read the signals perfectly and dropped in plenty of Ryan in 1990, including this extra Diamond Kings entry at the back of the set.

Religious connotations aside, this King of Kings entry also contributed to the error card mania that proliferated through the late 1980s and 1990s, as we’ll see later in the list.

This Ryan card, though, is just as Donruss intended, and it’s a hobby winner.

Value: $3-5

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22) 1990 Donruss David Justice Rookie Card (#704)

1990 Donruss David Justice Rookie Card

David Justice had just about everything the hobby demanded from a big-time rookie when he made his first splash in the summer of 1990.

He was young(ish).

He was good looking.

He played for a team with a national profile and fan base.

And he hit for big power.

Ding! Ding! That’s a winner in collecting circles, no matter how you slice it.

And, though his movie-star profile may have rankled some, Justice spoke loudest with his bat, the same one that cranked 28 home runs on his way to the 1990 N.L. Rookie of the Year award.

And, all summer long, collectors could chase his 1990 Donruss rookie card in “live” wax packs.

Not surprisingly, some of that hobby swagger remains.

Value: $3-5

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21) 1990 Donruss Rickey Henderson (#304)

1990 Donruss Rickey Henderson

After more than four years of parading his special brand of hot dog in the Bronx, Rickey Henderson came back to the Oakland A’s in a summer 1989 trade.

That dropped him right into the noise and fury of the Bash Brother run and set him up to help Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Dennis Eckersley, and the rest win their only World Series together.

It also set up Henderson to break Lou Brock’s all-time stolen base record, top 1000 stolen bases, and take aim at any number of other SB records while wearing Gold and Green.

Oh, along the way, he also posted maybe his greatest all-around season on his way to Cooperstown, copping American League MVP honors in 1990.

This 1990 Donruss Rickey was there for the whole show.

Value: $3-5

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20) 1990 Donruss Larry Walker Rookie Card (#578)

1990 Donruss Larry Walker Rookie Card

Larry Walker’s trek to the Hall of Fame was more of a slow burn than a streak-across-the-sky rocket ride, and the early returns didn’t look all that promising.

He hit .170 in a cup of coffee with Expos in 1989, then just .241 as a rookie in 1990, after all. That latter mark was accompanied by 19 home runs and 21 stolen bases, though, enough to at least make collectors mark his 1990 Donruss rookie card as one to keep tabs on down the line.

More than 30 years on, of course, Walker has his plaque, and this card is one of the best in an overall maligned (and Junk Wax-y) set.

Value: $3-5

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19) 1990 Donruss Sammy Sosa Rookie Card (#489)

1990 Donruss Sammy Sosa Rookie Card

Sammy Sosa is hardly recognizable on his 1990 Donruss RC, standing there as a skinny young dude wearing Chicago White Sox duds and holding the bat sort of awkwardly.

Truth is, Sammy was being touted in some circles as a guy with plenty of tools-y potential, with power and speed that might play well in the majors … some day.

Those skills manifested pretty well through the middle 1990s, including through a trade to the Cubs, but all of that was swallowed up in the summer of 1998 as Sammy joined Mark McGwire in the chase to dethrone Roger Maris.

Sosa’s run of 60-homer seasons is still amazing to consider, even though he subsequent fell from grace – hard. There is still plenty of hobby love for Sammy, and his RCs still hold sway in whatever sets they appear.

Value: $3-5

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18) 1990 Donruss Nolan Ryan (#166)

1990 Donruss Nolan Ryan

This is just your standard, run-of-the-mill card featuring a living legend in his new uniform for the first time ever in a (Donruss) base set.

Ryan cards were fire in the early 1990s, and that went double for cards showing him with the Rangers. The fact that 1990 Donruss cards look like they’re actually on fire does little to change that fact.

Value: $4-5

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17) 1990 Donruss Deion Sanders Rookie Card (#427)

1990 Donruss Deion Sanders Rookie Card

Neon Deion Sanders was the flashier, mouthier counterpart to Bo Jackson, part of a new generation of high-profile athletes who wanted to have it all – or at least two parts of “all.”

So, Sanders embarked on a dual career in both Major League Baseball and the NFL.

Neon may not have been quite as tantalizing as Bo when it came to his baseball ceiling, but he managed to stay healthy, maintain jobs in both sports for nearly a decade, and make it all the way to the football Hall of Fame in Canton.

Though Sanders’ RCs will never break the bank, they maintain a strong standing in the hobby all these years later.

Value: $4-6

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16) 1990 Donruss Bo Jackson Diamond King (#1)

1990 Donruss Bo Jackson Diamond King

Bo Jackson was the most exciting athlete most folks had ever seen, and he seemed like he might achieve and maintain superstar status in both MLB and the NFL for decades to come.

And, after smashing 32 home runs and landing his first All-Star berth for the Kansas City Royals in 1989, Jackson looked right at home in this Dick Perez rendering to lead off the 1990 Donruss set.

Of course, a hip injury suffered on the gridiron early in 1991 would change the course of his career(s) and life, but collectors still love Bo’s cards.

Value: $4-6

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15) 1990 Donruss Ken Griffey Jr. Diamond King (#4)

1990 Donruss Ken Griffey Jr. Diamond King

Though Ken Griffey Jr. managed “just” 16 homers and 16 stolen bases in his 1989 debut, finishing third in A.L. Rookie of the Year voting, he was still viewed by most fans, pundits, and collectors as the most exciting and promising young talent in the game.

The next ten years would bear out that assessment, as Junior established himself as one of the handful of greatest players in MLB, inserting himself into conversations that featured terms like “greatest ever.”

A hobby star from the beginning, Griffey lights up whatever set he’s in, and his first Diamond Kings card is a favorite … even in a non-favorite set.

Value: $5-8

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14) 1990 Donruss Juan Gonzalez Rated Rookie (#33)

1990 Donruss Juan Gonzalez Rated Rookie

It took Juan Gonzalez a while to get warmed up in the major leagues, and some of his early exploits got swallowed up by the Nolan Ryan glare, but his 27 home runs and 102 RBI at age 21 in 1991 served notice of what was to come.

Those big power numbers also got Juan Gone’s rookie cards revving in the hobby, and they would continue to perk as he developed into a perennial 50-homer threat.

Two MVP awards by the time he was 29 had Gonzalez looking like a Hall of Famer, but a rapid post-30 decline put the kibosh on those ideas.

Still, Gonzalez and his big bat carry some hobby weight all these years later.

Value: $5-10

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13) 1990 Donruss 5,000 K’s – correct back (#559)

1990 Donruss 0 5,000 K's - correct back

When Ryan notched his 5000th strikeout on August 22, 1989, he did so in dramatic fashion, setting down Rickey Henderson.

Ryan also established a new milestone that no one else has breached (and he’d add 700+ more before all was said and done) and set up the card makers to celebrate his milestone.

Donruss used this slot for their tribute, yet another Ryan entry in the 1990 list of collector favorites.

Value: $5-10

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12) 1990 Donruss Bo Jackson (#61)

1990 Donruss Bo Jackson

Like Ryan, just about every Bo card stood – and remains – among the most popular and valuable cards in whichever set they appeared.

This base 1990 Donruss is no exception, and, though the red borders do little to complement all the Royals blue, at least we’re treated to a shot of Bo himself coiled and ready to spring on a pitch.

Value: $5-10

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11) 1990 Donruss Ken Griffey Jr. (#365)

1990 Donruss Ken Griffey Jr.

Griffey was already a hobby darling by the time 1990 Donruss cards made their debut, having helped springboard 1989 Upper Deck to stardom among collectors as that set’s de facto posterboy.

And, of course, Junior had that family pedigree and otherworldly talent to carry him in ANY set, even if he appears slightly unsure of himself, or of his surroundings, in this shot.

Not a great looking card, but still an early issue of an all-time great.

Value: $5-10

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10) 1990 Donruss Barry Bonds (#126)

1990 Donruss Barry Bonds

Like Griffey, Bonds arrived in the majors with the weight of expectations that come with being the son of a big league star. Bobby’s kid had a head start on Junior, too, having debuted with the Pirates in 1986.

In the four years leading up to 1990, Bonds established himself as a five-tool-type who brought maybe the most well-balanced package of any player to the ballpark each night.

Though collectors took awhile to warm up to his 20-20 talents in the face of the 40-homer seasons popping up across baseball, Bonds’ hobby fortunes took an upward turn when he won the 1990 National League MVP Award – his first of a record seven of them!

Money and power and records and scandal followed, and today we’re left with a guy who at once is one of the greatest hitters the game has ever seen, and one of its most polarizing figures.

Stil, any early-career Bonds card is bound to draw some attention, and this gaudy 1990 Donruss is no exception.

Value: $5-10

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9) 1990 Donruss Bernie Williams Rookie Card (#689)

1990 Donruss Bernie Williams Rookie Card

In 1990, Bernie Williams was just the latest in a long line of Yankees prospects that the Bronx faithful hoped would help return the Bombers to their former and rightful glory.

But, unlike the rest of those guys – Brien Taylor, Hensley Meulens, Al Leiter – Bernie actually stuck with the big club and made it through the lean years of the early 1990s.

The reward – for team, player, and fans – was a dynastic run from the 1996 through 2006, when Williams hung up his spikes.

Though Bernie may never make the Hall of Fame cut, he’s a Yankees legend and carries enough hobby sway even today to keep his rookie cards on lists like this one.

Value: $5-10

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8) 1990 Donruss Cal Ripken All-Star – error (#676)

1990 Donruss Cal Ripken All-Star - error

By 1990, Cal Ripken Jr. was starting to take flak for continuing The Streak in spite of slipping performance at the plate.

Take a day off now and then, critics said, and the Orioles will be all the better for it.

Cal kept plugging, though, even when the Orioles were bad, and even when he himself wasn’t great. He kept racking up All-Star appearances, too, which led to this card.

But, while Ripken enjoyed a hobby resurgence in 1991 on the back of maybe his greatest season ever, this particular card lands on our list because it’s an error (and not of the silly “no period after ‘inc’” variety, either).

As an All-Star card, the back of this one shows his AS stats:

1990 Donruss Cal Ripken Jr. All-Star (back - correct)

But some of the cards printed in early runs purported to show his “recent major league performance”:

1990 Donruss Cal Ripken Jr. All-Star (back - error - recent major league performance)

It’s scarce enough, at least in Junk Wax terms, to land a pretty cherry spot on this list.

Value: $5-10

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7) 1990 Donruss Albert Belle Rookie Card – Joey (#390)

1990 Donruss Albert Belle Rookie Card - Joey

In 1990, the baseball world still knew Albert Belle as “Joey” – even if we didn’t really know him at all.

At that point, Belle had yet to really show the power or plate selection that would become his stock-in-trade, at least beyond limited playing time in the minors.

He was already having some off-field issues, though, and began insisting that the world call him “Albert.”

Card companies were slow on the uptake, and by the time Belle turned into a monster in the box with the Indians in the middle of the decade, we all had to settle for ogling our Joey Belle rookie cards.

Those RCs still carry some weight – and healthy prices – today.

Value: $5-10

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6) 1990 Donruss Nolan Ryan King of Kings – wrong back (#559)

1990 Donruss Nolan Ryan King of Kings - wrong back

When you jam a bunch of cards of the same player into your set, and when you’re Donruss, the same company who rushed to market with a Bible-paper mush of pulp in 1981 … well, funny things can happen.

Like, sometimes you issue one Nolan Ryan card front with another Nolan Ryan card back. That’s what happened here, where we get the King of Kings painting with a 5000K back.

1990 Donruss Nolan Ryan 5000 Ks back

Errors and variations at their best, huh?

Value: $7-10

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5) 1990 Donruss Kirby Puckett All-Star – error (#683)

1990 Donruss Kirby Puckett All-Star - error

Kirby Puckett was the spark plug that made the 1980s and 1990s Twins go, and fans and collectors alike loved the Minnesota center fielder who would eventually land in Cooperstown.

Still do, for the most part.

But here in this wad of gaud set, Kirby shows up by virtue of the same error-correct All-Star back combination that befell Cal Ripken.

The correct back:

1990 Donruss Kirby Puckett All-Star (back - correct)

The error back:

1990 Donruss Kirby Puckett All-Star (back - error recent major league performance)

Voila! Instant hot list material.

Value: $8-12

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4) 1990 Donruss Mike Schmidt All-Time Great (#643)

1990 Donruss Mike Schmidt All-Time Great

Mike Schmidt broke a lot of baseball hearts (well, mine, at least), when he abruptly retired early in the 1989 season. He also gave the card companies plenty of time to write him out of their 1990 sets.

Indeed, Schmidt career cappers, showing his entire, amazing MLB record, are few and far between.

This Donruss special qualifies, though, so it’s little wonder it shows up here near the top of our list.

Value: $8-12

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3) 1990 Donruss Nolan Ryan 5,000 K’s – King of Kings back (#665)

1990 Donruss Nolan Ryan 5,000 K's - King of Kings back

Not only did Donruss include lots of Nolan Ryan in their bloody-red 1990 set, they also gave us some variations to help fill our 9-pocket sheets.

In this episode, Donruss, gave us the normal “5,000 K’s” front but slapped the King of Kings card back on the, um, back.

1990 Donruss Nolan Ryan King of Kings (back - 665)

Fun and games – and higher prices – ensued.

Value: $10-15

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2) 1990 Donruss Juan Gonzalez Rated Rookie – reverse negative (#33)

1990 Donruss Juan Gonzalez Rated Rookie - reverse negative

If Gonzalez had sustained his Hall of Fame pace, or had 1990 Donruss been produced in lesser quantities than Indiana produces corn, this card might belong on a list of the most valuable cards of the entire decade of the 1990s.

As things stand, though, this reverse-negative card is instantly recognizable and a hobby classic, even if it doesn’t break the bank and won’t fund your trip to the Bahamas.

Or even to the local Walmart.

Value: $15-30

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1) 1990 Donruss Nolan Ryan King of Kings – no number (#nno)

1990 Donruss Nolan Ryan King of Kings - no number

Of all the cards to gaffe on, or to introduce a variation for, you’d think Donruss would be extra careful to make sure it didn’t happen on an extra-special Nolan Ryan … right?

Right. Unless you’re some sort of conspiracy theorist or something.

Still, Donruss did, indeed, issue some of their Ryan King of Kings cards with no card number, setting it up to be the most valuable thing in the entire set more than 30 years later.

1990 Donruss Nolan Ryan King of Kings (back - no number)

Value: $35-50

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