The Texas Rangers and their fans swaggered into the 1990s convinced they were about to witness the emergence of an Arlington baseball dynasty.

After all, they had emerged from some rough years in the mid-1980s to post a winning record in 1989 thanks to a bevy of young talent that all seemed to be maturing at the same time.

And, they had legend Nolan Ryan throwing a no-hitter every fifth day, to boot.

But, as great as all that talent was, and as comforting as it was to know that The Express would protect his infielders from charging Venturas for decades to come, there was something even bigger just around the corner.

Indeed, they Rangers were just about to add the last pieces to their puzzle, partly in the form of a slugging outfielder who had smacked 21 home runs at Double-A Tulsa in 1989 when he was still a teenager.

And, after a brief September call-up, there was at least a chance Juan Gonzalez would be doing his mashing in the bigs in 1990.

Just in case that came to pass, Donruss was ready, anointing the young lefty swinger as a “Rated Rookie” in their bloody 1990 set …

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Now, if that last sentence up there and that Donruss rookie card look a bit suspect to you, then you’re paying attention.

I mean, just look at that uniform number on Juan Gone’s belly — if you squint and tilt your head just right, I suppose you could make yourself think that’s an “81.”

A quick check of Baseball Reference, though, reveals that Gonzalez never went nine-squared, but that he did wear #19. Armed with this information, and perhaps the memory that Gonzalez batted right-handed, the realization washes over you like a stadium wave: FLIPPED NEGATIVE.

That sickening feeling of remembering the correct answer to a test problem three minutes after you’ve handed the thing in must have washed over Donruss, too, because they issued a corrected version of the eikooR detaR:

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And so the stage was set for what could have been, and maybe should have been, one (or two!) of the most valuable cards of the 1990s.

Here we had a young guy on the verge of superstardom, about to lead his franchise into dynasty territory, and a rookie card with an egregious error that was not only slap-you-in-the-face noticeable once you knew something about the situation, but that was subsequently corrected — instant scarcity!

Gonzalez did his part, at least for awhile.

After one more season spent crushing minor league pitchers, Igor landed in the bigs for good in 1991, hitting .264 with 27 home runs and 102 RBI.

He won home runs crowns the next two summers before the strike and injuries sapped his 1994 and 1995 seasons.

In 1996, though, Gonzalez won (Juan?) his first of two American League MVP awards and looked like he was headed straight to Cooperstown.

But like great running backs of the past, Gonalez’s 30s were generally not kind to him — injuries, steroid allegations, and declining results on the field led to a quick power outage and an early exit from the game at age 35.

While Juan Gone’s final numbers pretty much dropped him from Hall of Fame consideration, his 434 home runs still left plenty of collectors chasing his cards — any rarities among his checklist can pop pretty big numbers on the open market evan today.

Alas, like the man himself, the 1990 Donruss error/corrected flipped negative situation fell short of its glowing potential.

It didn’t take too long for collectors to realize that the world was awash in a sea of 1990 Donruss red, enough to pretty much obscure any disparity in the print runs of the error and corrected versions of Igor’s Rated Rookie card.

These days, the general consensus seems to be that the there are a lot more of the unflipped (corrected) card out there … but that it doesn’t really matter when it comes to price.

Indeed, a quick look at the PSA Population Report shows that more of the reverse negative cards have been graded than have been the corrected version, likely a classic case of selection bias (i.e., more people think the flipped card is valuable, so a higher percentage of those get sent in for grading).

Hop over to the Auction Prices Realized tool, though, and you won’t see much of a difference in selling prices between the two until you push into PSA 10 territory. Even then, with only one recent sale of the flipped variety, it’s tough to draw concrete conclusions.

Other than, of course, that the world missed out on the next Honus-Wagner-level hobby masterpiece by about 66 home runs and a few billions cards.

The 1990 Donruss set offered up more than just Juan Gone when it came to gaffes. Check out our rundown of the most expensive error cards from the set sold on eBay from October through December of 2021:

1990 Donruss Learning Series Nolan Ryan #24

End Date: Saturday 05/18/2024 09:49:37 EDT
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1990 Donruss Dale Murphy #168 multiple ERROR Card Rare

End Date: Sunday 05/19/2024 01:01:43 EDT
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