The list of the most wanted baseball cards from 1990 (below) is a bit of a history lesson in itself — at least if you use hard numbers to do your research.

First, you have to realize that 1990 represented a sort of turning point in the hobby, a year when other card companies began to acknowledge the inroads that Upper Deck made into the market during their inaugural year in 1989.

That meant more offerings than ever, with the old standbys starting to amp up their quality, at least in peripheral issues. It was the beginning of a trend that would last for years and that still influences today’s hobby.

The 1990 sets were also home to rookie cards of guys who dominated much of the next couple of decades, from Hall of Famers Frank Thomas and Larry Walker to we-thought-they-were-going-to-be-Hall-of-Famers like Sammy Sosa and Juan Gonzalez.

By the time those dudes were really hitting their prime, card grading was starting to be a thing, and plenty rookie cards from the 1990 sets made their way to to the inspection tables at PSA, BGS, and other grading companies over the years.

And that’s where we’re going to glean our hard numbers.

The list below, then, is ordered by total submissions to PSA all-time, with populations ranging from more than 250,000 specimens for the top card on the list to about 25,000 submissions at the very bottom.

Values listed are roughly the average selling prices for PSA 9 copies as I write this in late summer of 2021.

And, if you just can’t get enough of 1990 baseball cards, you’ll surely enjoy our other articles on the first year of a new decade:


Now, without further adieu, here are the 25 most wanted baseball cards of 1990:

(The sections below contain affiliate links to eBay and Amazon listings for the baseball cards discussed.)

1990 Leaf Sammy Sosa (#220)

1990 Leaf Sammy Sosa

Representing Donruss’s first foray into the premium card market, the Leaf set burned up the summer of 1990 like few current-year cards had ever done before.

And why not?

The cards were sleek, featuring great photography, and — at least purportedly — quite limited. Add in a checklist that was jampacked with hot rookies and up-and-coming prospects, and you had a recipe for fire.

While the early movers in 1990 Leaf included John Olerud, Larry Walker, and Frank Thomas, it was Sosa who fueled interest in the resurrected brand later in the decade thanks to his home run battles with Mark McGwire (and Roger Maris!).

Not coincidentally, the graded card industry was getting its feet under it at the same time Sosa was rocketing to superstardom, so it’s little wonder this card tops our list of “most graded” from the first year of the new decade.

Expect to pay $10 or so for a copy in PSA 9 condition.

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1990 Upper Deck Sammy Sosa Star Rookie (#17)

1990 Upper Deck Sammy Sosa
Star Rookie

Most of the same stuff we said about the 1990 Leaf Sosa card above applies to his 1990 Upper Deck rookie card, as well, except that ’90 UD was never really much of a hobby burner.

Popular from the get-go, for sure, but the second-year set from the new kid on the block just didn’t generate as much buzz as the inaugural issue in 1989, or as ’90 debutantes like Leaf.

Still, when Sosa exploded in the late ’90s, his Upper Deck rookie became another hobby darling.

Today, this is a $10-15 card in PSA 9 condition.

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1990 Leaf Frank Thomas (#300)

1990 Leaf Frank Thomas

Thomas made his Major League debut in August 1990, about the same time Leaf Series II hit the hobby.

And guess who had a rookie card nestled in among those hot, hotter, hottest foil packs?

Yeah, it was young Big Hurt, fresh off a 109-game run with the Triple-A Birmingham Barons that yielded a .323/18 HR/71 RBI, with an amazing 112 walks and 1.068 OPS.

All he did in 60 games down the stretch for the White Sox was smack seven homers, drive in 31 runs, and hit a robust .330, recording a .983 OPS along the way — not that anybody cared about that at the time.

What we did care about, though, was that sweet RC, driving demand and prices for the Thomas and Leaf in general to the stratosphere.

These days, this Hall of Fame cardboard checks in around $40 in slabbed MINT condition.

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1990 Topps (NOF) Frank Thomas Name on Front (#414)

1990 Topps (NOF) Frank Thomas
Name on Front

Of course, by the time Leaf got in on the Thomas game, Topps had already been pumping out Big Hurt rookies for months.

And, while the “no name on front” version of this card has become legendary and ridiculously expensive over the years, this more plentiful “corrected” version has garnered plenty of attention on its own.

When all is said and done (for now, at least), with Thomas in the Hall of Fame and the Pandemic Boom a reality, PSA 9 copies of this classic rookie card sell for about $20.

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1990 Topps Sammy Sosa (#692)

1990 Topps Sammy Sosa

The Topps Sosa rookie card doesn’t exists in a super-rare varation like the Big Hurt does, but it has still spent plenty of time in the sun over the last 30 years.

Pretty amazing to think the Sox had both of these young talents on the same team for a couple of years there, huh?Fr

Sosa will likely never join Thomas in the Hall of Fame, but Sammy still has his fans, and his historic journey saw plenty of these Topps RCs submitted for grading.

Today, this is about a $10 card in PSA 9 condition.

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1990 Fleer Sammy Sosa (#548)

1990 Fleer Sammy Sosa

Ho, hum … another Sosa rookie card, another slot on our list.

No one ever accused 1990 Fleer baseball cards of being anything other than a nuisance species, but the big cards from the set still make some waves (or at least ripples) from time to time.

This plentiful Sammy RC brings around $7 in graded MINT condition.

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1990 Score Frank Thomas (#663)

1990 Score Frank Thomas

For a guy with such an intimidating nickname and offensive profile, Frank Thomas sure could light up a room or stadium or baseball card with that smile of his.

This 1990 Score rookie card brought collectors an early look at that Big Hurt megawattage, and it remains popular today despite being another very plentiful card.

Expect prices in the $10-15 range for copies in PSA 9.

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1990 Leaf Ken Griffey Jr. (#245)

1990 Leaf Ken Griffey Jr.

The first non-rookie card on our list, this at least qualifies as Junior’s “First Leaf Card” — if you discount the Leaf trademark on the back of his 1989 Donruss rookie, that is.

And this 1990 beauty also qualifies as an early-career card of the guy many consider to be the greatest player of his generation, and in the conversation for “Greatest Ever.”

In PSA 9, this card usually sells in the $25-35 range.

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1990 Score Bo Jackson (#697)

1990 Score Bo Jackson

This just may be the most famous “baseball” card of the 1990s, and it remains one of the most popular.

And Bo continues to stir the imagination of fans and collectors nearly three decades after his careers in the NFL and Major League Baseball ended.

What if he had stayed healthy? What if he had just pursued baseball? What if there weren’t a bajillion of these cards made?

Even with his greatness cut short, and even with a flood of 1990 Score, this iconic card still brings $40+ in PSA 9 condition.

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1990 Upper Deck Juan Gonzalez Star Rookie (#72)

1990 Upper Deck Juan Gonzalez
Star Rookie

Once upon a time, Juan Gone sat at the top of the 1990 rookie class, racking up unreal batting numbers and a couple of American League MVP awards by the late 1990s.

Like many other sluggers, though, his production tailed off in his 30s, and PED whispers tarnished his reputation.

Gonzelez will never make the Cooperstown cut, but his 1990 Upper Deck rookie card has drawn plenty of interest over the years.

Today, it sells for $5-10 in graded MINT condition.

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1990 Donruss Sammy Sosa (#489)

1990 Donruss Sammy Sosa

Is this the last Sammy card we’ll see on this list? You’ll just have to read on to find out!

But it’s almost certainly the gaudiest Sosa RC out there and today fetches $10 or so in graded PSA 9 condition.

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1990 Topps ’89 ML Debut Ken Griffey Jr. (#46)

1990 Topps '89 ML Debut Ken Griffey Jr.

The 1990 Topps 1989 Major League Debut set has been confusing collectors for 30+ years now.

Issued in the spring of 1990 as a box set of 152 cards, these cards feature the basic 1990 Topps “comic book” design, but the colorful box says “1989.”

The deal is, this issue featured the 150 guys who made their MLB debut in 1989, plus a couple of checklists. So, released in 1990, but highlighting the rookies of 1989.

And chief among the rookies of 1989, always and forever even if not in 1989 itself (when Orioles reliever Gregg Olson won the American League Rookie of the Year award) is Ken Griffey, Jr.

The ’89 Debut (1990 Topps version!) Griffey card is about a $20 buy in slabbed MINT condition.

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1990 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. (#156)

1990 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr.

Junior’s second Upper Deck card is not quite as symmetrical or iconic or valuable as his hobby-changing rookie card.

But it does give us an early look at that electric smile that tantalized the world when the young man hiself was still mostly just promise and hope.

Destiny fulfilled all these years later, this sophomore issue sells for $15-20 in PSA 9 condition.

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1990 Leaf Joey Belle (#180)

1990 Leaf Joey Belle

Albert Belle was once Joey Belle but didn’t want to be called Joey anymore, so he became Albert Belle.

Along the way, he built a reputation for being about as cantankerous a player as we’ve seen in the last 70 years or so.

And also along the way, Belle put together ten of the most amazing seasons at the plate the game has ever seen.

Belle is another star, though, who flamed hot and then flamed out, finishing his career at age 34 in 2000.

Today, his 1990 Leaf rookie card bears just a trace of the good times, checking in at about $5 in PSA 9 condition.

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1990 Topps Ken Griffey Jr. (#336)

1990 Topps Ken Griffey Jr.

This pensive shot of Griffey counts as his first base Topps card, as the kingpin of pasteboard manufacturers waited until its 1989 Topps Traded set to release a Junior rookie card.

Even though this one is not an RC, and even though there were more than plenty produced, it still brings $40 or more in PSA 9 condition.

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1990 Score Sammy Sosa (#558)

1990 Score Sammy Sosa

So this answers the question I posed above when we discussed the 1990 Donruss Sosa card — NO, we’re not done with Sammy rookies on this list.

The 1990 Score Sosa RC sells for about $10 in graded MINT condition.

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1990 Fleer Update Frank Thomas (#U-87)

1990 Fleer Update Frank Thomas

Like Topps with Junior the year before, Fleer somehow missed the memo on Thomas when it came time to put together their base 1990 set.

By that fall, though, they were onboard the Big Hurt Train with the rest of the hobby (and world), and they included a sort of pensive Thomas in their 1990 Update set.

This isn’t the most popular of Thomas’ rookie cards, but it still fetches around $15 in PSA 9 condition.

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1990 Topps ’89 ML Debut Sammy Sosa (#120)

1990 Topps '89 ML Debut Sammy Sosa

Yeah, Sammy’s run on our list continues here with his own entry in the 1990 Topps 1989 MLB Debut confusion.

This one checks in around $10 in slabbed MINT condition.

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1990 Leaf Larry Walker (#325)

1990 Leaf Larry Walker

Just as in his career on the diamond, Walker has always been kind of the quiet star among 1990 rookies, and especially in the high-profile 1990 Leaf set.

While this RC has never inspired poetry or lit fireworks in the hobby, it’s a great early card of a Hall of Famer.

It’s pretty affordable, too, at around $10 in PSA 9 condition.

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1990 Fleer Juan Gonzalez (#297)

1990 Fleer Juan Gonzalez

For years, this Gonzalez rookie was a rare bright spot in a lackluster set that we realized early on was super overproduced.

And, though, the bud has long rotted off the rose here, this card still has fans and enough have been submitted to keep it on this list for a good while to come.

Today, even PSA 9 copies of this card sell for just $2 or $3.

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1990 Bowman Sammy Sosa (#312)

1990 Bowman Sammy Sosa

Just how many different Sosa rookie cards are there, anyway??

A ton, that’s how many.

This 1990 Bowman version helped raise the brand out of the general blah muck of its resurrected debut in 1989 and set it on a path toward becoming THE place to find rookie cards.

For its part, Sammy’s first Bowman card sells for around $10 in PSA 9.

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1990 Leaf Greg Maddux (#25)

1990 Leaf Greg Maddux

Entering his age-24 season when this card debuted, Maddux was fresh off 18- and 19-win seasons and just shaping into the mound master who would end up as one of the greatest pitchers of all-time.

Even more so than Walker, Maddux took some time to make a real mark in the hobby, but this classic card saw growing interest over the years as he piled up the Cy Young Awards.

Today, you can expect to pay $3-5 for a PSA 9 copy.

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1990 Topps Larry Walker (#757)

1990 Topps Larry Walker

This card is probably the one that pops to mind when the subject of Larry Walker rookie cards comes up.

And, though it lags a bit behind the Leaf version in terms of total submissions, its $20 price tag (in PSA 9) is a testament to Topps’ ongoing dominance and our eventual collective realization that 1990 Leaf wasn’t really all THAT scarce.

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1990 Bowman Frank Thomas (#320)

1990 Bowman Frank Thomas

Even more so than the Sosa card, this gorgeous Thomas RC helped transform Bowman’s image in a hurry.

Today, this is a $15-20 card in PSA 9 condition.

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1990 Score Traded Frank Thomas (#86T)

1990 Score Traded Frank Thomas

Thomas’ stock in trade, of course, was his thunderous bat, and he actually spent more time at DH than in the field.

But he spent several seasons as an All-Star first baseman and cut a hulking figure on the bag, even if his glove tended to be more of a liability than an asset.

Regardless of his Dr. Strangeglove tendencies, though, it’s fun to see big Frank in the field on a rookie card, and the 1990 Score issue delivers at a price of about $15 in PSA 9 condition.

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1990 Bowman Juan Gonzalez (#492)

1990 Bowman Juan Gonzalez

Juan Gone helped the 1990 Bowman set along, too, and plenty of hobby dollars have been dropped on this head-and-shoulders(-and-chest) shot over the years.

Today, it sells for about three bucks in PSA 9 condition.

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1990 Donruss Ken Griffey Jr. (#365)

1990 Donruss Ken Griffey Jr.

Griffey looks sort of concerned here, doesn’t he?

Maybe the garish red borders of his 1990 Donruss card are giving him premonitions of what’s going to happen when he goes “home” to the Cincinnati Reds ten years down the road.

Who knows?

But it’s a second-year Junior card, so it’s always going to be popular, no matter how bloody the borders get.

For about $15, you can ponder the backstory from the comfort of your own PSA 9 copy.

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Player stats culled from Baseball-Reference.com. Here are the B-R pages for players not already linked above: Ken Griffey Jr., Bo Jackson, Greg Maddux.


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