15 Most Valuable 1982 Donruss Baseball Cards

Most Valuable 1982 Donruss Baseball Cards


After the company made its debut in the hobby the year before, the 1982 Donruss baseball card set introduced a couple of things that would help set it apart:

  • Diamond Kings
  • puzzle pieces instead of gum

Diamond Kings would be Donruss's hallmark subset for the next ten years until they became inserts in 1992...

And after a court ruled that Topps still had the sole right to package baseball cards with gum, Donruss swiped the gum they used the year before for three puzzle pieces.

For those dedicated enough to track down all 63 unique puzzle pieces, the prize was piecing together the Babe Ruth "Hall of Fame Diamond King" puzzle.

Over time, collectors would also find there was a decent crop of rookies in the 1982 Donruss set, including one of the biggest rookies of the decade in Cal Ripken Jr.

With a much-improved product versus the 1981 Donruss set, collectors had plenty to love about this set.

And in this guide, we'll take a look at the 15 most valuable.

Let's jump right in!

Ross Uitts

Ross Uitts - Owner

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Let's be clear: most of the cards from this set do not have any value these days.

Like the 1982 Fleer and Topps sets, large print runs saturated the market with these cards, driving down their values.

So, for the cards on this list to be worth much, they'll have to be graded by PSA to be in perfect, gem mint condition.

That means the card needs to be flawless.

Now that we got that out of the way, let's take a look at the list:

1982 Donruss #405 Cal Ripken Jr. Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $750

In the first two months of the 1982 MLB season, former 2nd-round pick Cal Ripken Jr. was given every opportunity to seize the Baltimore Orioles' everyday third-base job.

It started with a bang, as the 21-year-old wunderkind collected three hits, including a home run on Opening Day.

However, he slumped over the next few weeks, including a rough 1-for-21 stretch.

Orioles manager Earl Weaver was undeterred and believed Ripken's raw physical gifts, talents, and between-the-lines intelligence made him worth investing in.

And the most legendary individual streak in sports history began with an ordinary baseball game on May 30th, 1982, when Weaver penciled Ripken into the starting lineup after a day off.

From that day forward, Ripken remained in the O's everyday lineup for 16 years and an MLB-record 2,632 straight contests.

Ripken finished the 1982 season with a .264/.317/.475 slash line, 28 home runs, and 93 RBI, unreal production for a shortstop at that time.

The Orioles were squeezed out of the playoffs, losing the AL East crown in a Game 162 winner-take-all showdown with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Yet, Ripken's emergence was the real takeaway.

Named the 1982 AL Rookie of the Year, the spotlight would only get brighter in years to come.

1982 Donruss #405 Cal Ripken Jr. Rookie Card

1982 Donruss #113 Rickey Henderson

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $225

After ending the 1981 season in first place in the AL West and a trip to the ALCS, the Oakland Athletics stumbled to an uninspiring 68-94 record in 1982.

And it was primarily due to an uninspiring lineup that lacked good hitters.

The A's .236 batting average was worst in the AL, while their .309 OBP, .367 slugging percentage, and .676 OPS were all second-to-last.

Because of that, Rickey Henderson was forced to run and run often.

By season's end, Henderson's jaw-dropping production on the base paths spoke for itself.

To go along with 119 runs scored and an MLB-leading 116 walks, Rickey Henderson also set the single-season record for stolen bases with 130 to pass Lou Brock's 118 that he stole in 1974.

Given the way the game is played today with much less emphasis on the stolen base, Henderson's record of 130 steals in a season is likely to be safe for a long time.

In 1982, the A's were terrible.

But imagine how much worse they'd have been without Henderson at the top of the lineup.

1982 Donruss #113 Rickey Henderson Baseball Card

1982 Donruss #419 Nolan Ryan

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $150

During the 1981 split season, Nolan Ryan established a career-best 1.69 ERA that was also the best in the Majors that year.

Ryan was so dominant in 1981 that his 195 ERA+ and 0.1 home runs allowed per nine innings weren't even close to the second-best numbers of his career in those two categories.

When the season ended, it was no surprise that he finished fourth in the NL Cy Young race and sixteenth in the MVP vote.

But, like anything in life that exceeds the statistical norms in a given time period, Ryan had to fall back to Earth in 1982.

Earth for Nolan Ryan is still pretty good, though, as he went 16-12 for the Astros with a 3.16 ERA and 245 strikeouts.

But, his command wasn't always there.

Despite leading the Majors in hits allowed per nine innings (7.0), Ryan was at times wild, noted by his MLB-leading 109 walks and NL-leading 8 hit-by-pitches.

Houston would go on to finish fifth in the NL West with a disappointing 77-85 record to miss the playoffs.

You gotta love those old Houston Astros jerseys and Ryan shows his off well on this card as he gets ready to burn one by an opposing hitter.

1982 Donruss #419 Nolan Ryan Baseball Card

1982 Donruss #252 Lee Smith Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $100

Lee Smith still hadn't quite found his way to being a full-time closer during the 1982 season.

Along with Bill Campbell, Willie Hernandez, and Dick Tidrow, Smith formed a four-man closer committee that saw each of its members finish at least 25 games.

Smith's 17 saves were the most among the group, hinting at the bright future as a dominant finisher he would have over the rest of his Hall of Fame career.

However, Smith also started five games during the season between June and July, taking four losses and a no-decision.

So, as I said, he still hadn't quite settled in as the full-time go-to guy in the closer role.

But, the Cubs were beginning to see Smith's potential as his 2.69 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 2.8 walks per nine innings flashed a signal at what Lee was capable of late in the game as a stopper.

Smith was showing potential at just 24 years of age, but hardly anyone could've predicted he'd end his career with a whopping 478 saves.

1982 Donruss #252 Lee Smith Rookie Card

1982 Donruss #1 Pete Rose Diamond Kings

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $90

Before they became an insert set in 1992, the Donruss Diamond Kings were an iconic subset that encompassed the first 26 cards of every Donruss base set from 1982 to 1991.

Featuring the artwork of famed sports artist Dick Perez, each player in the Diamond Kings run in this set is depicted with a large portrait and a small action shot to the side.

Since Pete Rose's Diamond Kings card was the first in this set, technically his is the first Diamond Kings card in history.

Along with the terrific artwork on the fronts, each card offered a nice write-up of each player's accomplishments on the reverse.

Rose's card discusses how great of a hitter he was, mentions surpassing Stan Musial's National League hits record, and how Ty Cobb's all-time hits record was next on his radar.

1982 Donruss #1 Pete Rose Diamond Kings Baseball Card
1982 Donruss #1 Pete Rose Diamond Kings Baseball Card Reverse Side

1982 Donruss #13 Nolan Ryan Diamond Kings

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $90

If you dig deep into the Diamond Kings lineups in every set from 1982 to 1991, you'll notice that Donruss didn't like to repeat the players they included very often.

Maybe the most appearances any single player made during that time was two or three tops.

I think it was a smart move on Donruss's part as it kept things exciting and gave collectors a way to get to know several players a bit better.

But, of course, Donruss chose to include the legendary fireballer Nolan Ryan in the very first run.

The artwork on this card is brilliant, and I love how the background colors give the perfect nod to the Houston Astros jerseys at the time.

The reverse of the card discusses Ryan's penchant for a high strikeout rate and how he had already broken the single-season record for strikeouts with 383 by then.

At the time, he was third on the career strikeout list behind Walter Johnson and Gaylord Perry.

Few would've been surprised that he would eventually surpass them as the all-time leader, but no one could've predicted he'd accumulate an unthinkable 5,714 strikeouts.

1982 Donruss #13 Nolan Ryan Diamond Kings Baseball Card
1982 Donruss #13 Nolan Ryan Diamond Kings Baseball Card Reverse Side

1982 Donruss #557 Kent Hrbek Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $80

With a lineup filled with young players, the Minnesota Twins sacrificed wins in the debut year of the Metrodome for hope in the long run.

And while they finished in the AL West cellar at a cringe-inducing 60-102, the successes of rookie sensation Kent Hrbek made the mounting losses easier to stomach.

In Spring Training, the rookie first baseman tied Harmon Killebrew's franchise record with nine home runs, including the first two dingers in Metrodome history.

He followed that up with a torrid April in which he drove in 22 runs in 22 games and crushed eight homers.

By mid-May, he'd wrap up a career-high 23-game hitting streak and would sit out nine games due to injury before ripping off another 17-game streak that carried into June.

The Twins' new franchise first baseman was a breath of fresh air in an interminable rebuilding year.

He received his only career All-Star nod in the process, posting a .301/.363/.485 slash line with 23 home runs and 92 RBI.

Hrbek finished second in the AL's Rookie-of-the-Year balloting to Cal Ripken Jr. but earned the respect of the league's managers who named him the AL's top-hitting prospect in an informal poll. 

1982 Donruss #557 Kent Hrbek Rookie Card

1982 Donruss #168 Pete Rose

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $70

The 1982 season was far from a standout performance for Philadelphia Phillies superstar Pete Rose.

The future MLB hits king posted his lowest batting average (.271), on-base percentage (.345), and OPS (.683) since his disappointing sophomore season in 1964.

To make matters worse, the veteran Phillies’ win-now hopes were dashed with the bitter taste of a second-place finish, three games behind the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL East.

Although it didn’t end in a postseason trip, there was still something remarkable about Rose’s ‘82 campaign.

At 42 years old and chasing down the ghost of Ty Cobb, Rose played all 162 games in defiance of time and age -- the seventh-and-final time he’d do so.

And while he wasn’t the automatic hitter of years past, he was still carried himself like an All-Star.

And he was an All-Star, after all, named to his 16th Midsummer Classic in ‘82 due to the simple fact that he was Pete Rose.

1982 Donruss #168 Pete Rose Baseball Card

1982 Donruss #535 Reggie Jackson

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $70

Everybody knows that Reggie Jackson's time with the New York Yankees had its ups and downs as the superstar frequently clashed with team management and players alike.

And after the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Yankees in the 1981 World Series, Jackson's time in the Bronx had run its course.

Looking for a fresh start with a new team, Jackson signed a five-year to head back to the West Coast where he had spent so many years with the Oakland Athletics.

Except for this run in California, Jackson would suit up for the California Angels who were looking for a guy like him to give them a much-needed shot in the arm.

Jackson delivered remarkably during the regular season, slashing .275/.375/.532 with an MLB-best 39 home runs and 101 RBI.

Unfortunately, in the postseason, Mr. October was anything but as he hit just .111 with one home run and two RBI in the Angels' ALCS loss to the Brewers.

Despite turning in one of the worst postseasons of his career, Jackson finished sixth in the AL MVP Vote and captured his second Silver Slugger Award.

1982 Donruss #535 Reggie Jackson Baseball Card

1982 Donruss #94 Ozzie Smith

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $50

Over his four years as a San Diego Padre, Ozzie Smith developed into an All-Star and an incredible Gold Glove defender at the shortstop position, a reputation that would stay with him forever.

However, tensions grew between Smith and the Padres ownership.

Meanwhile, tensions were also brewing miles away in the middle of the country between the St. Louis Cardinals ownership and their star shortstop, Garry Templeton.

After negotiations, each team agreed to swap their star shortstops as part of a blockbuster six-player deal.

Though he wasn't considered a significant threat with the bat, Smith's hitting did improve during his first year in St. Louis and would continue to do so the rest of his career.

But he was as much of a stone wall on defense as ever, earning his third of thirteen consecutive Gold Gloves to help the Cardinals to its first division title as NL East champions.

After blowing by the Atlanta Braves in a three-game sweep in the NLCS, the Cardinals faced a steeper challenge in the Milwaukee Braves in the World Series.

In the end, St. Louis came back from a 3-2 deficit to win Games 6 and 7 at home.

It was the team's first World Series title since Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Steve Carlton and Orlando Cepeda led the Cardinals to a 4-3 over the Boston Red Sox.

1982 Donruss #94 Ozzie Smith Baseball Card

1982 Donruss #34 George Brett

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $50

Two years removed from hitting .390 in one of the greatest MVP seasons in modern baseball history, Kansas City Royals third baseman George Brett was still dealing with the expectations that came part and parcel with that.

After setting the bar so high in Kansas City’s 1980 pennant run, anything less than a magical season for Brett and the Royals was treated as a failure by some members of the media.

So even though Kansas City finished 90-72 in ‘82, their second-place AL West finish behind the Angels and subsequent failure to reach the playoffs colored the public perception of their season.

In reality, Brett was excellent in 1982 and the Royals were one heck of a team.

The 29-year-old star missed 18 games due to injury but still slashed a robust .301/.378/.505 with 21 home runs and 82 RBIs.

Brett finished 20th in the AL’s MVP balloting and played in his seventh-straight All-Star Game.

Yes, the Royals missed out on October but, it wasn’t a complete waste by any stretch of the imagination.

1982 Donruss #34 George Brett Baseball Card

1982 Donruss #294 Mike Schmidt

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $50

Before the 1982 season, the Philadelphia Phillies broke the bank to keep Mike Schmidt in town.

The two-time defending National League MVP had a sour taste in his mouth after an early postseason exit in 1981.

But, he knew his worth and wanted to get paid like the one-of-a-kind talent he was.

The Phillies obliged, inking Schmidt to a six-year contract with at least $10 million in guaranteed money, the second-biggest deal in MLB history.

The future first-ballot Hall of Famer entered the first year of his new pact playing for a new manager.

Pat Corrales replaced Dallas Green on the bench, hoping to lead Philadelphia to its second World Series win in three years.

It didn’t materialize that way.

A rib cage muscle pull vexed Schmidt until June.

And while he rebounded with a tremendous second half, the Phillies just didn’t have enough firepower to pass the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL East.

Regardless, Schmidt ended the year with a predictably impressive stat line.

He paced all of baseball in on-base percentage (.403) for the second-straight year, hit 35 home runs, and led the NL in slugging percentage (.547), OPS (.949), OPS+ (161), and walks (107).

1982 Donruss #294 Mike Schmidt Baseball Card

1982 Donruss #299 Dale Murphy

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $50

As one back-to-back National League MVP ended his reign, another stepped forward in Atlanta.

Humble, self-effacing, yet insanely talented as a two-way threat, Braves outfielder Dale Murphy took center stage in 1982 for the NL West champions.

Under new manager Joe Torre, the Braves exorcised twelve years of demons to win their first division title since 1969 -- taking advantage of a late-season swoon by the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the crown by one game.

Undoubtedly, Murphy's impact bat and Gold Glove efforts in the field spurred them forward.

Murphy played in all 162 regular-season games, slashing .281/.378/.507 with 36 home runs and an NL-best 109 RBIs for the resurgent Braves.

With clutch hits galore and a seamless style in the outfield, the 26-year-old slugger ended Mike Schmidt's run of NL MVP awards at two.

And while the Braves flamed out with a three-game sweep in the NLCS, Murphy's MVP year was the real story.

"I don't really know how to describe (winning the MVP)," Murphy said. "The only word I can think of is overwhelming."

Overwhelmed or not, he'd repeat the feat in 1983, just like Schmidt had done in 1980 and 1981.

1982 Donruss #299 Dale Murphy Baseball Card

1982 Donruss #462 Fernando Valenzuela

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $50

If you thought Fernandomania was just a one-year thing, think again.

While most baseball historians point to Los Angeles Dodgers legend Fernando Valenzuela's 1981 NL Cy Young-winning season as its apex, things were just as wild in Chavez Ravine in '82.

Yeah, the Dodgers failed to repeat as World Series champions in 1982.

They didn't even make the postseason, losing nine of ten late in September to open the door for the Braves.

But, baseball was an event in Los Angeles.

And it was primarily because of the magnetism of Valenzuela, who followed up his breakthrough 1981 campaign with a fantastic performance in '82.

He finished third in the NL's Cy Young race with a 19-13 record, 2.87 ERA, 18 complete games, and nearly 200 strikeouts in 285 innings.

He also finished 21st in the league's MVP race and earned a second-straight trip to the All-Star Game.

What's more, Los Angeles set an MLB attendance record as 3.6 million fans packed into Dodger Stadium during the regular season.

Fernandomania was running wild and making lots of money at the gates.

1982 Donruss #462 Fernando Valenzuela Baseball Card

1982 Donruss #568 Harold Baines

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $40

In 1981, young Chicago White Sox outfielder Harold Baines was platooned to limit his at-bats against left-handed pitching.

After all, he’d hit just .159 against lefties during his rookie year.

Baines rewrote his narrative in his sophomore season, though, hitting .320 against left-handers and .286 altogether.

After proving capable of hitting against anyone, Baines earned his spot as an everyday player in 1982.

And he made it count, leading an exciting 87-win Chicago squad to the franchise’s best season in a half-decade.

Baines drove in 105 runs at just 23 years of age, becoming the youngest player in White Sox history to reach 100 RBI in a campaign.

He also slashed a healthy .271/.321/.469, clubbed 25 homers and put together a scintillating six-game stretch in July in which he hit two grand slams and drove in 15.

Finishing 20th in the American League’s MVP race in ‘82, Baines asserted himself as the past, present, and future of the White Sox organization.

And he was rewarded for his efforts with a new four-year deal for a guaranteed $3.25 million in the offseason.

Fleer and Topps both featured Harold Baines rookie cards in their 1981 sets while Donruss missed on the opportunity.

1982 Donruss #568 Harold Baines Rookie Card

1982 Donruss Baseball Cards In Review

As you can see, there are plenty of great things to like about this 660-card set.

You can't go wrong with a rookie card crop that includes Cal Ripken Jr., Lee Smith, Kent Hrbek and Dave Stewart.

And there were plenty of stars and future Hall of Famers led by guys like Nolan Ryan, Rickey Henderson, Pete Rose and Reggie Jackson, to name a few.

Unopened Box of 1982 Donruss Baseball Cards

In terms of hobby history, though, the Diamond Kings subset and the three-piece puzzle inserts cannot be overlooked.

They may seem insignificant to some, but things like these are to be celebrated, in my opinion.

I think this set is one of the best Donruss sets of the 1980s.

Ross Uitts

Ross is the founder of Old Sports Cards and has been collecting sports cards for over 30 years. He also loves to write about the hobby and has written for Beckett, Topps, SABR and of course, this website. Need help buying or selling cards or have a general question about the hobby? Contact him at [email protected]

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