15 Most Valuable 1983 Donruss Baseball Cards

Most Valuable 1983 Donruss Baseball Cards


At first glance back in 1983, you may have thought the design of the 1983 Donruss baseball cards looked awfully familiar to that of the 1982 Donruss set.

And you would've been right...

Basically, Donruss took the design from the previous year and flipped the position of their logo from the upper-right to the upper-left, flipped the bat along the bottom, and replaced the baseball with a glove:

1982 and 1983 Donruss Baseball Card Designs Side By Side

Who knows why Donruss chose to do this?

Since they were still in just their third year of producing baseball cards, maybe they didn't have the time or resources yet to expand in the creativity department.

Regardless, the 660-card checklist still offered collectors plenty to enjoy, headlined by three rookie cards of eventual Hall of Famers.

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

Let's jump right in!

Ross Uitts

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

Like the 1983 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:

1983 Donruss #598 Tony Gwynn Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $425

Tony Gwynn's second year in the Majors may not have started the way he would've liked, but by season's end, he'd begin looking like the hitting machine we know now.

After the 1982 season, Gwynn headed to Puerto Rico to work on his game but ended up re-injuring his wrist.

Gwynn had to miss Spring Training and the first two months of the 1983 MLB season to recuperate, and when he came back, his swing was a mess.

By the time August rolled around, the future Hall of Famer and eight-time batting champion was hitting a lousy .229 and desperate to improve.

To help identify issues with his swing, Gwynn's wife began recording all his home at-bats at Jack Murphy Stadium.

Gwynn studied the tapes relentlessly to iron out the kinks in his approach at the plate.

His effort paid huge dividends as his batting average climbed to .309 by the end of the season for a Padres team that finished fourth in the NL West at 81-81.

The wheels were in motion for Gwynn to establish himself as one of the best hitters in MLB history, and his rookie card sits at the top of this list for a good reason.

1983 Donruss #598 Tony Gwynn Rookie Card

1983 Donruss #277 Ryne Sandberg Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $400

After finishing sixth in the National League's Rookie of the Year race in 1982, Ryne Sandberg continued to make strides for the Chicago Cubs during his second full season in 1983.

He struggled at the plate early on, and his power stroke wasn't quite there yet, but after 158 games, Sandberg finished with a .261 batting average, 37 stolen bases and 94 runs scored.

Sandberg was a year away from becoming a Silver Slugger, but his elite work on defense earned him his first of nine-straight Gold Gloves as Chicago's everyday second baseman.

Despite Sandberg's solid play, the Cubs were unimpressive yet again, finishing fifth in the NL East with a disappointing 71-91 record.

Not since 1972 had the Cubs been able to post a winning record.

However, Sandberg and the Cubs' fortunes soon shone brightly in 1984 when the future Hall of Famer earned NL MVP honors by leading Chicago to first place in the NL East at 96-65.

Ryno would continue to produce for years to come, building a legacy as a Cubs icon and one of the game's greatest second basemen.

1983 Donruss #277 Ryne Sandberg Rookie Card

1983 Donruss #279 Cal Ripken Jr.

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $250

Much to the delight of Orioles fans, the 1982 AL Rookie of the Year showed no signs of a sophomore slump the following season.

Cal Ripken Jr. did quite the opposite, picking up his first of two career AL MVP honors and a Silver Slugger in the process.

Ripken led the Majors in hits (211), doubles (47), WAR (8.2), games played (162), plate appearances (726), and at-bats (663) while pacing the AL in runs scored (121).

Combine all that with a .318/.371/.517 slash line, 27 home runs, and 102 RBIs, and it's easy to see why he took home the AL MVP award.

However, he didn't necessarily run away with it, as he edged out his own teammate, Eddie Murray, with 322 votes to Murray's 290.

It could have gone either way, but Ripken became the Orioles' first league MVP since Boog Powell in 1970.

Behind Ripken and Murray's leadership, the Orioles finished first in the AL East and defeated the Chicago White Sox in four games in the ALCS.

Ripken cooled off drastically in the World Series, batting just .167, but the Orioles came together to defeat the Philadelphia Phillies in five games for the franchise's third title.

1983 Donruss #279 Cal Ripken Jr. Baseball Card

1983 Donruss #586 Wade Boggs Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $250

Coming off a rookie campaign in 1982 that saw Wade Boggs finish third in the American League Rookie of the Year race, the Nebraska native continued to hit and get on base with the best of them.

In fact, nobody was better than Boggs in those two areas as he led the Majors with a .361 batting average and a .444 on-base percentage.

Simply put, Boggs was a nightmare for opposing pitchers.

Unfortunately, the Red Sox as a unit were underwhelming, finishing sixth in the AL East at 78-84, so the fans in Beantown would not get a look at their young star in the postseason.

But, at least during the regular season, they were treated to one of many extraordinary performances over Boggs' legendary career.

And this was especially true at home, where the Hall of Fame lefty ripped the ball off the Green Monster all season to help produce a .397 batting average at home.

That, combined with his .321 average on the road, leveled out his overall batting average to .361, a convincing 22 points ahead of Rod Carew to give him his first of five career batting titles.

1983 Donruss #586 Wade Boggs Rookie Card

1983 Donruss #118 Nolan Ryan

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $125

You can almost feel the tension building in this card as Ryan coils up, ready to release one of his trademark blazing fastballs towards home plate.

At this point in his career, Ryan had already cemented his legacy as one of the most feared strikeout pitchers of all time, having already led the league in strikeouts seven times.

Then, during his third game of the season on April 27th in Montreal against the Expos, Ryan smoked a 3-2 fastball by Tim Blackwell in the eighth for his 3,509th career strikeout.

That gave him one more than Walter Johnson for the all-time lead.

Well, at least at the time, it did.

Someone later discovered that Johnson's original total of 3,508 was one short, and Ryan would've simply tied Johnson for the all-time lead with his 3,509th.

Still, Ryan was crowned the strikeout king at that moment, and it didn't really matter in the end, anyway.

Ryan somehow continued to pitch until 1993, striking out another 2,205 batters along the way to amass a likely unbreakable 5,714 career strikeouts.

1983 Donruss #118 Nolan Ryan Baseball Card

1983 Donruss #35 Rickey Henderson

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $75

In 1982, legendary speedster Rickey Henderson established a modern-day MLB record with an eye-popping 130 stolen bases in a single season.

The way the game is played today, that record seems like it will be safe for quite a while as no single player ever comes close to that level of stolen bases anymore.

But, in 1983, Henderson was determined to try to break his own record.

Though his at-bats decreased from 536 to 513, his OBP ticked up from .398 to .414, and his hits for extra bases stayed roughly the same.

So, he was on first base nearly as often as in 1982.

However, he ultimately came up short with 108 stolen bases but still led the Majors for the third time in four years with 100 or more.

For whatever reason, Henderson attempted to steal far fewer times in 1983 (127 attempts) than in 1982 (172 attempts).

But, his stolen base percentage increased significantly from 76% in 1982 (130 stolen bases on 172 attempts) to 85% in 1983 (108 stolen bases on 127 attempts).

Henderson was becoming far craftier on the base paths.

1983 Donruss #35 Rickey Henderson Baseball Card

1983 Donruss #11 Rickey Henderson Diamond Kings

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $60

From 1982 to 1991, the "Diamond Kings" subset kicked off the beginning of every Donruss base set with cards numbered 1 - 26.

These beloved subsets highlighted one standout player from every team based on his performance the season before.

As you can imagine, Henderson's "Diamond King" card commemorated his spectacular performance on the base paths in 1982 when he stole 130 bases.

Until then, Hall of Famer Lou Brock had held the record with 118 stolen bases, which he established in 1974 with the Cardinals when he was 35 years old.

I've always loved how Donruss complemented Henderson's headshot on this card with an image of him hunched over and ready to take off for a steal.

1983 Donruss #11 Diamond Kings Rickey Henderson Baseball Card

1983 Donruss #47 Dale Murphy

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $60

After breaking out in a big way in 1982 with his first NL MVP campaign, Dale Murphy entered the 1983 season determined to give Atlanta Braves an encore.

And that's exactly what he did, improving upon nearly every major offensive statistical category other than home runs in which he tied his output from the year before with 36.

His NL-best 121 RBIs, his .302 batting average, 131 runs scored, and 30 stolen bases were all career highs.

He also led the league in slugging percentage (.540) and OPS (.933) while playing all 162 games for a second-straight campaign.

Murphy was simply on another level at the plate in 1983.

He also remained a lockdown defender, earning his second-straight Gold Glove for his skill in the outfield, whether in left or center.

Despite Murphy's greatness in 1983, his 88-win Braves finished three games behind the Dodgers and missed the playoffs after winning the NL West the year before.

As a consolation of sorts, Murphy became the youngest back-to-back NL MVP in history at 27 years old. 

1983 Donruss #47 Dale Murphy Baseball Card

1983 Donruss #120 Ozzie Smith

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $60

Times were good for Ozzie Smith heading into the 1983 season.

After helping the St. Louis Cardinals defeat the Milwaukee Brewers in seven games in the 1982 World Series, Smith was under a new contract for a cool $1 million.

Smith used that extra vote of confidence from the Cardinals to take his game to new heights.

His batting average remained unimpressive at .243, but he still managed to rack up 30 doubles and 34 stolen bases.

Yet, his defensive acrobatics and wizardry made him a mainstream sensation and must-see TV anytime he took the field.

Though it was one of the few times in the 1980s that he didn't lead all shortstops in fielding percentage or assists, his 5.21 range factor remained at the top and his league-leading 304 putouts were a career-best.

The human highlight reel earned his fourth-straight Gold Glove and received the nod to start at short for the NL in the All-Star Game for the first time.

Smith dazzled with the glove all season long and continued to carve out his legacy as one of the greatest defenders in the game's history.

1983 Donruss #120 Ozzie Smith Baseball Card

1983 Donruss #645 San Diego Chicken

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $60

The San Diego Chicken began as a cartoon character in 1974 as part of a TV commercial to promote a local San Diego radio station.

Eventually, a gentleman named Ted Giannoulas began appearing in a San Diego Chicken costume at San Diego Padres games to entertain fans.

By 1981, the San Diego Chicken was so popular that he began appearing alongside Johnny Bench and Tommy Lasorda on a children's television series called "The Baseball Bunch."

Looking to capitalize on the chicken's popularity, Donruss created a special card to commemorate the fan-favorite character.

Kids could send the card to Donruss and he would autograph it and send it back.

The San Diego Chicken is one of the most widely-recognized mascots in the history of sports, and though it may seem quirky, this card can have decent value in top condition today.

1983 Donruss #645 San Diego Chicken Baseball Card
1983 Donruss #645 San Diego Chicken Baseball Card Reverse Side

1983 Donruss #12 Dale Murphy Diamond Kings

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $50

Fresh off his first NL-MVP campaign in 1982, there was no way that Donruss wouldn't give Murphy the Braves' slot in their "Diamond King" lineup in their 1983 set.

The reverse of the card paid tribute to his incredible 1982 season with the following write-up: "Dale Murphy has now realized his superstar potential. In 1982 he led the Braves to their remarkable first-place finish in the NL West. His statistics were heroic: .281 batting average, 168 hits, 113 runs, 23 doubles, 36 homers, 109 RBI, 23 stolen bases and 14 game winning RBI. An excellent outfielder, with great range and strong arm, at age 27 he is creating records which can make him a legend."

Little did they or anyone else know that Murphy would be even better in 1983 to snag another MVP.

1983 Donruss #12 Diamond Kings Dale Murphy Baseball Card

1983 Donruss #42 Pete Rose

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $50

In 1950, the average age of the Philadelphia Phillies was just over 26 years old.

Nicknamed the "Whiz Kids," that group of scrappy youngsters led the Phillies to a 1950 World Series showdown against the mighty New York Yankees that they eventually lost.

Years later, in 1983, a 40-year-old Joe Morgan and a 41-year-old Tony Perez joined their former Cincinnati Reds teammate, Pete Rose, in Philadelphia for another shot at a championship ring.

And Rose was no spring chicken either at 42 years old.

In a play on the 1950 Whiz Kids, the media began to call the 1983 Philadelphia Phillies the "Wheeze Kids" because of their old age.

The star-studded Philadelphia squad struggled out of the gate, costing manager Pat Corrales his job by the middle of the year.

Under new manager Paul Owens, the Phillies heated up, and Philadelphia ran away with the NL East.

By then, rookie Len Matuszek had begun filling in for a struggling Pete Rose at third.

However, a since-changed roster rule deemed the rookie ineligible for the playoffs, giving Rose one last October hurrah for Philly by default.

Rose hit .333 in the World Series, but despite his terrific play, the Wheeze Kids lost the 1983 World Series just as the Whiz Kids had lost to the Yankees back in 1950.

1983 Donruss #42 Pete Rose Baseball Card

1983 Donruss #168 Mike Schmidt

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $50

Two years removed from a season that saw him join the exclusive club of players to win back-to-back MVP awards, Mike Schmidt nearly won another for his work in the 1983 season.

Schmidt led the MVP in home runs (40), walks (128) and led the National League in OBP (.399) and OPS+ (156).

He also chipped in 104 runs scored 109 RBIs.

But his batting average dipped to .255, and he struggled with strikeouts with an NL-leading 148, the most whiffs he'd had since he led the Majors with 149 during the 1976 season.

And, just like in 1976, Schmidt finished third in the National League MVP race in 1983.

Mike Schmidt was phenomenal at the heart of a star-studded Phillies roster in 1983, earning his eighth-straight Gold Glove and fourth-straight Silver Slugger.

After finishing in first in the NL East at 90-72-1, Schmidt led the Phillies to a convincing 3-1 victory of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Championship Series.

However, hoping for a second championship ring since defeating the Kansas City Royals in the 1980 World Series, the Baltimore Orioles quickly took care of the Phillies in five games.

1983 Donruss #168 Mike Schmidt Baseball Card

1983 Donruss #338 George Brett

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $50

Led by their superstar George Brett, who was off to the best start of his career with a .369 average and a team-leading  41 runs, 12 home runs and 39 RBI through June 7, the Royals seemed playoff-bound.

Then, on June 8, Brett broke his left little toe when he accidentally kicked a door jamb in his house while doing laundry.

He didn't return to action until June 29 against the Oakland Athletics and ended up missing 39 games overall in 1983.

Unfortunately, the '83 Kansas City Royals failed to live up to expectations, finishing second in the AL West at 79-83 and twenty games behind the Chicago White Sox.

However, many will remember Brett's 1983 season because of the infamous "Pine Tar Game" against the New York Yankees.

After Brett sent one of Goose Gossage's pitches over the right field wall to give KC a 5-4 lead, the umpire ruled that Brett's bat contained an excessive amount of pine tar and ruled him out instead, giving the Yankees the win.

Brett promptly burst into rage and charged onto the field to argue.

The Royals front office appealed and the league ruled in their favor.

The teams finished the game nearly a month later, resulting in a 5-4 Royals win on August 18.

1983 Donruss #338 George Brett Baseball Card

1983 Donruss #500 Johnny Bench

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $45

On June 10, 1983, at a news conference on the field at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, Johnny Bench announced that he would retire after the season rather than "tarnish" his legacy.

After sixteen seasons catching for the Reds, the wear and tear began to take its toll on his body and passion for the game.

"But last year wasn't a good year for me and I think I tarnished some of the things I had done,' said Bench. 'I wasn't the Johnny Bench of the past in many respects. I want the name to be respected. I want to be remembered as the greatest catcher in baseball."

Many would argue his wish came true.

From 1967-83, Bench earned 14 All-Star selections, an NL Rookie of the Year award, two NL MVP campaigns, ten Gold Gloves, two World Series titles, and a World Series MVP award.

And in his final at-bat on September 29, 1983, he laced a two-run pinch-hit single to a deafening response from the home crowd at Riverfront Stadium.

It was a fitting curtain call for arguably the greatest catcher in baseball history and a Cincinnati Reds icon.

1983 Donruss #500 Johnny Bench Baseball Card

1983 Donruss Baseball Cards In Review

I've always enjoyed the set design of 1983 Donruss with the large photography, Donruss logo in the upper-left, and the bat/glove combo nameplate design along the bottom.

Rookie cards of three Hall of Famers in Tony Gwynn, Ryne Sandberg, and Wade Boggs help keep it as one of the most important Donruss sets of the 1980s.

And plenty of other big-name stars and Hall of Famers are found throughout the 660-card checklist.

Unopened Box of 1983 Donruss Baseball Cards

The Diamond Kings subset (cards 1 - 26) is the lone subset in the checklist and features outstanding artwork by legendary artist Dick Perez.

Collectors could also find a card inserted into every pack containing three pieces of a 63-piece puzzle that, when assembled, would reveal a nice piece of additional artwork from Perez commemorated Ty Cobb.

The set may be simple and straightforward, but I love it.

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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