15 Most Valuable 1984 Donruss Baseball Cards

Most Valuable 1984 Donruss Baseball Cards

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Compared to other sets from the 1980s that endured massive print runs, the 1984 Donruss baseball set saw relatively far fewer print runs.

That doesn't necessarily make them scarce or hard to find, but Donruss thankfully did hold back on printing as much as some of their other sets...

And that's one of the reasons this set is relatively more popular among diehard collectors looking for high-grade examples from this set's 658-card checklist.

Add in a great design and a solid checklist and you'll soon see why it's so popular.

Headlined by the Don Mattingly rookie, one of the most iconic cards of the modern era, the set also features rookies of Joe Carter, Darryl Strawberry, Greg Gagne, Tony Fernández, among others.

Second-year cards of Tony Gwynn, Ryne Sandberg, and Wade Boggs combined with cards of plenty of other stars and Hall of Famers round out an excellent checklist.

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 1984 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:

1984 Donruss #248 Don Mattingly Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $3,250

After two years of bouncing back and forth from Triple-A Columbus and the Bronx, first baseman/outfielder Don Mattingly was relieved when Yankees manager Yogi Berra declared intentions to keep him with the big club for all of 1984.

However, he was openly disappointed with Berra's assertion in Spring Training that he'd open the season on the bench.

It took less than a month for Mattingly to convince Berra otherwise.

The 22-year-old future Hall-of-Famer put on a show in the days after the manager's announcement, winning Berra over with his impact bat and elite fielding instincts.

In 1984, the young slugger put on a clinic that cemented his spot and won the hearts of Yankees fans the world over.

While New York faded from the postseason race in September, Mattingly kept the city enraptured with a batting crown race for the ages.

Headed into the last weekend of the season, Mattingly held an AL-best .342 average while his teammate Dave Winfield sat in second at .341. Mattingly struggled on Friday and Saturday but wrestled the title from Winfield with a 4-for-5 masterclass on the last day of the season.

The fans roared their approval and Winfield shook his hand with a knowing glance. A first-time All-Star and fifth-place finisher in the AL's MVP race, Mattingly's time as the face of the Yankees was here.

Not only is Mattingly's rookie card the face of this set, but it's also one of the most iconic of the 1980s.

1984 Donruss #39 Greg Gagne Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $500

You might find the value of this card a bit shocking, and that isn't a knock on Greg Gagne's playing ability or his career accomplishments as a fantastic shortstop.

He was never an MVP, nor did he ever make an All-Star squad.

And he doesn't have any Gold Gloves or Silver Sluggers to his name, either.

But he does have two World Series rings.

For the first ten seasons of his fifteen-year career, Gagne became a beloved household name in Minnesota as he served as the team's starting shortstop for eight of those years from 1985-1992.

And Gagne's fantastic glovework at short was a big reason the Twins took home World Series titles in 1987 and 1991.

Moreover, during Game 1 of the 1991 World Series against the Atlanta Braves, Gagne hit a three-run shot off Charlie Lebrandt to pick up the first win of the series.

Twins fans never forget their most beloved players, especially those like Gagne, who helped bring home championship glory.

That admiration from Twins collectors, combined with the fact that PSA has only awarded thirteen examples of this card with a PSA 10 grade, make it quite desirable and expensive in that condition.

By comparison, the Mattingly and Strawberry rookie cards have received PSA 10 grades 297 times each, while there are 195 examples of the Joe Carter rookie in PSA 10 holders as of this writing.

1984 Donruss #39 Greg Gagne Rated Rookie Card

1984 Donruss #41 Joe Carter Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $350

After a 23-game cup of coffee with the Cubs in 1983, Carter began 1984 with the team's Triple-A affiliate in Iowa.

As Chicago began its unlikely climb to the top of the NL East, Carter's top prospect status made him a valuable trade asset for a team looking to reinforce its starting rotation.

On June 13th, Carter went from trade bait to a newly-minted Cleveland Indian as part of a seven-player deal that sent Rick Sutcliffe to the Cubs.

It was another instance of the Indians trading away a top player for younger, cheaper talent.

But unlike many other trades put together by Cleveland's front office, this one paid off on the field for the rest of the decade.

Joe Carter was the difference.

In 66 games for the Indians in 1984, Carter was a brute force, finishing second on the team with 13 home runs in just 257 plate appearances.

Hitting a bomb in just under every 19 at-bats, Carter gave a 75-win Cleveland team a jolt of excitement.

The Indians were far from finding their footing as contenders, yet, Carter's arrival was at least going to make things pretty fun for a while.

1984 Donruss #41 Joe Carter Rated Rookie Card

1984 Donruss #54 Rickey Henderson

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $350

Shortly after the 1984 MLB season, the first of Rickey Henderson's four stints with the Oakland A's came to a swift end.

While Henderson was undeniably in a class of his own as a baserunner, his reputation as a show-off grated on some fans (and members of Oakland's front office.)

When push came to shove, his reputation made him expendable.

And with Oakland looking to retool for the future (and assemble a more power-focused lineup), they ticketed Henderson as a key trade chip for expediting their climb back to relevancy.

Henderson did his part to maintain his trade value in 1984, leading the American League in steals (66) for the fifth-straight time.

He also hit .293, scored 113 runs, and hit sixteen home runs with his underrated power stroke.

The A's, however, finished at 77-85 and failed to crack the .500 mark for the third-straight year.

With a rebuilding phase upcoming, the front office pulled the trigger on a blockbuster deal in December that sent Henderson and pitcher Bert Bradley to the Yankees for a five-player return.

The trade reunited Henderson with his former Oakland manager, Billy Martin, and gave New York a welcome speed boost.

Henderson's 66 steals in 1984 beat out the entirety of the Yankees' 1984 roster by four.

1984 Donruss #54 Rickey Henderson Baseball Card

1984 Donruss #68 Darryl Strawberry Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $325

Under new manager Davey Johnson, the New York Mets made the jump from Big Apple afterthoughts to legitimate contenders in 1984.

And the slugging exploits of reigning NL Rookie-of-the-Year Darryl Strawberry were a big reason for the change in trajectory.

While Strawberry’s struggles with substances off the field were troublesome even within a wild New York clubhouse, his on-the-field production was essential to the team’s turnaround.

Earning his first All-Star selection and watching his popularity on the national stage skyrocket week after week, Strawberry hit 26 home runs and drove in 97 while stealing 27 bases for a rejuvenated Mets squad.

A year before, the young right fielder was one of the lone bright spots for a 68-win team languishing in the NL East cellar.

In 1984, Strawberry was a pivotal piece for a 90-win club that kept pace with the division-winning Cubs for most of the year.

Thanks to a stirring second-place finish and a head-turning year by Strawberry, the Mets entered the offseason with room for optimism.

Just two years later, that optimism was rewarded with a trophy.

1984 Donruss #68 Darryl Strawberry Rookie Card

1984 Donruss #60 Nolan Ryan

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $275

After issuing 210 walks over the previous two seasons (and leading the Majors in free passes seven times in the previous twelve), Nolan Ryan’s 1984 season marked the debut of a new, more accurate Ryan Express.

Ryan cut his walks by over 33% per nine innings, peppering the strike zone with his trademark fastball and wicked breaking stuff.

After eclipsing 100 walks in eleven different seasons since 1971, Ryan would never hit triple digits again over the final decade of his Hall-of-Fame career.

Overall, Ryan’s 1984 MLB season is often forgotten compared to his more celebrated campaigns.

The Astros finished a humdrum 80-82, twelve games out of first in the NL West.

And Ryan failed to capture an MVP vote or earn an All-Star nod.

However, 1984 was a legit turning point for Ryan as he pitched on to (and through) his forties.

1984 Donruss #60 Nolan Ryan Baseball Card

1984 Donruss #32 Tony Fernández Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $225

Tony Fernández is perhaps best known for his early days with the Toronto Blue Jays from 1983 to 1990, during which he was selected as an All-Star three times and won four consecutive Gold Gloves from 1986 to 1989.

His exceptional quickness and defensive instincts earned him a reputation as one of the best shortstops in the league year after year.

After the 1990 season, Toronto traded him to the San Diego Padres in an event that seemingly kickstarted a series of never-ending moves as Hernández bounced around between seven different teams until he retired in 2001.

That included three more separate stints with Toronto again, including his 94 games with them in 1993 that ultimately helped the Blue Jays to a World Series title that year.

And, in that series, Hernández went off at the plate, establishing a World Series record for most RBI by a shortstop with an eye-popping nine.

He appeared on one Hall of Fame ballot but later fell off after receiving just four votes.

Fernández did make it into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, however, as he still remains the Blue Jays all-time hits leader with 1,583 to his name.

1984 Donruss #32 Tony Fernandez Rated Rookie Card

1984 Donruss #106 Cal Ripken Jr.

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $200

In his third full season as Baltimore's starting shortstop, Cal Ripken Jr. was already well on his way to revolutionizing the position.

After his banner MVP season for the World Series champion Orioles, Ripken Jr.'s star shone brightly.

And his success as a taller, stronger contact hitter with massive pop at a normally light-hitting position shifted scouts' attitudes about who could and should play shortstop in the Majors.

As for Ripken's 1984 MLB season, it was always going to be judged against the nearly impossible-to-match standards of his MVP campaign in 1983.

And it didn't help that the 85-win Orioles slid back to fifth place in a deep AL East field.

Regardless, Ripken Jr. was still an all-around smash hit for Baltimore in 1984, hitting over .300 with 27 home runs, 104 runs scored, 37 doubles, and 10 triples.

Add in his steady glovework and you get the recipe for a sensational All-Star showcase.

While Ripken Jr. fell to 27th in the American League's MVP balloting, he earned his second of four straight Silver Slugger awards.

Ripken firmly established himself as the most feared hitting shortstop in the Majors at 23 years of age. 

1984 Donruss #106 Cal Ripken Jr. Baseball Card

1984 Donruss #324 Tony Gwynn

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $200

Tony Gwynn's first year as the San Diego Padres' everyday right fielder in 1984 coincided with the franchise's rise to new heights.

Without much in the way of a home run swing, Gwynn found gaps and empty grass with his sweet swing and impeccable instincts.

Gwynn finished the 1984 regular season with an MLB-best .351 batting average and 213 hits.

(Oh yeah -- and he also stole 33 bases.)

Collecting the first of eight batting titles in San Diego, the 24-year-old lifted the Padres from mediocrity to their first playoff appearance in franchise history.

The Padres weren't content with getting to the postseason, though.

Adding yet another chapter of disappointment to the Chicago Cubs' cursed storybook, Gwynn led the Padres back from a 2-0 deficit to stun Chicago in the deciding fifth game of the National League Championship Series.

He hit .368 in the five-game tussle, knocking in three runs while scoring six.

Things, sadly, were different in the 1984 World Series as Gwynn hit just .263 with a run scored against the 104-win Tigers, and the Padres bowed out in five games.

The season ended with a thud, undoubtedly, but Gwynn's star turn more than softened the blow.

1984 Donruss #324 Tony Gwynn Baseball Card

1984 Donruss #61 Pete Rose

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $150

Despite hitting .344 in nine postseason games for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1983, Pete Rose’s days with the team were numbered.

He had effectively been replaced at first base by rookie Len Matuszek during the regular-season stretch run.

And, he only saw increased playing time in the playoffs due to a rule that left Matuszek ineligible.

Heading into his age-43 season, Rose’s production was on the wane, yet he was still a box-office draw that put butts in seats.

And seeing that he was in hot pursuit of Ty Cobb’s MLB hits record, he wasn’t about to call it quits, and the Montreal Expos were happy to help.

In hopes of turning around their falling attendance numbers, the Expos signed Rose to a deal in January 1984.

It lasted only 95 regular-season games.

After hitting .259 for Montreal in 278 at-bats and collecting his 4000th hit in an Expos uniform, Rose was traded back to where it all began in Cincinnati in a player/manager role.

He also brought his best swing in limited playing time, hitting .365 in 96 at-bats and ending the year within striking distance of Cobb’s record.

Come September 1985, he’d have his moment, controversy and all.

1984 Donruss #61 Pete Rose Baseball Card

1984 Donruss #151 Wade Boggs

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $125

Wade Boggs's legendary roll in the batter's box from 1983-88 earned him Hall-of-Fame credentials before turning 30.

Yet, his 1984 season always seems to be written off for some strange reason.

It's likely because Boggs won the batting title in 1983 and each year from 1985-88, making 1984 the only exception during that six-year span.

That's not to say that Boggs wasn't pretty dang awesome in 1984.

While he didn't earn a single MVP vote or an All-Star spot, he eclipsed 200 hits for the second-straight year to post a nothing-to-sneeze-at .325 batting average.

He also scored 109 times and added 31 doubles for an 86-win Red Sox team playing in the toughest division in baseball.

Readying to take on the mantle from Rod Carew as the American League's most consistent on-base threat, Boggs's 1984 campaign was less an anomaly and more an impressively relative version of a down season.

1984 Donruss #151 Wade Boggs Baseball Card

1984 Donruss #311 Ryne Sandberg

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $125

The 1984 season was the year everything changed for Ryne Sandberg.

Not content with his reputation as a slap hitter with opposite-field prowess, Sandberg worked hard before the season with new Cubs manager Jim Frey to alter his hitting approach.

Opening up against pitches inside and finding his pull power in the cage, Sandberg took a few giant steps towards Cooperstown with one productive offseason.

Sandberg shook off a trademark slow start before hitting .374 in May and June with an eye-popping .630 slugging percentage.

And his steadiness with the glove at second base paid major dividends throughout the year, including a sterling 61-game errorless streak from late June to early September.

Sandberg was a five-tool superstar for a Chicago Cubs team that shocked the world by winning the NL East and making the postseason for the first time in 39 years.

And while it all went south in a dizzying three-game span against the Padres in the NLCS, Sandberg's brilliance was undeniable.

After going down valiantly with a .368 average, two doubles, and two RBIs against San Diego in five games, Sandberg collected all but two first-place votes to win the 1984 National League MVP award in a landslide.

1984 Donruss #311 Ryne Sandberg Baseball Card

1984 Donruss #53 George Brett

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $100

With eight consecutive All-Star appearances, an MVP Award, and a couple of batting titles to his name, George Brett entered the 1984 season desperate for a World Series ring to add to his resume.

Unfortunately, things got off to a rocky start for the Hall of Fame third baseman as he started the season on the disabled list.

Brett was such an integral piece of the Royals' lineup that their stud closer Dan Quisenberry even said: "Our goal is to get as many games rained out as we can the first six to eight weeks that George is out."

Though the injuries certainly affected Brett as he turned in one of the worst slash lines of his career (.284/.344/.459), he was still effective enough in just 377 at-bats.

With an 84-78 record, Brett and the Royals captured first place in the AL West, ushering in the hope that he might finally get that World Series ring.

Unfortunately, the Detroit Tigers had other plans and shut the Royals down 3-0 in the ALCS.

Not to be rattled for too long, Brett and the Royals would get their ring the very next season after beating the St. Louis Cardinals 4-3 in a dogfight in the 1985 World Series.

1984 Donruss #53 George Brett Baseball Card

1984 Donruss #59 Ozzie Smith

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $100

George Brett may have been happy with the result of the 1985 World Series but Ozzie Smith certainly wasn't.

At least Smith and the Cardinals had picked up their own World Series title in 1982, though.

When it came to his performance during the 1984 season, Ozzie was as steady as ever despite a mid-season trip to the disabled list with a broken wrist.

Smith earned his fourth consecutive All-Star appearance, and of course, his wizardry with the glove at shortstop was on full display all year as he earned his fifth-straight Gold Glove.

His hard work at the plate continued to pay off, too, noted by his .257 batting average.

Yes, that is a low figure, but considering he had batted as low as .211 during his sophomore year in San Diego in 1979, he and the Cardinals were more than happy to see the continued uptrend.

But, with the Chicago Cubs capturing first place in the NL East with a 96-65 record, a playoff birth was not in the cards for the Cards in 1984.

1984 Donruss #59 Ozzie Smith Baseball Card

1984 Donruss #66 Dale Murphy

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $100

Dale Murphy entered the 1984 season looking to do what no other player in MLB history had ever accomplished at that point: win three MVPs in a row.

Murphy had been fantastic during the 1982 and 1983 campaigns and showed no signs of slowing down.

In some ways, Murphy was even better in 1984 than he was in 1982 and 1983.

For example, his 32 doubles, 8 triples, 332 total bases, 149 OPS+, and MLB-leading .547 slugging percentage were all improvements over the previous years.

However, despite his NL-best 36 home runs being the same as he had hit in 1982 and 1983, his 94 runs scored, 100 RBI, 79 walks and 19 stolen bases were all less than in those two years.

Whether or not a player is an MVP in a given year, though, is obviously relative to how well he performs versus the rest of the players and in 1984, many other players had fantastic seasons as well.

Ryne Sandberg ultimately captured the NL MVP Award while Murphy finished ninth in the vote.

Still, he had an incredible season and earned his third straight All-Star selection, Gold Glove and Silver Slugger.

1984 Donruss #66 Dale Murphy Baseball Card

1984 Donruss Baseball Cards In Review

This is easily one of my favorite sets from the 1980s because of the solid crop of rookie cards, an excellent checklist and a terrific design.

Donruss nailed the look and feel by combining strong full-color photography with the creative design elements that stand out from other sets of the era.

And, of course, the Don Mattingly rookie remains iconic and receives a lot of credit for kicking the hobby boom of that era into high gear.

Unopened Box of 1984 Donruss Baseball Cards

Donruss may have only had a few years of experience in the baseball card hobby under their belts, but they produced like veterans with this set.

And, it should continue to hold up well over the long-term as collectors show no signs of getting bored with it anytime soon.

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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