15 Most Valuable 1985 Donruss Baseball Cards

Written By Ross Uitts

Last Updated: May 17, 2024
1985 Donruss Baseball Cards

Of all the classic set designs of the so-called "junk" era, the 1985 Donruss baseball card design stands out more than most.

The black borders, complimented by the classic Donruss logo in the upper left and the five stripes on the lower sides, produce an incredible retro look.

Simply put, the aesthetics of these cards scream 1980s...

Design aside, the 660-card checklist contains several great rookie cards and plenty of stars and Hall of Famers to keep you busy.

And if Roger Clemens ever makes it to the Hall of Fame someday, this set will eventually gain more notoriety, given his rookie is one of the headliners.

Until then, it should continue flying slightly under the radar compared to other sets of the era.

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

Let's jump right in!

1985 Donruss #438 Kirby Puckett Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $500

With little to no power stroke in his first two years at the MLB level, Minnesota Twins center fielder Kirby Puckett made his initial mark by being resourceful.

With remarkable speed and base-running instincts for his thickset body frame, the 25-year-old standout didn't need round-trippers to become a fan favorite in the Twin Cities.

Instead, Puckett worked the entire field from line to line and gap to gap, adding plenty of bunt singles along the way.

Following up on his third-place finish in the 1984 AL Rookie-of-the-Year race, Puckett slashed .288/.330/.385 in 1985 with four home runs, 29 doubles, 13 triples, 21 stolen bases, 80 runs scored, and 74 RBIs in an MLB-best 691 at-bats.

He narrowly missed out on his first 200-hit season thanks to a controversial error call in the season's final game that left him stuck on 199.

But, the lovable future Hall of Famer still garnered down-ballot MVP votes for a 77-85 Twins club with little else going for it.

1985 Donruss #438 Kirby Puckett Rookie Card

1985 Donruss #273 Roger Clemens Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $325

Shut down for the final month of his rookie year with a strained tendon in his right forearm, 22-year-old Boston Red Sox fireballer Roger Clemens hoped to come back healthier and hungrier in 1985.

Instead, the injuries kept biting as frustrations mounted for the former 1st-round draft pick.

After battling multiple ailments over 15 starts, Clemens pitched to a 7-5 record with a 3.29 ERA for the 81-81 Red Sox.

While his walk totals increased from his debut season, the young righty cut into his hits-per-nine by nearly 25% (7.6) while surrendering home runs at nearly half his previous pace (0.5).

It was a promising year, all things considered, for the sophomore hurler.

But it was also an emotionally draining one.

After missing a scheduled start on July 7th with an “intensely sharp pain” in his throwing shoulder, Clemens threw a raging, crying fit in the clubhouse.

He was placed on the 15-day disabled list shortly after.

The young, mercurial star-to-be did return to the rotation after his stint on the DL.

But, he pitched with reduced effectiveness and looked noticeably bothered until a piece of cartilage was removed from his shoulder during a short, 20-minute operation on August 30th.

1985 Donruss #273 Roger Clemens Rookie Card

1985 Donruss #60 Nolan Ryan

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $300

Nolan Ryan's first All-Star season in four years was far from his best statistical performance.

In fact, the three seasons prior (1982-84) in which he failed to make the All-Star Game were much better across the board.

Ryan pitched to a 3.80 ERA in 1985, his worst season-ending mark since his final year with the New York Mets in 1971.

And his 8.0 hits-per-9-innings was the worst number of his 27-year Hall-of-Fame career.

The Astros were an afterthought in 1985, barely scraping their way to an above-.500 finish.

Ryan himself finished with an utterly unremarkable 10-12 record.

So, why was Ryan rewarded with a Midsummer Classic spot in 1985?

The short answer is strikeouts (and lots of them.)

Just over two years after breaking Walter Johnson's all-time strikeout record with his 3,510th K, Ryan notched his 4000th strikeout on July 11th, 1985, against the Mets.

Such rarefied air was well worth an All-Star nod, as was his tenth 200-plus strikeout (209) season.

1985 Donruss #60 Nolan Ryan Baseball Card

1985 Donruss #48 Robin Yount

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $250

1985 was, as Robin Yount put it himself, a "lost season" for the Hall of Famer.

The year before, Yount pushed through severe shoulder pain as the Milwaukee Brewers huffed and puffed their way to a last-place finish.

Just a month after the season ended, Yount had surgery to remove bone spurs from his ailing shoulder and add to its tendon strength.

When he reported for Spring Training in 1985, though, the shoulder pain was still present and his arm strength was noticeably diminished.

Rather than forcing him to suck it up at shortstop, new manager George Bamberger moved him to left field.

It was a hard transition for Yount, who hadn't played in left since his days as a Little Leaguer.

And when he eventually moved to center, his flagging arm made him a target for aggressive baserunners.

At the plate, Yount was good enough.

He slashed .277/.342/.442 with 15 home runs, 26 doubles, 76 runs scored, and 68 RBIs in 122 games.

The 71-win Brewers improved ever so slightly, moving out of the cellar into sixth in the AL East.

However, Yount's nagging shoulder issues proved too much heading into the season's final month.

With Milwaukee going nowhere during another losing season, Yount underwent season-ending surgery in early September.

1985 Donruss #48 Robin Yount Baseball Card

1985 Donruss #190 Dwight Gooden Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $250

It's no coincidence that Dwight Gooden's meteoric rise to stardom and the Mets' rise from the NL East cellar happened simultaneously.

Gooden's swagger and extraordinary gifts on the mound were just what the Mets needed to redefine themselves after a decade in the baseball wilderness.

After taking home Rookie of the Year honors in 1984 and pushing New York to its first 90-win season since winning the World Series in 1969, Gooden was even more brilliant in 1985.

Mixing his dynamite fastball with a nearly unhittable curve, Gooden finished the year at 24-4 with an MLB-best 1.53 ERA.

He went 18-1 over a blazing four-month stretch, ripping through NL batters with a jaw-dropping blitz of strikeouts.

Gooden tallied an MLB-leading 268 Ks in an NL-best 276.2 innings pitched, pacing the NL in complete games (16) while outperforming all other starters in both FIP (2.13) and ERA+ (229).

An easy choice for NL Cy Young, the 20-year-old righty was also fourth in the league's MVP voting while earning his second All-Star Game selection.

New York finished with its highest win total (98) in sixteen years, three games behind the Cardinals in a heated division battle.

1985 Donruss #190 Dwight Gooden Rookie Card

1985 Donruss #295 Don Mattingly

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $250

It was a simple recipe that propelled Don Mattingly to a sparkling MVP season in 1985: take one of the game’s best, brightest all-around young stars (Mattingly) and place the game’s unquestioned lead-off hitting king ahead of him in the lineup.

With the acquisition of Rickey Henderson in an offseason megadeal with the Oakland A’s, New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner gave Mattingly the perfect partner to put together a season for the ages.

Henderson got on base nearly 42% of the time in front of Mattingly, often stealing or sprinting his way into scoring position in front of the Yankees first baseman’s turn in the order.

Mattingly capitalized with one of the most productive left-handed hitting campaigns in American League history, posting a .324/.371/.567 slash line with an MLB-leading 48 doubles, 211 hits, three triples, 35 home runs, and 107 runs scored.

His 145 RBIs paced all of baseball and marked the most by a lefty swinger since Ted Williams (159) in 1949.

The easy pick for the league’s Most Valuable Player, the now two-time All-Star also added his first Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards to his trophy case.

Sadly for Mattingly and his growing legion of fans, the 97-win Yankees fell just short of catching the AL East champion Toronto Blue Jays despite winning 30 of 36 games at one point, costing the league’s MVP a crack at his first-ever playoff appearance.

1985 Donruss #295 Don Mattingly Baseball Card

1985 Donruss #581 Orel Hershiser Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $250

After shaking off the cobwebs in early April, 26-year-old righty Orel Hershiser quickly established himself as one of the game's top pitchers.

This included back-to-back complete-game shutouts of the reigning division champion San Diego Padres in late April, one a two-hitter and the other a one-hit masterpiece.

Hershiser didn't slow down from there. He finished the year with a pristine 19-3 record and led all of baseball with just 0.3 home runs allowed per 9 innings.

Pitching to a minuscule 2.03 ERA, Hershiser gave up just 179 hits in 239.2 innings pitched en route to his best WHIP (1.031) of his 18-year career.

Finishing third in the NL's Cy Young race (with down-ballot MVP votes to spare), the sophomore sensation completed over 25% of his 34 starts and posted career bests in multiple statistical categories.

With Hershiser leading the rotation to new heights, the Dodgers lapped the field and captured their second division championship in three years.

And things were looking up in the NLCS after Hershiser's complete-game two-run effort in Game 2 staked LA to a 2-0 series lead over the St. Louis Cardinals.

However, it all imploded from there.

The Cardinals rattled off four straight wins to take the series, tallying four earned runs off Hershiser in 6.1 innings of the deciding Game 6.

1985 Donruss #581 Orel Hershiser Rookie Card

1985 Donruss #651 Two for the Title

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value (Yellow Letters): $200

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value (White Letters): $100

Although the Yankees fell behind the eventual AL East champion Detroit Tigers by double digits late in the 1984 season, fans witnessed a spirited batting championship race between Don Mattingly and teammate Dave Winfield.

A torrid start to the second half boosted Winfield's AL-leading average to .377.

However, an August slump allowed Mattingly to catch him.

With no playoffs in the cards and a virtual guarantee that a Yankee would win the AL batting crown for the first time since 1956 (Mickey Mantle), Winfield and Mattingly's gentlemanly competition became tabloid fodder in the Bronx.

Mattingly and Winfield traded the lead over the season's final month, with the Yankee Stadium scoreboard displaying each player's average to the ninth decimal place.

At the start of game #162, Winfield led Mattingly .342 to .339.

However, Mattingly came up clutch in the campaign's final game, notching four hits to Winfield's one to win the title, .343 to .340.

Donruss released this card as a tribute to the incredible batting battle between Mattingly and Winfield in two variations: one with white lettering and one with yellow lettering on the front.

The yellow letter variation is far rarer and can command a price premium over its white letter counterpart.

1985 Donruss #651 (White Letters) Two for the Title Mattingly and Winfield Baseball Card
1985 Donruss #651 (Yellow Letters) Two for the Title Mattingly and Winfield Baseball Card

1985 Donruss #176 Rickey Henderson

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $150

When the Yankees traded for Rickey Henderson before the 1985 MLB season, the goal was to revitalize and jolt the team's stagnant base running.

With Oakland in 1984, Henderson stole four bases (66) more than the entirety of New York's roster.

Reunited with former A's manager Billy Martin in the Bronx, Henderson saw an opportunity to let loose and wreak havoc on the American League in pinstripes.

"Billy likes the running game," Henderson said at the time. "He believes in me. The aggressiveness I have goes with the aggressiveness Billy has."

Moved out of left field and into center, Henderson parlayed said aggressiveness into a blockbuster NY debut.

Leading the American League in stolen bases for the sixth straight year with 80, the 26-year-old superstar checked all the boxes for New York in their pursuit of an AL East title.

Henderson slashed .314/.419/.516 in '85 with an MLB-best 146 runs scored, 28 doubles, five triples, 24 home runs, and 72 RBIs in 654 plate appearances (547 at-bats).

He finished third in the league's MVP race and earned his fifth All-Star nod and his second Silver Slugger.

A late-season swoon killed New York's playoff push, but Henderson's first year at Yankee Stadium was still an unquestioned success.

1985 Donruss #176 Rickey Henderson Baseball Card

1985 Donruss #63 Tony Gwynn

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $125

The 1985 season was a letdown for a San Diego Padres franchise coming off its first-ever World Series appearance.

After hovering near the top of the NL West pack in the first half, San Diego lost 12-of-18 after the All-Star break to fall off the divisional pace.

A woeful 4-16 stretch from late August to mid-September proved the final nail as the Padres finished 12 games back of the Dodgers at 83-79.

There were still some positives to be had, though.

And one of those, of course, was Tony Gwynn.

One of the most consistent, fail-safe hitters of the 20th Century, Gwynn slashed .317/.364/.408 with 29 doubles, five triples, six home runs, 14 stolen bases, 90 runs scored, and 46 RBIs in 671 plate appearances (622 at-bats).

Yes, the two-time All-Star's production dropped compared to his batting title victory in 1984.

However, he still had a phenomenal year by the standards of the game at large, enough so that he earned down-ballot MVP consideration during a season of underachievement for the Padres.

1985 Donruss #63 Tony Gwynn Baseball Card

1985 Donruss #57 Reggie Jackson

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $100

Approaching forty and on the downslope of his march to Cooperstown, Reggie Jackson showed he could still slug it out in 1985.

In the fourth year of a five-year deal with the California Angels, Jackson split time between right field and serving as a DH.

And while his aging body often made him a liability in the field, Jackson made up for it by bashing the cover off the ball in the box.

In 541 plate appearances (460 at-bats), Jackson posted a .252/.360/.487 slash line with 27 home runs, 27 doubles, 64 runs scored, and 85 RBIs.

While his numbers weren't on the level of his prime, they represented a welcome and marked improvement from his prior two seasons with the Halos.

With Jackson in a groove and a young, talented team built around him, the Angels staked themselves to a lead in the AL West standings early in 1985.

However, they soon found themselves in a back-and-forth pennant race with the defending division champion Kansas City Royals, a season-long brawl that ended with the Royals barely outlasting the Angels by a single game for a second-straight postseason berth.

1985 Donruss #57 Reggie Jackson Baseball Card

1985 Donruss #67 Ryne Sandberg

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $100

The magic of the Chicago Cubs' Cinderella 1984 season didn't last long.

After the clock struck midnight in a five-game NLCS loss to the San Diego Padres, the Cubs went right back to cursed mediocrity in 1985, finishing the year with 77 wins, nearly 20 fewer than their NL East-winning campaign in 1984.

And they wouldn't have another winning season until 1989.

From media darlings to also-rans in the blink of an eye, the Cubs endured a ho-hum reality in 1985.

Lucky for Cubs fans, they still had reigning MVP Ryne Sandberg to root for.

Sandberg upped his power game in 1985, setting a new career high with 26 home runs.

He also posted a very strong .305/.364/.504 slash line, adding 31 doubles, six triples, 113 runs scored, and 83 RBIs.

The Cubs' second baseman was also a devil to handle on the basepaths, stealing a career-high 54 bags in 1985 and doing everything in his earthly power to push the Cubs to the brink of relevancy.

It wasn't to be.

The Cubs simply wasted one of their Hall of Fame second baseman's best years in uniform thanks to a spotty bullpen and a shallow starting lineup.

1985 Donruss #67 Ryne Sandberg Baseball Card

1985 Donruss #169 Cal Ripken Jr.

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $100

Two years after bringing home MVP honors for the World Series-winning Baltimore Orioles, Cal Ripken Jr. kept things steady as things fell apart around him.

An anomaly at shortstop, Ripken singlehandedly lifted the light-hitting, defense-first stigma associated with the position.

In 1985, Ripken posted a .282/.347/.469 slash line with 26 home runs, 32 doubles, five triples, 116 runs scored, and 110 RBIs in 718 plate appearances (642 at-bats).

Far from a hole in the lineup, the 24-year-old slugger was a legit middle-of-the-order threat at the six.

Now a three-time All-Star and Silver Slugger, Ripken ended the year 17th in the league’s MVP balloting.

And he might have had a chance to crack the top ten if the Orioles weren’t fading and fading fast.

After manager Joe Altobelli was relieved of his duties following a 29-26 start, the Orioles replaced him with franchise legend and future Hall-of-Famer Earl Weaver.

It didn’t provide the jump start Baltimore was expecting.

The 83-win O’s finished fourth in the AL East, playing around .500 ball for Weaver just like they had for Altobelli.

Come 1986, it would only get worse.

1985 Donruss #169 Cal Ripken Jr. Baseball Card

1985 Donruss #325 Eric Davis Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $100

Eric Davis's talent and one-of-a-kind athleticism garnered him ample buzz heading into what was supposed to be his first full season in the Major Leagues.

Named to the 1985 Opening Day roster by Cincinnati Reds manager Pete Rose, Davis' potential was tantalizing.

Rose even went so far as to say Davis had "a chance to be the best player on the club."

That was high praise coming from one of the best hitters in MLB history. Davis, however, wasn't ready to handle the hype.

The 23-year-old outfielder hit just .189 in his first two months of MLB service time, striking out in over one-third of his 90 at-bats.

On Opening Day, he stole two bases on consecutive pitches.

From there, he looked overwhelmed.

Davis was sent back down to Triple-A in early June, a move that both humbled and helped him.

"It was a test of my character, especially when I failed after all the media hype last spring," Davis said.

He returned to Cincinnati for the season's final month as the Reds scratched and clawed to stay in the NL West race.

Davis was better in his return, but second-place Cincy couldn't catch up to the Dodgers, missing the playoffs by six games.

1985 Donruss #325 Eric Davis Rookie Card

1985 Donruss #424 Tom Seaver

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value (Error): $100

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value (Correct): $30

In his age-40 season, Tom Seaver turned back the clock with his best season since finishing as the NL's Cy Young runner-up in 1981.

Although it was still weird to see Seaver in a Chicago White Sox uniform during his second year with the club, Seaver looked plenty comfortable setting down hitters half his age in 1985.

In 35 games (33 starts), Seaver finished 16-11 with a 3.17 ERA in 238.2 innings pitched, his highest innings output since 1978.

He ended the year with six complete games, exhibiting his trademark top-tier control to dance out of potential rallies and keep the White Sox in games.

It was astounding to see Seaver reach into his bag of tricks for start after start in 1985, using his know-how and craftiness to paper over his declining velocity.

Chicago was competitive with Seaver in flashback mode, finishing third in the AL West at 85-77.

However, they didn't have enough juice elsewhere on the roster to lift the aging future Hall of Famer to his first postseason berth in six years.

Seaver appears twice in this set, though one of the cards is an error that shows lefty Floyd Bannister on the front instead.

1985 Donruss #424 Tom Seaver Error Image is Floyd Bannister Baseball Card
1985 Donruss #424 Tom Seaver Baseball Card

1985 Donruss Baseball Cards In Review

The 1985 Donruss baseball card set design may initially seem dull to some collectors.

To me, its retro look and feel are as awesome as some of the players' uniforms at the time.

No matter your opinion on the design itself, there's no question that there are many great cards within the 660-card checklist to enjoy.

The headliners are, of course, the Kirby Puckett and Roger Clemens rookie cards, while many other huge superstars of the era offer collectors plenty of excitement.

Unopened Box of 1985 Donruss Baseball Cards

As far as subsets go, there were two classic features in this set:

  • Diamond Kings (#1 - 26)
  • Rated Rookies (#27 - 460)

Both would be staples of many Donruss baseball card sets for years to come.

Overall, I think this is one of the better sets of any manufacturer from the 1980s regarding how much bang you get for the buck.

The black borders make for a condition-sensitive set that can make it tough to achieve top grades, but it won't hurt your pocket as much as some of the other sets of the era.