12 Most Valuable 1991 Leaf Baseball Cards

Unopened Box of 1991 Leaf Baseball CardsOne of the most anticipated sets of its time, 1991 Leaf baseball cards had the hobby on edge as collectors eagerly awaited the product to hit store shelves.

And for a good reason…

Leaf had raised plenty of eyebrows with its breakout 1990 set the year before, upping the standard for card quality and design.

While the encore certainly doesn’t disappoint in terms of eye appeal, the one drawback is its lack of notable rookie cards, something its predecessor is well known for.

But, there is still plenty of star power and nostalgia within its checklist to keep things interesting.

And in this guide, we’ll take a look at the 12 most valuable.

Let’s jump right in…

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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 1991 Bowman, Donruss, 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:

1991 Leaf #372 Ken Griffey Jr.

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $30

In his third MLB season, “The Kid” continued to grow up and showcase his unique talents in front of an adoring baseball fan base.

At just 21 years old, Griffey Jr. posted a .327 batting average, which turned out to be the best mark of his 22-season career.

He also posted the third-best on-base percentage of his career (.399), reached the 100 RBI plateau for the first of eight times, and captured both his second Gold Glove and first of seven Silver Slugger awards.

Junior's early signs of superstardom made this card a must-have for kids ripping packs at the time.

Unfortunately, not all was positive for the Griffey family in 1991 as Ken Griffey Sr. suffered a herniated disk in his neck because of a car accident before the season.

He’d play just 30 more games alongside his son in Seattle, officially retiring after the season.

1991 Leaf #372 Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball Card

1991 Leaf #423 Nolan Ryan

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $25

In his 25th MLB season, the Ryan Express chugged along with incredible sights to see along the way.

At the age of 44, the Texas Rangers righty remained a strikeout pitcher extraordinaire as he hit the 200 strikeout mark for the 15th and final time (203) while leading the Majors in both WHIP (1.006) and K/BB ratio (10.6).

He also posted a sub-3.00 ERA (2.91) for the first time since a dominant 1987 campaign with the Houston Astros.

However, the real highlight of Ryan’s 1991 MLB season was a legitimate piece of baseball history.

On May 1, 1991, Ryan became the oldest pitcher in MLB history to throw a no-hitter.

Ryan dazzled in front of 33,439 awestruck fans in Arlington, striking out at least one batter in each inning and finishing with 16 overall in a 3-0 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.

It was Ryan’s seventh and final no-hitter in an MLB uniform, three more than Sandy Koufax’s second-place total of four.

1991 Leaf #423 Nolan Ryan Baseball Card

1991 Leaf #101 Rickey Henderson

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $20

Shockingly enough, Ryan’s seventh no-hitter was perhaps the second-most historic moment to occur on May 1, 1991.

A few hours before Ryan’s dominant performance, Rickey Henderson passed Lou Brock for the all-time stolen base record with his 939th career swipe.

The Oakland A’s outfielder began the season with 936 career steals, two behind Brock for the record.

However, he missed 14 games in April with a calf strain, delaying his pursuit for half a month.

Henderson wasted little time when he returned from the disabled list on April 27, tying Brock the very next day by swiping a bag against the California Angels.

Then on May 1 against the New York Yankees, Henderson reached on an error in the fourth inning and pulled into second after a Dave Henderson single.

With one out, Henderson took off for third and made history.

The Hall of Famer ripped the base out of the dirt, holding it above his head in triumph in one of the most iconic moments in MLB history.

And Henderson’s words following the swipe were as Rickey as Rickey could get: “Lou Brock was a great base stealer, but today I am the greatest of all time!”

1991 Leaf #101 Rickey Henderson Baseball Card

1991 Leaf #430 Cal Ripken Jr.

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $15

In 1983, the future all-time baseball Ironman won his first AL MVP award while leading the Baltimore Orioles to a World Series title.

His award may have been a no-brainer that year.

But his 1991 AL MVP campaign remains a source of contention for some.

The Orioles finished with a paltry .420 winning percentage, and Ripken didn’t lead the Majors in any major offensive category.

But he did lead the Majors in total bases (368), set personal bests in home runs (34) and RBI (114), and picked up both a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger along the way.

Retrospect and a new wave of analytic thought have been much kinder to Ripken’s 1991 campaign, though.

His 11.5 WAR outpaced was over two more than the season’s second-place finisher (Tom Glavine, 9.2), and three-and-a-half more than the next best position player (Barry Bonds, 8.0).

1991 Leaf #430 Cal Ripken Jr. Baseball Card

1991 Leaf #208 Kirby Puckett

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $15

The Minnesota Twins’ iconic center fielder was a wrecking ball offensively and defensively during the 1991 season, finishing seventh in the American League MVP voting while slashing .319/.352/.460 and capturing his fifth of six Gold Gloves.

But, it was his historic performance against the Atlanta Braves in front of an ear-splitting Metrodome crowd in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series that lifted him from popular superstar to baseball legend.

First, Puckett kept the game scoreless in the third inning by absolutely robbing Ron Gant of an extra-base hit with a leaping catch two feet above the Plexiglas fence in left-center.

And later in the bottom of the 11th, Puckett tied the series with a walk-off home run off Atlanta lefty Charlie Leibrandt, perhaps the most enduring moment of the 1991 MLB season.

The Twins would go on to win Game 7, and Puckett’s legacy as a Minnesota folk hero was forever assured.

1991 Leaf #208 Kirby Puckett Baseball Card

1991 Leaf #182 Jose Canseco

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $15

In his final full season with the Oakland Athletics, the gargantuan Bash Brother put together one of his career's best offensive campaigns.

Canseco eclipsed all of his key production numbers from the team's 1990 run to the American League pennant, pacing the Majors with 44 home runs.

He also finished 2nd to Detroit's Cecil Fielder with 122 RBI and finished third in the Majors in slugging percentage (.556).

However, the A's finished just fourth in the American League West in 1991, ending a three-season run of World Series appearances and effectively ending the Bash Brothers era by the Bay.

While in the on-deck circle during a game against the Baltimore Orioles on September 1st, 1992, the team traded Canseco to the Texas Rangers in one of the most oddly-timed swaps in MLB history.

1991 Leaf #182 Jose Canseco Baseball Card

1991 Leaf #425 Don Mattingly

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $12

The New York Yankees first baseman missed significant time in 1990 due to a back injury, an injury which zapped his power and MVP-level production.

Once seemingly destined for the Hall of Fame, that injury effectively derailed Mattingly's hopes in the middle of his prime.

While his offensive power was all but gone, Mattingly could still dazzle with his glove on defense, however, as he earned his sixth of nine Gold Gloves with sure-handed, stellar corner defense.

However, the most noteworthy moment of Mattingly's 1991 season didn't happen on the field.

The Yankees team captain was benched and fined on August 15th, along with three other Yankees players, for not cutting his hair.

While he ended up cutting his hair eventually, he challenged management openly and reiterated a previous trade request.

Collectors were always in search of Mattingly's cards during the late 80s and early 90s, with this one no exception.

1991 Leaf #425 Don Mattingly Baseball Card

1991 Leaf #281 Frank Thomas

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $15

Later known as “The Big Hurt,” the Chicago White Sox first baseman and designated hitter made his MLB debut on August 2, 1990, just over a year after being picked seventh in the 1989 MLB Draft.

Thomas was an immediate offensive force for the final two months of the 1990 season and put it all together for an electric follow-up in 1991.

Finishing 3rd in the American League MVP race, the 23-year-old Thomas led baseball in on-base percentage (.453), OPS (1.006), OPS+ (180), and walks (138).

Thomas also finished in the MLB top ten in home runs (32) and RBIs (109), earning his first of four Silver Slugger awards in the process.

His home run power was already feared, and the image of the hulking 6-foot-5 slugger swinging a piece of rebar (salvaged from Old Comiskey Park) in the on-deck circle only exacerbated that.

Thomas was one of my favorite players as a kid and I would always check the local cable TV listings to catch the Sox anytime they were on WGN.

His 1990 Leaf rookie card is still extremely popular among collectors but this second-year Leaf card is also a great one.

1991 Leaf #281 Frank Thomas Baseball Card

1991 Leaf #261 Barry Bonds

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $15

There was no post MVP campaign letdown for Bonds in 1991, despite finishing 2nd to Atlanta Braves third baseman Terry Pendleton in one of the closest NL MVP votes of the past half-century or so.

The electric Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder provided a beyond worthy encore to his breakthrough 1990 MVP season, leading the National League in on-base percentage (.410), OPS (.924), and OPS+ (160).

He also captured his second-straight Gold Glove and Silver Slugger.

However, Bonds failed to keep his momentum going in the 1991 NLCS, though, as he he slashed just .148/.207/.185 with only one extra-base hit in 27 at-bats.

The Pirates fell heartbreakingly to the Braves in seven games.

Bonds would rebound with a vengeance, though, capturing the 1992 NL MVP award before signing a big-money deal and moving West to play for the San Francisco Giants.

You might know the rest of how that story went.

I love the imagery on this card as Leaf perfectly captures the slugger ready to unleash his compact swing on an incoming pitch.

1991 Leaf #261 Barry Bonds Baseball Card

1991 Leaf #321 Sammy Sosa

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $12

The Sammy Sosa who took the field for 116 regular-season games with the Chicago White Sox in 1991 looked nothing like the man who dueled Mark McGwire for the single-season home run record in 1998.

Conjecture and theories aside about Sosa’s physique during the height of the game’s steroid era, it’s remarkable how different of a player Sosa was in 1991.

Sosa showed flashes of his future self on Opening Day, hitting two home runs and driving in five in Chicago’s 9-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.

The 22-year-old slugger fell into a season-long slump from there, though, slashing just .203/.240/.335 with ten home runs and 33 RBIs.

Sosa and pitcher Ken Patterson were traded to the Chicago Cubs for outfielder George Bell prior to the 1992 campaign, beginning Sosa’s ascent to superstardom on the other side of the Second City.

Like Thomas, Sosa's Leaf debut came the year before making this a quality second-year card.

1991 Leaf #321 Sammy Sosa Baseball Card

1991 Leaf #127 Greg Maddux

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $12

One year prior to his first National League Cy Young Award and final year with the Chicago Cubs, the 25-year-old righty led the National League in innings pitched (263.0) and batters faced (1,070) in 1991.

He also continued to flash the leather, earning his second of a record 13-straight Gold Gloves on the mound.

Maddux posted a 15-11 record with a 3.35 ERA on the season, the last time he'd post an ERA over three until 1999.

I wasn't a Braves fan during the 1990s, but I must say I was a huge Greg Maddux fan over that timespan.

It was hard not to be.

Not often do you see an athlete in any sport consistently dominate his or her craft over several years, and that's what made Maddux's run throughout the 90s so fun to watch.

1991 Leaf #127 Greg Maddux Baseball Card

1991 Leaf #488 Roger Clemens

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $12

Speaking of guys with multiple Cy Youngs, Roger Clemens captured his third with a dominating season-long performance for the Boston Red Sox.

The 6-foot-4 right-hander was filthy all year, finishing with an 18-10 record and a 2.62 ERA that led all American League starters.

Clemens also led all of baseball in innings pitched (271.1), strikeouts (241), batters faced (1,077), and ERA+ (165).

The Dayton, Ohio native's seven Cy Young Awards are the most in MLB history, two more than Randy Johnson.

Though his career is shrouded in controversy because of the PED scandal, there is no questioning that the Rocket was one of the game's most talented hurlers of all time.

1991 Leaf #488 Roger Clemens Baseball Card

1991 Leaf Baseball Cards In Review

Issued in two series, the 528-card checklist may have equaled that of its predecessor in terms of quantity, but the overall experience came up a bit short.

Again, the lack of key rookie cards didn't help.

You'll have to look in the company's 1991 Gold Leaf Rookies set to find rookie cards of Hall of Famers Jeff Bagwell and Mike Mussina.

Arguably more impactful in the letdown was the sheer supply of this set compared to the year before.

To meet such high demand, Leaf pushed out an enormous amount of this product, much like so many other manufacturers did at the time.

That took away a bit of the premium and upscale feel to it.

Regardless, this set's design and the number of big-name stars within it are enough to offer just the right amount of nostalgia to any collector of that era.

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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