12 Most Valuable 1992 Leaf Baseball Cards

Most Valuable 1992 Leaf Baseball Cards

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For the second year in a row, collectors were met with a grey-border design when they tore open packs of 1992 Leaf baseball cards.

And, like the year before, the set design overall is fairly straightforward and conservative.

But, that didn't mean they were boring...

The image quality was some of the best at the time, with many of the cards expertly catching the players with fantastic action shots.

With Jeff Kent being the only major rookie card in the base set, the 528-card checklist makes up for it by offering plenty of stars and Hall of Famers of the era.

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

Let's jump right in!

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

Like the 1992 Donruss, Fleer, Score, Topps and Upper Deck 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:

1992 Leaf #445 Jeff Kent Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $200

When the Toronto Blue Jays put Jeff Kent into the game in place of Kelly Gruber on April 12, 1992, during a homestand against the Orioles, Kent responded by going 1-2 with a double.

It would be the first of 2,461 hits for one of the best second basemen in MLB history.

But, it wasn't his defensive skills that eventually put his name in the Hall of Fame discussion after seventeen years of service in the Big Leagues.

Instead, Kent was an absolute stud with the bat.

Kent's 377 career home runs still rank as the most of any second baseman in league history, while his 560 doubles put him in a tie with the legendary Eddie Murray at number 30 on the all-time list.

Kent began his career playing for several teams before settling in with the San Francisco Giants ahead of the 1997 season and forming an incredible 1-2 punch with Barry Bonds.

Most will remember Kent for his incredible 2000 season when he won the MVP Award and Silver Slugger after batting .334 with 33 home runs, 125 RBI and 114 runs scored.

Still, Kent remains outside of the Hall of Fame for now, but if he gets elected someday, his rookie cards will likely see a nice uptick in price.

1992 Leaf #445 Jeff Kent Rookie Card

1992 Leaf #392 Ken Griffey Jr.

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $65

During his fourth year in the Majors, a 22-year-old Ken Griffey Jr. continued to lay the groundwork for a Hall of Fame career as one of the game's top talents.

To go along with his third-straight All-Star appearance, Griffey finished seventeenth in the MVP vote after slashing .308/.361/.535 with 27 home runs, 103 RBIs and 83 runs scored.

And, speaking of the All-Star Game, Griffey earned MVP honors during that game after finishing just a triple short of a cycle.

As great as he was at the plate, The Kid was just as good on defense, ultimately leading all AL center fielders in fielding percentage (.997) and earning his third-straight Gold Glove.

Seattle had a surefire superstar in Griffey but the team struggled heavily, finishing with a 64-98 record to narrowly beat out the Los Angeles Dodgers for the worst record in the league.

With the team's future in Seattle uncertain, Griffey would carry the weight of the franchise on his shoulders for years to come.

1992 Leaf #392 Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball Card

1992 Leaf #41 Nolan Ryan

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $50

Nolan Ryan began his five-year stint with the Texas Rangers in 1989 and responded with an MLB-best 301 strikeouts, 6.1 hits per nine innings, and 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings.

That performance resulted in his eighth All-Star selection and a fifth-place vote for the Cy Young Award.

The Ryan Express had clearly brought the heat to Arlington, and from that point forward, he was a huge draw for the Texas Rangers as the fanbase adored him.

By the time the 1992 season rolled around, Ryan was 45 years old.

But, while most players would've long since been retired at that age, Ryan was still a considerable force on the mound.

His 5-9 record, 3.72 ERA, and 1.32 WHIP were far from his best numbers in those categories, but his 9.0 strikeouts and 7.9 hits per nine innings remained among the best in the AL.

Longevity was just as much of a staple of his game as his power, and Ryan continued to defy time during his 26th season in the Majors.

The imagery on this card perfectly captures the mystique of Ryan and his incredible power.

1992 Leaf #41 Nolan Ryan Baseball Card

1992 Leaf #52 Cal Ripken Jr.

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $40

The 1991 and 1992 seasons could not have gone more differently for Cal Ripken Jr. at the plate.

In 1991, Ripken slashed .323/.374/.566 to go along with career bests in home runs (34) and RBI (114) to earn his second MVP Award.

However, in 1992, that slash line dropped significantly to .251/.323/.366 while hitting just 14 home runs and driving in 72 RBI.

Since the Iron Horse continued his march towards breaking the all-time consecutive games played streak, his struggles weren't related to any nagging injuries.

Rather, Ripken and the Orioles continued to hold tough contract negotiations that became a growing distraction as the season moved forward.

Said Ripken, "I don't like to make excuses for the fact that I wasn't hitting, but I was distracted ... I just felt like the Orioles were playing mind games with me. Whether that was right or wrong, it was bothering me."

Later in the season, Ripken signed a five-year deal worth $30.5 million to stay with the Orioles, making it the largest contract received by an MLB player at the time.

His struggles continued the rest of the season, but by 1993, Ripken would be back to his old self.

1992 Leaf #52 Cal Ripken Jr. Baseball Card

1992 Leaf #57 Don Mattingly

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $200

In his eleventh season with the New York Yankees, Don Mattingly focused on getting his overall game back on course in 1992.

He still had the lockdown glove at first base, but lingering issues had brought down his production at the plate in 1990 and 1991 after being one of the most dominant hitters of the 1980s.

Fortunately, during the 1992 campaign, Mattingly stayed healthy enough to play in 157 games and right the ship.

Though they weren't the kind of monster numbers we saw from Mattingly in the previous decade, he did produce a .288 average with 14 home runs, 86 RBI and 90 runs scored.

The days of Donnie Baseball hitting 30+ home runs, 100+ RBI and batting .300 were long gone, but it was nice to see him bounce back from the two previous disappointing seasons.

Despite Mattingly's improvements, the Yankees weren't so great, finishing fourth in the AL East with a 76-86 as the playoffs continued to elude him.

1992 Leaf #57 Don Mattingly Baseball Card

1992 Leaf #98 Kirby Puckett

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $40

After hitting a game-winning home run off Atlanta Braves pitcher Charlie Leibrant in the eleventh inning of Game 6 of the 1991 World Series, Kirby Puckett could've retired as a hero in Minnesota right then.

That was exactly the momentum the Twins needed to force a Game 7 and an eventual 1991 World Series victory, the franchise's second since Puckett helped win their first in 1987.

But, he was back and ready for more in 1992.

For the third time in his career, Puckett led the Majors in hits (210) and the American League in total bases (313) for the second time, thanks to a terrific .329/.374/.490 slash line.

The superstar continued to bring his exceptional skills on defense, too, picking up his sixth career Gold Glove for his efforts.

For the seventh time, Puckett earned a trip to the All-Star Game and after the season came to a finish, he finished second in the AL MVP vote.

Had Dennis Eckersley not had such an incredible year as Oakland's closer,  Puckett would likely have beaten out Joe Carter for MVP.

1992 Leaf #98 Kirby Puckett Baseball Card

1992 Leaf #116 Rickey Henderson

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $40

Two years removed from his incredible 1990 MVP campaign, a 33-year-old Rickey Henderson looked to keep the pedal to the metal heading into the 1992 season.

Despite making a couple of trips to the disabled list, Rickey was still Rickey when he was healthy.

In 117 games, Henderson slashed .283/.432/.474 with 15 home runs, 46 RBI and 48 stolen bases, the sixth-most in the American League.

Since 1980, the speedster had failed to lead the AL in stolen bases only one other time (1987), but given the nagging injuries, it's entirely understandable.

Even if healthy, who knows if he would have been able to outdo newcomer Kenny Lofton and his impressive 66 stolen bases in his rookie year.

Rickey's play helped the A's secure a first-place finish in the AL West at 96-66 but Oakland would fall to the eventual World Series champion Toronto Blue Jays in six games in the ALCS.

Henderson would continue playing at a high level until 2003 and racking up impressive stolen base numbers even into his 40s.

1992 Leaf #116 Rickey Henderson Baseball Card

1992 Leaf #206 Tony Gwynn

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $35

In 1992, Tony Gwynn finished the year on the DL for the third-straight season after spraining a ligament in his knee during a tough 5-6 loss in sixteen innings on September 8 against the San Francisco Giants.

Gwynn had gone 5-8 on the day with two RBI and a run scored but the injury and loss put a huge damper on his incredible day.

After playing just four more innings later on September 19 in Cincinnati, teammate Jim Vatcher replaced Gwynn in right field, and he was done for the year.

In 128 games, Gwynn batted .317 with six home runs, 41 RBI, and 77 runs scored during his eighth season as an All-Star.

Interestingly, during that All-Star Game in 1992, Gwynn finally got the chance to meet another hitting legend in Ted Williams, who encouraged him to hit for more power.

Sure enough, Gwynn took Williams' advice as his slugging percentage and home run totals increased over the following seasons.

1992 Leaf #206 Tony Gwynn Baseball Card

1992 Leaf #349 Frank Thomas

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $35

Throughout the 1990s and into the mid-2000s, Frank Thomas was one of the most feared hitters in the league.

Routinely good for 30-40 home runs and 100+ RBIs, Thomas could also hit for average, as noted by his .347 average that won him an AL batting title in 1997.

And after finishing the 1991 season with a third-place finish in the MVP vote, Thomas was ready to get back to work in 1992 to keep his name in the conversation.

On the season, Thomas batted .323 with 24 home runs, 115 RBI, and 108 runs scored while leading the AL in walks (122), OBP (.439) and OPS (.975).

His career-high 46 doubles also happened to be an MLB best.

Though he had a balanced season, performing about the same in both the first and second halves, he'd miss out on All-Star honors in his third year.

But, an eighth-place finish in the MVP vote had solidified his place as one of the best in the game.

1992 Leaf #349 Frank Thomas Baseball Card

1992 Leaf #400 Ozzie Smith

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $35

At 37 years old, Ozzie Smith entered the fifteenth season of his Hall of Fame career in 1992 with plenty of speed and range left in his game.

His 43 stolen bases and 73 runs scored showed he still had plenty left to give on the base paths, while his thirteenth-straight Gold Glove at shortstop proved his defense was still top-notch.

In the final year of his contract, Smith also showed increased discipline at the plate after turning in a .295 batting average, the second-highest of his career.

Despite his solid efforts, the Cardinals barely squeaked out a winning season with an 83-79 record to capture third place in the NL East.

In the offseason, Smith and the Cardinals agreed to a new contract that would see the Wizard play four more years in St. Louis before retiring after the 1996 season.

1992 Leaf #400 Ozzie Smith Baseball Card

1992 Leaf #16 Mark McGwire

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $30

Looking to bounce back from a disappointing 1991 season, Mark McGwire entered the 1992 season in better shape and with improved mental focus.

And by the time the season ended, McGwire had produced his best numbers since his breakout campaign in 1987.

While batting .268 with a .385 OBP, the Oakland "Bash Brother" also led the American League in slugging percentage (.585) and OPS+ (176).

That work at the plate translated into 42 home runs, 104 RBI and 87 runs scored, earning him his first of three career Silver Sluggers and a fourth-place finish in the MVP vote.

Oakland had their superstar slugger back in top form and rode that momentum to a first-place 96-66 record in the AL West, six games in front of the defending World Series champion Minnesota Twins.

Unfortunately, the Toronto Blue Jays slammed the door on Oakland and their own World Series hopes by defeating them in a decisive Game 6 of the ALCS by a 9-2 margin.

1992 Leaf #16 Mark McGwire Baseball Card

1992 Leaf #529 Dale Murphy

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $30

Just as Don Mattingly dominated the American League with the Yankees during the 1980s, Dale Murphy was carving out his legacy as one of the decade's best in the National League for the Atlanta Braves.

As evidence, no other National League player had as many at-bats, runs, RBIs, hits, extra-base hits, total bases, plate appearances, or played as many games as Murphy.

And only Mike Schmidt's 313 home runs were more than Murphy's 308.

To cap things off, Murphy won two MVPs, five Gold Gloves, four Silver Sluggers and appeared in seven All-Star Games during the 1980s.

Murphy entered the 1990 season with the Braves but the team traded him to the Phillies in early August.

He'd have one decent full season for the Phillies in 1991 before an arthritic condition in his left knee severely limited his production in 1992.

Murphy played in just 18 games with 62 at-bats to finish the year with a .161 batting average, two home runs and seven RBIs.

He remains one of the greatest players never to make the Hall of Fame and time will tell he if eventually gets inducted.

1992 Leaf #527 Dale Murphy Baseball Card

1992 Leaf Baseball Cards In Review

With a checklist that consisted of 528 cards, the 1992 Leaf set was one of the smaller ones of its era but, as you can see, there are plenty of stars and Hall of Famers to find within it.

Jeff Kent is the biggest rookie name to appear in the base set while Pedro Martinez and Kenny Lofton each appeared in the Gold Leaf Rookies inserts that were randomly packed in Series One boxes.

Unopened Box of 1992 Leaf Baseball Cards

Collectors could also find one Black Gold parallel card inserted in every pack across both series.

It was tough for companies to stand out from the crowd during an era that featured so much mass production and collecting options.

Overall, this set didn't turn out to be anything special from that era, but I still enjoy the nostalgia that comes from scouring through this checklist.

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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