12 Most Valuable 1994 Donruss Baseball Cards
If there's one thing that immediately sticks out about the 1994 Donruss baseball card set, it's that the design and quality of the cards took a huge step forward.
Previous Donruss designs sometimes seemed basic and bland by comparison.
But with an increasingly competitive atmosphere, baseball card companies had to fight for every inch of collector attention...
Donruss answered with a borderless design, beautiful imagery, foil stampings, and higher-quality glossy card stock.
They also boosted the number of inserts to eight and introduced a parallel set.
Despite all those efforts, this set remains overlooked in today's market, but there are still some great cards in the 660-card checklist.
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.
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:
1994 Donruss #4 Ken Griffey Jr.
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $125
After setting the baseball world on fire through the first five years of his career, Ken Griffey Jr. locked in for another incredible season in 1994.
And he couldn't have been more popular.
That year, he appeared in his own videogame when Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball came out for the Super Nintendo.
Griffey also appeared on the hit television show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
For a Nike advertisement campaign, artist James Crespinel also painted a huge mural of Griffey on a downtown Seattle building.
And to help track each of his home runs that year, someone painted tick marks on the mural above Griffey's head as the season progressed.
Through the first two-and-a-half months of the 1994 season, Griffey got off to a blistering start, belting 32 home before July 1st, beating Babe Ruth's long-standing record of 30 by two.
To no one's surprise, The Kid received the most All-Star votes in the Majors with over 6 million fan votes, shattering Rod Carew's record by just under two million ballots.
Though his pace cooled off somewhat after the All-Star break, Griffey finished the strike-shortened season with an AL-best 40 home runs.
1994 Donruss #1 Nolan Ryan
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $100
On September 22, 1993, Nolan Ryan tore the UCL in his elbow during the first inning of his 807th game in his 27th season in Major League Baseball.
And just like that, his legendary career was over.
The image on this card was taken ten days earlier on "Nolan Ryan Day" as he addressed the home crowd at Arlington Stadium one last time.
Ryan had announced earlier in the year that he would retire at the end of the 1993 season, and the Rangers began preparations to move to a new home, Rangers Ballpark at Arlington, in 1994.
Two significant chapters in Texas Rangers history would soon come to a close at the end of the 1993 season.
Ryan's career didn't end the way he would've liked, but after 5,386 innings of wear and tear, it's a wonder his arm didn't give out sooner.
And fortunately, it didn't.
Over 27 years, baseball fans witnessed one of the greatest pitchers and careers in baseball history as Ryan threw fireball after fireball on his way to seven no-hitters and 5,714 strikeouts.
Ryan's mark on the Texas Rangers and the game of baseball at large cannot be overstated.
Fittingly, Donruss honored the iconic hurler with the first card in the set with the reverse providing a great visual of his career stats.
1994 Donruss #340 Don Mattingly
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $65
Entering his thirteenth year in the Majors, New York Yankees legend Don Mattingly was still in search of his first trip to the postseason.
After losing the 1981 World Series in six to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the New York Yankees had yet to return to the playoffs since Mattingly stepped onto the field for the first time in 1982.
As the 1994 MLB unfolded and the months went by, it began to look like Mattingly may finally get his chance.
On August 12th, the Yankees were sitting at 70-43 with a comfortable 6.5-game lead over the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East.
Mattingly was a big reason for the team's success, too, hitting over .300 (.304) for the first time since 1989 with six home runs, 51 RBIs and 62 runs scored.
And then, the playoff door began to shut once again for Donnie Baseball.
In fact, it began to close for everyone.
Unable to agree with league ownership on key terms, the MLB Players Association went on strike, leading to the longest work stoppage in MLB history.
The rest of the 1994 season, including the playoffs, was canceled, but Mattingly at least walked away with his ninth Gold Glove that year.
1994 Donruss #10 Tony Gwynn
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $55
Not since Ted Williams finished the 1941 season with a .406 batting average had any hitter finished an entire MLB campaign hitting above .400 heading into the 1994 season
George Brett came close in 1980 when he hit at a blistering .390 clip for the year.
But, as the season wore on in 1994, it seemed like Tony Gwynn had a legitimate shot of doing the unthinkable.
In 110 games that season, the legendary lefty was so locked in at the plate that his batting average reached an incredible .394 before the strike.
Like many other players, Gwynn began the year hitting .500 when he went 1 for 2 against Atlanta on Opening Day.
Then his average dipped to .300 through five games.
At that point, no one could have predicted or was even really thinking of where he might take things from there.
From that point on, Gwynn kicked things into overdrive and dialed himself in at the plate to produce one of the most remarkable daily hitting clinics the modern game has ever seen.
When the strike began on August 12, Gwynn's average sat at an eye-popping .394.
Unfortunately, the strike left Gwynn's pursuit of .400 in the dustbin of many what-ifs that year.
1994 Donruss #19 Rickey Henderson
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $55
After serving as a late-season rental for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993 to help them to a second straight World Series title, Rickey Henderson was back with the Oakland Athletics for the 1994 season.
Unfortunately, the move back to Oakland was quite a downer for the legendary speedster.
The Athletics were terrible in 1994 and finished with a 51-63 record.
Amazingly, that put them only one game behind the Texas Rangers (52-62) for first place in an AL West that was less than impressive overall.
For his part as the team's table setter, Henderson slashed .260/.411/.365 with 22 steals and 66 runs scored.
At 35 years old, Henderson simply didn't have as great of a campaign as he usually did.
Perhaps most telling of his overall season at the plate was his .776 OPS, the lowest since making his MLB debut in 1979 with a .675 OPS.
After the season ended prematurely with the strike, Henderson took the offseason to regroup and bounced back for a much more "Henderson-like" performance in 1995.
1994 Donruss #40 Cal Ripken Jr.
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $55
For as many potential achievements that the players' strike brought to a halt in 1994, there was one thing it could only temporarily delay.
And that one thing was Cal Ripken Jr.'s pursuit of Lou Gehrig's record of playing in 2,130 consecutive games.
On August 1, 1994, Ripken played in his 2,000th consecutive game during an otherwise forgettable matchup against the Minnesota Twins in which he went 0-4 at the plate in the Orioles' 1-0 loss.
Just over a week later, he fared much better on the road against the New York Yankees in his 2,009th game, going 3-5 at the plate to help Baltimore to an 8-1 blowout of their division rivals.
And then, the MLBPA strike took effect on August 12, hitting the pause button on his streak.
The baseball world could only sit and wait for play to resume for Ripken's chase to begin again.
And no one knew it then, but by Ripken getting his streak back on track during the 1995 campaign, he gave fans one of the few reasons to begin rebuilding their trust and interest in baseball.
1994 Donruss #173 Bo Jackson
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $45
In what would become Bo Jackson's last season in professional sports, the legendary superstar looked to make the most of his one-year deal with the California Angels.
After bouncing back in 1993 with the Chicago White Sox to be named 1993 AL Comeback Player of the Year, Jackson signed with the Angels for $1 million and headed back to Southern California.
Things went better than expected for Bo, to the point that he set career highs in batting average (.279) and on-base percentage (.344) in 75 games in a platoon role.
He also showed flashes of the power and explosiveness from his days in Kansas City by smacking 13 home runs and driving in 43 runs in just 201 at-bats.
At the time, it looked like he had multiple years of professional baseball left in him.
It turned out he didn't want to play anymore, though.
After the strike cut the season short, Jackson spent extra time with his family and soon discovered his desire to be with them was far more substantial than his desire to play professional sports.
And just like that, Jackson's iconic sports career came to a close.
1994 Donruss #341 Frank Thomas
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $40
Since making his MLB debut in 1990, everyone knew that Frank Thomas was an incredibly talented hitter.
But in 1993, he put himself into elite status.
That season, Thomas became the first Chicago White Sox MVP since Dick Allen won the award in 1972.
Even more impressive, Thomas put his name on a list that only included legends Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, and Ted Williams.
With another .300+ batting average, 20+ home runs, and more than 100 walks, RBIs, and runs scored during the 1993 sesaon, Thomas joined them as the fifth player with three-straight seasons with those numbers.
And then he did it again in 1994, batting .353 with 38 home runs, 109 walks, 101 RBIs, and 106 runs scored.
Amazingly, Thomas turned in seven seasons in a row from 1991 through 1997, setting the record for most consecutive seasons with those kinds of stats.
In hindsight, maybe just as impressive as doing it seven times in a row was that he could keep the streak alive during the strike-shortened 1994 season in just 399 at-bats.
At the end of the season, Thomas won his second-straight MVP for his incredible production.
1994 Donruss #343 Kirby Puckett
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $40
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Minnesota Twins enjoyed the most successful stint in franchise history.
Year after year, led by Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett, the Twins rode a combination of skill and hard-nosed play as one of the top teams in baseball.
And, in 1987 and 1991, they were crowned as World Series champions, bringing home the only two titles in franchise history.
In the middle of all that success was the most beloved Minnesota Twin of all time and perhaps the biggest star in Minnesota sports history, Kirby Puckett.
Puckett played with joy, determination, and an extreme skill level that easily won the hearts of Twins fans.
And though the Twins were not good in 1994, finishing at 53-60 and in fourth place in the AL West, they still cheered for their hero in center.
In 439 at-bats, Puckett led the American League with an eye-popping 112 RBIs, driving in a run in just over every four at-bats, easily the most blistering pace of his career.
For the seventh time in his career, Puckett earned a trip to the All-Star Game while bringing home his sixth Silver Slugger at the season's end.
1994 Donruss #453 Chipper Jones
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $40
Chipper Jones made his MLB debut on September 11, 1993, when he replaced starting shortstop Jeff Blauser in the ninth inning during a 13-1 blowout against the San Diego Padres.
He'd appear in seven more regular games that season for the NL West champion Atlanta Braves, yet wouldn't see action during the 4-2 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1993 NLCS.
During the 1993 offseason, the Atlanta Braves starting left fielder, Ron Gant, shocked the organization when he broke his leg during the offseason riding a dirtbike.
Suddenly Chipper Jones seemed ready to make a run for Gant's starting role in left at just 22 years old.
Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be.
During Spring Training, Jones tore the ACL in his left knee and had to miss the entire 1994 season as a result.
The future Hall of Famer would bounce back with an incredible rookie campaign in 1995, leading all rookies in games played (145), games started (123), plate appearances (602), at-bats (524), RBIs (86) and runs scored (87).
He'd barely miss 1995 NL Rookie of the Year honors, finishing a close second to Los Angeles Dodgers' pitching sensation, Hideo Nomo.
However, a 1995 World Series ring wasn't a bad consolation prize.
1994 Donruss #107 George Brett
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $35
At a press conference on September 25, 1993, Kansas City legend George Brett announced he would retire from baseball at the end of the season.
During his announcement, Brett stated that the joy with which he had played for 21 years just wasn't there anymore.
"The game became a job," Brett said. "It wasn't a game anymore. And baseball shouldn't be treated that way."
The next day, he belted a game-winning solo shot off of California Angels reliever Paul Swingle with two outs in the bottom of the tenth to seal a 9-8 win for the Royals.
Baseball's funny like that.
You have to wonder if Brett, even just for a moment, felt a bit of that spark of joy he said he lacked as he rounded the bases, questioning his decision to retire.
Yet, he stuck with his decision and played his last game on October 4, 1993, going 1-4 against the Texas Rangers to end the year with a .266/.312/.434 slash line with 19 home runs and 75 RBIs.
With stats like that, he could obviously still play, he just didn't have the desire anymore.
1994 Donruss #18 Ryne Sandberg
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $30
The 1994 MLB season ended earlier than most for Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg when he suddenly announced his retirement on June 13, 1994.
On June 11 and 12, Ryno wasn't in the lineup for the last two games of a three-game home series at Wrigley against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
After going 0-4 the night before on June 10 to extend a dreadful 1-28 slump at the plate, most thought he sat out those two games to regroup.
And then, during a day off for the Cubs, Sandberg announced he was retiring at a surprise news conference.
It didn't help that the Cubs were off to a horrible start that season, but Ryan credited his decision to a lack of desire to play at a high level anymore.
Rumors also swirled that he was facing marital troubles at home and wanted to step away and dedicate more time to his two kids.
Sandberg stated in front of the media and fans, "I am not the type of person who can be satisfied with anything less than my very best effort and my very top performance."
And that was it.
Sandberg would come out of retirement to play two more seasons in 1996 and 1997 before retiring for good.
1994 Donruss Baseball Cards In Review
The lack of big rookie cards in this set is why many hobbyists pay little attention to it.
Debuting during an era of turmoil in baseball and a decline in hobby interest overall didn't help either.
But with a great lineup of stars and Hall of Famers and a much-improved design compared to previous Donruss sets, it's worth a look from a nostalgic point of view.
There were also eight different inserts and even a parallel set to boost collector interest in a highly competitive market.
The only subset was Donruss's infamous "Rated Rookies," which could be found throughout the 660-card checklist.
It's highly unlikely that collector interest will ever return to this set in any significant way other than for a trip down memory lane.
The values of some of the cards can be decent if graded in top condition, but, for the most part, the nostalgic value will be much higher than the monetary value for this set.