6 Most Valuable Mark McGwire Rookie Cards

Most Valuable Mark McGwire Rookie Cards

Growing up in the late 1980's, I remember my friends and I all dreaming of owning a 1985 Topps Mark McGwire rookie card.

It was one of the hottest cards at the time...

Not quite as big as some of the vintage baseball cards.

But in terms of modern cards it was way up there alongside the 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card.

McGwire was one of the most popular players playing for one of the most powerful teams in baseball.

They aren't worth as much as they used to be, but in top condition they can still go for hundreds of dollars.

And in this guide I go over everything you need to know about collecting the 1985 Topps Mark McGwire rookie card.

Let's jump right in!


Ross Uitts

Ross Uitts - Owner

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Mark McGwire Rookie Card Value

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The first thing most collectors want to know is: how much is a Mark McGwire rookie card worth?

It definitely isn’t worth what it used to be…

Not only did the heavy printing and distribution of 1980’s era cards lead to over supply and tanking values, but the steroids scandal of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s didn’t help either.

But, you may be surprised at just how expensive it still is in top condition...

The key is is finding one graded by Professional Sports Authenticators (PSA) in PSA 10 Gem Mint condition.

They are usually thought to be the benchmark in that industry so collectors put heavy premiums on their graded cards.

According to the PSA SMR current market values are:

PSA 10 GEM MINT: $750

PSA 9 MINT: $45

PSA 8 NM-MT: $10

Key Facts

Distinction: This is his first recognized mainstream rookie card.

I say “first” because the hobby also recognizes a lot of his cards printed in 1987 as rookies, too.

Some actually put more emphasis on those 1987 cards as being “true” rookies since they were the first cards to show him in an Oakland Athletics uniform.

But hobbyists still chase his 1985 Topps and Topps Tiffany card and consider it his most valuable and sought after of all his rookies.

Number: This is card #401 in a huge set of 792 cards.

Design: Topps went with a vertical layout in 1985 and featured the team logo and name as well as the player name and position at the bottom.

A look at Roger Clemens’ 1985 Topps rookie card is shown below as a reference of the regular set design. 

But Topps took a different design approach for the USA Olympic Team subset, cards number #389 to #404.

For the Olympic Team cards, Topps featured a baseball in the upper left corner with “USA” in bold alongside a titled banner that reads “1984 United States Baseball Team”.

Nice shots of players in their USA team uniform dominate the middle and in small print along the bottom you can see the player’s name and position.

Reverse Side: The reverse side of the card is printed with a horizontal layout and features McGwire’s personal information and statistics from each of his three years playing for USC.

The lime green coloration scheme has 1980’s written all over it.

Topps also mentions his accomplishments as a standout at USC and his notorious power hitting abilities.

We also see that his statistics for both his time with USC and the USA baseball team are shown as well.

Judging by his statistics with the Olympic team, it wasn't his best outing.

1985 Topps #401 Mark McGwire Rookie Card
1985 Topps #181 Roger Clemens Rookie Card
1985 Topps #401 Mark McGwire Rookie Card Reverse Side of Card

Condition Issues: The card can sometimes be off-centered and the corners can be a bit prone to showing wear easily.

That's what typically prevents this card from achieving a gem mint or pristine grade.

1985 Topps Tiffany

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There is also a Topps Tiffany version of the Mark McGwire rookie card.

And it is much more valuable than its regular Topps counterpart...

Why is that?

From 1984 to 1991, Topps released a limited number of "Tiffany" factory sets so far fewer were printed making them more scarce.

Secondly, the Tiffany cards were higher quality.

You can easily tell the difference in the card stock of Tiffany cards as they are much whiter and have a glossy finish on them.

Below you'll see the Tiffany version on the left and the regular version on the right:

1985 Topps Tiffany Mark McGwire

The reverse sides of the cards are also drastically different.

On the left, you'll see the Tiffany version, which depicts a much more lime green coloration.

That color scheme makes the reverse of the Tiffany Mark McGwire rookie card much easier to read.

1985 Topps Tiffany Mark McGwire Reverse Side

So just how valuable is the Tiffany version?

According to the PSA SMR current market values are:

PSA 10 GEM MINT: $5,000

PSA 9 MINT: $275

PSA 8 NM-MT: $125

Yes, you read that right...

A 1985 Topps Tiffany Mark McGwire rookie card can sell for thousands of dollars...

Hard to believe isn't it?

After all, most people think that baseball cards printed in the 1980's are worthless...

Well, this is clearly one of the exceptions.

What About The McGwire Cards From 1987?

As I mentioned earlier, many collectors recognize some of his cards from 1987 as rookie cards as well.

The key reason being: they were the first cards to feature McGwire in a MLB uniform.

Here is a look at some of his other recognized rookie cards from 1987 from some of the hobby’s mainstream printers:

1987 Donruss #46 "Rated Rookie"

First up is his 1987 Donruss Rated Rookies issue.

I always loved the “Rated Rookie” callout on Donruss cards of that era.

And I think that the design of their 1987 cards were some of their best overall.

 The colored borders didn’t do collectors any favor in terms of chipping and wearing easily. But I always thought they had a unique look.

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $22

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1987 Donruss #46 Mark McGwire Rated Rookie

1987 Donruss Rookies #1

Donruss also had a “Rookies” set in 1987 and McGwire was card #1 on the list.

It’s got pretty much the same look and feel as the card above but shows him in a different shot along with a “The Rookies” logo in the bottom.

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $30

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1987 Donruss Rookies #1 Mark McGwire Card

1987 Fleer Update #U-76 Mark McGwire Rookie Card

McGwire made it into Fleer’s Update set in 1987 and is shown following through on a swing with a bright smile on his face.

The blue borders of that set are instantly recognizable.

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $15

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1987 Fleer Update Mark McGwire Rookie

1987 Leaf #46 "Rated Rookie"

Donruss’s Canadian counterpart, Leaf, produced rated rookie cards for McGwire as well.

They have the same look and design as the Donruss version but the Leaf logo is clearly visible in the top left.

Notice the Leaf version is much more expensive than the Donruss version if you find them in PSA 10 condition.

They’re considered more scarce, hence the price bump.

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $80

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1987 Leaf #46 Mark McGwire Rated Rookie

1987 Topps #366

This is probably McGwire’s second most popular rookie card. The 1987 Topps issue was the first time the company featured McGwire in an Oakland Athletics uniform and a card that many kids of that era chased feverishly.

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $30

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1987 Topps #366 Mark McGwire Rookie Baseball Card

Mark McGwire’s Legacy

Mark McGwire goes down in history as one of the game’s most feared power hitters of all-time. He famously broke Roger Maris’s single season home run record in 1998 when he went on to rack up 70 dingers.

He played 16 seasons in the big leagues between the Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals.

His list of accomplishments is outstanding:

  • 1987 American League Rookie of The Year
  • 12-time All-Star
  • 2-time World Series Champion
  • 3-time Silver Slugger

But his legacy will forever be tarnished by the steroids scandal that rocked the sport in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.

It remains to be seen if Major League Baseball will ever allow stars from that era in the Hall of Fame.

Nevertheless, McGwire’s rookie cards still hold value and are sought after by many collectors.

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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