The 1985 Topps Baseball Set is headlined by the Team USA Mark McGwire card #401, which in a PSA 10 fetches more $750 according to recent sales. There is also a Hall of Fame rookie card of Kirby Puckett #536 and possible future Hall of Famer Roger Clemens #181. However, there is one card that is more valuable in a PSA 10 than every other except the McGwire: the Cal Ripken #30 card.
Entering into his fifth full season, Ripken had already won the Rookie of the Year in ’82 and his first Most Valuable Player award in ’83. He also won a World Series to cap off his 1983 MVP season. So he was well on his way to becoming a household name in baseball by 1985.
When looking at Ripken’s most valuable cards, he is not unlike most of his Hall of Fame counterparts where his rookie card in a PSA 10 is their most valuable card. He actually has 2 different Topps rookie cards, #21 alongside Bobby Bonner & Jeff Schneider in the base and his own #98T in the topps traded set.
If you were to chart his Topps 1980’s cards, you see an odd bump in 1985:
What makes 1985 so special? Why does the value go up 6 to 30 fold compared to his other non-rookie 80’s cards? Let’s pull the pop report:
First off there is not a whole lot of cards graded in total with it currently standing at 898. However, that’s not uncommon for a 4th year star. Gwynn, Sandberg, and Boggs all have a lower total population.
It becomes a little more clear, under 5% of Ripken’s total population is a gem mint, compared to Gwynn(25% / $43 average price) , Sandberg(22% / $35 average price), and Boggs(19% / $30 average price).
While we are on Gem Mint PSA 10 percentages, let’s peak at the top rookies of the set:
The McGwire rookie is valuable for a reason, recent sales show an average of more than $700 with 0.67% being a gem mint of the total population. Roger Clemens, although not a Hall of Famer, has a 1.4% gem mint rate and $389 average price. Meanwhile Puckett is closer to Ripken with a 5% gem mint rate and $255 average price.
Naturally you may think if the base set Ripken card is highly valued, the O-Pee-Chee and Tiffany equivalents would have a higher premium. His O-Pee-Chee PSA 10 averages under $60 with a 16.8% gem mint rate:
While his Tiffany averages under $100 and has a 36.6% PSA 10 gem mint rate:
To make this more interesting, the raw card is extremely available and basically the cost of shipping ($3 or less) on eBay. Would this attract the flippers or “card restoration specialist” to a possible 160x+ return? Or would the increased supply drive the market down to a more normal price?
What makes the base set #30 so valuable?
Most likely a combination of things, the Ironman streak was landmark in many childhoods across America. In the current mindset where giving players a rest day is commonplace; it is difficult to see that record being broken any time soon. The card itself is a nice looking action shot with him looking into the distance after his follow through on the swing. As with anything of value in the baseball card market, the price is driven by supply and demand factors. In this case, it appears the demand for the perfect 1985 Topps Ripken card is outpacing supply.
By: Casey A.