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Finding The Best Jose Canseco Rookie Cards And Early Career Cards

Jose Canseco was one of a kind, to put it simply. At times he has been the most popular player in the game and at other times arguably the most hated. In between, he was always worth watching.

But what are Jose Canseco’s best rookie cards? And what minor league and early career cards are also worth chasing?

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Who is Jose Canseco?

Jose Canseco was the perfect player for the time period in which he appeared. The ultimate junk wax era star of the late 1980s. Canseco burst onto the scene

in 1986 and won the AL Rookie of the Year award, and followed that two years later by winning the 1988 AL MVP award. During that 1988 season, Canseco became the first player ever to have a 40/40 season – 40 or more home runs and 40 or more stolen bases.

As Canseco aged, his body began to fail him and the injury list stays got more frequent. He morphed from a dynamic player to more of a one-dimensional slugger, but what a slugger he was. In 17 major league seasons playing for seven teams, Canseco hit 462 career home runs. He was an All-Star six times and won 4 Silver Slugger Awards.

For his career, Canseco put up a line of .266/.353/.515, good for an OPS of .867 and OPS+ of 132. He was worth 42.4 WAR in his career.

But the numbers don’t tell the whole story with Canseco, not by a long shot. Canseco blew out his elbow throwing knuckleballs in a mop-up relief appearance. Another time, he lost a baseball in the sun and had it hit off his head and go over the fence for a home run.

Famously, he made a guest appearance in the softball episode of The Simpsons. He was brash, outspoken, and flashy.

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Jose Canseco & Steroids

Oh, and then there was the steroids thing. Something of a poster boy for the steroid era, Canseco was an early adopter and advocate for steroid use among his fellow players. Many players associated with steroids in their careers crossed paths with Canseco as teammates. This list includes Mark McGwire, Miguel Tejada, and Rafael Palmeiro.

With his body failing him (with heavy steroid use likely a contributing factor) and baseball opportunities drying up, he turned whistleblower on the whole steroid thing and wrote a book accusing many players by name of using steroids. As you can imagine, this made him very unpopular around the game.

Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big

Vindicated: Big Names, Big Liars, and the Battle to Save Baseball

So, Canseco’s story is one unlike any other in the history of the game. Love him or hate him, he’s one of the most famous players of his era and someone who continues to garner interest from collectors.

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The best Jose Canseco rookie cards

Jose Canseco’s rookie cards appeared in 1986 products. Two brands included him in their flagship base product and their end-of-year update/traded set. One only got him in the update/traded.

The inclusion in a variety of different sets provides a number of options to chase, with a range of PSA populations and price ranges.

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1986 Donruss Jose Canseco #39

Holding the honor of being Canseco’s first solo rookie card is the 1986 Donruss Jose Canseco #39. With a PSA population of over 9,000, this isn’t rare by any stretch. It’s the highest population of the rookie cards on our list. It’s also the most valuable of the non-Tiffany rookie cards, selling for around $400 in PSA 10.

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1986 Donruss Jose Canseco #39
CardTotal PSA PopRecent Sale PopRecent Sale Price
1986 Donruss Jose Canseco #399,084PSA 10 = 710PSA 10 = $380-440

1986 Donruss Rookies Jose Canseco #22

Canseco burst on the big league scene in 1986 and Donruss decided to run with that popularity by including Canseco in the 1986 Donruss Rookies set. This was despite him already appearing on a base rookie card that year.

The PSA population here is lower than the flagship Donruss offering, but the percentage of PSA 10s is significantly higher. Because of this, the card sells for around $50 in a PSA 10 slab.

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1986 Donruss Rookies Jose Canseco #22
CardTotal PSA PopRecent Sale PopRecent Sale Price
1986 Donruss Rookies Jose Canseco #224,069PSA 10 = 683PSA 10 = $50

1986 Fleer Jose Canseco / Eric Plunk #649

The 1986 Fleer Jose Canseco has him sharing a card with Eric Plunk. Plunk had a solid career himself, pitching for 14 seasons in the big leagues with a 3.82 ERA (112 ERA+), mostly in relief. Yet, his presence on this card pulls the appeal down for many collectors, who prefer “solo” rookie cards.

Still, it’s got a fairly low PSA population for the era, with a reasonable number of PSA 10s. Because of these factors, they sell strongly in a PSA 10 slab for around $200.

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1986 Fleer Jose Canseco / Eric Plunk #649
CardTotal PSA PopRecent Sale PopRecent Sale Price
1986 Fleer Jose Canseco / Eric Plunk #6492,371PSA 10 = 229PSA 10 = $200

1986 Fleer Update Jose Canseco #U-20

As the 1986 season progressed, it became clear that Canseco was “solo card worthy”, so Fleer included Canseco on his own card in the 1986 Fleer Update set. Following the base set rookie, this also isn’t really considered a rookie card, but it remains popular with collectors.

While the total PSA population is higher than the baseline product, it has a lower percentage of PSA 10s. While it fetches less than the flagship Fleer rookie card, it still is a strong seller in the $125-150 range.

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1986 Fleer Update Jose Canseco #U-20
CardTotal PSA PopRecent Sale PopRecent Sale Price
1986 Fleer Update Jose Canseco #U-203,028PSA 10 = 191PSA 10 = $125-150

1986 Topps Traded Jose Canseco rookie card #20T

Topps struck out on Canseco with their flagship base product in 1986, but included him in the 1986 Topps Traded set. Despite the really tough black upper border, there are over 8,000 of the Jose Canseco Topps rookie card graded by PSA, with a fairly solid percentage of PSA 10s.

The fact that it comes after the flagship rookie cards and the fairly high PSA population depresses the price a little bit with sales settling into the $75-$100 range.

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1986 Topps Traded Jose Canseco #20T
CardTotal PSA PopRecent Sale PopRecent Sale Price
1986 Topps Traded Jose Canseco #20T8,020PSA 10 = 971PSA 10 = $75-100

1986 Topps Traded Tiffany Jose Canseco #20T

Looking for a premium spin on the 1986 Topps Traded card? Check out Topps Tiffany. The Canseco card has been graded just over 1,000 total times, although the percentage of PSA 10s tops 50%.

PSA 9s sell in the $100-160 range, and despite the high population numbers, there aren’t any recent comps for a PSA 10. PSA’s own price guide places the value of a 10 around $600.

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1986 Topps Traded Tiffany Jose Canseco #20T
CardTotal PSA PopRecent Sale PopRecent Sale Price
1986 Topps Traded Tiffany Jose Canseco #20T1,015PSA 9 = 543PSA 9 = $100-160

Jose Canseco Minor League and Pre-Rookie Cards

For a player who won the Rookie of the Year in his first full big league season and an MVP award two years later, Canseco appears on surprisingly fewer minor league cards, with just one per season.

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1983 Fritsch Madison Muskies Jose Canseco #13

Jose Canseco’s very first card is in the 1983 Fritsch Madison Muskies team set. While you’d think this card would be a rare gem, it’s actually been graded by PSA close to 1,000 times, with the vast majority of them being PSA 9s (and there are 95 PSA 10s).

While there are no recent PSA 10 comps to be found on eBay, PSA 10s sell for a very reasonable $40-70. If you’re a big Canseco fan, you probably need one of these!

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1983 Fritsch Madison Muskies Jose Canseco #13
CardTotal PSA PopRecent Sale PopRecent Sale Price
1983 Fritsch Madison Muskies Jose Canseco #13964PSA 9 = 731PSA 9 = $40-70

1984 Chong Modesto A’s Jose Canseco #5

With a much lower total PSA population than the 1983 Fritsch card, this one is tough to find. There are only seven PSA 10’s in existence, and no recent comps for a PSA 9 or 10.

Be aware that after Canseco hit it big in the majors, there was a 1989 reprint produced. This was produced in larger quantities than the original. The reprint is clearly evident by the “1989” across the top two corners and the word “Alumni” at the bottom.

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1984 Chong Modesto A’s Jose Canseco #5
CardTotal PSA PopRecent Sale PopRecent Sale Price
1984 Chong Modesto A’s Jose Canseco #556PSA 10 = 7NA

1985 Burger King Huntsville Stars Jose Canseco

By 1985, Canseco was on the cusp of the major leagues, and appeared on a Huntsville Stars set sponsored by Burger King. Despite a fairly low PSA population, this sells for a very reasonable $30-40 in a PSA 9 slab.

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1985 Burger King Huntsville Stars Jose Canseco
CardTotal PSA PopRecent Sale PopRecent Sale Price
1985 Burger King Huntsville Stars Jose Canseco509PSA 9 = 166PSA 9 = $30-40

1986 Jennings Southern League All-Stars Jose Canseco #14

By 1986, Canseco was in the big leagues, not appearing in a single minor league game that season. Despite this, he appears in the 1986 Jennings Southern League All-Stars set.

While this is strange, we’ll take another minor league Canseco card. This one has a similar PSA population to the BK card from the year, and sells at a similar price point. 

The Jennings Southern League All-Stars set is a nice one, as it also contains cards of Mark McGwire, Bo Jackson, and Tom Glavine.

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1986 Jennings Southern League All-Stars Jose Canseco #14
CardTotal PSA PopRecent Sale PopRecent Sale Price
1986 Jennings Southern League All-Stars Jose Canseco #14560PSA 9 = 130PSA 9 = $40

Other notable early career Jose Canseco baseball cards

In addition to being the front half of the junk wax era, the late 1980s were also the golden age of small boxed sets. Some of the better oddball Canseco cards from his 1986 rookie year are great examples of some of the offerings of the era.

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1986 Donruss Highlights Jose Canseco #55

One of the most fun small boxed sets of the era was the annual Donruss Highlights set. The set typically consisted of 56 cards and a mini puzzle that highlighted happenings from the season.

Canseco appeared in the 1986 set because he was the AL Rookie of the Year. This is an inexpensive rookie year Canseco to add, even in a PSA 10 slab.

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1986 Donruss Highlights Jose Canseco #55
CardTotal PSA PopRecent Sale PopRecent Sale Price
1986 Donruss Highlights Jose Canseco #551,546PSA 10 = 329PSA 10 = $25-35

1986 Fleer Baseball’s Best Sluggers vs. Pitchers Jose Canseco #5

Fleer was the master of the small boxed set in this era, with a set for every imaginable theme. The 1986 Fleer Baseball’s Best Sluggers vs. Pitchers (or Baseball’s Best) was a 44-card set with all the biggest stars of the day.

This one has a low PSA population, but still sells for a very reasonable price in PSA 9, when they come available, anyway.

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1986 Fleer Baseball’s Best Sluggers vs. Pitchers Jose Canseco #5
CardTotal PSA PopRecent Sale PopRecent Sale Price
1986 Fleer Baseball’s Best Sluggers vs. Pitchers Jose Canseco #5257PSA 9 = 141PSA 9 = $35

1986 Fleer Classic Mini Jose Canseco #87

This set was both bigger and smaller than your average small boxed set. The checklist contains 120 cards, making it large for a small boxed set. The cards, though, were miniature. At 1 13/16” x 2 1/2″, they were much smaller than a standard card.

Interestingly enough, these weren’t just mini versions of the regular Fleer cards. While they did share a design with the flagship Fleer set, they leveraged different photos.

Again, the story here is a very low PSA population but reasonable prices, at least in PSA 9.

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1986 Fleer Classic Mini Jose Canseco #87
CardTotal PSA PopRecent Sale PopRecent Sale Price
1986 Fleer Classic Mini Jose Canseco #87122PSA 9 = 44PSA 9 = $40

1986 Fleer League Leaders Jose Canseco #3

Another Fleer 44 card small boxed set, this one has an even lower PSA total population, with no recent comps available. Raw sets are rare or expensive.

I’m not sure if they just aren’t in gradable condition, or if collectors just haven’t subbed the card because it’s a bit obscure and unlikely high value.

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1986 Fleer League Leaders Jose Canseco #3
CardTotal PSA PopRecent Sale PopRecent Sale Price
1986 Fleer League Leaders Jose Canseco #380PSA 9 = 32NA

1986 Fleer Star Stickers Jose Canseco #19

This card is also a sticker. The 132-card 1986 Fleer Star Sticker featured a card front that peeled off and could be stuck in a book. I could see the borders of these being tough, as most colored borders tend to be.

The PSA population is low, and a PSA 10 will cost around $150, if you can find one available for sale.

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1986 Fleer Star Stickers Jose Canseco #19
CardTotal PSA PopRecent Sale PopRecent Sale Price
1986 Fleer Star Stickers Jose Canseco #19130PSA 10 = 39PSA 10 = $150

If you’re a Canseco completest, there are lots more out there, from Sportflics, Star, Mother’s Cookies, Classic, and more. If you like unlicensed cards, Canseco’s status as of the big stars of the late ’80s means he’s appeared on many from Broder, Card Collectors, and others.

The 1987 Jose Canseco Cards

By 1987, the junk wax era was headed to new heights, and so was Canseco’s popularity among fans and collectors. Canseco appeared on 106 cards in 1987, according to the Baseball Card Database (TCDB.com).

While not rookie cards, the 1987 flagship offerings from the big-three companies, plus many other 1987 Canseco cards ranging from the mainstream, to the oddball, to the unlicensed, remain popular.

The difference in total PSA populations across the three major brands is somewhat surprising. Regardless of the population, these are reasonably priced.

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CardTotal PSA PopRecent Sale PopRecent Sale Price
1987 Donruss Jose Canseco #97758PSA 10 = 287PSA 10 = $20-40
1987 Fleer Jose Canseco #389256PSA 9 = 53PSA 9 = $15-20
1987 Topps Jose Canseco #6202,863PSA 10 = 215PSA 10 = $90-125

Final thoughts on the best Jose Canseco card and early career cards

Jose Canseco was a lot of things. Superstar. 40/40 star. One-dimensional slugger. Whistle blower. Outcast. But one thing he has never been is boring. Collectors who came of age in the late 1980s often have a soft spot for Canseco, meaning that despite him not being a Hall of Famer, his cards still are popular.

If you’re one of those folks that grew up chasing Canseco cards in the late 1980s or just a student of the game’s history, there’s likely a place for Jose Canseco rookie and early career cards in your collection.

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More Cardlines top baseball card rookie coverage

Mike D.

Mike D

Mike D. has collected cards for over 35 years, since he bought his first pack of Topps at the corner store in 1987. His fandom,  collecting interests, and contributions to Cardlines center around baseball in general and the Baseball Hall of Fame specifically.

Mike's collecting focus is centered on graded cards, mostly rookie cards, of Hall of Famers and future Hall of Famers. Lately, he's been enjoying dabbling in graded minor league cards. A collector/investor with a "buy and hold" approach, Mike takes the long-term view with his collection.
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