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The Top 5 Rickey Henderson Rookie & Early Career Cards

Rickey Henderson was a lot of things. Brash. Iconic. Flamboyant. Fast. Powerful. He often spoke about himself in the third person. But he was as talented and unique a player as you’ll find.  

But who was Henderson as a baseball player? And what are his rookie cards? And are there other early-career Henderson cards worth chasing?

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Who is Rickey Henderson?

Rickey Henderson was genuinely one of the most unique players in the history of baseball. If you look at something like similarity scores, he basically breaks them. His playing career lasted 25 seasons with appearances on nine teams, including four different stints with the Oakland A’s.

Henderson is known for stolen bases. He is both the all-time single-season leader (130 in 1982) and career leader in stolen bases – 1,406 (468 higher than #2). Henderson is also the all-time career leader in runs scored (2,295). He also put up 3,055 hits in his career, making him a member of the exclusive 3,000-hit club.

Henderson was a 10-time All-Star, won three Silver Slugger awards, a Gold Glove, and an MVP award.  He played on two World Champs.

Rickey Henderson was worth 111.1 WAR during his career, fourth all-time among left fielders behind only Barry Bonds and Ted Williams.  

Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2009 with a whopping 94.8% of the vote, Henderson is an absolute icon of the game.

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Henderson setting the all-time career stolen base record

The Rickey Henderson rookie card: 1980 Topps Rickey Henderson #482

The 1980 Topps Rickey Henderson card has been graded close to 31,000 times by PSA. This isn’t a junk wax over-graded card or an ultra-modern card where the majority of graded cards are 10s. Not by a long shot. This card is very condition sensitive and sells for high prices in high grade.

There are 2,135 PSA 9s as of this writing, and these sell strongly in the $1,500-1,700 price range. PSA 8s have been selling for $250-400. PSA 10s? There are only 25 in existence, and the last ones to sell at auction were in the $180,000 range.

The card is THE key rookie card of the 1980 Topps set, the final year of the Topps Monopoly and the set that ends an era in the history of baseball cards. Regardless of what condition your budget allows, it’s a great card to add to your collection. Mine is a PSA 8.

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1980 Topps Rickey Henderson #482 RC
CardTotal PSA PopRecent Sale PopRecent Sale Price
1980 Topps Rickey Henderson #48230,839PSA 9 = 2,135PSA 9 = $1,500-1,700

Ricky Henderson Minor League cards

While Rickey Henderson only has one rookie card, he does have a handful of pre-rookie minor league cards that are worth chasing. These range from the somewhat hard to find to the downright elusive. If you’re a Henderson fan, they’re well worth hunting down if your budget allows.

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1977 Chong Modesto A’s Rickey Henderson #5

Henderson’s very first card appearance was in the 1977 Chong Modesto A’s team set. The card misspells his first name “Ricky”.

The card is tough to find, especially in good condition. PSA has only graded 41 copies of the card, with no PSA 10s and only one PSA 9. The only copy listed recently on eBay is a PSA 6 that is listed for $7,000.

Note that Henderson also appears in a reprint of this card produced in 1989, in the same set that Jose Canseco makes an appearance. The reprint is clearly evident by the “1989” across the top two corners and the word “Alumni” at the bottom.

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1977 Chong Modesto A’s Rickey Henderson #5
CardTotal PSA PopRecent Sale PopRecent Sale Price
1977 Chong Modesto A’s Rickey Henderson #541PSA 6 = 12PSA 6 = $7,000

1979 TCMA Ogden A’s Rickey Henderson #9

In 1979, TCMA included Henderson in its Ogden A’s team set. PSA has graded just over 1,000 copies total, with around 430 PSA 9s and 40 PSA 10s. This is a great Henderson minor league card that can be had in PSA 9 for less than his RC in a PSA 8 slab.

Do I think it’s a great card to own? Let’s put it this way…I didn’t make it through writing this article without buying one myself!

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1979 TCMA Ogden A’s Rickey Henderson #9
CardTotal PSA PopRecent Sale PopRecent Sale Price
1979 TCMA Ogden A’s Rickey Henderson #91,010PSA 9 = 430PSA 9 = $250

The rest of the Top 5

As of this writing, Henderson has appeared on 12,451 cards, according to TCDB.com. Picking a top 5 from that list is obviously a fairly subjective exercise, but let’s not let that stop us.

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1982 Topps Rickey Henderson #610

Why the 1982 Topps Rickey Henderson? One, it’s a classic looking card of him from the year he broke the single-season stolen base record. The photo is great…Henderson taking his lead, about to embarrass and frustrate another opposing battery.

The card has been graded over 3,400 times by PSA, but with only 300 PSA 10s. Because of this, you can expect to pay $850-1,200 for a copy in a PSA 10 slab.

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1982 Topps Rickey Henderson #610
CardTotal PSA PopRecent Sale PopRecent Sale Price
1982 Topps Rickey Henderson #6103,405PSA 10 = 300PSA 10 = $850-1,200

1985 Topps Traded #49T Rickey Henderson

In December of 1984, Henderson was traded to the New York Yankees in a seven-player trade. Henderson suddenly found himself in the Big Apple, where his stardom further blossomed in the big market. The 1985 Topps Traded Rickey Henderson #49T card was one of the first to capture him in his Yankees uniform.

The card has a total PSA population under 500, making it a fairly low population. The percentage of PSA 10s is 50%, however, which keeps prices in check. In a PSA 10 slab, it can be had for $50-100.

Looking for a tougher version? Think Topps Tiffany. The 1985 Topps Traded Tiffany Rickey Henderson #49T has a total PSA population of just over 150, and sells for $300-350 in a PSA 10 slab.

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CardTotal PSA PopRecent Sale PopRecent Sale Price
1985 Topps Traded Rickey Henderson #49T475PSA 10 = 238PSA 10 = $50-100
1985 Topps Traded Tiffany Rickey Henderson #49T155PSA 10 = 52PSA 10 = $300-350

A few bonus Rickey Henderson baseball cards

I could have included this in the pre-rookie section, but because of the rarity, I’ll just give it a mention here. Henderson appears in the 1978-79 Mexican Pacific League Stickers set. This card is so rare that even finding an image of it online is challenging. None have recently been listed or sold on eBay.

Regular Cardlines.com readers know that We Love Vintage Topps League Leaders Cards, and So Should You.

As a LoLL (Lover of League Leaders), it is my duty to point out that for three straight years, Rickey Henderson shared a Stolen Base Leaders card with fellow speedster and Hall of Fame Tim Raines.

These cards represent leaders from the last three years that Topps produced League Leader cards as part of their flagship product (although they later restarted later on). They also represent some really cool cards highlighting two of the greatest base stealers not just of their era, but of all time.

All three cards are fairly low pop, with the 1984 being downright hard to find. Despite this, while they sell for high prices in a PSA 10, they are quite affordable in PSA 9 slabs, around $35-45…when you can find them.

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CardTotal PSA PopRecent Sale PopRecent Sale Price
1982 Topps ’81 Stolen Base Leaders #164548PSA 10 = 64PSA 10 = $270
1983 Topps 1982 Stolen Base Leaders #704310PSA 9 = 110PSA 9 = $35-45
1984 Topps 1983 Stolen Base Leaders #134129PSA 9 = 37PSA 9 = $35

Modern Rickey Henderson baseball cards

In 1980, Henderson appeared on his first major league card. And it was his first and ONLY card produced that year. Meanwhile, in 2022, Henderson appeared on 900 cards, according to TCDB.com.

As you can imagine, these ultra-modern cards offer Henderson all the trappings of the era, including base cards, inserts, a rainbow of parallel options including 1/1s, and autograph and relic cards.

Final thoughts on the best Rickey Henderson baseball cards

Rickey Henderson was an all-time great. The fact that he has only one rookie card and that it is so condition sensitive makes it feel as if it’s from a longer-ago era than 1980, and it’s priced to match.

But whether you’re chasing a top dollar Henderson rookie card or pre-rookie card, or looking for something lower cost or more modern, there’s a place for one or more Rickey Henderson cards to match your budget and collecting style.

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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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