True Rookie Cards of Tony Gwynn

Gwynn Capsule 2019

My last post was on the newly inducted Hall of Famer and former San Diego Padre Trevor Hoffman. As a blogger, I often seek for something to inspire my next post. Hit with the flu and feeling a bit under the weather this past week or so, all I wanted was rest. I finally mustered up enough strength to defend myself from my family who accused me of being a baby when I’m sick, of course, I disagreed and opted to watch some television. I came across an MLB Network Premier. It was a documentary on Hall of Famer and also former San Diego Padre, Tony Gwynn.

As always “The Network” did a great job of portraying the man, the ballplayer, the accomplishments and shortcomings of Mr. Padre, a nickname given to Tony by beloved fans. Before we get into his rookie baseball cards allow me to make mention a few things you should remember about Tony Gwynn.

Tony Gwynn died at the young age of 54 of salivary gland cancer allegedly caused by years of chewing tobacco. His tragic death caused the hearts of baseball fans everywhere to mourn. Beyond statistics and accomplishments, fans mourned because Tony the man was a man full of life. His charismatic personality and big blustering laugh were contagious. He was transparent and personable. When he was around everyone seemed to be in a better mood.

Many consider him as one of the best and most consistent hitters in baseball history. Gwynn was a contact hitter and specialized in hitting the ball to the opposite field. He was able to expand the strike zone and consistently turned those pitches into base hits. His batting philosophy was to, “see the ball and react.” He focused his energies on being comfortable at the plate, having a fluid swing, and making solid contact.

His batting philosophy and disciplined work ethic produced these results: 15x All-Star | 5x Gold Glover | 7x Silver Slugger | 8x Batting Title Champion. He never hit below .309 in any full season, and he struck out only 434 times in 9,288 at-bats! And in 1994 he flirted with a .400 batting average, which no one had achieved since Ted Williams hit .407 in 1953, but the MLB Strike of 1994 cut the season short, he finished with a .394 that year. His career stat line reads: Lifetime Batting Average .338 | Hits 3,141 | Runs Batted In 1,138. Remarkable numbers by one of the most respected men in the game of baseball.


1983 Donruss, Card No. 598 (shop eBay)

The 1983 Donruss baseball set was the third year offering given to collectors by the manufacturer but collectors quickly showed their disapproval of the product, the reason, lack of innovation. The sentiment was, “three years of the same old, same old.” Photo is outlined with a thick red line, shows the upper torso of Tony Gwynn but often times print was fuzzy and riddled with print spots. In fact, this one is notorious for having a print spot right at the tip of his nose. I’ve seen hundreds of these all with the same spot. The Donruss logo and year were moved to the upper left corner. The baseball bat and glove images give us player names and teams.

The card backs were identical to the 82 design except for the yellow text boxes instead of the traditional blue. One thing these card backs offered that others didn’t was the player’s current “Contract Status.”

As of the date of this post raw copies can be purchased for $5.00-$10.00; graded mint copies (9’s) sell between $15.00-$30.00 and gem mint copies (10’s) sell in the $65.00-$85.00

1983 Fleer, Card No. 360 (shop eBay)

Like Donruss, Fleer also debuted in 1981 but the first couple of years were rough, they were overwhelmed with print run malfunctions, errors, and miscuts. However, practice makes perfect and by 1983 the Fleer brand worked all the bugs out. They offered collectors this beautiful, crisp, clean design. Portrait photo of Tony has rounded corners outlined with a thin black line. Team logo at lower left corner, Fleer brand logo on the upper left corner and simple font for player name and position sit on the lower right corner.

The card back gives us something new. A small black and white photo of Tony on the upper right-hand corner, this is the first time a photo was included in the back since the ’71 Topps set. Minor league stats are a plus too. A Did You Know? segment exists but to me seems unrelated and is utilized more as a filler. Another negative is Tony’s bio, it sits on the bottom of the card and appears to be disconnected from the rest of the card. Overall, a great product by Fleer.

As of the date of this post raw copies can be purchased for $5.00-$10.00; graded mint copies (9’s) sell between $15.00-$25.00 and gem mint copies (10’s) sell in the $60.00-$85.00 range.

1983 Topps, Card No. 482 (shop eBay)


The ’83 Topps set was a modern-day upgrade to their ’63 design. We get an action photo of Tony appearing to be coming out of the batter’s box en route to first base. The photo is outlined in a thin green line but please appreciate and notice the way the Topps brand logo, in the upper right corner, weaves its way into the photo outline. But what makes this design an all-time favorite among collectors is the small color portrait photo about the size of a quarter that sits on the lower-left corner of the card. Tony’s name, position, and the team sits on the lower right of card each with a different colored font, this lower section of the card is outlined in a thin brown line giving great eye-appeal and separation to the card design.

The card back is horizontal in design. The orange text boxes are printed on brownish cardboard stock with black font. Two vector images present player bio, minor league stats, and player highlights. The ’83 Topps Tony Gwynn RC is considered his favorite and most valued American rookie card.

As of the date of this post raw copies can be purchased for $7.00-$15.00; graded mint copies (9’s) sell between $40.00-$50.00 and gem mint copies (10’s) sell in the $450.00-$525.00 range.

1983 O-Pee-Chee, Card No. 143 (shop eBay)

The best way to describe this one, it is an abridged version of the ’83 Topps set, with some differences of course. Card design at first glance mimics the American Topps version quite a bit. But I typically like to quote Rafiki from the movie Lion King when he says, “looooook haaaaaaaarder” and you will notice: the primary difference is in number of cards in the set. This one has 396 cards as opposed to 792 cards in the Topps set. O-Pee-Chee is the Canadian version of Topps and primarily depicted full 25 man rosters of the late Toronto Blue Jays and Montreal Expos of course, which were former Canadian MLB franchises.

The remainder of the set only depicted partial rosters of the remaining teams.  Also, notice wherever the name Topps was at, is now replaced with O-Pee-Chee and under Tony’s name is his position in both English and French. The card back wherever applicable is bilingual too and has a much lighter cardboard stock. In case it wasn’t obvious O-Pee-Chee is owned by Topps.

As of the date of this post raw copies can be purchased for $3.00-$12.00; graded mint copies (9’s) sell between $80.00-$200.00 and on October 18, 2016, a gem mint 10 sold for $1,302.00 respectively.

Tony Gwynn Stats | Baseball (accessed February 8, 2018).
Wikipedia contributors, “Tony Gwynn,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed February 8, 2018).
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