During the early parts of my collecting career Cal Ripken was Bryce Harper and Derek Jeter rolled into one player. Ripken had incredibly popular and valuable rookie cards that can all be found in the different 1982 card releases. There are four basic rookie cards if you are in the market for one. There are the three base sets from 1982: Donruss, Fleer, and Topps. Then there is also the 1982 Topps Traded. He also has a couple of Rochester Red Wings cards floating around from his time in the minors if you want a challenging early 80s rookie to find. Bring your wallet.
More about his rookie cards later.
Ripken was known as the Iron Horse on the field and built his reputation around his high level of play, despite never taking a day off. Ripken was kind of the same in the baseball card hobby. His first cards appeared in 1982 and for twenty years every set, almost, had a Ripken card. As the hobby grew in the early 90s, the quantity of Ripken cards took off. He was frequently a target for insert sets, and later on parallels, relics, and autographs. Further, one of the safest buys for collectors was always a Ripken card. He's still immensely popular and his cards still hold great value.
I do not specifically pursue Ripken cards, but I do not sell or trade them when I land them. For me, I had two primary targets in rounding out my Ripken collection. First, I wanted his complete line of rookie cards (minus the minor leaguers) which I accomplished. My next target was an autograph. I have had several over the year and at some point decided to get rid of all my sticker autographs, but I still have two on-card signatures in my collection.
I know that this Upper Deck card is not serial numbered and there is no print run known, but I love these cards. I have had a few of these come and go through my collection over the years, but they are great cards. The sticker autographs of Ripken tend to sell for $50-$70, but can go further north depending on the print run and brand. Anybody seen the new Leaf cards Ripken autographed? They are selling for less than $40.
Nicer brands with on-card signatures can easily cost more than $100.
On The Field-
This is a simple one to do, but I am probably understating the obvious. Ripken is rated as the third best shortstop of all-time. He was one of the greatest offensive shortstops of all-time, reaching 400 home runs and 3000 hits. Ripken did play his last five years at 3B, but still he's deserving of the ranking. Outside of the rankings Ripken also won the 1982 Rookie of the Year, the 1983 and 1991 American League MVP awards, and a pair of All-Star game MVPs in 1991 and 2001.
For me, Ripken's most important accomplishment in the game has to do with his consecutive games played streak. I know this gets a lot of play, but it's a tremendous record and will likely not be touched for a long time, if ever. You could see the record approaching a long way off, but it took a long time for Cal Ripken to achieve the mark of 2,130 consecutive games. Honestly, it could not have come at a better time for Major League Baseball.
Fresh off a bad strike which prematurely ended the 1994 season, and delayed the beginning of the 1995 season, the Cal Ripken games played streak kept many fans attached to the game of baseball. It was a good positive for the game after a few years of negative. While many point to the home run exploits of Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Ken Griffey Jr. as the savior of the game post-strike, but Ripken deserves just as much, if not more.
This short video clip does not do the streak breaking game justice, but I realize that people pop in to read my blog for my a couple of minutes, not two hours. Although, the full game is posted on YouTube.
When I was a kid the 1982 Topps Traded Cal Ripken Jr. card was one of the great baseball cards of the time. I would argue that it's that greatest card from the early eighties. I never owned one of these as a kid, or a teenager, or a college student. New employed young person? Nope. It took me a long time to cross the card off my list of cool cards to add to my collection. I rarely buy graded cards, so I need to be patient and track down a really nice raw copy.
I actually found one this first fall I moved to North Carolina at a small antique store in Hickory. I was riding along with a friend who was looking for some furniture and was not really in the market to buy baseball cards. The card was tucked into a display case and the owner told me a half hour long story about the time he met Vinegar Bend Mizell at a gas station. Awesome. One long story later, I walked out of the antique store with this beauty:
1982 Topps Traded Cal Ripken