Modern Ramblings: My Top Ten Dwight Gooden Cards
A list of my favorite Dwight Gooden cards from his playing career
If you’ve been reading this site for a while, you likely know of my Dwight Gooden mini-obsession. I typically collect mostly pre-war sports cards but found an autographed rookie card of Gooden last year. From there, a short time later, I delved into an all out collection of Gooden cards.
Thus far, I’ve found around 1,000 different Gooden cards available from his playing days and have snagged almost all of them with less than 100 remaining. But while the first 600 or so were relatively easy, the next few hundred took more digging (and more money) than I would have liked. In short, it’s become a more challenging project than I believed it would be.
Along the way, I realized that there are some really great cards of Gooden out there that I didn’t previously know existed. I had planned to wait until I got to the end of the journey in locating all of his cards but, frankly, that may never even happen. So with that said, here are my ten favorite Dwight Gooden cards.
Lots of Gooden cards barely missed the cut for me. And, truthfully, if I had to recreate this list again, I’d probably replace some of these with ones not on it.
Trying to pick only ten cards from out of about 1,000, turns out, is quite difficult. But here are the ones that would have made it if this was a Top 25 list. And no, I don’t want to hear your arguments for the 1991 Fleer Pro Visions card.
No. 25 – 1993 Flair
No. 24 – 1985 Donruss
No. 23 – 1985 Fleer
No. 22 – 1987 Fleer Box Bottom
No. 21 – 1994 Pinnacle Museum Collection
No. 20 – 1989 Scoremasters
No. 19 – 1985 Donruss Jumbo
No. 18 – 1986 Topps/O-Pee-Chee Box Bottom
No. 17 – 1997 Skybox E-XL
No. 16 – 1991 Donruss Preview
No. 15 – 1991 Leaf Preview
No. 14 – 1988 Starting Lineup Card
No. 13 – 1985 Nike
No. 12 – 1991 Star All-Star Promo (#d to 100)
11. (Honorable Mention) Dwight Gooden 1997 Upper Deck
Of all the cards on the list, this one is by far the easiest to find. But despite it being a card you can probably find in a lot of nickel and dime boxes, it’s one of my favorites because it features one of Doc’s most memorable moments.
Despite all of his early success as a pitcher, one thing Gooden had never done was throw a no-hitter. That’s entirely understandable, of course, because even a lot of the all-time greats have never accomplished that. But Gooden not only pulled it off, but did so far beyond his prime as a 31-year-old pitching then for the New York Yankees. The year was a banner one for Gooden as he not only no-hit the Seattle Mariners but also watched his team capture the World Series, even though he was left off of the playoff roster.
Gooden’s 1997 Upper Deck card, to my knowledge, is the only licensed one that captures him in the aftermath of his no-hitter as he’s carried off the field by teammates. It’s not a rare or expensive card, but one that gets a spot on my list because it pictures one of his greatest achievements.
A final cool thing about the card? Gooden is pictured on the back as a batter. That might not be too odd with the Mets in the National League but, with designated hitters in the American League, Gooden didn’t get too many cracks at hitting with the Yankees. In fact, he had exactly four at bats in all of 1997 with the team and none in 1996, making me think the picture could have been from a spring training game.
10. Dwight Gooden 1985 Topps
At one point, Gooden’s 1985 Topps card was considered one of the top rookie cards of the 1980s. Today, it’s easy to find for around $1.
While its value has significantly decreased, for collectors in the 1980s, it’s still hard not to view this as an iconic card. Since the set was released, of course, the card has been passed up in terms of value. Not only has it lost most of its value, but it’s also not nearly as valuable as the Mark McGwire rookie card or the others featuring Roger Clemens and Kirby Puckett. Even cards of non-rookie stars can sometimes be more expensive than it.
There’s nothing dazzling about it, really. On the front, we’ve just got a portrait pose of Gooden. But when you think about the key Dwight Gooden issues, it’s hard to leave this one off of the list despite its relative lack of significance these days. This is certainly one of Gooden’s more popular cards and one that even non-Gooden collectors easily recognize.
In addition to the standard Topps release shown here, Gooden also has an 1985 Topps Tiffany, 1985 Topps Jumbo, and 1985 O-Pee-Chee that all utilize the same image and layout.
9. Dwight Gooden 1991 Donruss Elite
Back in the day of collecting in the late 1980s, there wasn’t much to look forward to in the way of high-dollar insert cards. By the early 1990s, though, that started to change with the introduction of more trading card companies entering the market.
The new card companies didn’t only bring their own stuff to the table. But they forced the existing ones to up their game dramatically. Topps, Donruss, and Fleer, the original Big 3, were all getting more innovative. Donruss’ big addition to this new way of collecting came with the 1991 Donruss Elite cards.
The cards weren’t all that limited with a production of 10,000 per card. But somehow, they were nearly impossible to find, which proves just how much product Donruss was really producing. Gooden collectors were pretty thrilled to find that he was one of the players included.
Today, many of Gooden’s inserts can be found for $1-$2. This is one of the few that has a bit more value than that and usually runs about $15-$20. It makes its way onto the list not really for the value it has. Rather, it’s one of Gooden’s first premium insert cards. At the time it was released, it was likely his most valuable insert card and one of his most valuable cards altogether.
Frankly, I’m not a huge fan of the design here. If you look at the card long enough, you’re liable to wind up with a headache. But it’s still far too important of a card to be excluded here.
8. Dwight Gooden 1986 Sportflics Decade Greats Sample
Back in 1986, Sportflics were about as hot a product as there was. At least with kids, anyway. Sportflics didn’t exactly steal the show in 1986 but when they debuted that year, they were popular with kids with their unique in-action design which showed a brief ‘video’ of a player through three separate pictures. If nothing else, they were different. And since they had a real, honest-to-goodness major league license, they used current players without having to airbrush logos and do any of the other nonsense unlicensed sets do.
In addition to their primary set, Sportflics also had a separate spinoff set called ‘Decade Greats.’ The Decade Greats set featured players from different decades that were among the best in their time period and, despite having only two years under his belt in the 1980s, Doc still got into the set.
To promote the set, the company created some sample cards, including one for Dwight Gooden. The only other one produced featured pre-war star Mel Ott, so the fact that Gooden was one of the two players chosen was quite an honor. The fronts are the same ones used in the Decade Greats set but the backs are blank with only the text, “Decade Greats Sample Card.” One of the cool things I was able to pickup was also a copy of the letter sent out to dealers, who were looking to order the product. These letters accompanied the cards that were sent out and my guess is that not many still exist. To date, this is the only copy of the letter that I have seen.
I’ve included this card not only for its cool factor but also because it is one of the earliest, if not the earliest, licensed promo/sample cards known for Gooden.
7. Dwight Gooden 1987 Minor League Cards
By 1987, Gooden was a well-established major league star. But a positive cocaine test meant that he would begin the season with some minor league starts.
That year, he would play in a total of five games and he was featured in two minor league sets for the AAA Tidewater Tides. One was in the 1987 ProCards set and the other was the more popular TCMA/CMC set.
Both cards are very similar and even seemingly use the same image with the TCMA/CMC picture being reversed and also uncropped a bit more (possibly to distinguish it from ProCards’ picture and also because the TCMA/CMC card is slightly oversized.
If I had to pick only one of these bad boys, I’d probably lean towards the one on the right, which is the TCMA/CMC card. But both are great as they tell part of the incredible tale of Gooden’s tumultuous career. The cards are also very unique as they picture the only time Gooden appeared in Tidewater. Before his career began, he went straight from minor league ball and bypassed AA and AAA entirely.
6. Dwight Gooden 1987-88 Action Packed Promo
The makers of Action Packed seemed to hit a few snags. They released some baseball promos in 1987 and/or 1988 but never really produced full major league baseball sets of current players. Some sets in the 1990s, however, did feature former players and minor leaguers.
The company was really known for its football cards, which were somewhat popular in the early 1990s. But Action Packed definitely had an interest in baseball and even created some feelers in 1987-88 with these promo cards. This one features Gooden and it’s just a great card.
Two things are of interest about it. First, the back is similar to the 1988 Score backs. The back uses the same exact image from Gooden’s Score back and the layout is remarkably similar with green, red, and blue stripes all used for Gooden’s Mets team logo, name, and position on both cards. I’m not sure if the makers of the Action Packed cards (Hi-Pro Marketing, Inc.) were related to the makers of Score but it seems as if they could have been.
The other interesting thing is that the front design for the card is the same as Action Packed’s first non-test issue football set, which was released a few years later in 1990. They must have really been sold on that layout.
5. Dwight Gooden 1984 Fleer Update
Gooden’s 1984 Fleer Update card is one of the Doc’s prime cards and is one I like a lot. I don’t think it’s quite up there with his 1984 Topps Traded /Tiffany issues in terms of prestige, but it’s certainly more valuable than his regular Topps Traded card from that season.
While it’s not as valuable as it once was, the card still can be pricey under the right conditions. PSA 10s of it aren’t entirely scarce but still sell for around $150.
This card’s ‘problem’, if it has one, is the mundane look of the 1984 Fleer cards.
Clean design for sure, but nothing about the card is particularly memorable. The rookie cards of Roger Clemens and Kirby Puckett are much more appealing and are boosted by the fact that they are significantly more valuable. Gooden’s card, unfortunately, just sort of seems like an afterthought in the set. That’s a stark contrast to the 1984 Topps Traded set, which doesn’t boast Clemens or Puckett.
Still, it’s undeniably one of Gooden’s best cards and within the top five.
4. Dwight Gooden 1991 Pacific Prototype
If you’re looking for the rarest card on the list, look no further.
The 1991 Pacific Prototype baseball cards are extremely difficult to find. Prototype football cards from that season are far more plentiful by the baseball ones seem to be almost non-existent. To date, I’ve only seen a handful of them and have not seen a Gooden for sale since deciding to collect them last year.
The 1991 Pacific prototypes were created by the company despite the fact that they did not even yet possess a baseball license. They would get one later but these cards were likely created in the hopes of getting the ability to produce them. The cards have the same design as was used for the company’s football cards printed that year.
The cards are not recognized by everyone, mind you. One was reportedly sent in to PSA but they would not grade it. But as I believe they are a legitimate issue, I have listed them here.
How much is the card worth? That’s really tough to say because of the rarity, though a Frank Thomas sold in 2017 for a little more than $100. Because Thomas’ cards are more expensive, that likely puts Gooden’s card at decidedly less. But to the right collector, it could possibly fetch even more.
3. Dwight Gooden 1984 Topps Traded/Tiffany
Gooden has three 1984 traded/update cards and, with all due respect to his 1984 Fleer Update card, I’m personally a bigger fan of the Topps cards. Gooden has both standard Topps and Topps Tiffany issues and you can put either in this slot.
To me, either of the Topps versions have always been more of an iconic card over the Fleer card. There are certainly better ‘action’ shots of Gooden out there than this one. The follow-through in his throwing motion almost looks like you’d see after a warm-up pitch. But when most collectors think of Gooden’s rookie card, the Topps issues are the ones pictured in their heads. As a Gooden fan as a kid, this was the be all end all of his cards.
The Tiffany version, of course, is a glossy, premium version of the regular Topps and Topps Traded cards. They were produced in far fewer quantities and are even more special than the standard Topps issues. As a result, they are much more valuable. While a PSA 10 of Gooden’s regular Topps Traded card can be found for under $100, a PSA 10 Tiffany will cost you several hundred dollars.
Simply put, there’s no way to leave Gooden’s first major league card off of the list. And, in particular, his Tiffany card is one of his most expensive.
2. Dwight Gooden 1983 TCMA Minor League Card
Gooden’s 1983 TCMA minor league card is generally recognized as his first professional issue. It is also his only minor league card from before the start of his major league career. While some might not classify this as his rookie card, per se, it is really his first true professional ‘card.’
It needs little explanation from me. The card pictures a young black and white image of Doc. While a color picture might have been technically ‘better’, the fact that it is a black and white card also makes it undeniably unique. There are only a few cards picturing him as a professional with black and white imagery (1991 Studio and 1991 Score The Franchise subset cards, to name a few). That uniqueness certainly gives it some brownie points. The back highlights his brief career to date as he spent time with the Mets’ Kingsport and Little Falls teams in 1982.
Interestingly, the card is not the only important one in the team set. Also appearing in Lynchburg that season was Lenny Dyskstra, who would become an integral part of the Mets’ 1980s teams. Dykstra’s card isn’t nearly as sought after as Gooden’s but a key one nonetheless.
There are not many cards of Gooden that are all that desirable to collectors that don’t specifically pursue his stuff. But this is one of those. Graded 8s of this card sell for nearly $200 these days and a PSA 10 sold for just over $400 last fall.
No. 1 Dwight Gooden 1985 Donruss Box Bottom
One of the drivers behind putting together this list was to see if another card could knock off Gooden’s 1985 Donruss Box Bottom card. But in the end, nothing did, in my mind.
Like most Gooden fans, I absolutely love this card. Even if you don’t technically think it’s Gooden’s best card, it’s certainly the best-looking one from his playing days by almost any reasonable definition. There are a lot of really nice post-career cards of Gooden as technology has improved since the 1980s and 1990s. But in terms of aesthetics, this one can’t be beat. It’s a great looking picture of Gooden in the upper deck section of Shea Stadium tossing a baseball in the air. The image is clearly an upgrade over his more mundane portrait card in the regular set.
That isn’t the only thing it has going for it, though. Besides being a nice-looking card, it’s also a rookie issue since Gooden’s mainstream 1984 cards are from traded and update issues. That’s interesting in that, unlike Topps issues, Donruss only printed one set of four cards on the bottom of theirs. For a rookie to make it in that elite group seems shocking. But Gooden was the National League Rookie of the Year in 1984 and that certainly justified squeezing him on.
It’s also a very tough card to find in high-grade since it is a hand cut card. To date, 45 Gooden cards have been submitted to PSA but not a single PSA 10 exists (and only nine PSA 9s are out there). Even lower-grade ones aren’t terribly common compared to his 1985 pack-issued cards.
Gorgeous card that’s also a rookie issue and extremely rare in high-grade condition? Sounds like a winner to me.
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