6 Most Valuable Baseball Card Errors (and Misprints)

Ryan Barone
(@ballcardgenius, Card Expert) is a lifelong member of the hobby. He has been quoted in PSA Magazine, and his content has regularly been mentioned in “Quick Rips” (the Topps RIPPED Newsletter) and across other hobby publications. hello@ballcardgenius.com; Last Time Ago LLC dba Ballcard Genius.

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When you think about just how many different baseball card brands and companies there are, and how many cards those companies are printing, things can’t possibly go perfectly every single time. You might see incorrect pictures or misspelled names; weird lines or missing items altogether.

Some of these are misprints and others are pure errors. While they all fall under the greater “error” umbrella for the most part, there is a difference between the two categories.

For example, the famous Ken Griffey Jr. from 1990 Topps is called the “bloody scab/scar” error, but is said to be simply a printing error:

All together, let’s look at the most valuable error cards out there:

  • 1990 Topps Frank Thomas NNOF
  • 1989 Fleer Billy Ripken FFACE
  • 1969 Topps Mickey Mantle (Name in White)
  • 1987 Donruss Opening Day Barry Bonds
  • 1995 Topps Traded Carlos Beltran (Juan Lebron)
  • 1989 Upper Deck Dale Murphy Reverse Negative

1. 1990 Topps Frank Thomas NNOF

One of the more elusive and thus valuable error cards is the 1990 Topps Frank Thomas. Per the above and below, this card would be more specifically categorized as a misprint because the “error” is the fact that the “Frank Thomas” name on the card is absent.

In terms of value, a BGS 8 copy of the NNOF error sold in May 2023 for over $9K. To put that in perspective, a regular Frank Thomas base rookie card sells in perfect condition for around $60-$80.

2. 1989 Fleer Billy Ripken “FFACE”

I like to think of collecting as a family hobby, so I’ll refrain from typing out the full name of this popular (and obscene) error card of Billy Ripken from 1989 Fleer.

As you can see, Fleer somehow missed the “bad word” written on the bottom of Ripken’s bat. Who knows how the bat made its way into the photo in the first place, but Fleer did put a couple of corrected versions out there.

  • FFace Error PSA 10 $400-$500
  • Black Box Correction PSA 10 ~$100
  • White Scribble Correction PSA 7 ~$450

As you can see, while the curse word version is quite valuable as a PSA 10, a white scribble correction in worse condition – PSA – is just as valuable (so you can only imagine if it’s in better condition).

Here are the different populations that support that, as of May 2023:

  • FFace 12,314
  • Black Box 3,305
  • Black Scribble 1,291
  • White Out 152
  • White Scribble 111

3. 1969 Mickey Mantle Name in White

I don’t know if I’d expect more or less error cards from the vintage period. On one hand, there were far fewer sets and cards produced, but on the other, there was probably less automation and quality control? Not sure.

Anyway, of the vintage card errors out there, you can’t get much bigger than this 1969 Mickey Mantle.

As you can see from the above, error here is the color misprint—that is, “Mantle” should be in yellow, but it is in white. As for sales value, a PSA 5 “white letter” error sold in May 2023 for $2,500 while it’s correct “yellow” counterpart in PSA 5 sells for around $300-$500.

4. 1987 Donruss Opening Day Barry Bonds

This will forever be one of the all-time gaffes, given the player it happened to, the size of the error, and the fact that it’s a “rookie” card, or the very least, one of Bonds first Donruss cards.

I mean, it doesn’t get much bigger than including the wrong photo on the card, right? As you can see from the tweet above, there is a version of the 1987 Donruss Opening Day card that features a photo of Bonds’ teammate, Johnny Ray, instead of Bonds. These cards can only be found in complete sets of Opening Day as the product wasn’t released in pack form.

In terms of value, a BGS 9.5 sold for over $2,200 in October of 2022 (the regular correct version of the card in a BGS 9.5 sold for $84 in January of 2023).

1989 Upper Deck Dale Murphy Reverse Negative

When 1989 Upper Deck burst onto the scene, the set didn’t really need the help of a sought-after error to give it a boost in the hobby community.

What it did do, though, is give collectors another reason to open the exciting new product that also happened to feature Ken Griffey Jr.’s most valuable rookie card.

As you can see, the error is that Murphy’s photo was printed as reverse. And while that might not see, significant, a PSA 10 sold in April 2023 for $730. In terms of PSA population, 725 total reverse negatives have been graded, with 118 10s awarded.

What is a baseball card misprint?

A misprint is when a baseball card is produced with some type of printing imperfection or error. This can include a card being printed without a piece of information, or, with too much information like extra or smudged ink or random lines. The key differentiator here is that the misprint is a direct result of the production process, either with the equipment or the handling of the card during the process.

One of the most famous and valuable baseball card misprints includes the 1990 Topps Frank Thomas NNOF (No Name on Front).

What do you get when you cross one of baseball’s hottest young superstars with a rookie card that doesn’t include that player’s name on the front of the card? A valuable piece of history! Not to mention that this is one of the rare misprint errors—a raw copy sold on eBay in early 2023 for nearly $5,000.

Certain sets, especially in the late 80s, early 90s are notorious for misprints—many of the most valuable Upper Deck baseball cards are misprints. 1990 Donruss is also another fun one.

What is an error?

An error is the broader category under which the misprint falls. Thus, all misprints are errors, but not all errors are misprints. Errors that aren’t misprints are those that have to do with the information compiled to produce the card.

For instance, a name could be misspelled before it’s handed off to the printer. Or, in the case of the 1987 Donruss Barry Bonds error, a player’s name and photo can be mismatched.

In both cases, a misprint or error can sometimes produce fascinating results—either as a funny baseball card, or one of great value.

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