Frank Thomas (True) Rookie Cards

With the 7th overall pick, in the 1st Round of the 1989 MLB Amateur Draft, the Chicago White Sox selected Frank Thomas from Auburn University. He has 6 official rookie cards, two rookie parallels, and one of the most iconic error cards in hobby history!

Why the 1990s Were Epic

The home run era started in the late eighties. But the decade of the 1990s gave baseball fans the most offensive, run-scoring era the game had ever seen. Records were broken and highlight reels filled sports performance networks. At its peak, two players always stood out. Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Thomas.

Growing up in Northwest, Indiana a mere 30-minute drive to Comiskey Park (now Guaranteed Rate Field), I was able to follow closely this man they call the Big Hurt. Like a locomotive, he was Big and powerful, listed at 6′ 5″ 240lbs. and he definitely put a Hurt on the ball.

It was a great time to live in the Chicagoland area in those days. We had the Chicago Bulls, Sammy Sosa, Frank Thomas, and a Card Shop every other mile. Those were the days!

If you like the insert cards from this era be sure to check out this article, Why ’90s Insert Cards Are Relevant.

Career Stats & Accomplishments

His best years were 1991-1997 where he finished in the Top 10 in MVP votes each of those years and actually winning MVP honors back-to-back years in 1993 and 1994. His career stats are:

Hits 2,468 | Home Runs 521 | RBI 1704 | Batting Avg .301 | On Base Slugging Percent .974

  • 2x MVP
  • 5x All-Star
  • 4x Silver Slugger
  • 1997 Batting Title Champion

The Final Years of Frank Thomas

In 2005, when the White Sox won the World Series, Frank was on the injured list and only played in 34 games. He did earn a ring but was traded the following year to the Oakland A’s and had a very successful 2006 by hitting 39 home runs and 114 RBI’s.

He spent a couple of years with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2007-08 before being traded back to the A’s only 16 games into the season.

Today Frank is a studio analyst for MLB on Fox and I must say he is a pretty good commentator. He is very active in the game still and has always been an advocate for drug testing.


Before We Begin

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True Rookie Card

Identifier (RC) Defined

A rookie card is a trading card that is the first to feature an athlete AFTER that athlete has participated in the highest level of competition within his or her respected sport. It must be licensed by both the League and the Players Association. An RC identifier is only given to cards that fit this criteria. Below is an exhaustive list of the featured players true rookie cards.

1990 Bowman, #320 (RC)

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Bowman’s second-year release stood by their promise to give collectors lots of rookies. The card design is clean and simple. Great photo of the Frank Thomas here which I can only assume the camera person had him go down to one knee so he can get at eye level.

This great photo is outlined in multiple colors and encased inside big white borders. For a product with so many rookies, the card backs don’t make much sense to me. It shows a graph of how they’ve done against other teams, except they have no MLB experience so there are no stats to show.

There is one parallel, Bowman Tiffany. But some purist collectors have not recognized these as true rookie cards because they’re an exact parallel of the regular Bowman issue and because of their limited distribution method.


1990 Fleer Update, #U87 (RC)

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Fleer Update is an extension of the 1990 Fleer set. It was sold at Hobby Shops only. The purpose of update sets is to give manufacturers a chance to “update” players who have been traded to new teams and to include any rookies they may have left out in their parent brand.

Great photo and card design, easily one of my favorite Frank Thomas rookie cards. Look at that old “C” on his hat! Card back doesn’t give us much but it does show minor league stats. There are no parallels in this set.


1990 Leaf, #300 (RC)

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For the majority of collectors, this is their favorite RC of Frank Thomas. Leaf was brought back to life by Donruss in 1985 but this was the first premium set released by Donruss. It gave collectors high-quality photos, paper stock, and design.

This is a very handsome card design and what made it stand out as the best product of 1990, in my opinion, was quality. Nobody produced anything this good in 1990. They really set a new standard for themselves and this release was a hit among collectors! There are no parallels.


1990 O-Pee-Chee, #414 (RC)

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Today the O-Pee-Chee brand is owned by Upper Deck but back in 1990, it was owned by Topps. It was the Canadian version of Topps and it mimicked the Topps brand in every way except for a few distinct details.

Looking at the back of the card the player commentary is written in English and below it, is the french translation. The O-Pee-Chee copyright at the lower right side of the card back is another characteristic and finally, a much brighter background yellow gives us context clues that help us know which one is which. There are no parallels.


1990 Score, #663 (RC)

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A fantastic portrait photo of our featured HOF. The card design is decent and works really well with all the accessories. However, the Score brand especially was mass-produced in 1990, unopened boxes can still be found today at a minimal cost. Even graded copies in Gem Mint 10 condition bring minimal monetary gain.

However, it’s still a true rookie card of a Hall of Famer and for those reasons alone should be appreciated. There are no parallels for this card.


1990 Topps, #414 (RC)

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This 792 card set was distributed in a single series. Very odd photo of Frank Thomas in his Auburn University uniform. The photo is outlined in a dual-colored border that sits on a pixelated, fading orange border.

The mustard yellow card back is printed on standard cardboard stock which is relevant because it was the last year Topps used this type of card stock, in 1991 they switched to white card stock.

Love or hate the gaudiness of 90′ Topps it is a classic. Major downfalls to this one are the mass production of this product, printing defects, and for being off-centered. There is a Topps Tiffany parallel as well but not considered a true RC because of its distribution method.


The Historic RC Error of Frank Thomas

ft 90 topps NNOF frt

Very early on in the production and distribution of 1990 Topps, a printing error occurred. One suspicion is that a strip of card stock intersected with the printing dyes so the black ink struck the strip of card stock instead of the actual card. That is only one of many theories but one that I believe is a viable one.

It’s also believed that Topps caught this right away but some were distributed to the east coast, more specifically the New England region of the country and they were inside of wax packs.

So what you see here is one of the most desirable cards in the hobby today, The Infamous 1990 Topps Frank Thomas NNOF ( No Name On Front).

Professional Sports Authenticators Population Reports shows, to date, they have graded only 208 of these. They are rare and they are wanted. Because of that, this one has been counterfeited multiple times. In fact, I would not even consider purchasing a raw copy.

These are extremely hard to find and one must take caution with online platforms like eBay and others. This card is extremely counterfeited. I would strongly consider purchasing only graded copies. I advise shopping at Auction Houses if trying to purchase one of these.

Happy Collecting Collectors,

Learn. Collect. Enjoy


Sources:

Frank Thomas Stats | Baseball-Reference.com https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/t/thomafr04.shtml (accessed July 23, 2019).

PSA Population Report | Frank Thomas 1990 Topps NNOF  https://www.psacard.com/pop/#0%7C1990%20topps%20frank%20thomas%20 (accessed July 23, 2019).

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