Tony Gwynn (True) Rookie Cards

With their pick in the 3rd Round of the 1981 MLB June Amateur Draft the San Diego Padres selected, Tony Gwynn from San Diego State University. Tony Gwynn has four true rookie cards.

Tony Gwynn Documentary is Must-See TV

My last post was on the newly inducted Hall of Famer and former San Diego Padre Trevor Hoffman. As a blogger, I often seek 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 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 Tony Gwynn’s rookie cards allow me to make mention a few things you should remember about Tony Gwynn.

Tony Gwynn – The Personality

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.

Tony was transparent and personable. When he was around everyone seemed to be in a better mood.

The Hitting Philosophy of a Hitting Legend

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.

I always think of Tony Gwynn when I see today’s game taking advantage of “the shift” defensively.

This is when all infielders shift to one side of the infield due to their knowledge of batters pulling the ball.

This defensive strategy would not have worked with Tony Gwynn, he had a knack for putting the barrel of that bat anywhere he needed to.

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. He never hit below .309 in any full season, and he struck out only 434 times in 9,288 at-bats!

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.

Career Stats & Accomplishments

According to Baseball-Reference.com Tony Gwynn career stats are: 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.

Accomplishments:

  • 15x All-Star
  • 8x Batting Title Champion
  • 7x Silver Slugger Award
  • 5x Gold Glover
  • 1995 Branch Rickey Award
  • 1998 Lou Gehrig Memorial Award
  • 1999 Roberto Clemente Award
  • 2007 Hall of Fame Induction

Tony Gwynn True Rookie Cards:

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.

1983 Donruss, #598 (RC)

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1983 Donruss is a 660 card set released in a single series. This 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.”

The card front photo is outlined with a thick red line, shows the upper torso of Tony Gwynn but oftentimes 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 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.”


1983 Fleer, #360 (RC)

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1983 Fleer is also a 660 card set released in a single series.

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.

Minor league stats are a plus. A Did You Know? segment exists but to me seems unrelated and is utilized more as a filler.

Also, Tony’s bio, it sits on the very bottom of the card and appears to be disconnected from the rest of the card. Overall, a fantastic looking rookie card of a baseball legend.


1983 Topps, #482 (RC)

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1983 Topps is a 792 card set released in a single series. In my opinion, 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.

The ’83 Topps Tony Gwynn rookie card is considered his favorite and most valued American rookie card.


1983 O-Pee-Chee, #143 (RC)

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1983 O-Pee-Chee is a 396 card set released in a single series. 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 haaaaaaarder” and you will notice these differences:

  • Number of cards in the set, 792-vs-396 respectively.
  • O-Pee-Chee brand logo on card front and back.
  • English with French translation where ever applicable.
  • Card back has a much lighter cardboard stock.

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 is a former Canadian MLB franchises.

The remainder of the set only depicted partial rosters of the remaining teams.


Pre-Rookie Card

Identifier (PRC) Defined

A PRC identifier is given to cards that feature an athlete BEFORE they’ve participated at the pro level or prior to the designated rookie card release year. These cards are often labeled as minor league cards, prospect, cards, draft pick cards, collegiate cards, etc.

1982 TCMA Hawaii Islanders, #10 (PRC)

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Here is a fantastic card of Tony Gwynn that is often times referred to as a “rookie card.” However, if we’re being honest or technical this card shouldn’t be considered a true rookie card.

A more appropriate identifier would be Pre-Rookie Card. Why? Well, for starters Tony Gwynn had not debuted on an MLB roster, he’s pictured a with minor league uniform, and TCMA Ltd. is not a properly licensed card manufacturer.

Finally, if I were dig into it further we would probably find an issue with distribution too. Still a fantastic card to own, still collectable and valuable but not a true rookie card.

For a more detailed explanation on what constitutes a true rookie card check out my article The 10 Commandments of the Rookie Card.

Happy Collecting Collectors,

Learn. Collect. Enjoy.

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