August 30, 2023

Most Expensive Roger Clemens Rookie Cards

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim
Shaiel Ben-Ephraim
Most Expensive Roger Clemens Rookie Cards

Roger Clemens, is one of the best pitchers ever to hurl a ball in anger. He holds more Cy Young awards than any other player in history, with seven in his storied career. That is two more than Randy Johnson in second place, three more than Greg Maddux and Steve Carlton. And he won awards in both leagues and with four different teams: the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees, and Astros. That makes him part of an elite club of pitchers to win in both leagues. Gaylord Perry, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Roy Halladay, and Max Scherzer are the others.

Perhaps more impressively, Clemens is among the few starting pitchers to win an MVP. His performance in 1986 was so dominant that he was deemed more valuable than any of the hitters. Since then, only Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw have repeated that achievement. Shohei Ohtani doesn’t really count because he is also a hitter, and of course, Dennis Eckersley was a closer when he won.

Roger’s stats show just why he has won so many awards. The pitchers' won and lost record is a staggering 354–184. And twice he won the pitchers' triple crown (when a pitcher leads the league in wins, strikeouts, and earned run average.

How does Clemens stack up in comparison to the all-time greats? Very well, thank you. Bleacher Report has him as the #8 pitcher of all time. Pitcher List has him up at #5, and ESPN as the #5 best right-handed pitcher.

Roger Clemens rookie cards should be worth an absolute fortune, right? Things are more complicated than that.

Roger Clemens Card Value And Performance Enhancing Drugs

Two things have challenged the values of Roger Clemens cards over the years. The first is that Roger Clemens rookie cards come from the very start of the junk wax era. That means they were generally overprinted. That is a common problem for the cards of players from his generation.

But more seriously, Clemens has allegedly used performance-enhancing drugs during his career. In 2008, the pitcher testified to the House of Representatives that he had not used steroids and HGH during his baseball career. However, evidence emerged that the pitcher had lied to Congress. Therefore, he was charged with perjury. However, he was not found guilty of the charges.

Still, the allegations that he had used steroids were substantial. That raises questions about Clemens's career. Obviously, he was a phenomenally talented pitcher. But would he have been as dominant for as long without significant pharmaceutical help? The Hall of Fame committee does not think so. Clemens needed to gain more votes in ten attempts to get in, thereby ending his hopes of getting into Cooperstown in the near future.

But has that significantly harmed the value of his rookie cards? Let's take a look at each of these items to get a better idea.

1985 Fleer Star Stickers Roger Clemens Rookie #123

1985 Fleer Star Stickers Roger Clemens Rookie #1231985 Fleer Star Stickers Roger Clemens Rookie #123

A PSA 10 sold for $470.

As any basketball card fan knows, in the mid-1990s, Fleer experimented with stickers. The 1985 Fleer Star Stickers Roger Clemens Rookie #123 has the same picture as its Fleer rookie card equivalent. However, it has a different design. The price of these stickers has been low for a long time, but the market has recently realized the scarcity of this item. So while a PSA 10 sold for $77 in 2020, two years later, it was going for almost seven times that price.

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Expect that to go up since there are only 377 copies of this card, and a mere 67 are PSA 10s. The centering for these stickers is not great, so look for one of the rare ones that has Clemens in the middle.

1984 TCMA Pawtucket Red Sox Roger Clemens #22

1984 TCMA Pawtucket Red Sox Roger Clemens #221984 TCMA Pawtucket Red Sox Roger Clemens #22

A PSA 9 sold for $650.

A minor league card isn’t exactly a rookie card, but close enough. Their value is almost always lower, although minor-league cards are incredibly cool. They tend to be more oddball and interesting than their major league equivalents. The 1984 TCMA Pawtucket Red Sox Roger Clemens #22 card is a case in point. The quaint and cumbersome town name, the hideously ugly green design, and the inexplicable step into the picture are wonderful. And let's face it, Clemens looks like a badass in the picture. This is a great Roger Clemens rookie card with a low pop count. So, it's a fairly good investment.

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It is worth noting that a PSA 10 version of the 1984 TCMA Pawtucket Red Sox Roger Clemens #22 has yet to be sold. Indeed, there are no known gem mint versions of this card. There are 602 graded copies, of which 39 were graded as PSA 9s. So, if you see a nice-looking raw version, send it in and keep your fingers crossed.

1985 Donruss Roger Clemens Rookie Card #273

1985 Donruss Roger Clemens Rookie Card #273 1985 Donruss Roger Clemens Rookie Card #273

A PSA 10 sold for $715.

The 1985 Donruss Roger Clemens #273 is, without a doubt, a beautiful rookie card. The black edges with those subtle red lines at the bottom really pop. However, some junk wax connoisseurs claim the design is ugly. But these are delusional people, and we will not warrant these claims with a response. And it features a great action shot of “The Rocket” as a dominant young pitcher. In further good news for Clemens collectors, Donruss had reduced print runs from their first 1980s baseball sets by 1985.

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By the way, 1985 was a challenging year for Roger. He underwent surgery, and the Red Sox were concerned about his longevity. But as you may have guessed, the surgery was a spectacular success. Few pitchers enjoyed the health and durability of Roger Clemens.

But though this is a great card, it is somewhat undermined in value by the high population count. There are 10,149 copies of this card graded by PSA. They don’t grade as well as the 1984 Fleer Update Roger Clemens Rookie Card #U-27 because of the black edges, so there are only 579 gem mints.

1985 Fleer Roger Clemens #155

1985 Fleer Roger Clemens #1551985 Fleer Roger Clemens #155

A PSA 10 sold for $1,465.

Is this a legit Roger Clemens rookie card? That depends on how you feel about the pack versus the complete set debate. As you probably know, there is an earlier Roger Clemens card, the 1984 Fleer Update Roger Clemens Rookie Card #U-27. But it was only available in complete sets, so many people don’t consider it a legit Roger Clemens rookie card. You can see that many in the hobby treat this as a rookie by the relatively high value of the card. The print run is fairly low for the time. There are 6,555 graded copies of the card, with 180 PSA 10s. That also keeps the price up, but the rookie status is also part of the story.

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Whether you consider this the real Fleer rookie or not, it's a beautiful card. Its secret is the team-colored background, which fits nicely in the Red Sox case. The picture used for the 1985 Fleer Roger Clemens #155 is very familiar to baseball fans who remember that stare. It often came right before the pitcher bedeviled his victims with that fastball.

1985 Topps Roger Clemens #181 Rookie Card

1985 Topps Roger Clemens #181 Rookie Card1985 Topps Roger Clemens #181 Rookie Card

A PSA 10 sold for $1,559.

There is nothing flashy about the 1985 Topps Baseball design or this card. Just a solid design with some really good pics. And the 1985 Topps Roger Clemens #181 is no exception. It's a good card that gets decent value despite the significantly large population count. How large? Everyone wanted a Clemens card because he was clearly the pitcher of the future (along with Doc Gooden).

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So there are no less than 29,878 graded copies of this card at PSA alone. But because of centering issues, there aren’t many PSA 10s. Just 362 gem mints as opposed to 8,465 PSA 9s. That is why the value remains decent, although the Topps Tiffany version obviously overshadows it.

1985 Leaf Roger Clemens Rookie Card #99

1985 Leaf Roger Clemens Rookie Card #991985 Leaf Roger Clemens Rookie Card #99

A PSA 10 sold for $3,075.

It's not a proper 1980s rookie card if it doesn’t have a nearly identical Canadian version. The 1985 Leaf Roger Clemens Rookie Card #99 has a couple of differences. The Donruss logo in the top left-hand corner is joined by the Leaf logo. They take up a lot more real estate together. In addition, there is French writing in the back. Which makes it very sophisticated, of course.

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As you can see, the value is much higher. As I am sure you have guessed, that is because Canadian versions are always printed in lower numbers. There are merely 1,750 of these items printed for the Great White North graded, as opposed to over 10,000 of the regular old Donruss cards.

1984 Fleer Update Roger Clemens Rookie Card #U-27

1984 Fleer Update Roger Clemens Rookie Card #U-271984 Fleer Update Roger Clemens Rookie Card #U-27

A PSA 10 sold for $4,500.

In 1983 Fleer released an Update series for the first time, emulating the traditional Topps Traded release. They did so to get a Dwight Gooden rookie card without waiting an extra year. By 1984 the release was somewhat established.

It was one of the best things the company ever did because it allowed them to add two rookies called up during the 1984 MLB season. Clemens was quickly the most prominent name, but Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett was also there. While this card is generally the most popular of the Clemens rookies, some argue it doesn’t qualify as one. The 1984 Fleer Update release only came as a complete set and was not sold in packs. But that stuff is for purists. The slightly awkward picture of the promising and young “Rocket” is easily his most recognizable rookie card nowadays. And the understated design is one of the best Fleer produced.

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The price noted here for a PSA 10 is from 2021. Today, you can find this card in its gem mint condition for about $1,500. By the standards of junk wax cards, this one is relatively hard to find. There are 6,119 graded copies of these babies out there when many cards from this era have double that. But the 1984 Fleer Update Roger Clemens Rookie Card #U-27 grades relatively well. Many people saved these cards because everyone knew that Clemens was something special. These are also well-centered cards, and it helps that the edges are white and hide damage quite well.

1985 Topps Tiffany Roger Clemens Rookie Card #181

1985 Topps Tiffany Roger Clemens Rookie Card #1811985 Topps Tiffany Roger Clemens Rookie Card #181

A PSA 10 sold for $15,000.

As with many other 1980s rookie cards, the Tiffany version is the one that has withstood the test of time. Of course, those Tiffany cards aren’t all that different looking from their base equivalents. Indeed, pictures look almost identical, and many can’t tell the difference in person either. But hey that applies to the difference between PSA 9 and 10 in most cases too. But ultimately, artificial scarcity is what card value is all about.

What is the population count of the 1985 Topps Tiffany Roger Clemens #181? It's about as scarce as cards from the mid-1980s get. There are only 1,626 PSA-graded copies and a mere 48 PSA 10s. There was no release in packs. So the 1985 Topps Tiffany Baseball release was limited to about 5,000 complete sets.

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This is the card that shows most clearly that the value of Roger Clemens rookie cards has not been seriously hit by accusations of steroid use. It commands some of the highest values of any card from the 1980s. Only the 1989 Bowman Tiffany #220 Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Card and Rickey Henderson 1980 Topps #482 card regularly command higher values.

Final Words On The Most Expensive Roger Clemens Rookie Cards

In the final analysis, the performance-enhancing drug scandals involving Roger Clemens have not had a notable detrimental effect on his rookie card values. He does about as well as any other big 1980s star. Collectors aren’t all that interested in scandals and the decisions made by the Hall of Fame. At least not when it comes to stars of the magnitude of Roger Clemens. We all remember how good he was. And his baseball cards are iconic and some of the most important of the 1980s.

As usual, the main element determining value is scarcity. That means there are some opportunities for profit here. Some of his scarce rookie cards, like the minor league one and the Fleer sticker have a lot of room to increase.

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