A Breakdown Of The 1989 Upper Deck Dale Murphy Reverse Negative Error Card

While the Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card from the 1989 Upper Deck set is the standout card from the epochal set, another card from 89 UD, the Dale Murphy reverse negative error card, is close behind and one of the most valuable.

The 1989 Upper Deck Baseball heralded Upper Deck’s introduction to the hobby. Experts credit this set for changing the perception of baseball cards from a child’s hobby to the big-money business we know today.

Upper Deck introduced several innovations that are a part of the hobby today. However, the set was rife with errors and mistakes.

This article shall review one of the set’s most famous error cards: the 1989 Dale Murphy Reverse Negative error card.

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The history of 1989 Upper Deck

The entire hobby experienced a shift in 1989 when Upper Deck made its foray into the hobby as the 6th major trading card manufacturer. Aside from the hobby being bored with the monotonous Topps, Donruss, and Fleer releases, collectors were experiencing a plague of fakes.

Counterfeit trading cards had become so numerous they were a legit concern. Upper Deck not only brought the fun back into the hobby with high-quality color pictures and thick white card stock, but each card also came with its hologram, which helped fight against counterfeits.

The set contained several cards that have become truly iconic, such as the Ken Griffey RC, Gary Pettis, and Nolan Ryan. While the 1989 Upper Deck set was iconic, it wasn’t without its faults, even though it was released three months later than its scheduled release date.

The set was brimming with an assortment of errors. Every possible type of error was represented in this set. From the wrong date of birth (Sandy Alomar Jr.), upside-down SS (Gary Sheffield), wrong statistics (Bret Saberhagen), to even using a wrong player’s picture (Brian Holton).

While errors filled the Upper Deck 1989 set, Dale Murphy’s Reverse Negative card was the most noteworthy error from the 1989 set, a distinction that holds to this day.

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What do we know about the Dale Murphy Reverse Negative error card?

As one of the 1980s most dominant players, a rare error card from the set was destined to hold significant value. The 1980s was Dale Murphy’s decade, after all. While he played for the lowly Atlanta Braves franchise, Murphy was the face of the team and was regarded as one of the league’s best players.

He started his career at first base but switched to the outfield in 1980 and delivered a steller performance for an entire decade. He won Gold Gloves Awards for five straight years, from 1982 – 1986. Murphy also won consecutive MVP awards (1982 and 1983) and the Silver Slugger Award four years in a row (1982 – 1986).

Accordingly, his Upper Deck card was high on the wish list for collectors of the set, error cards and Dale Murphy fans. Once the cards were released, rumors spread of an error in Dale Murphy’s card. While most errors in the 1989 Upper Deck set were glaring, Murphy’s was on the subtle side.

His image is flipped horizontally. It’s easy to miss the error at first glance, especially if you’re not looking out for it. However, upon closer inspection it’s very easy to spot if you focus on the letters on his chest as they are backward.

The Reverse Negative Card and the Corrected Card

Unlike most 1989 Upper Deck error cards, Dale Murphy error cards instantly became popular with collectors as they hurried to get their hands on one.

According to an Upper Deck publication, only the first two percent of the total print run had the reverse negative image error. Prices of the Dale Murphy reverse negative card soared as the error card became increasingly popular.

It remained the second most popular card from the landmark 1989 Upper Deck release, after the Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie card.

How the Dale Murphy error card happened

How the 1989 Dale Murphy Reverse Negative error card happened is open to interpretation. Some experts and collectors are convinced that most 1989 Upper Deck set errors were intentional.

However, Upper Deck might have a good reason for the number of blunders in the set. While the 1989 Upper Deck release was pivotal for the hobby and helped build what we have today, the focus was on the card’s design itself rather than its content.

There were only a couple of months between when Upper Deck got their license to make Baseball cards and when the set was released in February.

Working on such a tight deadline, Upper Deck still delivered high-quality white card stock, full print-colored pictures, and holograms embedded cards. Upper Deck pushed the set’s release three months later than its initial release date.

However, they might still not have had enough time to carry out all quality control checks to mitigate the number of error cards in the set. While this is a convincing and straightforward explanation for why the 1989 Upper Deck set had dozens of error cards, some collectors remain unconvinced.

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Was the Dale Murphy Reverse Negative Error Card intentional?

The benefits of including purposeful “mistakes” in the 1989 set are apparent. Experts believe Upper Deck used these error cards to entice buyers by manipulating demand. Perhaps this wasn’t Upper Deck’s motivation on all error cards, but it certainly could have been for some.

These error cards not only drove sales and increased profits of the new company. On top of a iconic design, was this the perfect way for a new card producer to enter the market?

Error cards were already a big talking point in the hobby by 1989 and these error cards were sure to keep the release on people’s minds. Word on the latest rare error cards would spread like wildfire, and collectors would turn around and buy packs in search of these error cards.

There’s a famous quote from P.T Barnum saying, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” Keeping your new card marker on the forefront of collectors’ minds is imperative, whether the coverage is positive or negative. When customers are talking about your brand, it helps with marketing in an organic way.

Another piece of evidence that lends credence to the notion that these errors were intentional is how incredibly well recorded they are.

Upon release, Upper Deck published the percentage of error cards released for almost every major error card. According to Upper Deck, the Dale Murphy Reverse Negative card was corrected after only two percent of cards had been produced. They corrected Gary Sheffield’s Upside-down SS error card was correct after 15 percent.

Usually, these figures aren’t readily available with such precision because manufacturers may not want to draw attention to the error cards and they may be more focused on reacting to the error than sharing print runs.

Upper Deck sales vice president Jay McCracken released a statement addressing accusations that the error cards were intentional.

“We don’t do things like this on purpose, but, because it’s so early, I’m sure the question could be asked.”

Whether intentional or not, this assortment of errors ensured the 1989 Upper Deck set was the topic of discussion in the hobby. This ultimately helped market the 1989 Upper Deck set and drove sales. So much so that they doubled their initial 1,000,000 cards of each player production projection due to the set’s popularity.

Shop for 1989 Upper Deck Dale Murphy Reverse Negative error cards on eBay

The Gary Sheffield Upside-down SS card was another popular error card from the 1989 Upper Deck set

What made the 1989 Dale Murphy Reverse Negative Card a popular chase?

Besides the Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Card, the Dale Murphy reverse negative error card is the most popular from the 1989 Upper Deck set.

I’ve heard collectors wonder why the Dale Murphy reverse stood out in a set filled with error cards. The reality there are many reasons for this:

  • Murphy was one of the biggest stars of the 1980s with back-to-back MVP wins
  • Great reputation with fans off the field
  • HOF hopeful
  • Rarity – only 2% of error card exists

One of the 1980s biggest stars

While Dale Murphy isn’t the most prominent baseball player in history, he was among the biggest stars in the 1980s. Once the card came released, it was wildly popular as fans rushed to lay their hands on his cards.

Today, it is one of the top cards from this iconic release. Few players have ever won an MVP in back-to-back years.

Great outside the field

Off the diamond, Murphy was often hailed for his exceptional character. While he played, Murphy didn’t drink alcoholic beverages and wouldn’t allow interviews unless he was fully dressed.

The Atlanta Constitution had a weekly column where Murphy responded to letters and questions from young fans. The most memorable incident was reminiscent of a scene from the baseball movie The Pride of the Yankees.

Before a home game against San Francisco on June 12, 1983, Murphy visited in the stands with Elizabeth Smith, a six-year-old girl who had lost both hands and a leg when she stepped on a live power line. After Murphy gave her a cap and a T-shirt, her nurse innocently asked if he could hit a home run for Elizabeth. “I didn’t know what to say, so I just sort of mumbled, ‘Well, O.K.,’ ” says Murphy. That day he hit two homers and drove in all the Braves’ runs in a 3–2 victory.

Another wholesome story is of a fan that got Murphy to sign his reverse negative card in reverse. His deeds off the pitch earned him several Sportsmen Of The Year awards and the heart of baseball fans around the country. This acceptance translated to his card’s worth.

1989 Upper Deck Dale Murphy corrected error card

Ultimately, the 1989 Upper Deck Dale Murphy Reverse Negative card was popular because of how few of the cards were available. Upper Deck admits that 2% of the error card slipped through before being corrected.

While two percent of 1,000,000 is still quite a lot, during the junk wax error 20,000 was not a lot. The care was scarce enough to ensure collectors were ready to pay a big premium to get their hands on it.

Shop for the Dale Murphy 1989 Upper Deck corrected card on eBay

HOF hopeful

While his 1980s feats ensured the Dale Murphy reverse negative cards were especially valuable straight off the bat, the card still holds great value today. A considerable part of this is thanks to Murphy’s chances of getting elected to the Hall of Fame.

While he has fallen short several times, Murphy played in a pitching-dominate era, was never suspected of steroids, and benefits positively from the character clause when he’s reconsidered for the Hall of Fame.

If he gets elected, his cards’ value will undoubtedly benefit. He appears on the 2023 Contemporary Baseball Era Hall of Fame ballot and while he may not be enshrined next year, is highly likely to be called to the hall eventually.

1989 Upper Deck Dale Murphy Reverse Negative value

The 1989 Dale Murphy Reverse Negative card opened trading at 10 cents in 1989 and immediately shot up to $50 even in 1989.

Today, a Dale Murphy Reverse Negative costs anything from $64 (Ungraded) to $600 for a (PSA 10). This is significantly higher compared it to the prices the corrected cards are going for, often $1 or less.

An ungraded copy of the corrected 1989 Dale Murphy card is valued at $1.20, while a PSA 10 can be found for around $44.75. Here is a sampling of the last five sales of 1989 Dale Murphy Reverse Negative card sales on eBay in November 2022.

1989 Upper Deck Dale Murphy Reverse Negative Error Card$64.99
1989 Upper Deck Dale Murphy Reverse Negative Error Card$75
1989 Upper Deck Dale Murphy Reverse Negative Error Card$51.01
1989 Upper Deck Baseball Dale Murphy Reverse Negative #357 PSA 8 NM-MT$175
1989 Upper Deck Dale Murphy Reverse Negative Error & Corrected #357$75

Final thoughts of the 1989 Dale Murphy Reverse Negative card

The Dale Murphy Reverse Negative is a card every junk wax-era collector should have alongside the Ken Griffey Rookie card from the 1989 Upper Deck Set.

The 1989 Dale Murphy reverse negative card has many things going for it. It’s a top-rated card from one of the hobby’s iconic sets. It’s an error card and showcases one of the best players of the 1980s.

Additionally, Murphy’s chances of making the Hall of Fame this year is higher than it has ever been. He’s on the 2023 Contemporary Baseball Era Hall of Fame ballot and the only two-time MVP not to be voted in.

The Hall of Fame Monitor uses points to determine how likely a player is to be elected, and Murphy scored 116. An average Hall of Famer is 100 points. Back-to-Back MVPs, 7x All-Star, 5 Gold Gloves, 740 Consecutive games, and an early member of the 30/30 club.

These are Hall Of Fame numbers, and experts fancy Murphy’s chances of getting in this year. However, even if he doesn’t, the 1989 Dale Murphy Reverse Negative card is an excellent addition to any collection.

Shop for 1989 Upper Deck Dale Murphy Reverse Negative error cards on eBay

Read about other error cards

John Bassey


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