20 Most Valuable Baseball Cards and How to Find Them
You might think baseball cards have been around for a while, but did you know they date back to 1865? That’s right; the earliest known baseball card was a “visiting card” that the Brooklyn Atlantics handed out.
Since the 1860s, baseball cards have grown in popularity. Now, they attract some of the world’s most passionate card collectors. Are you a passionate baseball card collector? Are you always looking for valuable cards to add to your collection?
From Ty Cobb’s 1911 T205 Gold Borders to Joe Dimaggio’s 1952 Topps #311, some incredible cards are available if you know where to look. In this guide, we’ll explore the 20 most valuable baseball cards of all time — and how you can find them.
So grab your favorite baseball cap and come with us as we dig deep into this fascinating world of vintage sports memorabilia.
The 20 Most Valuable Baseball Cards
The most valuable baseball cards represent some of the rarest, highest-quality memorabilia (yep, even including Pokémon trading cards and other collectibles). Each card has a history behind it and is often sought after with keen eyes and massive price tags.
These coveted baseball cards are considered the crème de la crème of trading card collections, firmly cementing their status as priceless gems in sports history.
1. Mickey Mantle, 1952 Topps
Sale Price: $12,600,000
For years, the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle has been heralded as one of the most valuable baseball cards and still holds its top position as one of the most expensive baseball cards today. Just how expensive? Over $12 million.
This card’s iconic imagery, unparalleled condition, and historical significance make it a truly unique collectible item. As one iconic sports collector once noted, “It’s the Mona Lisa of sports cards.”
That sports collector is now the proud owner of the most expensive baseball card in the world. This 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle sold recently for over $12 million. That’s an amazing price considering it recently sold for about a quarter of that before.
2. Honus Wagner, 1909-1911 ATC T206
Sale Price: $7,250,000
Honus Wagner’s 1909-1911 ATC T206 card is among the most valuable baseball cards. And yes, we’re talking about value here, as it’s not just about price. This isn’t a claim made lightly, as president and CEO of the Mile High Card Company Brian Drent commented on in a statement.
It’s no surprise, given its rarity and impressive condition. Baseball card collectors know Honus Wagner has become synonymous with rare baseball cards and valuable cards, making this an exciting piece of memorabilia.
3. 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth
Sale Price: $4,212,000
The 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth card is considered one of the most valuable baseball cards out there as it’s part of a set issued by Goudey before the Second World War. They’d produced several memorable cards to compete with Topps, who was gaining popularity then.
Of all of Ruth’s cards in the 1933 Goudey set, this card with a yellow background and was graded at PSA 8. This means it was the rarest and sold for an incredible $203,150 in 2016. However, more recently, it sold for well over $4 million. The real kicker? It’s seen as one of his most aesthetically pleasing baseball cards ever released.
4. Mike Trout 2009 Bowman Chrome Superfractor
Sale Price: $3,936,000
This is an ultra-rare card from a highly sought-after set that features the Angels’ superstar outfielder in his early days in the MLB. In 2018, this particular card set the record for modern-day sports card prices when it sold on eBay for $400,000. However, in 2020, it fetched a whopping price of $3.9 million, shattering the record previously set by the T206 Honus Wagner card in 2016.
The Trout rookie card has been graded as Mint 9 condition and features an exclusive serial number ‘1/1,’ certifying its status as a one-of-a-kind item. Plus, it’s signed, which adds to the incredible value of the baseball card.
5. 1916 Sporting News Babe Ruth
Sale Price: $2,460,000
Babe Ruth is considered one of the greatest names in baseball history, so it should be no surprise that his 1916 Sporting News Babe Ruth card is one of the most valuable baseball cards.
Unlike other cards from the American Tobacco Company, which were used for promotional purposes, this card was meant to be a collectible business card. It was created by Felix Mendelsohn and had a blank back so businesses could add their advertisements.
As many as 16 companies have been advertised on these cards, which hold strong value today, with a PSA 7 selling for $717,000 in August 2016. However, the current most expensive card has sold for just over $2.4 million.
6. Roberto Clemente, 1955 Topps
Sale Price: $1,107,000
Sporting card aficionados continuously seek out this Roberto Clemente card due to its rare combination of age, condition, and historical significance. What’s more impressive is that it was once a part of the legendary Dmitri Young Collection, a trove of powerful artifacts that date back as far as 1868. This special card was sold in 2012 at a record-breaking price of over $1.1 million.
7. Mike Trout, 2011
Sale Price: $1,050,000
Mike Trout’s “Red Refractor” cards are extremely rare, with less than five ever produced. But this card is incredibly valuable because it’s his first autograph in an MLB uniform. This might not be his infamous rookie card, but it’s an incredible masterpiece of art.
The glossy finish, unique and eye-catching designs, and distinct coloring all help to make Mike Trout’s 2009 card a huge hit among collectors. This makes it great for those looking to add something aesthetically pleasing to their baseball card collection.
8. Ty Cobb 1909-11 T206 Tobacco
Sale Price: $894,250
The T206 Tobacco Ty Cobb card is one of five different Ty Cobb cards included in the T206 set. However, this one is by far the rarest. Most notably, it was the only one to feature a red background behind Ty Cobb’s portrait on its front.
The back had green ink that read, “TY COBB, KING OF THE SMOKING TOBACCO WORLD,” which makes this card even more special since it advertised for a smoking tobacco brand. This added detail and rarity have made this particular piece of memorabilia highly sought after by collectors everywhere — no wonder it’s valued at nearly $900,000.
9. Mickey Mantle, 1951 Bowman
Sale Price: $750,000
Most reference books still rate this card as trailing behind Mantle’s 1952 Topps. Still, suppose owners choose to open the bidding by offering this collectible at a premium price. In that case, it could be even more sought after than its more prominent predecessor.
That’s because this particular card was Mantle’s first issued rookie card. This makes the baseball card a title edition with real star potential that collectors and investors alike would be happy to get their hands on. Some collectors estimate that the card could sell for about $1 million at an auction, making this one a card to keep your eye on.
10. Pete Rose, 1963 Topps
Sale Price: $717,000
The 1963 Topps card was the only rookie card Pete Rose ever had. To add to its exclusivity, only one PSA 10 has been discovered and documented since this card was released in 1963. The $717,000 sale occurred in 2016, but if it were to go up for auction today, many experts agree that its selling price would be well over a million dollars, and some say even higher.
Considering his fame and legacy, along with the limited availability of the card, the 1963 Topps Pete Rose card remains one of the most sought-after cards by collectors worldwide. If you want to trade baseball cards, consider keeping your eyes peeled for this one.
11. Eddie Plank 1909-11 T206 White Border
Sale Price: $700,000
One of the most sought-after cards amongst collectors is Eddie Plank's 1909-11 T206 White Border card. Its rarity has also played a large part in increasing its value, as it's estimated that only 75 to 100 cards are currently in existence.
Why are there so few Eddie Plank cards? Stories say that Plank objected to cigars, cigarettes, and tobacco companies using his image, which resulted in his card being taken off the market entirely. So, if you can get your hands on any Eddie Plank card, you'll be the proud owner of a rare baseball card.
12. “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, 1909 American Caramel
Sale Price: $667,149
This iconic Joe Jackson card holds the record for the most expensive sale of a candy card. Likewise, not many other Joe Jackson cards were released while he was playing, making this one particularly special. With Jackson's undeniable influence on the game, the scarcity of cards like this one only increases its monetary price, which is currently just over $660,000.
13. Babe Ruth, 1916 Sporting News
Sale Price: $600,000
If you're a baseball card fanatic, you might know that this Babe Ruth card is often referred to as a key component to a complete set known as the "Sporting News Set."
What makes this particular card stand out from the rest is its unique blank back, even though other cards from this same set had advertising designations on the back. It is highly sought after by collectors because of its rarity and has become a symbol of excellence in card collecting culture.
14. Nolan Ryan & Jerry Koosman, 1968 Topps
Sale Price: $600,000
With only one example of a PSA 10 existing, this iconic dual rookie card would be a prize for any collector who managed to snag it. When the card went up for auction in 2016, some people predicted that if it were put back on the auction block today, its worth would soar above the $1 million mark.
While it's priced at a cool $600,000, the card itself is quite special. After all, it features both Mets rookies Nolan Ryan and Jerry Koosman (just before Ryan went on to pitch in the 1969 World Series, which ended up being his only World Series appearance ever).
15. Babe Ruth, 1914 Baltimore News
Sale Price: $575,000
While many people know Babe Ruth as a Yankee Legend, this card featured him in his minor league Baltimore Orioles uniform two years before he made his Major League debut.
His incredible story and early career accomplishments have made this card highly sought after by collectors who appreciate the history behind it. If you're a true fan of baseball history, this card holds just as much historical value as it does monetary.
16. Willie Mays, 1952 Topps
Sale Price: $478,000
The 1952 Topps set has become iconic in recent years, including memorable rookie cards of Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson, and Yogi Berra.
It gained its reputation due to a weird turn of events back in 1953. Apparently, all the unsold cards from this set were returned to Topps and dumped into the Hudson River. So, if you can find a 1952 Willie Mays card, you'll be one of the few in the world with one.
17. Satchel Paige 1948 Leaf
Sale Price: $432,000
Most people don't even know this card exists, but to a baseball fan or a collector, it has legendary status. Satchel Paige was a great Negro Leagues pitcher and will always be remembered for his amazing feats on the mound.
After he joined the Major Leagues in 1948, however, a new set of trading cards with him included were released by Leaf. This was one of only a few baseball cards made of Satchel during his time in the Major League, making it extra special for baseball fans.
18. Jackie Robinson 1948 Leaf
Sale Price: $400,980
Just three months before this card's last sale at a staggering $400,980, another PSA 8 of the same card sold for only $174,000. This incredible jump in price highlights that this particular card remains highly desirable amongst collectors and enthusiasts alike. Consider buying if you see one at an auction and are building out your baseball card collection.
19. Mickey Mantle 1953 Topps
Sale Price: $396,000
The Mickey Mantle 1953 Topps card is among the most valuable baseball cards. Its popularity in the collectible world has only grown since the record-breaking sale of a near-mint copy of his 1952 rookie card at an auction house in 2019. Simply put, Mickey Mantle cards are still incredibly valuable.
20. Babe Ruth 1933 Goudey #53
Sale Price: $203,150
Finally, we have the incredibly rare Babe Ruthe 1933 Goudey card. Out of the four Ruth cards that are a part of the set, the yellow one stands out as the most valuable and scarce. This means this card is something to keep an eye out for whenever it surfaces in an auction. However, the other three cards in the set aren't bad collector's items either.
Where to Find Rare Baseball Cards
Where can you find these rare baseball cards for purchase these days? The internet is the place to go if you're looking for rare baseball cards. Many online communities and auction sites are dedicated to selling and trading vintage cards. You can also visit good old-fashioned memorabilia stores in many cities.
Wherever you choose to look, remember to research first to know what kind of condition and authenticity the card should have before finalizing the purchase. Don't trust every online seller you see. Ensure they're offering certified memorabilia and baseball cards that are real.
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