Many of the greatest baseball card collections of all time quietly began without anyone hardly noticing. I say barely noticed because often, the most dedicated collectors were buying when everyone else was either selling or wasn’t even paying attention.
To be a great collector, you need to collect through the ups and downs. Suddenly, after several decades, the great collections are recognized.
Like almost anything else worth doing, baseball card collecting takes dedication and a long-term view.
“A Magic carpet that takes you away from work-a-day cares to havens of relaxing quietude where you can relive the pleasures and adventures of a past day – brought to life in vivid picture and prose.” – Jefferson R. Burdick, owner of one of the greatest baseball card collections of all time.
Trading Cards, Making Deals
Many people look back on baseball card collecting as their first encounter with business and investing.
The skills acquired and practiced during this childhood pastime were an essential part of growing up and maturing as an adult in many cases.
Learning new skills and having a ton of fun at the same time is a recipe for success. Many people can still recall their own best and worst trades made from their childhood collections and lessons learned from each.
A Whole New World of Card Collecting
Decades later, we find ourselves in a completely different world when it comes to card collecting.
Some of the most significant private baseball card collections in the world are held by people who fondly remember trading and collecting cards as kids.
Here are some of the most amazing sports card collections ever assembled. And, no, the list is not just billionaire wealthy collectors. The finest collections are often regular-everyday folks who stick with cards for decades.
The Dmitri Young Collection
One of the most impressive baseball rookie card collections of all time was assembled by Dmitri Young, a former Major League baseball player.
Over a 13-year major league baseball career, Dmitri Young not only traveled the country as a member of the Cincinnati Reds, at the same time, he searched out the best Gem Mint rookie cards for his collection.
You can’t mention Dmitri’s collection without discussing Professional Sports Authenticator. (PSA) His name is stamped across many of the most legendary vintage rookie cards, all in PSA 10 graded condition.
Baseball fans might remember Dmitri Young, the player, but many collectors are unaware of the epic collection he assembled.
His collection featured nearly 500 rookie cards of the most famous baseball players in history. All graded in PSA 10 condition. He’s sold off most of his collection in 2012 during an internet auction held by SCP.
To own a PSA 10 rookie card with the “Dmitri Young Collection” on the PSA slab is a true piece of history.
The E. Powell Miller Collection
E Powell Miller’s collection is valued at an estimated $5 Million. The highlight of his collection is a complete set of T206 cards that went into tobacco packages between 1909 and 1911.
Many of the most notable card collectors started out in a similar fashion. A love of baseball and a dream of someday wearing a pro jersey was a common trait among the youngsters just starting a collection.
To these collectors, it was a way to stay involved with the game they loved, even in the offseason when there were no games to watch.
When the realization set in that they were not going to be the next Mickey Mantle, Ty Cobb, Hall of Famer, or even hit home runs on the high school team, collecting cards put them up close and personal to the game year-round.
Over the years, careers in different fields are perused, families started, and successes away from baseball are spun into the decades.
Many early collectors return to a past time they had fond memories of. They begin again, this time with new energy, passion, and possibly most importantly, the financial resources they didn’t dream of as a youngster.
Joel Platt, A Lifelong Pursuit of Collecting
One of the most amazing and spectacular stories in sports cards belongs to Joel Platt. The story began when Joel was four years old, hanging around a gas station.
He tossed a match into a car’s gas tank, resulting in an explosion. The youngster landed himself in a hospital for nearly a year.
During this time of recovery Platt’s parents brought him baseball cards while he recovered from his injuries.
Joel Platt’s Dream
During this time, Platt recalls Babe Ruth came to him in a dream. “Don’t give up,” he was told. “You can be a baseball player or open a museum to sports legends.” The words were not taken lightly by the youngster.
After he recovered from the explosion, he continued collecting cards. He expanded his collection to include autographs and other collectibles from the sports world.
Joel continued over the years as a successful professional with a career in Commercial Real Estate and Merchandise Sales.
The Joel Platt Memorabilia and Baseball Card Empire
During this time, he accumulated what turns out to be a over 1 million piece collection valued at over $250 Million. Included was the greatest baseball card collection of all time.
The collection journey has taken Joel around the world. Meeting the most significant collectors and, at times, buying entire collections from others.
In the process, he amassed a genuinely spectacular museum of one-of-a-kind artifacts, sports memorabilia, and historical pieces, many of which could be argued to be priceless.
The Jefferson R. Burdick Collection
For almost 70 years, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has owned one of the greatest baseball card collections of all time. It’s one of the ultimate treasures for baseball card collectors and historians of the game.
Donated by a Syracuse electrician named Jefferson Burdick in 1947, he is known and considered the father of baseball card collecting. The collection contains over 300,000 items in which many, if not most, have never seen the light of day.
The Best Kept Secret in Card Collecting
From the age of 10 years old, Burdick began collecting early baseball cards, which date from the 1860s to 1963 and include not only sports cards but also advertising inserts, postcards, and posters.
Found on The Met website is a great quote from Burdick. In 1960 he wrote, card collection is “a magic carpet that takes you away from work-a-day cares to havens of relaxing quietude where you can relive the pleasures and adventures of a past day – brought to life in vivid picture and prose.”
The collection includes over 500 albums of vintage cards donated by Burdick, which were kept in a museum storeroom.
The Most Amazing Card Collection of All Time
The cards couldn’t possibly be displayed for public viewing due to the immense quantities of the old cards. So in 2010, a fundraising initiative began to digitize the entire collection and create an online database where anyone could access and enjoy the preserved historical cards.
More than 30,000 baseball cards are included and represent one of the greatest baseball card collections of all time.
They are illustrating the history of the game from the first card of the dead-ball era in the early 1900s to the golden age and modern era of the sport.
The amazing collection includes cards from 1909 to 1953. The famous T-Series 1909-1911 American Tobacco Company, 1920s American Caramel cards, a Joe Jackson
E145 Cracker Jack card and the very first Topps baseball card from 1952, including a rare Topps Dugout Quiz R414-7 Willie Mays card from 1953.
How much is Jefferson Burdick’s collection worth? The collection of over 300,000 print memorabilia is worth tens of millions of dollars.
The Collection Worth Tens of Millions
Not only is it one of the largest collections in the world, but the condition of each card is exquisite. Burdick invented a numbering system to keep his cards organized, a system that is still used to this day.
While the numbering system helped keep him organized, it also helped preserve the cards in mint condition for nearly several decades before they were gifted to The Met Museum.
It’s genuinely an immense wealth of history and nostalgia gifted by not only a generous collector but also a great writer and historian.
“The 1937 baseball season is now in full swing, and the nation’s fans are daily cheering their favorite diamond stars. Baseball’s heroes come and go, but few people have a better record of the game’s great ones than the card collector . . . For Ruth and Gehrig and other present-day celebrities, we must turn to the various candy and gum cards issued during the past few years. While intended primarily for the younger fans, they are of equal interest to all who love our national game.” —Jefferson R. Burdick
The James Micioni Collection
When James Micioni recently passed away at the age of 97, he left behind one of the most stunning collections in the world.
The collection included dozens of expensive baseball cards, including six 1933 Babe Ruth cards autographed by The Babe himself.
Uncle Jimmy, as most referred to Missoni, also left behind cards of Jimmy Foxx, Lou Gehrig, a Reggie Jackson rookie, a 1965 Topps Pete Rose, and a 1949 Bowman Jackie Robinson.
One of the most stunning facts from the James Micioni collection is the fact that although his relatives were aware he collected baseball memorabilia, they were not aware of the extent or the value his collection included.
Paul Jones, The Card King
Since the first minor league baseball game Paul Jones attended at age 10, he’s been hooked on baseball cards.
It was a Las Vegas Stars game, and Paul’s father Barry purchased a pack of the team cards so Paul could get a few autographs before the game.
A few decades later, Paul Jones owns 2.8 million baseball cards. In 2008, he became the Guinness World Record holder for owning the biggest private card collection of all time.
Paul’s father Barry was quoted, “one day it just clicked, it helped him with reading, it helped him with math, it helped him with spelling. He was just immersed in it.”
Paul, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, says about his collection, “every card is a good card.”
What I love about Paul’s collection is that it contains over 2,000 Jose Canseco cards. Paul was a batboy during one of Canseco’s minor league games, so he has a special connection to the slugger.
The Pat Neshek Collection
Professional baseball players who also collect baseball cards always intrigues me. The stories they’ve heard, the inside look at the game, it’s the view behind the curtain everyone wants.
Pat Neshek played 13 years in the pros and collected cards his entire life. His pro baseball journey didn’t stop him from building an amazing collection.
One of the unique things in Neshek’s collection is complete sets with every single card autographed. For example, he has a 1970 Topps set nearly complete with each card signed by the player.
He’s traded his own autograph with fans to help him complete the sets. Anyone who sends him a signed card he needs, gets a Neshek autograph in return. How much fun is that? Trading cards with a pro ballplayer and fellow collector.
The Collection of the Famous DJ, Steve Aoki
Just because you’re a famous D.J. and world famous music legend doesn’t mean you can collect sports cards.
Steve Aoki is a world-renowned music producer in the electronic dance music scene, and also one of the biggest trading card fans and collectors over the last few years.
One of his favorite cards include a PSA 10 Michael Jordan rookie, which he sold in 2021 for more than $300,000. He also holds a Mike Trout rookie card in PSA 10 condition worth big money.
Aoki is such a big fan of card collecting, he produced a collaboration with Topps in 2022 called, “Steve Aoki’s Baseball Party.”
One Hobby, but Many Different Reasons to Collect
People are drawn to collect various things for different reasons. Most of us won’t have multi-million dollar collections worthy of a museum dedication like E Powell Miller and Jefferson Burdick.
The one common thread that comes through over and over as I read about these legendary collectors is the pure joy that collecting can bring.
A youngster not only learns many essential life skills at an early age perfecting their collections, but they also tend to have tons of fun. Evident by fond memories of chasing that next big card.
Dreams of having the greatest baseball collections of all time while having fun and making new friends.
Beckett Baseball Card Monthly
Then the game changed. Someone brought a thin magazine to the trading session and dropped it on the carpet in the middle of the floor. “What’s that?” One kid quizzed the group with a puzzled look.
The magazine had the words ‘Beckett Baseball Card Monthly’ across the top and a glossy cover with a close-up photo of a then superstar-of-the-moment ballplayer.
Beckett Baseball card monthly changed the game for the kids in the neighborhood. Now we searched for the highest-priced and most popular items rather than merely collecting our favorite players.
The goal of collecting favorite players and hometown heroes suddenly shifted to dollars and cents.
The ‘Beckett’ was a must-have item; we could now see up-to-date baseball card values. Those without the latest pricing info would soon be swindled out of their high-priced cards without ever knowing it.
As cards rose and fell in value, the fortunes shifted throughout the neighborhood as each kid would anticipate and track their personal holdings.
Kids flocked to stores for more unopened packs, desperate to find the next “holy grail.” Upper Deck, Donruss, Fleer, Score, Pacific, and of course Topps, we wanted them all. And the luckiest of us bought them by the box.
Back in the late 80s, it didn’t matter who your favorite team was anymore. We were now tracking cards with the Beckett price guide. Everyone collected baseball cards. We suddenly saw the dollar signs. The whole game changed.
A Few of My Favorite Cards
Sometimes it’s fun to pull out a random stack of cards from the collection and check them out. That’s what I did down below.
Most of these cards are in pretty rough shape. If they were in perfect PSA 10 condition, a few of these cards would be worth a ton. But the cards below are most likely worth very little. But it’s ok! I still have fun pulling out a stack of random cards after several years have passed.
Sometimes I find cards I forgot I even owned! If you’re a veteran collector, you know what I’m talking about. It’s fun!
The Bob Probert Letter
A few of the cards below have extreme sentimental value. For example, my Bob Probert autographed card. When I was a kid, I mailed the card to Probert along with handwritten letter telling him he was my favorite NHL fighter.
He mailed me back, and included his signature on my card. Getting that card back in the mail was an epic day. If you don’t know who Bob Probert is – there’s not much I can do for you now – except tell you to google his hockey fights. He was a beast! (RIP)
The Will Clark Letter
There’s a similar story with the Will Clark autograph. Sent Will The Thrill a letter in the mail and explained to him how I was modeling my baseball swing after watching him. A few weeks later, a letter from the San Francisco Giants with my card signed by The Natural.
Like visiting your local card shop not really sure what you might find, or pulling a random stack from your collection after ten years, how much fun is card collecting?!
My point is this. Have you ever seen a card collector looking over their collection with a frown on their face, in a grumpy mood. Neither have I.
Card Collectors –> Looking to Sell Baseball Cards? Here’s How (and Where) To Do It
Here’s some advice – Find a local card shop to visit this weekend. Thank me later
Attic Capital – Writer, Editor, and Lifelong Collector
I would love to connect with you, so don’t hesitate to reach out and let me know more about your passion for collecting.