The list of most valuable baseball cards of all time is constantly changing. A recent string of record-breaking auction sales has taken the sports card world to new heights.
So let’s take a look at the most recent list of the top 13 most valuable baseball cards in the world. A new record sale can come at any time, so we’ll update the list each time it changes. Enjoy!
What is the Most Valuable Baseball Card?
The most valuable baseball card of all time is the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle rookie card valued at $12.6 million. The record sale from Heritage Auctions almost doubled the previous record for the most valuable baseball card in the world, when the 1909-1911 Honus Wagner T206 sold for $6.6 million.
The $12.6 million dollar sale also more than doubled the previous record for the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle rookie card. The previous record for the famous card was $5.2 million. The difference between the two cards is their graded rating.
The new record Mantle card holds a 9.5 grade from SCG, while the previous record was graded at a PSA 9 rating.
When it comes to the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle rookie card, I guess now we know the difference in value between a half-point grade is nearly $7 million.
#13 – 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle $750,000
While the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle steals the thunder of all other Mantle cards, don’t forget about the 1951 Bowman. It’s the official Mickey Mantle Rookie. Why isn’t the Bowman Mantle worth as much as the 1952 Topps Mantle? Some will argue the 1952 Topps Mantle is rarer than the Bowman. Let’s take a look at the numbers.
PSA population reports show only one PSA 10-graded 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle card. And only 9 ‘PSA 9’ graded cards. Drop down to a PSA 8, and there are still just 53.
The 1952 Topps Mantle card, on the other hand, shows 3 PSA 10 graded cards, 6 PSA 9 graded cards, and 35 PSA 8 graded cards.
You could make the argument that whoever holds the one and only PSA 10 graded 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle rookie card is sitting on a gold mine. Who knows what it would bring at an auction, it’s anyone’s guess.
There’s another argument to make between the 1951 Bowman and 1952 Topps Mantle cards. 1952 was the year that “The Mick” turned into a superstar. At the end of the 1951 season, Joe DiMaggio retired, sending Mantle over to center field.
Mantle led the Yankees to a World Series title in 1952, smashing two home runs and knocking in the winning runs in game 7. 1952 will always be the year “The Commerce Comet” became a star.
#12 – 1941 Play Ball Joe DiMaggio $750,000
There is only one PSA 10 Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio 1941 Play Ball card, and it sold for $750,000 at a 2020 Heritage Auctions event. While the 1941 card is not DiMaggio’s rookie card, it’s the most popular for a few reasons.
First, the card is absolutely beautiful. the artwork, the color, and the swing everyone remembers as pure DiMaggio. Secondly, the card is memorable because 1941 was the year DiMaggio famously hit in an MLB record 56 straight games.
He also won one of his three MVP awards that year with a .357 batting average and led the New York Yankees to their fifth World Series title in six years.
There’s no doubt DiMaggio’s most famous streak was hitting in 56-games, but he was also an all-star in all 13 seasons of his career. That’s another amazing streak for Joltin’ Joe.
PSA 9-graded DiMaggio Play Ball cards are valued at $215,000, while the PSA 8 grade sells for $85,000.
#11 – 1952 Topps Jackie Robinson #312, $960,000
Heritage Auctions recorded the record 1952 Topps Jackie Robinson sale, one of just 11 PSA 9 graded cards. Interestingly, there are no known PSA 10-grade Jackie Robinson cards from the 1952 Topps set.
It’s no wonder Jackie Robinson would rank on the list of most valuable baseball cards in the world. His amazing career was full of crazy-impressive baseball stats.
For all the things Jackie is remembered for, one of the seldom repeated stats is he only struck out 291 times in his entire career. With over 5,000 career big league at-bats, it’s just another reminder of how great a hitter Jackie Robinson was.
#10 – 1969 Topps Reggie Jackson Rookie Card #260 $1,005,800
The 1969 Topps Reggie Jackson rookie card is one of the great vintage baseball cards out there. Featuring Reggie in his Oakland Athletics uniform, the Topps card is difficult to find in PSA 8 or 9 conditions.
The 1969 Topps set also featured Nolan Ryan in his second season. A card that was his first solo appearance after the infamous 1968 Topps Nolan Ryan/Jerry Koosman rookie card. But the Reggie Jackson rookie card is, by far, the most valuable from the 1969 card set.
There is only one PSA 10, 1969 Topps Reggie Jackson rookie card, and Heritage Auctions sold it for over $1 million in 2021. To add even more allure to the single PSA 10 Reggie rookie card in existence, it comes from the legendary Dmitri Young Collection.
For those who are schooled in the art of sports card collecting, you know that the Dmitri Young Collection was built by former major leaguer Dmitri Young that included rookie cards of the greatest players of all time. All mint condition, PSA 10 rated.
It was perhaps the greatest collection of rookie cards ever assembled. Then auctioned off in 2012. Now, the cards are spread around the world, but each card is registered under the “Dmitri Young Collection” and can be traced back to the original owner.
There’s no wonder the PSA 10-graded, 1969 Topps ‘Mighty Reggie’ rookie card ranks as one of the most valuable baseball cards of all time.
#9 – 1925 Exhibits Lou Gehrig $1,032,000
Memory Lane Auctions sold the million-dollar 1925 Exhibits, Lou Gehrig, in 2021. While a million dollars is a big sale for the PSA 5 Lou Gehrig card, it’s not even the finest example of the card.
The record sale represents one of four PSA 5 1925 Lou Gehrig cards. Here’s the kicker, there are two other 1925 Exhibits Lou Gehrig cards graded at a PSA 6 level. If one of these two cards should ever come to auction they would surely command hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of dollars more than the PSA 5 card.
#8 – 1955 Topps Roberto Clemente Rookie Card #164 $1,107,000
The 1955 Topps Roberto Clemente rookie card sold for $1.1 million during a Goldin Auctions sale in 2021, but there’s something to keep in mind. This sale was one of eleven PSA-9 cards.
The next obvious question for a $1 million PSA 9 sale would be, “how many PSA 10 cards are there?”
There’s only one. And it’s from the famous Dmitri Young Collection. The PSA 10 card sold back in 2012 during the now infamous breakup of the ‘Dmitri’ collection.
The one and only PSA 10 card sold for $432,000 back in 2012! When baseball card values were in the tank. And nowhere near starting their climb in value.
Let me ask you this – if one of the eleven 1955 Topps Roberto Clemente rookie cards sold for $1.1 million, how much is the only PSA 10 card worth today?
It’s hard to imagine what the GEM Mint PSA 10, Dmitri Young Collection – Roberto Clemente rookie card would sell for today.
#7 – 1916 M101 Sporting News Babe Ruth #151 $1,452,000
Here’s another amazing card, the Great Bambino, Babe Ruth, on a 1916 Sporting News card in PSA 6 condition. Memory Lane Auctions sold the card in 2021 for $1.4 million making it the seventh all-time most valuable baseball card in the world.
Just six years earlier, in 2015, another identical PSA 6 card sold for just $204,000. That’s a six-fold increase in value in six years. Not bad, even for The Babe.
Something to keep an eye on. This also one PSA 7 Babe Ruth Sporting News card, and also one single PSA 8 card. If either of these two 1916 Sporting News Babe cards ever come to auction, they might challenge the all-time most expensive baseball card record.
#6 – 2009 Bowman Chrome Draft Prospects Mike Trout Superfractors Rookie Card #BDPP89 $3,840,000
In 2020, Goldin Auctions offered the 2009 Bowman Chrome Draft Prospects Mike Trout Superfractors rookie card with an opening offer of $1 million. After four weeks of bidding, the final sale rang in at $3.8 million.
At the time of the sale, it was a new record for the most valuable baseball card in the world. Since then, of course, the record has fallen several times.
So what made the Bowman Mike Trout so valuable? The card is a “one-of-one” autograph, graded by Beckett with a BGS-9 rating. The seller of the card purchased it on eBay in 2018 for $400,000.
#5 – 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth #53 $4,212,000
Memory Lane Auctions sold the only PSA 9, 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth card in 2021 for $4.2 million.
The yellow-colored card is considered to be the most significant, and hardest to find, of the 1933 Goudey set. You might recognize the 1933 Goudey card of another Hall of Famer, Lou Gehrig. His Goudey card is also a highly valuable card from the 1933 set.
#4 – 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle Rookie Card #311, PSA 9, $5,200,000
Shortly after the 2009 Bowman Mike Trout rookie card broke the record for most valuable baseball card of all time, PWCC Marketplace shattered the record with a $5.2 million sale.
The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle in PSA 9 grade was, just for a moment, the most expensive baseball card in the world.
#3 – 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth $6,000,000
The 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth card held the record for the most expensive baseball card in the world when it sold in 2021 for $6 million.
The record was quickly smashed by two other giant sales, but arguably the greatest player in baseball history also held the record for the most valuable baseball card, if just for a few months.
A private seller sold the card to Collectable, a fractional ownership platform, where investors can purchase shares of the card.
#2 – 1909-1911 T206 Sweet Caporal Honus Wagner, $6,606,000
Nearly 200 Honus Wagner T206 cards were produced back in 1909 by the American Tobacco Company. Nobody could have imagined it would become the most expensive baseball card of all time.
Honus Wagner, known as one of the greatest shortstops to ever play the game, was one of the first five players to be inducted into the baseball hall of fame.
He’s part of a legendary crew alongside Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, and Christy Mathewson, who were the other original members at Cooperstown. Wagner also takes the crown as the player on the most valuable baseball card of all time.
When the tobacco company decided to print cards featuring Major League baseball players back in 1909, apparently, they didn’t approach Wagner beforehand for permission.
When word got out that a collector card with his face would be distributed with the tobacco company name Wagner was not pleased.
He ordered the company to halt all production of the card immediately. Some speculate that he was concerned with his image being tied to a tobacco product giving his young fans a wrong impression of him using tobacco products.
Others speculate that he was upset he was not sharing in the profit the company might make due to his card being distributed alongside the packs of tobacco.
Whichever way the story played out, the company halted production of the Wagner card after only about 200 were produced. This is one of the significant reasons the Wagner card went on to become the most valuable baseball card.
Today only about 50 of those cards remain in existence. Of the 50 cards in circulation, there’s only a handful that has been examined and is believed to be in top condition.
The ‘Jumbo’ is one of these few cards receiving a 5 out of 10 rating by the PSA baseball card grading company. Only three cards in existence received a 5 rating.
In October of 2016 the card sold at auction for $3,120,000 making it the highest price ever paid for a baseball card at that time.
The card is known as the “Jumbo” T206 because of its unusually large borders due to a miscut, which allows for a near-perfect card within the boundaries of the actual picture.
Goldin Auctions offered the card where the founder of the auction house Ken Goldin was quoted as saying, “serious collectors understand that every time a card like this is offered for auction, it may be the last time for a long time.”
In 2016 baseball cards were experiencing a sort of comeback. Goldin goes on, “the excitement that the auction of a T206 Wagner generates, coupled with the current booming market for high-grade trading cards, creates the perfect storm for establishing a new standard for sports memorabilia.”
With the tremendous increase in the value of key trading cards and the influx of new collectors, the market has been clamoring for a high-grade Wagner to come to market.
More T206 Honus Wagner Intrigue
There’s another T206 that deserves some attention not only for its controversy but because the twists and turns of this particular card impact the value of the ‘T206 Jumbo’ and frankly all other T206 cards. This has become known over the years as the ‘Gretzky Wagner.’
In 1991 hockey legend Wayne Gretzky purchased a T206 Honus Wagner card at auction. The Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) company graded all sports cards for their quality and authenticity and graded this particular Wagner card an 8 out of 10 or ‘near mint’ status.
Later the card was proven to have been trimmed at the edges giving it a higher value. The PSA grader admitted he knew the card was altered when he gave the 8 out of 10 grade.
Since then, the card has been re-graded and does not receive the 8 score after the card has been proven to have been altered.
The downgrading of the Gretzky Wagner now makes the Jumbo Wagner one of the 3 highest-rated cards with a 5 out of 10 score positively impacting its value once again.
ESPN did a 30-for-30 documentary on The Gretzky Wagner titled, “Holy Grail, the T206 Honus Wagner.”
They give an excellent rundown of the controversy where PSA graded the card at an 8 rating but was later found to have been trimmed on the edges.
Some argue the card is actually worth more having been altered because of the story and controversy behind the card itself.
#1 – 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle Rookie Card #311, SGC 9.5, $12,600,000
Heritage Auctions completed the biggest, most valuable baseball card sale in history when it sold the 1952 Mickey Mantle rookie card for $12.6 million.
The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle baseball card is one of the most recognizable baseball cards in history.
The Most Valuable Baseball Card of All Time
The story goes like this, the Topps baseball card company had to make room in its warehouse for new additions of cards, so the company dumped hundreds of cases into the ocean, which included many of the ’52 Mantle cards.
With the limited supply of the 1952 Topps cards, or more importantly, the almost-unbelievable STORY of limited supply, the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle strikes a chord with all baseball card collectors as the pinnacle of the collecting industry.
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