Who would have imagined that collecting a piece of thick paper containing an image and statistics of a person could drive people so crazy? It’s crazy to the extent that a simple hobby turned into a billion-dollar business. It is not child’s play anymore. Sports Cards that are rare and can be minted still circulate among eminent collectors for bountiful money. But, apart from collectors, the industry has turned the eyes of several investors with its growing momentum and popularity. In this article, we will tell you about the most expensive sports cards in the world, most valuable sports cards of all time and the world’s most expensive sports cards. From their origin to their recent trade, their ongoing journey, significance, and interesting facts, we will cover everything.
History of Sports Cards
It started in the 1890s in America with a British tobacco company printing advertisements on thick paper inserted in a pack of cigarettes. The promotions were slowly replaced with pictures or information about war, nature, or sports personalities. Only the cards with pictures of sportsmen are known as sports trading cards, while others are non-sports trading cards. It became a popular choice among children, crazy fans of sports, card collectors, sports experts, and other people.
Mostly the chewing gum and tobacco companies benefited from this market be it manufacturers or retailers. Players whose photographs were used would get royalty fees. Companies that manufactured these cards started creating curiosity among collectors by introducing numbered cards or, the more demanding ones, the signed cards.
Types of Sports Cards
Let us learn how sports cards came into being in different sports and their history.
Basketball Sport Cards
In layman’s language, Basketball cards usually show one or more players from the sports like NBA, Olympic basketball, WBL, and WNBA.
Have you ever heard about College Athlete Felts B-33? That was officially the first-ever series to have basketball cards in 1910. At least 30 cards in the entire series were related to basketball.
Boxing Sport Cards
Goodwin & Company was the first to release its first set of boxer cards in 1886. You can even look at America’s Greatest Boxing Cards online. You’ll find a boxing card related to John C. Heenan, released by a famous photographer Charles D. in the 1860s, who had an enticing era among sports enthusiasts!
Baseball Sport Cards
It all started with baseball cards. They were popular among the crazy fans. A card typically contains statistics and exciting information about the players or athletes. One of the sides would have the elegant faces of one or more sports figures. They were a hit.
Baseball was a popular sport in the USA. It still is, but it was one of the few sports usually played. Now it’s commonly played in different parts of the world. The majestic sport and its cards now have many fans worldwide, including in Canada, Cuba, and Japan.
Cricket Sport Cards
It was the 1890s—a beautiful period for the sports world. Different sports were flourishing, gaining the attention of sports fans. Any popular sport would be like an opportunity for firms to increase sales by introducing a card for that particular game. For cricket, it was H.O. & W.D., a tobacco firm. The cards made a debut in the industry in 1896.
Like other cards, they had a picture and statistics related to cricket. Expanding the industry further, Australian Sniders & Abrahams in 1905 and Capstan in 1909–10 issued cricket sets bringing a new wave to the market.
30 Most Expensive Sports Cards In The World
Today, the sports card industry has become organized. It has grown bigger and better by generating revenues through printing, retailing, and royalty fees and finally trading these cards. With online shopping platforms like eBay emerging everywhere, it has become simple to trade these cards which have resulted in their prices increasing to huge values. Let us now go straight into the list of the most expensive sports cards in the world.
1. Michael Jordan 1986-87 Fleer (Tie)
The first on the list of most valuable sports cards of all time is “Michael Jordan 1986-87 Fleer (Tie)”. This card is another excellent grade of the PSA 10 card, holding a high value of $720,000.
If you’re one of the collectors reading this, I bet you have a powerful temptation to add this card to your valuable collection. It’s one of the most popular and famous cards of all. Not going to lie, but it looks pretty graceful. There’s no doubt that its value will assuredly appreciate in the future. The last recorded sale for this card was in January 2021.
The fame that Michael Jordan holds is immense. He is a legend. This card is from his third season. It’s famous for being his facto rookie card. Of course, other cards from the 1984-85 season are a set of M.J. rookie cards. Still, due to the massive production of those cards, given his growing popularity, we can’t identify the originals from the ones reproduced afterward.
I wonder who owns the original ones! And if the owner knows that it’s the original copy! Well! That’s a question for another day. Let’s move on to another one.
2. LeBron James 2004 Topps Chrome Superfractor (Tie)
The only person in the sports fraternity to have more cards than anyone is LeBron James. The rarity of the card makes it unique because a Topps basketball card is not usually on the list. Also, this specific card is just 1 of 1 and a refractor; if you’re a collector, you would know it can be categorized as one-of-a-kind.
A refractor card refracts light and displays distinctive colors. Trust me; it is more incredible than it sounds. It has a perfect rating of 10.
You would be glad to know that it has a value of a whopping $720,000, and the more astonishing fact is that it is the least expensive on the list. It was last traded in October 2020.
3. Pete Rose/Al Weis/Ken McMullen/Pedro Gonzalez 1963 Topps
Again with a perfect grading of PSA 10, this beauty is valued at a massive amount of $773,171. The remarkable thing about this card is that it’s unique. You might not believe it, but it’s the most famous of all Pete Rose rookie cards. If you see an image of this card, you will see how elegant it is, with Rose and three other players on it. The fame of Rose hits differently! Well! Why wouldn’t it? He was baseball’s all-time hits leader. The card’s last recorded sales was in August 2016.
The extensive fame attracts the production of more cards. However, this card made it to the list because it’s exceptionally popular. It has an estimated rarity of 6,760. Pete has around 30 years of experience in baseball.
Are you aware of the rookie card for Magic and Bird? It was one from this lot, basically from the 1980-81 Topps basketball set, with a share of Larry Bird, Magic Johnson & Dr.J.
4. Babe Ruth 1916 M101-5 Sport News
With a considerable value of $777,312 and a great ranking of PSA 7, it stands at an estimated rarity of 48. Given the rarity, there are less than 50 of these cards.
Even a PSA 7 is surprisingly good for a 100+year-old card. The hands that took care of it certainly did a great job.
Babe Ruth was born to rock. He had a long list of awards under his belt. His popularity knew no bounds; from winning the world series championship not once or twice but seven times to being an MLB all-star winner. Additionally, he ensured many records in his name for batting, home runs, etc.
Another exciting thing about this card is that it has a blank back instead of having statistics about the player. The last recorded sale of this card was on August 28, ‘2016, through Heritage Auctions.
5. Luka Doncic 2018 Panini Prizm Gold Prizm #280 Rookie Card
One of the most expensive sports cards in the world. Luka Doncic 2018 Panini Prizm Gold Prizm #280 Rookie Card, whose value is even more significant, at a total of $780,000. A PSA 10, no doubt, is very rare. It’s no 3 out of 10. And the last recorded sale for this card was in January 2021.
We can tell you by its popularity that Doncic was a solid personality in the card market. His popularity in the NBA skyrocketed the value of these cards. Imagine you holding this scratch-free mint condition card in your hand. Quite a dream, isn’t it?
6. Eddie Plank 1909-11 T206
It would be unfair not to include this card in the list of the most valuable sports cards of all time in the world. Legend Eddie Plank needs no introduction. He holds the MLB record for most shutouts by a left-handed pitcher with 69, hitting 200 & 300 wins in MLB & completing his career with 326 victories in MLB history.
Eddie Plank was also known as ‘Gettysburg Eddie.’ Plank was featured on the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame since he played for the Philadelphia Athletics for most of his career.
The American Tobacco Company issued these T206 cards from 1909 to 1911. It’s valued at $789,085 with a PSA 7. This ensures its place in the rarest and most expensive category of cards. If estimates are to be believed, then it is 110 in rarity. Interestingly its last sale was way back in 2012.
7. Mickey Mantle 1951 Bowman
Now, this is an even more interesting one. It’s Mickey Mantle’s 1951 Bowman card. Can you guess the value it holds? This card is no less than a whopping $772,959.
With an excellent rating of PSA 9, its estimated rarity is 2,066. Topps was the standard-bearer, but this card has been the standard-bearer. Everyone knew back then that Topps & Bowman were classic editions. This card was their most famous, as evidenced by its value. The last trade recorded on this card was on April 20, 2018, via Heritage Auctions.
Do you know these cards were the “sought-after” ones back then? That’s why these cards were produced in bulk so that the era of the 1990s was even known as the ‘junk wax era.’
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8. Shoeless Joe Jackson American Caramel 1909
The information specific to this card is that it has a value of $667,149 with a PSA rating of 8. The last recorded sale was on August 2016.
9. Patrick Mahomes 2017 Panini National Treasures Black #161 Rookie Patch Autographs
Now this one’s a real catch. It’s No. 1 out of 5. Thus you all know how rare it is. With a grade of BGS (Beckett Grading Services) 9/10, it holds a massive value of $ 840,000.
It’s important to know that it’s one of the only two football cards to be a part of this list. Both quarterback players hold massive fame. Technically, not many people collect these quarterback cards out of Jerry Rice. However, Mahomes is always known to be an excellent, fun & young player.
Because of this, the other quarterbacks & their cards did well. Have you heard of Justin Herbert rookie or the Trevor Lawrence cards? These are a few examples. The card was last traded on January 21.
10. LeBron James/Michael Jordan 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection Logoman
Even with a rating of BGS 8.5, it’s no less than $900,000. Can you guess why? Because it’s 1 of 1, the rarest of its kind. Last traded on February 20, it has both LeBron James’ rookie season & legend Michael Jordan.
Both of them had exclusive deals with Upper Deck. So you’d never find these cards anywhere else. The lucky owner has owned it since February ’20 through Goldin Auctions. The card is owned by Nat Turner, an eminent collector of famous basketball cards.
11. Michael Jordan 1997 Metal Universe Precious Metal Gems Green
We’re back to Michael Jordan again. Indeed Legendary! With a whopping value of $915,000 & PSA Authentic grading.
Just like Topps had exclusive refactor sets & Panini had prism sets, the Fleer had ‘metal’ sets. Since it’s metal, it can’t be compared to others; that’s why it’s given an unusual rating. The lucky owner has had it since Dec ’20.
12. Mike Trout 2009 Bowman Chrome Draft Red Refractor Autograph
Trout cards have an interesting story. They went like wildfire in the market.
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Los Angeles outfielder Mike Trout was the center of attraction for collectors. After Basketball cards had increased the price of cards back then, baseball cards followed the legacy. It was then that players like Mike were on the list of collectors. Unfortunately, the card is scarce, having an estimated rating of 5. No doubt, with a grade of BGS 9.5, it’s worth $922,500! It was last traded in May 2020.
13. Kevin Durant 2007-08 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection Rookie Card Parallel #94 Patch Autographs
As per BGS, it has a grade of 9/10. It is rare in its lot; having been on No. 23 out of 35, it is worth $799,500.
The card has the eye of primarily every collector. It has a Picture of the player in uniform & is autographed. Its last recorded sale was on March 21. This card might not be the world’s most expensive sports card, but it is still quite valuable.
14. Stephen Curry 2009-10 Panini National Treasures “Century Platinum” Rookie Patch Autograph
This beast is worth $960,000, and since it’s better than mint condition, it has a grade of 9.5/10 on BGS. At this cost, they ought to be remarkable. And these cards weren’t available in the pack of valid cards like the standard pack of Topps box did, making them unique.
To your surprise, the pack consisted of only two cards. A player could only have five cards issued in the whole collection. This card is as rare as No. 3 of 5. It was last traded in January 2021.
Currently, these national treasure boxes trade for around $8000 each. So one can imagine how much value an old collection would have.
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15. Jackie Robinson 1952 Topps #312
Do you know that collectors are the ones who determine whether the card will be called a rookie card or not? Despite starting playing majors in 1947, Jackie Robinson’s 1952 Topps is considered to be his de facto rookie card. It is worth $984,000 & has a grade of PSA 9. It was last traded in March 2021 and is known to be one of the most expensive sports cards in the world.
16. Anthony Davis 2012-13 Panini National Treasures #151 NBA Logoman Rookie Patch Autographs
Another rare card we’ll discuss is Anthony Davis 2012-13 Panini National treasures. Its rarity is 1 of 1, BGS of 9, and is valued at a heavy amount of $1.02 million. The last recorded sale was in January 2021. You might think this is the world’s most expensive sports card, but that is not true. Even though Davis won the NBA Championship in 2020, he witnessed his game going down at the end of 2020 – 21. This resulted in a 20% loss in its value since it was last purchased.
17. Luka Doncic 2018 Panini National Treasures 1 of 1 Logoman Autograph
This card is the only ungraded card on the list. Last traded in February 2021, it has a value of massive 4.6 million dollars. What makes it unique is that it’s rare. Its rarity is 1 of 1.
If you search about this card a little deeper, you will find the picture on the card has a little story behind it. Maybe we can explore it sometime.
18. Roberto Clemente 1955 Topps Rookie Card #164
It is another baseball card from the 1950s era. It has been taken care of very well. It’s in good condition and has a PSA rating of 9. Its last recorded sale was in March 2021 at a value of $1.107 million.
19. Giannis Antetokounmpo 2013-14 Panini Prizm “Prizms Black Mosaic” #290
Here we have another rare card having rarity 1 of 1. The current happy owner of this precious card purchased it for $1.14 million in December 2020.
20. Wayne Gretzky 1979 O-Pee-Chee
This Wayne Gretzky 1979 0-Pee-Chee has a ranking of BGS 9.5. It has an estimated rarity of 10,873 with roughly 11,000 in circulation. Thanks to the collectors who owned it and kept it in mint condition. The most fabulous card, Wayne Gretzky 1979 O-Pee-Chee has a value of $1.29 million. It last changed hands in December 2020.
21. LeBron James 2004-05 Upper Deck Ultimate Signatures Logos #USL-LJ Signed Logoman Card
Another rarest of the group is this LeBron James 2004-05 upper deck ultimate signatures logos card. Appreciating LeBron James in a few words is not possible. This super rocking 1 has a massive value of $1.291 million and a grading of PSA 10. The card last exchanged hands in March 2021.
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22. Reggie Jackson 1969 Topps Rookie Card #260
Reggie Jackson was one of the greatest baseball players of all time. The best thing a collector finds about this card is that it is in the best of condition. No wonder it has a PSA rating of 10. Fans admire the cool looks of Reggie wearing his cool Jersey. It is valued at $1.005 million and was last traded in February 2021.
23. Michael Jordan 1997 Upper Deck Game Jersey Autographs
And we are back to Michael Jordan. This rare card has a rarity of no. 8 of 23 and a PSA of 7 and is worth $1.44 million since it last exchanged hands in February 2021. Not to forget, it is extraordinary since it is an autographed card.
24. Kobe Bryant 1996-97 Topps Chrome Refractors #138 Rookie Card
It is not hidden that getting a perfect 10 rating from PSA is more accessible than getting a 10 rating from BGS. This card of Kobe Bryant received an excellent rating of 10 from BGS. This specialty makes it rare and gives it a value of $1.795 million. The current happy owner has owned it since March 2021.
25. Giannis Antetokounmpo 2013-14 National Treasures Logoman Patch Autograph
Do you remember Mike Trout, who we talked about? This is a similar case. The value of Gianni Antetokounmpo’s card kept on increasing. Even though he has no Championship, he has many MVP awards under his belt.
With the grading of BGS 9, a whopping value of $1.875 million, it is only 1 of 1. Interestingly it last exchanged hands on September 20, 2020, through Goldin Auctions. It broke the record for the most expensive sports card a few weeks after it was set in august 2020.
26. Tom Brady 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Rookie Ticket Autograph #144
Tom Brady gained immense popularity after winning the 17th Super Bowl in February 2021. The card Tom Brady 2000 playoff contenders Championship Rourke ticket autograph was sold for a substantial amount of $2.252 million in April 2021, ultimately making the last owner a millionaire.
Forty-four-year-old Brady is in his 22nd NFL season and is the MVP’s all-time favorite. However, his current performance seems to defy his age. The card has a grading of 8.5/9 on BGS and a rarity of no.99 of 100
27. Mike Trout 2009 Bowman Chrome Draft Prospects Superfractor Autograph
We can’t miss this when we talk about the most expensive sports cards in the world. It seems like Mike Trout was a Rock star, after all. Despite no appearance, his card was sold for a considerable amount of $4 million. It is currently valued at 3.963 million dollars. Not to forget that it has a rarity of 1 and has a good rating of BGS 9. It last exchanged hands on August 23, 2020, in a private auction.
Do you know that the previous owner of this beauty bought it for a mere $400,000? It looks like his luck cards were in his favor.
28. LeBron James 2003 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection Rookie Patch Autographs #78 (Tie)
We are again back to LeBron James. This time it is a 2003 upper deck exquisite collection Rookie patch autograph. It has a rarity of No.7 of 23. Its last recorded sale was in April 2021. If we talk about this specific card, then the ranking it has of BGS 9 is the highest in its category. At a valuation of 5.2 million dollars, it is one of the most expensive sports cards in the world.
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29. Honus Wagner 1909-11 T206
My all-time favorite card from the rare group is Honus Wagner 1909-11 T206. The estimated rarity is 47, and it has a PSA of 5. The cool thing is that only one of these cards has PSA 5.
Can you believe that it hasn’t changed hands since October 2016? Hold your breath! It is valued at $3.364 million. One can imagine the fame Honus Wagner enjoyed during his era. He played 21 seasons of Major League Baseball for over 20 years, from 1897 to 1917. Undoubtedly, he became a part of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936.
The current happy owner of the card has owned it since October 1, 2016, through Goldin Auctions. Now there are some interesting stories behind the card’s limited production. Some people believe Honus didn’t want children to consume tobacco, as the American Tobacco Company produced the card. While some people say he wasn’t satisfied with the payment he received for these cards. Even though it remains a mystery, Honus remains an all-time favorite.
30. Mickey Mantle 1952 Topps (Tie)
Changing ownership in January 2021 has a rarity which is estimated at 2,372. The current owner owns the card, worth a valuation of 5.2 million dollars which is again the highest and most valuable sports card of all time. The card was purchased for $1,1 million. It has a ranking of PSA 9, which is the best part. Collectors have an opinion that it is not easy to get this ranking.
There are about 2300 of these cards, and maybe this is the only one to have this ranking. This specific card is scarce today, possibly because most of these were disposed of in 1960 in the Atlantic Ocean by its co-designer.
Mantle enjoyed a fair share of popularity and glory during his time. Collectors were crazy for his cards. Why wouldn’t they be? It was a perfect recipe for a valuable card. With the New York Yankee, he won 7 world series. He even registered many records in his name for most home runs, walks, extra-balls, RBIs, etc. So honestly, as long as Mickey Mantle is on the card, it will be the best of all.
Which is the world’s most expensive sports trading card?
T206 Honus Wagner. Undoubtedly, it is considered one of the world’s most expensive sports cards sold at auction today. A Mickey Mantle card and an autographed rookie card of LeBron James followed the ranking, each selling for a massive amount of 5.2 million U.S. dollars.
What is a Honus Wagner card worth?
The price of T206 Wagner’s has been soaring since 2021. One of these cards was sold for $3.75 million in May, and another was booked for $6.6 million in August. Playing over 21 seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Louisville Colonels, he ensured his name in the hall of fame and the hearts of countless fans.
Why is Honus Wagner card so expensive?
A simple answer would be scarcity. The sports world has witnessed many cards that took the industry by storm. Some of them were produced in bulk and are still available today. One such example would be 4,200 ATC Cobb. Despite being made in bulk, some became scarce because they were destroyed for many reasons. At the same time, many types of cards were only produced in minimal quantities. To find them is a difficult task and to find them in mint condition is even more difficult. It is the reason for their high price.
Which is the oldest baseball card known to date?
It is definitely ‘carte de visite.’ Not many people know this, but it is a visiting card. This card was produced in 1865, more than a century ago. It is dated as ‘Baseball Card’ and is considered the earliest extant. Back then, it was a souvenir handed out to fans & opposing teams.
These most expensive sports cards in the world are also the most sought-after sports cards by investors and eminent collectors. The good news for little collectors planning to be a part of this exciting world is that you do not need to be rich to buy these. All you need to be is a crazy sports enthusiast, a passionate collector, and a willing heart to look for ways to collect them.
You will aim to collect the specific cards of your favorite team or player. You never know, it might grow in value. Most cards that are bought or traded are now worth a fortune. Imagine how much these rookie cards are worth in today’s market and what potential does it hold for the future. Start collecting cards today, you might just hit a jackpot.