Professional baseball dates back to 1869 in Cincinnati, Ohio, when the Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first American professional sports league. Frequently considered America’s National Pastime, baseball has a rich history that served as a catalyst towards the country’s advancement. When Peck and Snyder produced the first baseball cards in 1869, the concept of sports card collecting was put into motion, remaining prevalent more than 150 years later.
Below we explore the top 10 most expensive baseball cards of all time. Nine of these cards were issued pre-1969, with just one card making the cut since. Without further ado, behold the top 10 most expensive baseball cards of all time.
1. 1909-1911 T206 Sweet Caporal Honus Wagner
Sold in August 2021 for $6,606,296 by Robert Edwards Auctions
With this recent record-breaking sale, Honus Wagner’s 1909-1911 T206 Sweet Caporal card is once again the most valuable sports card. Wagner’s card is graded a VG3 by SGC and remains one of the finest examples of the card, with approximately 60 cards in circulation. Wagner’s 1909-1911 T206 card became the first $1 million card in the sports card collecting hobby, and it has the potential to outperform any sports card that appears in its tracks.
2. 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth
Sold in June 2021 for ~ $6,000,000 in Private Sale
Despite being viewed as his pre-rookie card, Babe Ruth’s 1914 Baltimore News card is the most valuable Babe Ruth card and the second most valuable baseball card in the hobby. Babe Ruth’s card is graded a VG3 by Sportscard Guaranty Corporation, one of two cards in the top 10 not graded by PSA or BGS. The Bambino’s minor league card from 1914 Baltimore News is speculated to have a total population of less than 10. On top of the low population and being a sports and cultural icon, Babe Ruth’s 1914 Baltimore News minor league card is the epitome of a prized possession.
3. 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle Rookie Card #311
Sold in January 2021 for $5,200,000 by PWCC Marketplace
Mickey Mantle’s 1952 Topps rookie card is one of the most iconic cards in the entire sports card hobby. Mantle played his entire 18-year career with the New York Yankees, hitting 536 home runs and capturing seven World Series titles. Mantle’s 1952 Topps rookie card has a total PSA population of 1,457, with six cards obtaining a PSA 9 and only three cards receiving the coveted PSA 10. Collectors will regularly discuss Mantle’s rookie card from 1952 Topps with not just the most expensive baseball cards but the most valuable sports cards in the hobby.
4. 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth #53
Sold in July 2021 for $4,212,000 by Memory Lane Auctions
The Goudey Gum Company issued a 240-card set containing a stick of gum in its 1933 Goudey set, which remains one of the most influential baseball sets in history. While Babe Ruth is featured in several cards from the 1933 Goudey set, no card from the set is more expensive than his yellow #53 card. There are 881 cards in PSA’s population report, with this particular Babe Ruth card being the only one to receive a PSA 9, the highest in circulation. It goes without saying that the seven-time World Series champion’s 1933 Goudey yellow card is a true grail of the hobby.
5. 2009 Bowman Chrome Draft Prospects Mike Trout Superfractors Rookie Card #BDPP89
Sold in August 2020 for $3,840,000 by Goldin Auctions
Drafted by the Los Angeles Angels straight out of high school as the 25th pick in the 2009 Major League Baseball draft, Mike Trout has been the face of baseball over the past decade. In his official rookie season in 2012, Trout was an All-Star, Silver Slugger, voted second in the AL MVP race, and won the AL Rookie of the Year. While currently ranked as the 5th most valuable baseball card, when Trout’s 2009 Bowman Chrome Superfractors autographed card serial-numbered 1/1 sold in August 2020, it became the most valuable baseball card in the hobby. Mike Trout is a generational talent, and his lone Superfractor rookie card from 2009 Bowman Chrome will likely have strong continued potential.
6. 1916 M101-4 Sporting News Babe Ruth #151
Sold in July 2021 for $1,452,000 by Memory Lane Auctions
The 1916 M101-4 set, routinely called “The Sporting News” set, starred Babe Ruth’s rookie card, featuring players’ in black and white photographs, transitioning from earlier adopted lithographs. George Herman “Babe” Ruth’s card from the set is the most valuable card of the 200-card set and is identified as the Bambino’s rookie card. With only 10 cards in PSA’s population, Ruth’s rookie card graded a PSA 6 is the most valuable 1916 M101-4 card ever acquired. With that said, the two Babe Ruth rookie cards from the set graded higher have an opportunity to reach unparalleled value.
7. 1955 Topps Roberto Clemente Rookie Card #164
Sold in March 2021 for $1,107,000 by Goldin Auctions
Originally signed to a professional contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954, the Pittsburgh Pirates later drafted Roberto Clemente through MLB’s Rule 5 Draft that same year. Clemente made his major league debut on April 17, 1955 and competed for the Pittsburgh Pirates for his entire 18-year career. Clemente’s rookie card from 1955 Topps features a PSA population of 4,525, though only 11 cards, roughly .002% merited a PSA 9, with just one card receiving a PSA 10. Clemente was a humanitarian and paved the way for prospective Latin American baseball players to compete in the majors. While accumulating precisely 3,000 major league hits, Clemente’s rookie card from 1955 Topps is one of the most coveted baseball cards in existence.
8. 1925 Exhibits Lou Gehrig
Sold in July 2021 for $1,032,000 by Memory Lane Auctions
The Exhibit Supply Company referred to as ESCO, issued Henry L. Gehrig’s rookie card in 1925. In 1925, collectors acquired cards from this celebrated 128-card set from arcade and amusement park vending machines, with Gehrig’s 1925 Exhibit rookie card rising as the most valuable card. Gehrig held a lifetime .340 batting average and was nicknamed “The Iron Horse” for playing in every game over a 13 season stretch. Gehrig’s iconic rookie card graded a PSA 5 has a PSA population of 25, with only three cards graded higher. One of the most remarkable players to take the field, and perhaps equally known for his moving farewell speech, Gehrig’s 1925 Exhibits rookie card is in a class of its own.
9. 1969 Topps Reggie Jackson Rookie Card #260
Sold in February 2021 for $1,005,600 by Heritage Auctions
Selected as the number two overall pick in the 1966 MLB Amateur Draft, Reggie “Mr. October” Jackson made his Major League debut on June 9, 1967 for the Kansas City Athletics. Jackson’s rookie card emerged from 1969 Topps and arises from the Dmitri Young Collection, one of the finest collections of baseball cards established by former major leaguer Dmitri Young. Of the 7,084 Reggie Jackson rookie cards graded by PSA, this is Jackson’s only card, approximately .00001%, to earn a PSA 10. After comfortably earning 93.6% of the Hall of Fame votes in his first year of eligibility, Reggie Jacksons’ rookie card is likely to continue to be highly valued by collectors.
10. 1952 Topps Jackie Robinson #312
Sold in May 2021 for $960,000 by Heritage Auctions
Jack Roosevelt Robinson, commonly referred to as Jackie Robinson, broke the color barrier with his major league debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947, becoming the first African American baseball player in Major League Baseball history. While Jackie Robinson’s rookie card emerged from 1948 Leaf, his 1952 Topps card is the most valuable. Robinson’s 1952 Topps card holds a PSA population of 1,018, with zero cards receiving a PSA 10 and only 11, roughly 1%, obtaining a PSA 9. On top of being one of the most coveted baseball cards, Jackie Robinson remains one of the most influential ballplayers, as Major League Baseball honors Jackie Robinson Day every April 15.