Top 10 Most Valuable Baseball Cards
Since the baseball card industry began in 1909 by the American Tobacco Company, these trading cards have piqued the interest of baseball fans around the country. Baseball cards are not only fun to collect, but if you’re lucky enough to land on just the right card, you may be holding hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars in your hands. This article ranks 10 of the most valuable baseball cards of all time!
What Are the Most Valuable Baseball Cards of All Time?
- Mickey Mantle 1952 Topps - $12.6 million
- Honus Wagner 1909 T206 - $7.25 million
- Babe Ruth 1933 Goudey - $4.212 million
- Mike Trout 2009 Bowman Chrome Superfractor - $3.936 million
- Babe Ruth 1916 Sporting News - $2.46 million
- Roberto Clemente 1955 Topps - $1.107 million
- Mike Trout 2011 Topps - $1.05 million
- Reggie Jackson 1969 Topps - $1.006 million
- Jackie Robinson 1952 Topps #312 - $984,000
- Mike Trout 2009 Bowman Chrome Draft Red Refractor Autograph - $965,915
1. Mickey Mantle 1952 Topps
- Worth at least $12.6 million
- Most valuable rookie card of any MLB player
- Among hundreds of card dumped into Hudson River by Sy Berger
Thanks to Mickey Mantle’s outstanding MLB career and several other interesting factors, the Mickey Mantle 1952 Topps card is the most expensive baseball card ever sold, worth at least $12.6 million based on its most recent sale in August of 2022. On top of the sheer legend status of Mantle, value was added to this card due to scarcity. In the 1960s, one of the now-top baseball card producing companies, Topps, was producing far more prints than they were selling.
Current Topps’ owner Sy Berger had boxes of printed cards dumped into New York’s Hudson River in order to make up for decreases in value. This bizarre decision greatly increased these early-year Topps cards’ value, and the most valuable card to come out of the incident is the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle. 1952 is also the year Topps entered the baseball card market, again increasing the card’s value. Overall, the value and fame of this card and the Honus Wagner T206 are nearly equal, and certainly hard to beat.
2. Honus Wagner 1909 T206
- Worth up to around $7.25 million
- 25-200 of these cards in circulation
- Allegedly created without Wagner’s permission
- Made by American Tobacco Company, the inventors of baseball cards
The best estimate of Honus Wagner 1909 T206’s worth is $7.25 million, making it the second-most valuable baseball card in existence currently. Not only does this card come with immense value, since it was produced by the first manufacturers of baseball cards, the American Tobacco Company, but it is also a card featuring one of the greatest players of all time.
Rumors have flown for years about Wagner’s hesitation about the use of his likeness as a marketing tool for selling tobacco products to American youth. Though those rumors were never solidified, for one reason or another, Wagner pulled permission from ATC and disallowed them from continuing to use his image.
Only 25-200 of these famous Honus Wagner cards were ever created, making the baseball card extremely rare. Now, there are closer to 50-75 left in circulation. Even in poor condition, one of these baseball cards can sell for millions.
3. Babe Ruth 1933 Goudey
- Valued at $4.2 million
- #53; one of four Ruth cards in 1933 Goudey set
- PSA Mint 9 grade (only known example)
The 1933 Goudey is an excellent investment for collectors, with the best examples selling for over $4.2 million. In the 1933 Goudey set, there were four Babe Ruth cards, each with different colored backgrounds and different poses. Number 53, with a yellow background, is the hardest to find and the most desirable. The record-setting #53 was the only known example to earn a PSA Mint 9 grade. At the same auction where the #53 changed hands, a Babe Ruth 1933 Goudey with a green background (#181) sold for over $1.2 million.
4. Mike Trout 2009 Bowman Chrome Superfractor
- Worth at least $3.9 million
- Most valuable modern baseball card
- Autographed rookie card
The Mike Trout 2009 Bowman Chrome Refractor is worth almost $3.9 million currently. The rising value of this card simply cannot be overstated. Although it is rare for a current player’s baseball card to hold so much value, only one of these Bowman Chrome autographed rookie cards were ever printed, hiking it’s worth almost immediately.
Mike Trout plays center field for the Los Angeles Angels. He has already earned three MVP awards and out of 11 seasons he was an American League All-Star nine times. As Trout’s career progresses, this rare baseball card will surely increase in value.
5. Babe Ruth 1916 Sporting News
- Worth $2.46 million
- Features Babe Ruth as a pitcher, not a slugger
The Babe Ruth 1916 Sporting News card was bought for $2.46 million, and the value is expected to keep rising. Before Babe Ruth became the great menace at the plate he is so fondly remembered as, he began his career as a pitcher. Though he only took the mound for a little over four seasons, Ruth began making a name for himself long before his agility with a bat was recognized.
Ruth was a pitcher on this baseball card, and more than that, he was a rookie when this card was printed, automatically adding immense value to the card. The card also shows Ruth as a Red Sox player, a team he played for more briefly than he did the New York Yankees. Overall, this card is one of the rarest baseball cards in circulation, and it’s value is seeming only to grow.
6. Roberto Clemente 1955 Topps
- Worth $1.107 million
- Features a member of the 3,000-hit club
- Once part of famous baseball card collection, the Dmitri Young Collection
Roberto Clemente was one of the most beloved baseball players of all time, and that is reflected in the $1.107 million price tag for his rookie card. Every year in the MLB, the Roberto Clemente Award is given out to a player who exemplifies great sportsmanship in honor of the Pirates outfielder, who passed away tragically in a plane crash while on his way to provide humanitarian aid to victims of the 1972 Nicaragua Earthquake. Clemente was also an excellent hitter, as he is one of few featured in the 3,000-hit club.
7. Mike Trout 2011 Topps
- Sold for $1.05 million
- Part of the Topps Update Platinum Series
- One of two Mike Trout cards in the top 10 most expensive
Speaking to the immense popularity of Mike Trout as a modern player, this 2011 card depicts a 19-year-old Trout, and was sold in 2021 for $1.05 million. The card was sold to a partnership made up of music artist DJ Skee and Mint 10’s Courtney and Carter Reum. Though not as valuable as Trout's autographed card from Bowman, this card nevertheless reflects his incredible fame and deserved recognition as a player.
8. Reggie Jackson 1969 Topps
- Sold for $1.006 million
- Part of the Dmitri Young collection
- Set record for a Reggie Jackson card
The 1969 Topps is the most expensive Reggie Jackson card, valued at just over $1 million. Reggie Jackson was one of the greatest players of the 1960s and is the MLB leader in career strikeouts. This prime specimen was part of the famous Dmitri Young collection and is the only card to be rated a PSA Gem Mint 10, out of a total of nearly 8,000 known examples. As a one-of-one and absolutely perfect, the 1969 Topps reflects the growing popularity of Reggie Jackson and baseball card collecting.
9. Jackie Robinson 1952 Topps #312
- Worth at least $984,000
- Last sold in 2021
- Set a record for a Jackie Robinson card
The Jackie Robinson 1952 Topps card has always been a favorite with collectors, and an excellent example brought $984,000 in a 2021 auction. Out of 1,200 total cards produced, only 11 exist at the Mint tier, as graded by TSA, and this was one of them. The Robinson 1952 Topps is known for having a muted brown background, but this high-quality specimen has a bright red background, giving it a much higher visual appeal than the other cards in the run. Other details such as the clean, white border and perfect printing led this card to set a record for the most expensive Jackie Robinson card ever.
10. Mike Trout 2009 Bowman Chrome Draft Red Refractor Autograph
- Sold for $922,500
- 1 of 5; Serial numbered and signed
- Last sold in 2020
The Mike Trout 2009 Bowman Chrome Draft Red Refractor Autograph is Trout’s second-most valuable card, last selling for $922,500. This card is part of an exclusive run of five cards, each featuring Trout’s first official signature on an MLB card. This example is in excellent condition, with the card receiving a Gem Mint grade of 9.5 and the signature scoring a 10 from Beckett Grading. Mike Trout is one of the best players in baseball today, leading to recent astronomical prices for his rare and early cards.
Pete Rose 1963 Topps
- Sold for $717,000
- Features not only Pete Rose but also Ken McMullen, Pedro Gonzalez, and Al Weis
- Only one PSA 10 mint condition version of this card still exists
This card last sold at $717,000, but as this sale took place in 2016, this Pete Rose rookie card would very likely go for even more if sold today. Surprisingly, this card featuring three other 1963 rookies, (Al Weis, Pedro Gonzalez, and Ken McMullen), is the only rookie card of the infamous Red, Pete Rose.
There are not many of these 1963 Topps cards still in circulation, in fact, it is assumed that there is only one PSA 10 version of this card left in mint condition. However, even in poorer condition, the rarity of a Pete Rose rookie card means this baseball card’s worth is extremely high.
“Shoeless” Joe Jackson 1909 American Caramel
- Last sold at $667,149
- First circulated in 1909
- Famous also due to the “Black Sox” gambling scandal
American Caramel produced this rare Joe Jackson card in 1909 that is worth over $667,000 today, making it the most valuable card put into circulation by a candy company. “Shoeless” Joe Jackson cards are difficult to come by in general and this card from the very beginning of baseball cards is particularly rare.
Adding to this card’s worth is the fact that Jackson was the most prominent player involved in the infamous “Black Sox” scandal of 1919. Movies like “Field of Dreams” and “Eight Men Out” added to Jackson’s fame, and thus the value of this baseball card. This card was last sold for $667,149.
Nolan Ryan/Jerry Koosman 1968 Topps
- Sold for over $612,000
- Last sold in 2016
- 8,000 in circulation but only one in mint condition
Another card that’s true current value is difficult to determine as it has not been traded since 2016, is the Nolan Ryan/Jerry Koosman 1968 Topps. Experts estimate this baseball card’s worth has grown from the last agreed upon price of $600,000 to closer to $1 million today.
While about 8,000 of these cards are currently in circulation, only one of them received a perfect 10 on the condition grading scale. Although there are few of these cards left in good condition, Nolan Ryan is one of the best pitchers to play the game of baseball, making any of these Ryan/Koosman rookie cards a valuable find for any baseball card collector.
Babe Ruth 1914 Baltimore News
- Last sold for $575,000
- Only 10 of these cards ever produced
- Features Babe Ruth before he made it to the MLB
One of the most well-known and greatest baseball players of all time, it’s unsurprising that two of Babe Ruth’s baseball cards made this top 10 list. Although less rare and important than the 1916 Sporting News card, Babe Ruth’s 1914 Baltimore News card last sold for $575,000.
Most likely the only reason this card is worth a bit less than the Sporting News card, is because Ruth was still in the minor leagues when this card first circulated. Due to Ruth’s fame, and the fact that only 10 of these cards were ever produced, even one of these cards in relatively poor condition could be worth a great deal of money.
Willie Mays 1952 Topps
- Last sold for $478,000
- First Willie Mays Topps baseball card
- Another 1952 Topps card that was disposed into the Hudson River in 1960
The last time the Willie Mays 1952 Topps card was sold it collected $478,000. Just like the Mickey Mantle 1952 Topps card, many copies of this Willie Mays card were dumped into the Hudson River by a then-failing Topps company. This card may not be the most valuable of the group, as Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson, and Yogi Berra rookie cards were all included, but this second-year Willie Mays copy is still extremely valuable. This card also marks the first time Willie Mays was featured by Topps.
Other notable baseball cards of great value include:
- Eddie Plank T206 White Border
- Jackie Robinson 1948 Leaf Rookie Card
- Joe Jackson T210 1910 Old Mill
- Joe Jackson 1915 Cracker Jack
- Lou Gehrig 1933 Goudey #160
- Mickey Mantle 1953 Topps #82
- Satchel Page 1948 Leaf #8 rookie Card
- Ty Cobb T206 American Tobacco Company
- Ty Cobb 1915 Cracker Jack
What is the most valuable baseball card of all time?
The most valuable baseball card of all time is the Mickey Mantle 1952 Topps card. This card is worth at least $12.6 million dollars, based upon its most recent sell date in August of 2022. The card represents Mantle in his rookie year, and is the most valuable rookie card of any MLB player in history. It regularly competes with the Honus Wagner 1909 T206 for the title of most expensive baseball card ever sold.