The T206 Honus Wagner card is considered the Holy Grail by baseball-card collectors.STAN HONDA/Getty Images
People with exorbitant financial means tend to spend large sums of money on silly things.
A market for memorabilia exists beyond the world of sports, but baseball cards have watched other fads—is Yu-Gi-Oh! still a thing?—come and go. Whether it's the thrill of the chase or feeling superior for possessing a rare collectible, quite a few have sold for more than an average house.
Some cards can be plucked for 10 cents at a mall convention. These white whales, however, all warranted huge auction prices. Two even merited more than $1 million.
With help fromProfessional Sports Authenticator(PSA), let's take a look at the most expensive cards ever sold.
10. Joe DiMaggio: 1938 Goudey ($288,000)
The list starts with the newest member. As noted by PSA's Joe Orlando, a 1938 Goudey Gum Company rookie card of Joe DiMaggio sold for $288,000 in late February:
It's also the only card flaunting a picture capable of inducing nightmares. The cartoonish depiction gives the New York Yankees star a look of someone ready to swing at something besides baseballs.
Joltin' Joe isn't the only Yankees legend with a valuable Goudey card; a 1933 Lou Gehrig one in perfect condition sold for $234,000. Pretty nice for a giveaway attached to penny chewing gum.
9. Hank Aaron: 1954 Topps ($358,000)
According to the Cardboard Convention, Topps released 59 different Hank Aaron cards during his 23-year career. None have tempted collectors more than his 1954 Milwaukee Braves rookie card, disseminating before the Hall of Famer smacked his 755 career home runs.
Three mint-condition copies have sold for over $300,000, led by a $358,000 winning bid in an auction last August. Yet the 1957 National League MVP still does not boast the decade's most expensive Topps card.
8. Joe Doyle: 1909-11 T206 ($414,750)
Well here's a name that doesn't belong. Accompanying an assortment of all-time greats, "Slow Joe Doyle" pitched just five seasons for the Yankees and Cincinnati Reds. Yet his T206 card sold for $414,750 in a 2012 auction.
Courtesy of Orlando, here's a look at the valued item:
As Grant Zahajko of MBA Seattle Auction House explained to Sports Collectors Digest's Tom Bartsch, the desired card incorrectly labeled the Yankees a National League team. That mistake created a rare collectible.
“Once the error was discovered they pulled the (printing) plate, chipped off the ‘National’ part, put the plate back on and continued making what experts believe was 99.9 percent of the run,” Zahajko said.
Who knew miscues could be so valuable?
7. Roberto Clemente: 1955 Topps ($478,000)
And now back to a typical collectible. Although his Hall of Fame career was cut short due to a tragic plane crash, Roberto Clemente still compiled 15 All-Star nods, 12 Gold Gloves and 3,000 hits.
Back in February 2016, the card netted $478,000 at a Heritage auction. There's no crazy backstory for this item. HeritageDirector of Sports Collectibles Auctions Chris Ivy gave a straightforward explanation for its high demand to Beckett's Ryan Cracknell.
“This is a high-grade example of a very famous baseball card of one of the most legendary players to ever put on an MLB uniform,” Ivy said. “The record price realized for this card is a testament to just how cherished Clemente still is.”
6. Ty Cobb:1909-11 T206 ($488,425)
The 1909-11 T206 set, manufactured as a promotional tool by theAmerican Tobacco Company, continues to receive prominent placement. This time, the memorabilia market paid a premium for a Hall of Famer.
Nobody has ever topped Ty Cobb's .366 career batting average, a record that may last another century. Much like the fine attributes distinguishing a batting champion from a minor league who can't hit a breaking ball, every minusculedetail matters in the trading-card industry.
The T206 set features four different Cobb cards. Yet none have sold as well as a mint-condition one with the bat off his shoulder, which fetched $488,425 in August.
5. Babe Ruth: 1914 Baltimore News ($575,000)
Babe Ruth is the best baseball player ever, so it shouldn't be surprising to see him as the only legend to make the list twice.
Before hitting .342/.474/.690 with 714 home runs, a teenage Bambino pitched for the Baltimore Orioles, then a minor league team. Per Baseball-Reference.com, he earned a 2.39 ERA in 244.2 innings for the International League organization.
The rare 1914 Baltimore Newscard sold for $450,300in a public auction, but according to Sports Collectors Daily's Rich Mueller, a private buyer bought one for $575,000 in 2012. Robert Edward Auctions provided a look at the blue rarity:
And that was for a card with a good-condition label.
4. Joe Jackson: 1909 American Caramel ($667,189)
If only the person who received a Shoeless Joe Jackson rookie card packaged with caramel candy could know how much it's worth today.
Last August, the highest-graded 1909 cardsold for$667,189. PSA's records indicate just two cards of the kind with the near mint-mint 8 (NM-MT, out of 10) grade.
While the early-20th-century star will forever be associated with the 1919 Black Sox scandal, the .356/.423/.517 hitter would have retired as one of the greatest batters ever if not for MLB banning him.
3. Babe Ruth 1915-16 Sporting News: ($717,000)
The two most valuable cards of the greatest hitter to ever live both depict a slim Ruth during his pitching days.
This1915-16 Sporting News rookie card could one day join the $1 million club.PSA appraises aNM-MT 8version—three of which they have tracked—at $1.25 million.
By comparison, the buyer who won it for $717,000 last August snatched a bargain. If any small piece of paper decorated by a picture of a baseball player warranted such an enormous price, it's a Ruth rookie card.
2. Mickey Mantle: 1952 Topps ($1,135,250)
Mickey Mantle is undoubtedly one of the game's most iconic legends, but what makes his rookie card a more valuable memento than those of Ruth and other Yankees greats?
As Mueller wrote on Bleacher Report in 2013, 1952 Topps sales were so bad that cards were dumped into the Atlantic Ocean. Over half-a-century later, Mantle's rookie card has morphed into a collectible gem.
One of these rarer cards, graded 8.5, sold for $1,135,250 last November. Here's a look, courtesy of Collectors.com, at what over $1 million can buy:
Per PSA, three 10-graded cards exist to potentially top this astronomical purchase down the road.According to SABR.org'sMichael Haupert, Mantle never earned a yearly salary above $90,000 during his career.
1. Honus Wagner 1909-11 T206 ($3.12 Million)
Honus Wagner's 1909-11 T206 card may be more famous than the man himself.
Even those who don't know the greatest shortstop ever will recognize the fabled baseball card. Last year, it sold for $3.12 million, breaking the $2.8 million record set by anotherversion—initially purchased by Bruce McNall and NHL legend Wayne Gretzky for $451,000—of the same item.
ESPN examined the card's mystique in the 30 for 30 short, "Holy Grail: The T206 Honus Wagner." Described as "Willy Wonka's Golden Ticket" by Keith Olberman, few are known to exist. Some say Wagner opposed the American Tobacco Company using his likeness to market cigarettes to children, but he might have shut down production because he wasn't paid.
Months after the documentary, memorabilia dealer Bill Mastro admitted to trimming the "Gretzky" Wagner card to bump its grade to 8. That may have made the recently sold card, a PSA 5 per Cracknell, the most pristine model available.
Altering the world's most valuable baseball card has seemingly only enhanced the worth of the other few remaining.
These cards, like the T206 Honus Wagner and the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle, are incredibly rare and sought after by collectors. In conclusion, the T206 Honus Wagner and the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle are two of the most valuable baseball cards in the world, with both cards selling for over $1 million.What baseball card is worth $1000000? ›
These cards, like the T206 Honus Wagner and the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle, are incredibly rare and sought after by collectors. In conclusion, the T206 Honus Wagner and the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle are two of the most valuable baseball cards in the world, with both cards selling for over $1 million.What is the most valuable baseball card ever sold? ›
The current record price is the US$12.6 million paid for a 1952 Mickey Mantle baseball card (Topps; #311) on August 28, 2022, breaking all previous records.What are the most sought after baseball cards right now? ›
The 1909-11 T206 White Border Honus Wagner is famously the most sought-after card in the world, while more contemporary examples like the 2009 Bowman Chrome Mike Trout Auto Refractor and 2019 Bowman Chrome Draft Adley Rutschman Auto 1st RC are two of the hottest cards right now.What is the holy grail of baseball cards? ›
The "Holy Grail" of baseball cards is the T-206 Honus Wagner issued in 1909. Reportedly, approximately 50 were ever made. Today, very few exist, making it the most sought-after sports card in history. It was created and distributed by the American Tobacco Company and came in a pack of cigarettes.What baseball card sold for $2 million? ›
A 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle baseball card sold for a little more than $2 million at auction over the weekend. The card received a near-mint grade of 8, which is outstanding condition for a card of this age. A similar card with a 9 grade went for $5.2 million at an auction in January.What baseball card is worth 500000? ›
Nolan Ryan 1968 Mets Rookie Card Graded Gem Mint 10 Sells for $500,000. Nolan Ryan's 1968 rookie card, which depicts him as a member of the New York Mets, sold for $500,000 at auction Saturday.How do I know if my baseball cards are worth money? ›
Specialists appraise baseball cards based on numerous factors, including overall condition, rarity, scarcity, grading, print variation, print quality, and, of course, the person featured on the card. Combined, these characteristics can determine the price and worth of a baseball card.What is the rarest rookie card? ›
1. Mickey Mantle 1952 Topps. It's believed there are only three PSA 10 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle rookie cards that exist, making it the most valuable rookie card of all time, in any sport.What year Topps cards are most valuable? ›
|Most Valuable Topps Baseball Cards||Record Sales Price|
|1952 Jackie Robinson #312||$960,000|
|1963 Pete Rose #537||$717,000|
|1954 Hank Aaron #128||$645,000|
|1968 Nolan Ryan #177||$612,360|
CollX (pronounced “collects”) is the fastest way to figure out what your cards are worth. Snap photos of them and instantly get the current market price. Add them to your collection and track your overall portfolio value. You can even buy, sell, grade, and trade your cards with other collectors.What baseball cards should I sell? ›
Vintage baseball cards featuring future Hall-of-Fame players, such as Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Cy Young, Ty Cobb, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Stan Musial, Willie Mays, Nolan Ryan, and Ted Williams will almost always have some sort of value, even when found in below average conditions.What is the oldest baseball card? ›
Having won several city championships, the Brooklyn Atlantics dominated New York baseball in the early 1860s. The team's carte de visite (a visiting card), produced in 1865, is considered the earliest extant dated “baseball card,” a souvenir handed out to fans and even to opposing teams.What is the most expensive Ken Griffey Jr card? ›
1. Ken Griffey Jr. 1998 Upper Deck A Piece Of Action Patch Auto /24 BGS 8.5 - $84,000. To get this list started off, we have one of The Kid's first-ever patch autograph.Are any Mark McGwire cards worth anything? ›
Overall about 299 Cards of Mark McGwire have been traded in the last 30 days on ebay. The average price was $45.5. The price range was from $0.74 for 1987 Leaf #46 Mark McGwire by Leaf from 1987 to $1400.0 for 1987 Topps Tiffany #366 Mark McGwire PSA 10 by Topps from 1987.What is considered a valuable baseball card? ›
Pre-War Baseball Cards (Printed Prior to 1945)
Some of the most valuable baseball cards you'll ever encounter were printed prior to World War II. This segment of the hobby is filled with cards of legends like Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, Cy Young, Honus Wagner and "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, just to name a few.
The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle baseball card is the most valuable piece of sports memorabilia ever to be sold at auction. A mint condition Mickey Mantle baseball card became the most valuable piece of sports memorabilia to be sold at auction, notching $12.6 million early Sunday morning.What baseball card sells for 6.6 million? ›
A T206 Honus Wagner card sold for $6.6 million in an online auction early Monday morning, setting a new record in baseball card sales. The card was issued in American Tobacco Co. cigarette boxes from 1909 to 1911 and has been highly desired by collectors for years.What baseball card sold for $5 million? ›
A mint-condition 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card sold for a record $5.2 million on Thursday, January 14th, making it the most expensive sports card ever sold. The card was purchased by Rob Gough, an actor and entrepreneur most known for his role in the film “Billionaire Boys Club.”What baseball card sold for $7 million? ›
A Honus Wagner card just sold at auction for more than $7 million. That beats the previous record, for a similar card of the Pirates' icon, which went for $6.6 million nearly a year ago. The Wagner card is routinely referred to as "the Holy Grail" of trading cards.