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The 43 Most Expensive Trading Cards

mobile 43expensive cards
Jason Koeppel // ONE37pm

The past year has been like nothing else in the trading card hobby. What mainstream society used to think of as a fun little hobby for children has become big business, with record breaking sales publicized by top media outlets becoming almost a weekly occurrence.

People who grew up in the 80's and 90's–who collected as children–remember the last time that sports cards were this hot, but the game has changed. Back then, it was mainly Topps baseball cards that collectors were after. Nowadays, basketball is at the top of almost everybody's list, with Panini the new sheriff in town. However, it isn't just basketball that has caught fire, with baseball remaining a major player as well as other sports such as football and even soccer making major moves.

Non-sports cards have also been attracting a lot of attention, with Pokemon and Magic the Gathering creating quite a buzz amongst collectors, and even rare cards of celebrities and major media franchises such as Star Wars and Marvel Comics bringing in big money.

Gone are the days of the simple, mass produced base cards of the "junk wax era", as the new chase in the hobby includes trying to acquire rare cards with low serial numbers, autographs and patches of jerseys that players may have worn during a game.

Further, the most valuable cards come graded by an authentication service, giving a score based on the condition of the card from 1-10. The leading authentication service PSA has been so inundated with cards that they recently froze the hobby's ability to submit cards (at most levels) due to an incredible backlog of more than ten million cards that they simply could not catch up on.

This influx of money and increased interest has created fierce competition for the rarest and highest graded cards at places such as eBay, Goldin Auctions and Heritage Auctions, and the results can be seen below.

This list of 43 cards shows just how hot this market has been, as people continue to invest in alternative assets such as sports cards.

(*This list only includes the highest sale price of any particular card so that no card is on the list twice)

1. Mickey Mantle 1952 Topps PSA 9 ($5,200,000)

mantle
PWCC

Simply put, this is the hobby's most iconic card.

This particular example was purchased by entrepreneur Rob Gough, who we had a chance to sit down and talk with shortly after the sale. The same card sold two years earlier for $2.8 million.

“Based on our research, this is the nicest looking 1952 Topps Mantle PSA 9 in existence,” Jesse Craig, director of business development at PWCC Marketplace, said via press release.

2. Luka Doncic 2018-19 Panini National Treasures Logoman 1/1 ($4,600,000)

luka
@shyne150 instagram

NBA Logoman cards from the popular high end Panini National Treasures sets are the most sought after in the hobby. This $4.6 million dollar deal was a private sale, with collectors and business partners Nick Fiorella and Bolillo Lajan San the proud owners of this one-of-a-kind holy grail of Luka Doncic cards.

3. Mike Trout 2009 Bowman Chrome Superfractor Auto BGS 9/10 ($3,900,000)

trout
Goldin Auctions

This sale, which took place on August 23, 2020, held the record for a short amount of time as the most money ever paid for a single sports card. The one-of-a-kind "Superfractor" was previously purchased in May of 2018 by controversial social media personality "Vegas Dave" Oancea for $400,000.

4. Honus Wagner 1909 T206 PSA 5 (MC) ($3,100,000)

wagner
Goldin Auctions

The Honus Wagner T206 is maybe the most iconic and recognizable card in the hobby besides the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle. This particular example is known as the "Jumbo Wagner" because it is slightly larger than the typical T-206 cards due to being mis-cut (which is why PSA gave it an MC qualifier). However, it's PSA 5 grade makes it possibly the top-conditioned Wagner T-206 on the market, since it was confirmed that the infamous "Gretzky Wagner" was trimmed.

5. Tom Brady 2000 Panini Playoff Contenders BGS 8.5/9 ($2,252,855)

brady
Lelands Auctions

On April 2nd, 2021 at Lelands Auctions, this Tom Brady 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Rookie Ticket Auto became the most expensive football card ever sold.

“It’s surreal, and it makes me want to go check all my cards that I have stored — there’s gotta be one in there somewhere!” Brady told Good Morning America co-host Michael Strahan in a recent interview.

“You know, when I was coming out I tried to make some money. My agent, Steve, was like, ‘I got a trading card deal for you. Sign a thousand cards and they’re gonna pay you like 20 cents a card.’ And I was like, ‘Twenty cents a card? I’m gonna be rich!’ Unbelievable … you see these cards that are worth that kind of money. I definitely should’ve kept some of them. But whatever — I think it all worked out pretty good.”

6. Giannis Antetokounmpo 2013-14 National Treasures Logoman Patch Auto 1/1 ($1,857,300)

giannis
Goldin Auctions

This Giannis Logoman held the record for the most expensive basketball card ever sold for a few short months before the Luka Doncic Logoman that I previously mentioned more than doubled it in a private sale.

The amazing thing about this card is that it was previously sold back in 2014 for just $7000, but the buyer actually returned it because of a small yellow stain on the back. The seller did a little bit better this time around.

7. Lebron James 2003-04 Exquisite Rookie Patch Auto BGS 9.5 ($1,800,000)

lebron
Goldin Auctions

Another card that held the record for the highest sale of a modern day sports card for just a short time, this Lebron James Exquisite Rookie Parallel is serial numbered to 23 and is King James' most rare and sought after rookie card.

The buyer was Leore Avidar, CEO of Alt who said, "the purchase is part of a strategy to bring something big to the collectibles and alternative assets business in the coming months."

8. Kobe Bryant 1996-97 Topps Chrome Refractors BGS PRISTINE/Black Label 10 ($1,752,000)

kobe
Goldin Auctions

This March 6th, 2021 sale at Goldin Auctions marks the most expensive Kobe Bryant card ever sold. The BGS Black Label 10 grade is the most difficult grade to achieve in the entire hobby, and sets itself apart as quite literally the "perfectly conditioned card".

In March of 2016, the exact same card sold on eBay for $58,100.

9. Michael Jordan 1997 Upper Deck Game Jersey Autograph PSA 7/8 ($1,444,000)

jordan1
Heritage Auctions

This card boasts an autograph as well as a large sample of the jersey that Michael Jordan wore in the iconic 1992 NBA All-Star Game in which Magic Johnson suited up for one final time in an NBA game after shocking the world in November of 1991 by announcing his early retirement due to contracting the HIV virus.

Only 23 of these cards were ever produced, with Jordan hand-numbering all of them.

10. Lebron James 2004-05 Upper Deck Ultimate Signatures Logoman Patch Auto 1/1 PSA/DNA 10 ($1,291,500)

lebron1
Goldin Auctions

This $1.291 million dollar sale on March 7th, 2021 marks the most money ever spent on a Lebron James card outside of his rookie year. This is the third example of an NBA Logoman cracking the top 10.

Goldin's description of this card reads, "... The superb card constitutes an eloquent, visual reminder of LeBron's NBA Rookie of the Year Award victory of the previous year, which was among the first of what has become a lengthy list of trophies and records."

11. Wayne Gretzky 1979 O-Pee-Chee PSA 10 ($1,290,000)

gretzky
Heritage Auctions

Some might be surprised to see a hockey card so high on this list, but nobody will be surprised who that player is. There are only two examples of this card receiving a PSA 10 grade, so it comes as no shock that it was highly sought after when one of them came up for auction. The same card sold in August of 2016 for just $465,000, and with the hockey market starting to heat up, it will be very interesting to see how much it sells for next time it hits the auction block.

There is also a Topps version of "The Great One's" rookie card that is equally rare in a PSA 10 grade (population also 2) which recently sold for $700,000, but the O-Pee-Chee is THE Gretzky card that will command the most value.

12. Roberto Clemente 1955 Topps PSA 9 ($1,107,000)

clemente
Goldin Auctions

There are only 12 examples of this card graded as high as a PSA 9, with only one of them being a PSA 10. When you combine that sort of rarity with the fact that Clemente is one of the most beloved players in the history of baseball, it comes as no surprise that this card found itself in the "million dollar club" when it sold in early March of 2021.

13. Reggie Jackson 1969 Topps PSA 10 ($1,005,600)

reggie
Heritage Auctions

The PSA 10 population on this card is 1, meaning that this is the finest conditioned example of Reggie Jackson's rookie card on the planet. The last time it sold was back in 2012 when it closed for $115,000.

This card was once a part of the famed "Dmitri Young Collection", named after the former Major League Baseball All-Star who had assembled one of the greatest sports card collections in existence.

14. Anthony Davis 2012-13 National Treasures Logoman 1/1 BGS 9 ($1,000,000)

davis
Goldin Auctions

The final member (for now) of the "million dollar club" is Lakers star Anthony Davis, whose Logoman reached the seven-figure selling price in February of 2021.

Before you act surprised seeing his card sell for so much, consider the fact that the underrated star has an NCAA championship, Olympic Gold medal, NBA All-Star MVP and NBA Championship to his name.

15. Jackie Robinson 1952 Topps PSA 9 ($960,000)

jackie3
Goldin Auctions

This card is just one of the eleven PSA 9's in the population, with not one single PSA 10, meaning that there is no better conditioned example of the iconic Jackie Robinson's 1952 Topps card in the market.

The fact that I am writing this article on "Jackie Robinson Day" (April 15th), bears mentioning, as he broke MLB's 80+ year color barrier on this date in 1947. I can thin of no better athlete to collect.

16. Michael Jordan 1997 Metal Universe Precious Metal Gems Green PSA Authentic 9/100 ($915,000)

jordan metal
Heritage Auctions

To explain the extreme rarity of this card, the 1997-98 Metal Universe were the first of the Precious Metal Gems cards. Only one hundred were produced for each player in the set. Ninety of the one hundred cards boasted red foil, with the remaining ten sporting the green seen on this example. Only six of the green ones have been graded by PSA, and the only sale of one of them on record took place earlier in 2020, closing for $350,000.

17. Patrick Mahomes 2017 National Treasures Black RPA 1/5 BGS 9/10 ($840,000)

mahomes
Goldin Auctions

There are none of these cards graded by PSA, and none graded higher by BGS, making this the best conditioned example, of the most collectible set, of the NFL's biggest and brightest young star, numbered to just 5. Wow.

Will the football card market ever catch up to the basketball card market in terms of value? If it even gets close, the upside on this card could be huge. If Mahomes continues to win MVP's and Super Bowls, the $840,000 paid for this card could one day look like a bargain.

18. Lou Gehrig 1925 Exhibits PSA 6 (MK) ($782,400)

gehrig
Goldin Auctions

This oversized card is considered to be Lou Gehrig's rookie card, however, there are only three dozen of these TOTAL in the PSA population. These cards were only distributed through amusement park vending machines in 1925, and could be had for a penny. It would take 78,240,000 pennies to buy one nowadays!

19. Luka Doncic 2018 Panini Gold Prizm 3/10 PSA 10 ($780,000)

luka gold
Goldin Auctions

This gold Prizm is numbered to 10, with only 3 of them currently graded by PSA and this particular one receiving a PSA 10. Luka's Logoman (#2 on this list) selling for over $4 million dollars just goes to show how highly regarded he is in the hobby, but to see a modern non-auto card crack the top 20 on the list is definitely eye-opening.

20. Kevin Durant 2007-08 Upper Deck Exquisite Rookie Parallel #94 RPA 23/35 BGS 9/10 ($780,000)

durant
Goldin Auctions

The Kevin Durant market got white hot as the Brooklyn Nets entered the season as one of the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference before coming back down a bit in the last month or so.

After a year away due to injury, Durant has not disappointed in his return to the hardwood (although he has been battling injuries of late). How much of a run will his cards have if the Nets go on to win the NBA Championship? It remains to be seen. This particular card is serial numbered to /35 and graded a BGS 9, which is a very high grade for an RPA like this which are notorious for condition issues.

The Rest of the List:

21. Mickey Mantle 1951 Bowman PSA 9 ($750,000)

mantle bowman
Heritage Auctions

22. Joe DiMaggio 1941 Play Ball PSA 10 ($750,000)

dimaggio
Heritage Auctions

23. LeBron James 2004 Topps Chrome Superfractor 1/1 PSA 10 ($720,000)

lebron superfractor
Heritage Auctions

24. Michael Jordan 1986 Fleer PSA 10 ($720,000)

jordan 86fleer
Goldin Auctions

25. Pete Rose 1963 Topps Rookie Stars PSA 10 ($717,000)

rose
Heritage Auctions

26. Babe Ruth 1916 M101-5 Blank Back Sporting News PSA 7 ($717,000)

ruth blank
Heritage Auctions

27. Eddie Plank 1909-11 T206 Sweet Caporal PSA 7 ($690,000)

plank
Heritage Auctions

28. Babe Ruth 1917 Collins-McCarthy SGC 8 ($660,000)

babe collins
Heritage Auctions

29. Hank Aaron 1954 Topps Rookie PSA 9 (645,000)

aaron
Heritage Auctions

30. Nolan Ryan 1968 Topps Mets Rookie Stars PSA 10 ($612,359)

ryan
Heritage Auctions

31. Stephen Curry 2009-10 National Treasures "Century Gold" RPA 10/25 BGS 9.5/10 ($601,200)

curry
Goldin Auctions

32. Joe Jackson 1910 Old Mill Series 8 PSA 3.5 ($600,000)

joe jackson
Heritage Auctions

33. Lou Gehrig 1933 Goudey PSA 9 ($576,000)

gehrig2
Heritage Auctions

34. Luka Doncic 2018-19 National Treasures RPA 83/99 PSA 10 ($570,000)

luka rpa
Goldin Auctions

35. 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth #144 PSA Mint 9 ($528,000)

ruth goudey
Heritage Auctions

36. Kobe Bryant 1996-97 Topps Chrome Refractors BGS 10 ($516,000)

kobe chrome refractor
Heritage Auctions

37. Ty Cobb 1915 Cracker Jack PSA 9 ($504,000)

cobb
Heritage Auctions

38. Lew Alcindor 1969 Topps PSA 10 ($501,900)

alcindor
Heritage Auctions

39. LeBron James 2003 Topps Chrome Black Refractor PSA 10 ($480,000)

lebron black
Heritage Auctions

40. Joe Jackson 1914 Boston Garter SGC 70 EX+ 5.5 ($480,000)

jackson2
Heritage Auctions

41. 1995 Pokémon Japanese Topsun No Number Blue Back Charizard PSA 10 ($480,000)

zard blueback
@jeremypadawer

42. Willie Mays 1952 Topps PSA 9 ($478,000)

mays
Heritage Auctions

43. 1999 Pokémon Base 1st Edition Holo Charizard #4 SGC 10 ($369,000)

charizard
Goldin Auctions

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