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The 20 Most Valuable Baseball Cards of All-Time

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Jason Koeppel // ONE37pm

With sports cards currently all the rage in current popular culture, and basketball seemingly leading the charge, it is easy to forget that the entire hobby was basically built on the sport of baseball. Throughout the years, cards like the Mickey Mantle 1952 Topps and Honus Wagner T 206 have been mentioned in numerous movies, television shows as "holy grails" of the collectible world.

It seems that every month or so, a new article drops about a record breaking sale in the baseball card market, dating back to the summer of 2020, when the Mike Trout Superfractor broke the record for the sale of a single sports card, only to be topped a few months later when entrepreneur and actor Rob Gough shelled out $5.2 million dollars on a Mickey Mantle rookie card.

You may be asking yourself how often these types of sales take place, and what are the highest sales prices of the top baseball cards on the planet. This list below gives you the top 20, and with the way the market is headed and new cards going up for sale daily, this list will likely have to be updated in the coming weeks!

1. Mickey Mantle, 1952 Topps - PSA 9

mantle52
PSAcard.com

$5,200,000 (January 2021)

Purchased by: Rob Gough

Auction House: PWCC Marketplace (eBay)

Total Population in this grade: 6

"I always dreamt of owning a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle since I was a kid collecting cards," Gough said in a statement. "It's the Mona Lisa of sports cards and I've been searching for this high-graded example talking to industry experts, dealers, auction houses, friends and I'm ecstatic that I'm now the proud owner of this iconic card."

2. Mike Trout 2009 Bowman Chrome Superfractor - BGS 9/10

trout gold
PSAcard.com

$3,930,000 (August, 2020)

Previous Owner: David "Vegas Dave" Oancea

Auction House: Goldin Auctions

Total Population in this grade: Only one of it's kind (1/1)

This card is the current record holder for a modern-day sports card and was purchased on eBay for just $400,000 in 2018.

3. Honus Wagner, 1909-1911 ATC T206 - PSA 3

wagner
PSAcard.com

$3,250,000 (October, 2020)

Purchased by: not disclosed

Auction House: Private Sale brokered through Mile High Card Company

“We’ve seen a lot of high-profile cards leave our office to record prices this year, but to hold the record for 1909-11 T206 Wagner sales at three different grade levels as well as the highest price ever paid … that’s something we’re especially proud of,” said Brian Drent, Mile High’s President and CEO in a statement on the company’s website.

4. Mike Trout 2009 Bowman Chrome Draft Red Refractor - BGS 9.5/10

trout red
PSAcard.com

$922,500 (May 2020)

Auction House: Goldin Auctions

The "Red Refractor" is the second rarest version of Trout’s top card that we previously mentioned and is serial-numbered to 5. The 2009 Bowman Chrome Draft has his first autograph in an MLB uniform.

5. Ty Cobb 1909-11 T206 Tobacco (Ty Cobb Back) - PSA 4.5

ty cobb
PSAcard.com

$894,250 (September, 2020)

Auction House: Mile High Card Company

Total Population in This Grade: 1

One of the five different Ty Cobb cards in the T 206 set, this one is the rarest and featured a red background behind his portrait on the front. On the back, where the tobacco brand was typically advertised, this card said “TY COBB, KING OF THE SMOKING TOBACCO WORLD” in green ink.

6. Mickey Mantle, 1951 Bowman - PSA 9

mantle bowman
PSAcard.com

$750,000 (April, 2018)

Auction House: Heritage Auctions

Total Population in This Grade: 9

The 1952 Topps is the more well-recognized Mickey Mantle rookie card. However, the 1951 Bowman was his actual rookie card and is a very hot card in the market. There is a very good chance that there will be a $1,000,000 sale of this card in the near future, shooting it higher up this list.

7. Pete Rose, 1963 Topps - PSA 10

rose
PSAcard.com

$717,000 (August, 2016)

Auction House: Heritage Auctions

Total Population in This Grade: 1

This is the only Pete Rose rookie card, and the total population of PSA 10's of this card is only 1. With this sale taking place in 2016, it wouldn't surprise me if this card sold for over $1,000,000 if it were to go up for auction today.

8. Eddie Plank 1909-11 T206 White Border - PSA 7

plank
PSAcard.com

$700,000 (2012)

Auction House: Private Sale

Total Population in This Grade: 3

There seem to be only around 75-100 of these cards in existence, much like the Honus Wagner from the same set. The accepted reason for the scarcity of this card is that Plank was anti-tobacco and demanded that his image be removed from the cards used to promote cigarettes.

9. “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, 1909 American Caramel - PSA 8

joe jackson
PSAcard.com

$667,149 (August, 2016)

Auction House: SCP Auctions

Total Population in This Grade: 2

This card holds the record for the sale of a candy card. There are not many Joe Jackson cards that were released while he was playing, and this particular one is his most sought after and valuable.

10. Babe Ruth, 1916 Sporting News - PSA 7

ruth sportnews
PSAcard.com

$600,000 (October, 2017)

Auction House: Heritage Auctions

Total Population in This Grade: 1

This card was part of the "Sporting News Set' which featured advertising on the back of the cards. This particular card had a blank back.

11. Nolan Ryan/Jerry Koosman, 1968 Topps - PSA 10

ryan
PSAcard.com

$600,000 (August, 2016)

Auction House: Heritage Auctions

Total Population in This Grade: 1

This card, like some others on this list, is a POP 1, meaning that there is only one example of a PSA 10 out there, and it went up for auction in 2016. Much like the Pete Rose rookie previously mentioned, if this card were to be put back on the auction block today, it would likely eclipse the $1,000,000 mark.

12. Babe Ruth, 1914 Baltimore News - PSA 2

babe1914
PSAcard.com

$575,000 (August, 2012)

Auction House: Private Sale

Total Population in This Grade: 1

This card featured Babe in his minor league Baltimore Orioles uniform two years before his first card in a Major League uniform.

13. Willie Mays, 1952 Topps - PSA 9

willie mays
PSAcard.com

$478,000 (May, 2016)

Auction House: Heritage Auctions

Total Population in This Grade: 9

The 1952 Topps set is iconic, featuring this Willie Mays 2nd year card as well as the Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson and Yogi Berra rookie cards. In 1953, many of the unsold cards from this set were returned by retailers to Topps and were then dumped in to the Hudson River.

14. Roberto Clemente, 1955 Topps - PSA 10

clemente
PSAcard.com

$432,690 (February, 2016)

Auction House: Heritage Auctions

Total Population in This Grade: 1

This card was once a part of the famous Dimitri Young Collection, but was sold in 2012.

15. Satchel Paige 1948 Leaf - PSA 8

satchell
PSAcard.com

$432,000 (November, 2018)

Auction House: Heritage Auctions

Total Population in This Grade: 5

Paige had a few cards during his Negro Leagues career but this 1948 Leaf was one of just a few cards that were made during his time in the Major Leagues.

16. Jackie Robinson 1948 Leaf - PSA 8

jackie
PSAcard.com

$400,980 (December, 2020)

Auction House: Goldin Auctions

Total Population in This Grade: 40

This card is considered to be Jackie Robinson's true rookie card. Another PSA 8 in this exact same card sold for $174,000 only three months before this sale of $400,000+.

17. Mickey Mantle 1953 Topps - PSA 9

mantle 53
PSAcard.com

$396,000 (August, 2019)

Auction House: Heritage Auctions

Total Population in This Grade: 10

Much like the 1951 Bowman previously mentioned, this card is gaining additional popularity in the hobby since the record breaking $5.2 million dollar sale of the Mantle 1952 rookie. This sale took place in August of 2019, but the sky is the limit the next time one of these in this grade (or higher) hit some lucky auction house!

18. Babe Ruth 1933 Goudey #53 - PSA 8

ruth goudey
PSAcard.com

$203,150 (November, 2016)

Auction House: Heritage Auctions

Total Population in This Grade: 15

There are 4 Ruth cards in this set, but the yellow one is the most valuable and rare. With such a low population in the highest grades, this card will be another one to look out for when one gets listed in an auction.

19. Joe Jackson 1915 Cracker Jack - PSA 8

crackerjack joe
PSAcard.com

$120,000 (May, 2019)

Auction House: Heritage Auctions

Total Population in This Grade: 18

Who can forget "Say it aint so, Joe..." from 8 Men Out, the classic movie about the 1919 "Black Sox", the team that threw the World Series. Jackson didn't seem to be in on the fix, as he batted .375 and played great defense in the series, but he is still banned from baseball to this day. Regardless, he remains wildly collectable and popular, and this card is considered his rookie.

20. Willie Mays 1951 Bowman - PSA 8

mays bowman
PSAcard.com

$103,317 (October, 2020)

Auction House: Memory Lane, Inc

Total Population in This Grade: 76

This is considered Mays' rookie card, and is in the same set as Mickey Mantle's true rookie card, even though Mantle's 1952 Topps is considered his actual rookie. So while Mantle's '52 Topps is the more valuable of his two rookies, the '51 Bowman THE Mays card in the hobby, at least in terms of value.

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