12 Days of Christmas , 12 Wish-List Sports Cards $1,000 and Under

mobile hero xmas12 1080x1168
Jason Koeppel // ONE37pm

The holiday season is upon us and I know many collectors who aren’t just window shopping at their local Apple store. They’re window shopping at local hobby shops, eBay, MySlabs and if they’re feeling really good, Goldin Auctions. 

No holiday wish list would be complete without dreaming up sports cards we’d like to see in our collection. Below is a list of the top 12 sports cards (including a hobby box) that made my wish list at a price point of under $1,000. 

This list is purely subjective and aims to include a mix of cards from all different sports to inspire you to search the depths of the hobby to find cards you love. 

1. Lebron James 2004 Exquisite Collection #5 /225 Raw — $1,000

bron ex

At the top of my list is the earliest edition of an Exquisite card from the most accomplished NBA player not named Michael Jordan. This 2004 Lebron James Exquisite is a base card, but it’s numbered to 225 copies and comes from a historic set. Exquisite birthed the most iconic Lebron James rookie cards in history and the best way to participate in that legacy for $1,000 or less is going for an ungraded base card. 

The 2009 Exquisite base has a better pose (in my opinion) but as a collector, it would be more fun to own a card from an earlier release. This is the most affordable exposure to a Lebron James Exquisite product that you can get to. 

Back in January, this card sold as high as $1,725, but last sold in October for $1,000. 

2. Tom Brady 2020 Panini Donruss Optic Downtown #DT4 PS8 — $850

brady downtown

No matter what your personal opinion is of Tom Brady, he’s one of this year’s hobby stars and it’s likely we will never see another player like him again in our lifetime. Brady is currently leading the MVP race at 44 years old and looks poised to take the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to another Super Bowl. 

At this point, it’s hard to find a meaningful Brady card under $1,000, but this PSA 8 Optic Downtown Insert features Brady in his Bucs uniform and has a population of 22, with just 58 graded higher. 

I debated between this Downtown Optic and a Brady Bowman rookie in a PSA 6 grade, but there were 4,000 copies graded higher for the Bowman, so I chose the rarer insert featuring Brady in a Bucs uniform. There’s also a 2020 Optic that features Brady in his Patriots uniform in a PSA 9 grade for under $1,000. 

I chose the Tampa Bay Buccaneers insert because Brady won his 7th Super Bowl with the Bucs and is making history this year, with his 700th touchdown pass and a legitimate shot at becoming the oldest MVP for any sport in history. 

3. Mike Trout 2011 Bowman Chrome Draft Refractor #101 PSA 9 — $1,000


Mike Trout is one of the best young players in the MLB and ESPN ranked him as baseball’s current best player (and has held that spot 8 seasons in a row). Trout is constantly compared to current Hall of Famers, and currently posts the most career WAR (wins above replacement) in league history. 

However, the recent injuries that have limited his last two seasons could have a negative impact on the history he’s made and plans to make in the future. 

Trout is considered to be a Hall of Famer and if his injuries are scaring prices down, this is a card I’d want to grab for under $1,000 with a population of 233.

4. Mickey Mantle 1954 Bowman #65 PSA 2 — $735


A PSA 9 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle shattered records when it sold for $5.2 million earlier this year and if a PSA 10 copy ever hit the market, it would more than likely set the record for the most expensive sports card ever sold. 

For those reasons, I’d want the earliest, highest grade Mantle Topps card I could find, but instead, I settled for a 1954 Bowman PSA 2 with a population of 498 and a last sold price of $735 to stay within budget. 

Mantle’s cheapest graded 1952 Topps is an SGC 1 with a last sold price of $18,500 and his 1953 Topps PSA 1 sells for $1,600, so we settle with a 3rd-year card for one of the greatest baseball players of all time. 

5. Neymar Jr. 2014 Panini Prizm World Cup Prizm Blue /199#112 PSA 8 — $990


Neymar’s 2014 Silver Prizm PSA 10 reached $9,000 in August of 2020 before crashing back down to $1,259 in July, despite a population of just 20 on the card. His Prizm Blue is limited to just 199 copies and only 23 of those have been graded by PSA. 

3 received a PSA 8, with only 20 higher-graded copies. 

While this card is listed at $990, I think a lower offer would be accepted and would make a fun way to put skin in the game for the 2022 World Cup. 

Brazil is currently tied for the best odds to win the 2022 World Cup, which is only a year away. Neymar has been struggling as of late, but he’s still a very accomplished player that’s consistently in the same conversation as Messi and Ronaldo.  Neymar is the face of a Brazilian national team that’s favored to win the World Cup in ’22, which would significantly add to his legacy. He’s off to a fast start in qualifying matches, which makes him a sneaky contender on this list.

6. Kylian Mbappe 2018 World Cup Prizm Silver #80 PSA 9 — $645


Kylian Mbappe was the most popular young soccer player in the hobby and saw his Prizm Silver PSA 10 hit $12,000 in March before falling to $3,000. The PSA 9 copy of the card with a population of 231, hit a high price of $2,750 in August of 2020 before falling to $645. 

Mbappe benefits from having won a World Cup (with four goals scored in the tournament) and being on a team that’s tied for the best odds to win it in 2022. 

7. Drew Brees 2001 Topps Chrome Rookie Refractor #229 PSA 8 — $992


Drew Brees retired last season and his card prices have been on the decline. This pop 64 PSA 8 copy of his Topps Chrome rookie card hit a high price of $1,730 earlier this year but has since come down under $1,000. 

Brees is a 1x Super Bowl Champion, 12x Pro Bowler, and is currently 2nd in all-time passing yards and 2nd in touchdown passes (ahead of Peyton Manning and Brett Favre in those two categories). 

Brees won’t be out of the limelight either, as he signed a deal to be an NFL analyst. His Topps Chrome Rookie Refractor PSA 8 has just 64 copies and is backed by one of the top NFL quarterbacks of all time. 

It may be a boring play, but I think grabbing a rookie refractor of a future Hall-of-Famer as his prices have become more affordable is a good move. 

8. Larry Bird 2015 Immaculate Patch Autograph /33 Raw — $799.99


Larry Bird played just 13 seasons in the NBA, but was named an All-Star for 12 of those seasons, won 3 NBA championships, and ranks as the 7th best NBA player of all time by ESPN. 

Bird does sign a lot of cards but this Immaculate offers a bright blue on-card autograph and two-color game-worn patch from one of the best NBA players of all time for under $1,000. 

There are plenty of other options that fall into this price point, and despite a lot of availability of these types of cards, it would be a fun one to add to the collection. 

9. Wayne Gretzky 1999 SP Authentic Sign of the Times Auto Raw — $529.99


It’s been argued that Wayne Gretzky is not only the greatest hockey player of all time but also the greatest athlete of all time. Gretzky is nicknamed “The Great One” and won 4 Stanley Cups with the Edmonton Oilers, later playing for the New York Rangers. 

Gretzky’s 1979 O-Pee-Chee PSA 10 rookie card set a record for any hockey card when it sold for $3.75 million. While strong arguments could be made to pick up a lower graded copy of his O-Pee-Chee rookie for under $1,000, I decided to go with an SP Authentic auto card from his final playing year. 

On-card autos are meaningful because a player held the card in his or her hand when signing it, immediately connecting you to that player. Snagging this card would feel like a connection to Gretzky as he wrapped up his epic professional hockey career. 

10. 2018–19 Prizm Mosaic NBA Hobby Box — $900


A 2018–19 Prizm Mosaic Hobby Box would be a fun rip because of Luka Doncic and Trae Young. A hobby box last sold for $900 and would be a trip down memory lane to the players and set that was the craze of the hobby just a few years ago. 

Mosaic Hobby Boxes hit a high price of $2,850 in February of this year but with a Luka Doncic base PSA 10 at $721, Lebron James at $120, and Trae Young at $288, there are more than a few players and hits of their cards that would make this worthwhile. 

Parallels would be even more exciting to hunt for, as Luka Doncic’s 2018 Mosaic Blue PSA 10 last sold for $3,850. 

11. Michael Jordan 1992 Stadium Club Beam Team #1 PSA 9 — $551

jordan beam team

This list wouldn’t be complete without a Michael Jordan card. Topps Chrome Refractors were in consideration (but too pricey) and a Michael Jordan game-used patch card almost made the list, but the design and pose on Jordan’s 1992 Beam Team stood out. 

There are 759 copies of this card in a PSA 9 and earlier this year hit a high price of $1,500. At a $551 price point, this is a fun card to add to the collection of one of the best basketball players of all time. 

12. Ernie Davis 1962 Topps #36 PSA 7 — $576.03


There are 143 copies of Ernie Davis’ rookie card in a PSA 7, with only 32 copies graded higher. This is the highest grade of his rookie card that falls under a $1,000 price point. 

Davis may be a surprise on this list because he never played in an NFL game, but the story behind it is the reason the card is on my wish list. 

The 6'2 212 pound running back was drafted first overall by Washington, but then was immediately traded to the Cleveland Browns to join up with legendary running back Jim Brown. At the age of 23, he tragically passed away from leukemia before ever having a chance to play in an NFL game. 

Davis was the first African-American player to win the Heisman Trophy award and helped lead Syracuse to its first-ever National Championship victory when he was just a sophomore. 

ESPN ranked Davis the 15th best college football player of all time. Davis’ story was documented in a movie, called The Express (after watching that movie, you’ll want a Davis rookie card). 

Did you like this article?
Thumbs Up
Thumbs Down