The 30 Most Valuable Baseball Cards of All Time

November 21, 2022

dimaggio-rookie-cardAfter our first article about the history of baseball cards we’ve had so many people ask us: what are the most valuable baseball cards?

With this list, I’ve narrowed down the field to thirty cards that both hold tremendous value and are considered to be some of the most sought after cards for baseball card collectors.

From a price standpoint, some of the baseball cards on this list may unfortunately be out of reach for many collectors.

However, if you come across a low grade version of one of these cards it will likely be more affordable and something you could consider adding to your collection.

Whatever the case, it should be well understood that the business of baseball cards is alive and well.  Thus, some baseball cards, especially pre-war cards or even some created after World War II are worth a lot of money. 

If you have any of the cards on this list, consider yourself one of the lucky ones!

1909 T206 Honus Wagner #497
Estimated Value (PSA 2): $5 Million 

The so called "mona-lisa" of baseball cards, the T206 Honus Wagner card is probably the most recognizable baseball card for even non-card collectors. The rarity of the card is due to American Tobacco pulling production of his card early in its run.

Wagner was one of baseball's all-time greats and respected for not only his prowess as a hitter but also for his defensive abilities. 

The reason for removal of the Wagner is subject to debate but centers on either Wagner not wanting to be associated with a smoking product or due to a lack of adequate compensation. 

This scarcity of the card (note that between PSA and SGC there are less than 100 copies) and the ultimate legend of the card has led to a massive increase in value over the years.

Each sale on the T206 Wagner seems to break a previous record, while a PSA 5(OC)Wagner sold for $3.2 Million in 2016 there was a more recent sale in 2021 of an SGC 3 copy for $6.6 Million.  

When anyone asks what the most expensive baseball card in the hobby is, the T206 Wagner is usually a safe answer.

I expect any future sales of the Honus Wagner T206 card to eclipse any previous records.

honus-wagner-t206

1952 Topps Mickey Mantle #311
Estimated Value (PSA 9): $5 Million+

Considered one of the crowned jewels for baseball card collectors, the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle is a thing of beauty. The scarcity of the card (aside from its age) can be attributed to a low print run of high series cards (Mantle is one of them) by Topps. 

52-topps-mantle

The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card

Add on a legendary story about former Topps exec Sy Berger dumping cases of cards into the Atlantic Ocean, and its no surprise the Mantle is a popular and valuable card. 

Even non-baseball fans are familiar with Mickey Mantle and his legend remains strong to this day. His colorful nature and his offensive abilities have led to his continued popularity today with collectors.  

A PSA 9 version of the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card sold for a whopping $5.2 Million in early 2021.  Even lower grade copies are selling well; note that a PSA 7 copy of Mantle's card recently sold for $128,000.

Note that collectors need to beware of counterfeit Mantle '52 Topps cards.

1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth #9
Estimated Value (PSA 2): $1.5 Million 

This pre-rookie card of legendary slugger Babe Ruth is considered to be one of the rarest baseball cards in history.  The card was issued two years before he first appeared on a card as a major league player in the 1916 M-101-4/5 set.   

baltimore-news-ruth

Babe Ruth was the ultimate legend--consider the fact that Babe was not only the best batter but the same pitcher at the same time!

There are only ten known versions of this card (one held by the Babe Ruth museum), with the last sale a PSA 2 graded version selling for $575,000 back in 2012.  

PSA estimates a VG-EX condition card to be worth close to $1 Million but given the demand for the card and Ruth cards in general it would likely fetch quite a bit more at auction.  

Thus, my estimate would be that even a PSA 2 would generate more than $1 Million at auction.

1916 Sporting News Babe Ruth #151
Estimated Value (PSA 6): $1.5 Million 

The 1916 Sporting News (M-101-4/5) Babe Ruth is not his first card, but is considered to be his true "rookie card" as the earlier Baltimore News card from 1914 was considered a pre-rookie or minor league card. 

babe ruth rookie card

This rookie card of the "Bambino" features Ruth in a pitching pose with the Boston Red Sox before getting shipped off to the rival New York Yankees.  The card is quite rare as PSA notes that only 29 versions of this card have been graded.  

Note that a recent sale of a PSA 6 copy of the Sporting News Ruth sold for $1.45 Million at auction, maybe slightly below what I might have expected. 

1909 T204 Ramly Walter Johnson
Estimated Value (PSA 8): $300,000 

These cards, distributed by Ramly Cigarettes are one of the toughest finds of all early tobacco cards.  PSA reports only 2700 graded cards out of the 121 card set, meaning that on average there are only about 22 graded cards for each player in the set. 

walter johnson ramly t204

Walter Johnson was simply a dominant pitcher, known to be one of the top five best pitchers to ever play the game.  

Check out this rare footage of "The Big Train"

The Walter Johnson T204 Ramly card is one of his most valuable and according to PSA has 31 graded versions in circulation.  A PSA 8 version of the card sold for $132,000 back in early 2018, thus I'd expect at least double that for a similar condition card in today's market.

1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle #253
Estimated Value (PSA 9): $1 Million

While his 1952 Topps card gets all the limelight, the 1951 Bowman card is Mickey Mantle's true rookie card and a fine one to behold.  The '51 Bowman set is one of my favorites, and features breathtaking color portraits.  

The Mantle rookie card features the Yankee great in a unforgettable pose with the blue sky and clouds offering up a wonderful background.

bowman-mantle-rookie

A 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle card.

The Mick's rookie card was a high-series card and as is common with these later numbered cards, the Mantle often suffers from various print and centering issues.

PSA notes that there are over 1500 graded Mantle rookies, but only 1 PSA 10 and 9 PSA 9 graded versions.  

PSA 8 graded copies have been hovering near $500K and there have been several sales of late, so we have good comps there.  However, the last PSA 9 Mantle sold for $750K back in April of 2018, so I would imagine any PSA 9 sales in this market would easily eclipse $1 Million and probably be closer to $2 Million. 

Keep your eyes out for fake 1951 Bowman Mantle cards, one of the most common forgeries in the hobby.

1933 Goudey Babe Ruth #53
Estimated Value (PSA 9): $4 Million

As evidence of just how popular “The Babe” was at the time, the 1933 Goudey (R319) set actually features four cards of Ruth (#53, #144, #149, #188).

According to PSA, #53 (yellow background) is the hardest to come across, followed by #149 (red background).  Card #144 (aka ‘Full Body Ruth’) was double printed and is more widely available.

An authentic Goudey Ruth #53

From a value perspective, all of the cards carry significant value in high grade condition, but because of the scarcity, #53 (yellow background) is the most valuable Ruth card in the set.

A PSA 9 (Mint) copy of the #53 Goudey Ruth recently sold at auction for a whopping $4.2 Million, showing that in this booming card market, pristine graded high demand vintage cards will continue to break records. 

Please be on the lookout for any fake 1933 Goudey Ruth cards

1909 T206 - Joe Doyle Error Card 
Estimated Value (PSA 3): $500,000

Never has an error on a baseball card proven to be more valuable than on the 1909 T206 baseball card of one Joe Doyle. 

doyle-t206-error

Doyle, a pitcher for the New York Highlanders of the American League at the time was a good player but only lasted five seasons with only 22 wins.

His T206 card is supposed to say “American” on the bottom front but instead, the error card says “Nat’l”.  

There are less than ten known variations of the card, with the most recent sale of a PSA 3 version of the card selling for over $400K.

Why can’t my “f*#$ face” Billy Ripken’s be worth this much?!?

1909 E90 American Caramel - Joe Jackson 
Estimated Value (PSA 8): $1 Million

The American Caramel (E90) cards of 1909 were featured inside of packs of caramel candy and target at directly at kids.  Of all the early candy and gum cards (noted as E cards in the hobby) the E90 set is actually one of the most common among all cards.  

e90-joe-jackson

The Joe Jackson card of the E90 set is the most valuable, and not necessarily due to scarcity but due to the popularity of "Shoeless" Joe Jackson.  

Jackson was a phenomenal player, yet despite his prowess on the field, Jackson was never enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.  This was due to Jackson's involvement in the Black Sox scandal of 1919.

According to PSA, about 80 of the Jackson cards have been graded, albeit most are in low grade condition, hence the demand for higher grade versions of the card.  In 2016, a PSA 8 Jackson was sold for a record $667K at auction.   The scarcity will likely lead to higher prices realized for better condition versions of the card.

1914 Cracker Jack Ty Cobb #30
Estimated Value (PSA 8): $300,000

A beautiful set with striking red backgrounds, Cracker Jack cards were issued from 1914 to 1915 in boxes of crackerjack.  While the 1914 set was issued with the crackerjack boxes, in 1915 they offered a mail-in program for complete factory sets, making the 1914 issue more of a rarity.   

1915-cracker-jack-cobb

PSA notes 4500 graded cards from the 1914 set, while over 12,000 from the 1915 set have been graded.  The Ty Cobb from the 1914 set is a beautiful card and is one of Cobb's most sought after issues.

Only 77 cards have been graded through PSA, with the most recent sale of a PSA 8 in early 2018 of $144K.  At a minimum, given the relative scarcity of the card, and the demand for Cobb cards, I'd expect a sale over $300,000 today.

1951 Bowman Willie Mays #305

Estimated Value (PSA 9): $800,000

The one true rookie card for Mays, the 1951 Bowman card is one of the most sought after Mays cards in the hobby.  "The Say Hey Kid" was one of the most complete ballplayers of all time, finishing with 660 home runs, while also winning a record tying 12 gold glove awards. 

 The 1951 Bowman set is a landmark, with the rookie card of Mickey Mantle and Mays (#305).  Higher graded copies of the Mays card are tough to find with only 10 PSA 9's in existence, with no known 10's.  PSA estimates a PSA 9 Mays to be worth over $800K

bowman mays 1951

One of Bowman's Finest sets --1951. Willie Mays pictured.

1938 Goudey Joe Dimaggio #274
Estimated Value (PSA 9): $500,000

Considered to be the true rookie card of one Joltin' Joe DiMaggio, the 1938 Goudey card features players in a cartoon pose.  The set actually features two cards of DiMaggio, #250 (without cartoon background) and #274 (with cartoon background).

PSA notes that card #274 is tougher to find, but both are difficult to find in high grade.

dimaggio-rookie-card

Even decades later, the cards of Joe DiMaggio remain highly sought after among vintage card collectors.  DiMaggio led the Yankees to nine world championships while captivating young and old, with his hitting, running and defensive skills; truly a great all-around ballplayer.

The most recent sale of a Mint 1938 Goudey DiMaggio rookie card (#274) happened in early 2017, with a PSA 9 version of the card selling for nearly $300K.  In today's market, a high grade version of the DiMaggio card would likely net closer to $500K.

1954 Topps Hank Aaron #128
Estimated Value (PSA 9): $500,000

The only true rookie card for "Hammerin" Hank Aaron is a highly demanded card even despite its widespread availability (PSA notes over 3800 Aaron rookies have been graded).  Still, finding a mint version is a challenge, as there are only 30 PSA 9 versions and 2 Gem Mint--PSA 10 cards in existence.   

hank-aaron-rookie-card

Aaron still has a huge collector base, given his popularity as a player, someone that many still consider to be the TRUE all time home run leader. 

See the Most Watched Hank Aaron Rookie Cards on eBay

A PSA 10 Aaron rookie card sold for $357K back in 2012--who knows what a similar card would sell for today, but I could guess that it might likely fetch more than $1 Million. 

1911 T205 Gold Border Ty Cobb
Estimated Value (PSA 8): $200,000

While the T206 set gets all the attention, the following release from the American Tobacco Company (known as the T205 Gold Borders set) in 1911 is one of the most popular baseball card sets of the tobacco/pre-war era.  

t205-ty-cobb

The gold borders of the cards make finding high grades even tougher than the white border T206 set, as many cards have chipping on the sides.  The most desirable card from the set is the Ty Cobb card, which has only 33 graded versions of PSA 6 and above (with no 9's or 10's in existence).

 PSA estimates that an NM (8) version of the card is worth over $150K

1909 T206 Ty Cobb --Ty Cobb Back
Estimated Value (PSA 4): $1 Million

The famed T206 set features four cards of Ty Cobb, yet one variation is even rarer than the famous "holy grail" T206 Honus Wagner card. 

The T206 Cobb card with a Ty Cobb back features a beautiful watercolor portrait of Cobb on the front with an advertisement for his own tobacco brand, reading “Ty Cobb—King of the Smoking Tobacco World” on the back.  These cards were included in tins of Ty Cobb tobacco.  

There are only 18 graded versions of the card via PSA.  The last sale happened in April 2020 where a PSA 1 (Poor Condition) sold for $86,000.  The last higher grade auction sale for a PSA 3.5 went for $408K in February 2018.  

Given the scarcity, I think we might see a narrowing of the gap between the Wagner and this Cobb in the coming years. Ty Cobb baseball cards are one of the better long term investments for vintage collectors. 

ty-cobb-t206-back

1933 Goudey Nap Lajoie #106
Estimated Value (PSA 9): $350,000

The 1933 Goudey set is known as the first sports card product packaged with bubble gum in every pack.  I love this set, just a classic look.  While the 1933 Goudey Ruth cards are probably the most well known, the rarest card is actually the Nap Lajoie card (#106).

33 goudey lajoie

Lajoie was not initially included in the set, yet due to an outcry from fans, Goudey later produced it in 1934.  The only way to get the card was via a mail in request to Goudey.  

According to PSA, there are less than 100 of the Lajoie cards that have been submitted for grading.  And if you’re lucky to have one sitting around, it is worth a pretty penny; a high graded PSA 9 Lajoie sold for $264,000 in 2019.

1887 N172 Old Judge- Cap Anson
Estimated Value (PSA 8): $300,000

One of the first tobacco cards ever produced, the 1887-1890 (N172) cards were issued in packs of Old Judge and Gypsy Queen cigarette packs.  The set is known as one of the largest sets ever created, as there are over 500 players and 3000 variations known.   

n172-cap-anson

Anson was considered to be one of the best players of the dead ball era, and the first to reach over 3000 hits.  He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939.

The Cap Anson card (in uniform) is the most valuable card in the set and quite scarce, as there are only three PSA graded cards in existence.   A PSA 8 graded version of Anson (one of him in a portrait but not in uniform) sold for close to $100K back in 2016, yet I'd expect a similar graded copy to fetch near $300K today.

1955 Topps Roberto Clemente #164 
Estimated Value (PSA 9): $1 Million

Known as a consummate professional, humanitarian and all around multi-faceted athlete, Clemente was one of the best ball players of his day.  Clemente earned an all star berth in fifteen out of his eighteen professional seasons, attaining exactly 3000 hits, four batting championships and twelve gold glove awards.

clemente-rookie-card

Clemente's rookie card is the most valuable card in the 1955 Topps set.

Clemente's career was cut short due to a tragic plane crash at the young age of 38 years old.  His baseball cards are highly sought after, especially his 1955 Topps card (#164), which is considered his true rookie card.  

A gem mint (PSA 10) version of the Clemente rookie sold for $432K at auction in 2012.  However, a recent PSA 9 copy sold at auction for $1.1 Million, eclipsing all previous Clemente RC sales. 

1952 Topps Willie Mays #261 
Estimated Value (PSA 9): $325,000

Although not his true rookie card, the 1952 Topps Willie Mays card is the first Topps card to feature Mays and is one of the most popular baseball cards in the hobby. The card isn’t truly scarce, PSA notes that over it has graded over 1600 cards, yet it is pretty rare to find one in mint condition, as only 13 have garnered a PSA 9 grade, with only one perfect 10.   

52-topps-mays

High-grade versions of the card have reached monumental sales records in recent years.  Five PSA 9 versions of the Mays card were sold in 2017, with prices ranging from $235,000 to $478,000.

Several recent sales in 2021 of PSA 8 copies eclipsed the $200K mark. 

1948 Leaf Jackie Robinson #79
Estimated Value (PSA 9): $350,000

The true rookie card of Jackie Robinson is the 1948 Leaf card (#79).  The man who broke the color barrier in major league baseball is one of the true heroes of his time.  His legacy is never forgotten and his cards are highly desirable.   

48leafjackie

The 1948 Leaf Baseball card set is somewhat of an oddity in that the set was the first set printed in color following World War II and is the only set issued by Leaf during the post-war era.

The Robinson card is truly a classic, yet is not truly scarce compared to other short-printed issues in the set (Satchel Paige is one example).   

There are over 1000 cards that have been graded by PSA, yet only 50 or so cards that have been graded 8 or higher.   A PSA 9 is estimated to be worth over $350K, however, collectors can find lower graded versions of the card for close to $1000.

1948 Leaf - Satchel Paige #8
Estimated Value (PSA 9): $400,000

While the 1948 Leaf Robinson card gets all the fanfare due to his impact on the game of baseball, the 1948 Leaf Satchel Paige card is popular for reasons even beyond his legacy.

Paige's baseball cards have grown in popularity and price in recent years, with a big push due to a long overdue recognition of negro league stats by MLB. 

satchel-paige-rookie-leaf

Paige's 1948 Leaf card is his true rookie card and is actually a short print, making it one of the hardest cards to find in the set.  A near-mint condition card is estimated at around $400,000 by PSA.

1939 Play Ball - Ted Williams #92
Estimated Value (PSA 9): $150,000

The true rookie card for Red Sox great Ted Williams, the 1939 Play Ball card (#92) is a sought after card for many vintage collectors.  

playball-williams

The 'Splendid Splinter' was one of the best hitters to play the game, and the one that even many baseball players of today model themselves after.

PSA has 845 reported graded 1939 Ted Williams Play Ball cards, so not impossible to find, but only about 100 with a PSA 8 grade or better.

A mint version is likely worth in the 6 figures as PSA estimates a 9 graded card to be worth $200,000.  Note that if you're looking for a more affordable option, you can typically find one for between $1000 and $2000 in Poor to Good condition.

1939 Play Ball Ted Williams #92 PSA 2

$6,375.00  

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1939 Play Ball Ted Williams #92 PSA 4 VG-EX

$2,081.99  (2 bids)
End Date: Wednesday Nov-30-2022 16:15:18 EST

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1939 Play Ball #92, Ted Williams Rookie, PSA 4 w/Perfect Centering, White Border

$10,600.00  
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1933 Goudey - Lou Gehrig 

Estimated Value (PSA 10): $800,000

Gehrig actually has two cards in the 1933 Goudey set (#92 and #160), but both feature the same image with one (#92) that has a darker blue background.   Card #160 is the rarer of the two, but both still are worth six figures in near mint to mint condition.

160-gehrig-goudey

A PSA 10 ’33 Goudey Gehrig (#92) sold for $275K at auction back in early 2018, making it one of the highest-priced card sales in history.  Note that the Goudey cards are not even considered to be his true rookie cards–that would be his 1925 Exhibits card, yet given the size of the Exhibits cards, many don’t equate them with true “baseball cards”.

1963 Topps - Pete Rose #537

Estimated Value (PSA 10): $900,000

The Pete Rose rookie card isn't necessarily hard to find, but higher graded versions are, due to the top blue borders which are prone to chipping.   Despite his inability to crack the hall of fame, collectors still love Pete Rose and this rookie card is a true classic.

rose-rookie

Past sales of high grade Rose rookie cards have surpassed even the optimistic of expectations.  In 2016, a Gem Mint version of Rose's rookie sold for $717K at a Heritage vintage auction.

What might that card be worth eight years later?  Even PSA 9 Rose rookie cards are hot, with recent sales ranging from $80K to $100K.  

Lower grade Rose rookie cards are plentiful however, so if you are looking to grab a rookie of one of best all time hitters, it can be done for close to $1000

1909 T206 - Eddie Plank 

Estimated Value (PSA 8): $850,000

Considered to be the second most desirable card behind the “holy grail” Honus Wagner of the T206 set, the Eddie Plank card is extremely rare.

No one is exactly sure why the Plank card is so rare; some believe it is because of a poor printing plate, or potentially from Plank’s aversion to tobacco that might have led to manual removal of his card. 

From PSA, only 72 Eddie Plank cards have been graded, with only 1 NM condition card in existence. PSA estimates that the PSA 8 card is worth approximately $850K.

However, I could easily see a 7 figure auction result if one were to come to market today.

t-206-eddie-plank

1910 Standard Caramel (E93) Honus Wagner 

Estimated Value (PSA 8): $800,000

While certainly not as recognizable as his T206 card, the 1910 Standard Caramel card of Honus Wagner is quite challenging to find and probably one of the more underrated cards of the pre-war era. 

e93-honus-wagner-card

Based on PSA data, there have been less than 100 graded versions of the Wagner, with only a handful garnering a near mint rating or better.

A PSA 8.5 version of the Wagner card was sold at auction in early 2012 for over $1 million, marking the highest price reached on record. 

Given the scarcity of the higher grades of this Wagner card, I would deem that seemingly high price to be a worthwhile investment. 

1954 Topps Ernie Banks #94

Estimated Value (PSA 10): $250,000

This marks the rookie card for Cubs great and Hall of Famer Ernie Banks.  Banks, in his prime, was one of the most feared hitters of the day, earning back to back MVP awards from 1958 to 1959. 

ernie-banks-rookie-card

He finished his career with 512 home runs; his 277 home runs as a shortstop were a career record at the time of his retirement.

His 1954 Topps rookie card is by no means scarce, as compared to some of the early tobacco or candy cards of the day.  PSA has graded nearly 2000 Banks cards, yet finding one in Mint condition is a challenge, as only 14 have earned a PSA 9 and only two have been graded gem mint. 

The last sale of a PSA 10 Banks happened in 2012 for over $142K!  What would that card be worth today?

1911 General Baking (D304) - Ty Cobb

Estimated Value (PSA 8): $300,000

One of the hobby’s most coveted early baking card issues, this Ty Cobb card is from the rare D304 General Baking Co. series. The cards were issued from between 1911 to 1914 with loaves of bread and are often referred to as the “Brunner’s Bread” collection.  

d304-cobb

The Cobb card is just a thing of beauty, with its striking colors and a near smile from Cobb, a rarity from the hard-edged ballplayer. 

These cards are quite scarce, as many never made it past the dinner table.  There is one known PSA 8 graded version of the card, which was last sold for $94K back in 2010.  It would likely get multiple six figures offers in today’s market. 

1910 Old Mill T210 - Joe Jackson

Estimated Value (PSA 3): $500,000

A very rare pre-war era card of the infamous “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, the 1910 Old Mill (aka T210 or “Red Borders” set) cards were distributed in packs of Old Mill cigarettes.

It’s a humongous set, with over 600 cards that feature cards of minor leaguers at the time.  

joe-jackson-old-mill

The Jackson card features him while on the New Orleans Pelicans, a minor league team, in between his stints with the Philadelphia Athletics and the Cleveland Naps. Jackson reportedly was “scolding the ball all season long for the Pelicans”.  

His T210 card is one of the rarest cards of the pre-war era as there are only a handful known to exist. 

PSA estimates even a VG condition card to be worth close to $500K.

1911 Turkey Reds (T3) - Ty Cobb 

Estimated Value (PSA 8): $400,000

Featuring breathtaking artwork, these cards were offered via a redemption program and featured in Turkey Red cigarette packs.  These are larger "cabinet" style cards measuring 5 3/4" x 8" with six different backs for the cards.

The Ty Cobb card is the most popular of the set and the cards are quite scare as less than 100 have been graded by PSA.  The best graded known version -- a PSA 8 is estimated to be worth at least $400K.  

cobb-turkey-red

If you enjoyed this piece, please be sure to check out our other 'Most Valuable' guides:

The Most Valuable Football Cards Of All Time
The Most Valuable Basketball Cards Of All Time
The Most Valuable Hockey Cards Of All Time

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