rarest baseball cards

What Is The Rarest Baseball Card Of All Time?

Sure there are plenty of rare, one of one modern baseball inserts, but here are the rarest vintage baseball cards in history.

Updated Sep 29, 2023

All Vintage Cards content is free. When you purchase through referral links on our site, we earn a commission. Learn more

It's a question I get constantly 'What's the Rarest Baseball Card?"

While immediate thoughts for many center on the T206 Honus Wagner card, the population data that shows the card isn't as rare as most people think (about 50-75 copies of the T206 Wagner are thought to exist).

So, what is the rarest baseball card? The question is not an easy one to answer.

As follows, we dive into several pre-war tobacco cards to examine existing population reports and relative scarcity.

More...

In order to identify the rarest baseball card, the immediate starting point is any card with an existing PSA population less than say 50 cards (making it rarer than the Wagner). 

honus-wagner-t206

Collectors probably think the T206 Wagner card is the rarest of all time but it's not really close.

But there are quite a few cards with low 'graded' populations. And then the guesswork comes in to try and determine the existing 'ungraded' population.

As an example, lets examine the 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth card, which is by most accounts, Ruth's rarest baseball card.  

baltimore-news-ruth

PSA has graded three copies, SGC has graded 6, so we can probably safely assume there are less than 20 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth rookies out there. 

So, now we at the very least have a baseline for rarity. Is there anything out there with an existing population below 20 cards?  Yes, there are many.

But the issue arises from the fact that there are many oddball pre-war and pre-1900 sets where there are only 1 or 2 cards that have been graded.  

Or rare backs or error cards which just confuse the topic.

The E107 Breisch Willams Honus Wagner Is Very Hard To Find

The E107 Honus Wagner card from the set is an extremely tough card to find and far scarcer than his T206 card.

e107-wagner

E107 Breisch Williams Honus Wagner, an incredibly rare card

PSA has graded ZERO copies and SGC only six copies, thus we can safely assume less than ten copies are circulating this planet. 

Ok, let's get slightly rarer than the E107 Breisch Wiliams Honus Wagner Card.

The 1908 Rose Co Post Card Ty Cobb Card Is Also Very Rare

1908 rose co Cobb

Once again, zero copies graded by PSA, and only five by SGC, thus, just based on graded population, it's rarer than the E107 Wagner.

Are There Any Other Rare Baseball Tobacco Cards?

Most collectors are unaware of the extremely rare 1915 T214 Victory Tobacco set. Between PSA and SGC there are less than 90 copies of all cards in the set graded in total. 

This Ty Cobb card from the T214 set uses the same design from the T206 yet with blue font for the name and team name.  

t214-cobb-heritage

There are a total of three graded T214 Cobb's between PSA and SGC. 

Are there any cards rarer than the T214 Ty Cobb?

YES.

Here's a 1922 T231 Fans Cigarettes - Frank 'Home Run Baker card, one of the rarest pre-war sets of all time. This card has only ONE graded copy and it's this SGC graded version below. 

fans-baker

The card sold at Heritage Auctions for close to $11,000 back in 2015. I would guess that number would easily be eclipsed today.

Rare 19th Century Baseball Cards

Stepping back from the 1900's tobacco cards, there are also many 19th century baseball cards that are considered RARE by collectors. 

The first baseball card ever produced the 1869 Peck & Snyder Red Stocking Team Card is a tough find, but, there are still 13 PSA graded copies

peck-snyder-cincinatti

One of truly rare late 1800 baseball card sets is the 1888 N173 Old Judge Cabinets issue.

Most vintage collectors are familiar with the popular N172 Old Judge cards issued from 1886 through 1890

However, the correspoding 'cabinet' cards to the set (cataloged as N173) which were awarded as a premium to collectors are not as well known.

The N173 cards are exceedingly rare with only 97 cards graded by PSA out of a believed 400+ card set

Here's an example of the most valuable card in the N173 set, the Mike "King" Kelly card, shown here in his "street clothes' of which only a handful are believed to still exist. Note, there is another variation in the set of Kelly (batting) which is a bit easier to find (over 20 graded copies are known to exist). 

n173-king-kelly

There are plenty of cards out there with a population of ONE, and there are plenty of back variations and type cards that are quite scarce.  So, this is why I said the answer to 'rarest card of all time' is sort of complicated.

Do you have a pre-war vintage 'one of one card' I didn't mention here? Leave a comment below and let me know about it.  

Shoot me an email at chris@allvintagecards.com with a photo of your card and I'd be happy to do a follow up post showcasing reader 'rarities'. 

All Vintage Cards

About the author

Chris Rogers, is the founder of All Vintage Cards. Launched in 2018, All Vintage Cards is the hobby's leading resource for vintage sports cards. Chris is also the author of 'The Complete Guide To Selling Your Sports Cards'. Chris remains an avid collector and can be reached at chris@allvintagecards.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Looking To Sell Your Collection?