For more than an entire century now, collecting baseball cards has been a passion of kids and even adults. There have been several iconic and valuable ones, as well as cards that flew under the radar but still sell for a lot of money. In this list, you will find the most valuable pieces in the history of baseball cards! There are also modern cards that you might find in your basement or attic right now. We highly recommend going through the batter’s box on the off chance that you have a fortune lying in wait all this time. You do not even have to be a big baseball fan or card collector to get a kick out of these gems!
Mickey Mantle – 1952 Topps
For a lot of baby boomers, the quintessential baseball player would be Mickey Mantle. To go with this, his 1952 Topps card would be the quintessential baseball card. A 1952 Mantle that was graded 9 got sold for almost $3 million. This set a record for non-Honus Wagner T206 baseball cards! This is such a respected card that 6 or 7-graded copies can still pull in around $700,000.
Derek Jeter – 1993 Upper Deck SP Foil
Derek Jeter, in his role as shortstop and captain of the New York Yankees, is probably the biggest baseball icon of the last 30 years, and he has thousands of cards to prove it. The most valuable Jeter card comes from his minor league days in 1993. Like many cards, this Jeter card can vary in value, depending on its condition and related number rating. However, even a mid-grade card can fetch between $200 and $400. A card near perfect condition can bring in close to $1,000.
Dwight Gooden – 1984 Fleer Update
Dwight Gooden entered the baseball scene back in the early ‘80s. His blazing fastball let him set rookie records! Known as Doctor K, his 1984 rookie season witnessed him strike out 276 batters and win 17 games. These are rookie records that got immortalized by the 1985 Fleer Update set. It featured him in his blue and orange Mets uniform. Depending on the condition of the card, you can get $200 for this.
Roberto Clemente – 1955 Topps
Roberto Clemente was a Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder who got inducted into the Hall of Fame. Sadly, he died in a tragic plane crash after he notched the 3,000th hit of his career. His incredible career and heartbreaking death led to an increased interest in memorabilia. In 2012, a mint 1954 Topps rookie card of his went for $432,690. Another card, graded 9, fetched $478,000 around 4 years later.
Stan Musial – 1948 Bowman
The oldest card that is still relatively affordable would be the 1948 Bowman card of Stan Musial. The St. Louis Cardinals icon was immortalized by the set. It is not very likely that you will have one of these in your attic, but it is not entirely impossible. At any rate, it is certainly worth a look since you can sell one in good condition for more than $1,000.
Babe Ruth – 1914 Baltimore News
In 2012, a copy of the 1914 Babe Ruth card went for $575k. This happened even though it only got a grade 2. What makes it so expensive is the fact that rumors claim there are only 10 of these in existence.
Roger Clemens – 1984 Fleer Update
We have another card from the 1984 Fleer Update set! This time, it is the one for the most valuable rookie card of Roger “The Rocket” Clemens. He became one of the best pitchers of the ‘80s, the ‘90s, and even the ‘00s. His reputation went downhill after accusations of steroid usage and even stopped him from getting a spot on the Hall of Fame. Luckily, they did not make the value of the card go down. In general, you can sell it for $200 to $400 if it is in good shape.
Pete Rose/Pedro Gonzalez/Ken McMullen/Al Weis – 1963 Topps
The main reason this 4-player rookie card went for around $70,000 was that it has Pete Rose, the hits record holder, in it. In 2016, a copy of it went for $717,700. What could possibly cause it to sell for this much money? Apparently, the card in question received a grade of 10! It is very rare to find a perfect card, especially when it is this old.
Albert Pujols – 2001 Bowman Autographed
Baseball cards had become so ubiquitous by the early ‘00s that none was really considered rare unless they came with a gimmick. We are talking about memorabilia cards, autographs, and low-numbered parallel ones. Among the most valuable of these would be the Albert Pujols autograph card in the 2001 Bowman set. If you have this in good condition, you can get an amount in the four figures for it.
Cal Ripken Jr. – 1982 Topps Traded
There are a number of valuable 1982 rookie cards. However, the most valuable one would be the Cal Ripken Jr. card in the Topps Traded expansion set. The Iron Man’s card can fetch you about $200 if it is in good condition. Just be careful since the back can chip and flake. This is the reason there is such a big range of grades and prices for it.
Nolan Ryan/Jerry Koosman – 1968 Topps Rookie
Just like the Pete Rose rookie card, a grade 10 copy of the 1968 combo card of Nolan Ryan and Jerry Koosman of the Mets got auctioned off. Do you want to know how rare this is? Nearly 8,000 copies of this card got submitted for professional appraisal and only one was granted this score. This explains why the card was able to go for $612,359 at the auction. A grade 9 one would go for $20,000 to $30,000.
Frank Thomas – 1990 Topps Error
During the ‘90s, the most valuable card would be the Frank Thomas one in the Topps set. This is not a regular card either but a specific error one. The card for this Hall of Famer does not come with his name on the front. This error is why it is worth a lot of money. You can expect to get something in the four or five figures for it.
Honus Wagner – T206
The most valuable and famous baseball card of all time must be the Honus Wagner card in the T206 set. It is pretty much a legend in the card collecting circles! Like other cards during this era, the 1911 card was made by a tobacco company as a method to improve the sales of their cigarette products. However, the slugger himself wanted to pull the card for unknown reasons. It is thought that he did not want kids to buy cigarettes just to look for his card. However, there was a research that revealed that the dispute had more to do with the royalties. At any rate, there are not a lot of these cards on the market. This is the reason it is considered the “Holy Grail” of baseball cards! In 2016, one of them sold for $3.3 million.
Chipper Jones – 1991 Desert Shield
One of the most famous MLB players in the ‘90s, Chipper Jones was best known as the third baseman of the Atlanta Braves. The most valuable card of his is linked to an iconic moment of that decade. In 1991, Topps came out with a special version of the base set from the season, which came with “Desert Sheild” holograms. This was only available to soldiers involved in Operation Desert Storm. It included a Jones rookie card! If you have a copy with the hologram, you can get hundreds of bucks for it.
Babe Ruth – 1916 Sporting News
During the peak of his career, Babe Ruth was not just one of the most famous sluggers but also one of the most famous men in the United States. As a testament to his legacy, people are still willing to pay good money to get their hands on his 1916 card from the Sporting News set. In 2016, a copy went for an incredible $717,000. A year after that, another copy fetched $550,000.
Ken Griffey Jr. – 1989 Upper Deck Rookie
Across the ‘90s, a lot of people believed that the 1989 rookie card for Ken Griffey Jr. in the Upper Deck would be one of the most expensive baseball cards in history. Even though this did not come true, the card is still one of the most iconic cards in the past 30 years. One with a good grade will fetch you $400.
Willie Mays – 1952 Topps
Aside from the famous Mantle card, there is another valuable card from the 1952 Topps set. It features none other than New York center fielder and Hall of Famer: Willie Mays. Even though it is not as valuable as that of the Yankees slugger, the Say Hey Kid’s card went for $478,000 during a 2016 auction.
Kirby Puckett – 1984 Fleer Update
Up next, we have one more entry from the 1984 Fleer Update set. This time, it is the set’s version of Kirby Puckett. The price of this card for the Hall of Famer from Minnesota Twins depends on the grade. However, you can expect around $200 to $500 for a mint one.
Shoeless Joe Jackson – 1909 American Caramel
This card is similar to the Honus Wagner one. The 1909 Joe Jackson card was made by American Caramel to boost the sales of their cigarette brand. Even though the slugger earned a lifetime ban from the sport due to his supposed involvement in the Chicago Black Sox gambling controversy of 1919, card collectors coveted this piece. In 2016, someone paid more than $660,000 for a mint specimen of the card!
Joe Doyle – 1911 ATC T206
Many players you will see on the list have made it into the Hall of Fame. Joe Doyle is an exception to this rule. He was a pretty mediocre player who many people have already forgotten. But how come the tobacco company promotion card is worth $414,750? The only explanation would be an error. The first print of the card identified him as a player of the New York’s National League and not the Yankees!
Hank Aaron – 1954 Topps
It should not come as a surprise that Hank Aaron, called the former home run king, has a card that will rake in the big bucks. His 1954 Topps card is his only rookie card. The cards are in pretty good condition because that year saw a big improvement in printing techniques. A pristine specimen of this card fetched more than $357,000 in 2012. We are sure that it would be worth even more in this day and age.
Ty Cobb – 1909 T206 ‘Bat Off Shoulder’
Any card from the 1909-1911 T2016 set is bound to be very valuable. However, the Ty Cobb card tends to fly under the radar. The “Bat on the Shoulder” variant is a little less valuable than the “Bat Off Shoulder” counterpart because more high-quality copies of the latter have surfaced. The prices of these cards vary a lot, but you can expect a copy to go for six figures.
Mickey Mantle – 1951 Bowman
Yes, this is the second entry for a Mickey Mantle cart! This time, let us talk about the 1951 Bowman even if it is not as expensive or famous as his Topps. This variant is the only official rookie card of the Mick. A mint copy of the card will fetch more than $500,000 thanks to his popularity among both baby boomers, who got to watch him play, and younger folks who admire his legacy!
Eddie Plank – 1909 T209
Here is another card from the incredible T209 set! The version of the Hall of Famer Eddie Plank is considered the second rarest and most valuable card in the deck. The pitcher is only behind Honus Wagner himself! There are several reasons why this piece is so valuable and rare. OldSportsCards.com said, “The most prevalent theory is that the card suffered from a poor printing plate, resulting in many of the cards being destroyed since they could not pass quality control. Besides, many of the known examples are found with poor centering from top to bottom. The centering can be so severe that it will cut into the text along the bottom.”
Cap Anson – 1887 Old Judge
This card from the 1887 Old Judge set of cards is the oldest one on our list! Many experts and collectors think that this was the most important 19th century card thanks to the wide variety of players and variants included in the series. The Cap Anson card, particularly the one in uniform, is the most valuable of them all. It is very rare and only a few copies exist.
Jackie Robinson – 1948 Leaf
Jackie Robinson is probably the most important athlete from the United States during the 20th century. He broke the color line in MLB, which had a lasting impact on sports history. He has been immortalized with this 1948 Leaf card. It is a coveted item in collector circles since it is scarce compared to his other cards from the ‘50s. Of course, the price also changes depending on its grade. In the spring of 2019, one with a grade of 8 sold for nearly $75,000.
Joe DiMaggio – Goudie 1948
The 1948 Goudie card of Joe DiMaggio does not really look like your regular baseball card since it has a caricature body, as well as background cartoon illustrations. What makes it so different is that it was one of the earliest cards of the Yankee Clipper player. This Joltin’ Joe card was released just two years into his pro career. You can get thousands of dollars for it! There is another Joe DiMaggio card in the series that does not come with the background illustrations that are worth a little less.
Duke Snider – 1949 Bowman
We have already mentioned rookie cards for Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, so it was only a matter of time before we talked about the Duke of Flatbush! During the late ‘40s and ‘50s, Edwin “Duke” Snider was the admired center fielder for the “Boys of Summer” team of the Brooklyn Dodgers. He was only second to Jackie Robinson in terms of acclaim and popularity. Like Mantle, this rookie card was made by Bowman and debuted in the 1949 series. In 2016, a copy with a good grade went for $232,750.
Andy Pafko – 1952 Topps
Andy Pafko of the Dodgers is not a Hall of Famer. You will not find any abnormality or error on his card from the 1952 Topps series. But why else did a grade 10 copy of it go for more than $250,000 in 2016? It has to do with the number, you see. His card was designated #1 in the iconic 1952 set, which is the reason it is so famous among completists and collectors.
1909 T206 Sherry Magee (Error)
While Sherry Magee led the National League in RBI no less than four times, that’s not the reason his PSA 8 T206 card sold for $660,000 in September 2018. In fact, it turns out that there was an error with the card. Magee’s name was initially spelled “Magie” before it was corrected. As you’d expect, the corrected version was printed in much higher quantities than the error. This error is considered to be one of the most celebrated ones in baseball card history!
1910 T210 Old Mill Joe Jackson
This card is one of the only cards manufactured during Joe Jackson’s playing days that’s still around. While it’s already been 100 years since the Black Sox scandal and 30 years since “Field of Dreams”, people are still fascinated by “Shoeless Joe”. As a matter of fact, the PSA 3.5 T210 Old Mill Joe Jackson card sold for an incredible $600,000 in 2019. Even though Jackson is featured as a member of a minor league team in the card, it’s still very rare and coveted.
1915 Cracker Jack Ty Cobb
The molasses-flavored, caramel-coated snack has been around for as long as baseball has, more or less. In fact, Cracker Jack had been immortalized in baseball lore by the 1902 song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”. To this day, fans are still singing the line “Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack!” at baseball games. Well, Ty Cobb drove pitchers crazy for more than 3 decades. Ninety years after his retirement, his career .366 batting average is still the top for all Major League Baseball players, both past and present. A PSA 9 1915 Cracker Jack Cobb card sold for $432,000 in 2016.
1948 Leaf Satchel Paige
It’s rather uncommon for a rookie card of a 42-year-old pitcher to be so rare and in demand. However, Leroy “Satchel” Paige was not another common pitcher. He just might have been the most dominant hurler in history. He didn’t get the chance to show off his charisma in the majors until 1948. The legend stepped into the game with no problem, going 6-1 for the world champion Cleveland Indians. In 2018, a PSA 8 copy of this card sold for $432,000.
1932 U.S. Caramel Babe Ruth
Aside from Babe Ruth’s obvious fame, this particular card is not an easy one to find in good shape. A PSA 9 copy of the 1932 U.S. Caramel Babe Ruth that was in almost perfect condition was sold for $432,000 in April 2019. Think about the fact that these cards were packaged with caramel at the time, meaning that they were susceptible to staining. If the cards didn’t get stained by the caramel, there was also a good chance some sticky-fingered kids would get their hands on the cards.
1909 T206 Ty Cobb (Ty Cobb Back)
While there were only four Cobb cards in the landmark T206 set, only one variation is even rarer than the T206 Wagner. The red portrait of Ty Cobb advertises the player’s own tobacco brand on the back, reading, “Ty Cobb, King of the Smoking Tobacco World.” This card is so rare, in fact, that there have only been 19 “Cobb-Cobb” variations graded by PSA, as opposed to 34 Wagners. In 2018, a PSA 3.5 T206 “Cobb-Cobb” sold for $408,000.
1956 Topps Mickey Mantle
Simply put, this is one of Mickey Mantle’s most popular cards. Here we see Mantle grinning from ear to ear, and for good reason. That year, in 1956, he captured the elusive Triple Crown by leading the league with a .353 batting average and 52 home runs. That was the year he truly became a baseball superstar. A PSA 10 1956 Topps Mantle card sold in August 2016 for no less than $382,400.
1948 Leaf Stan Musial
This card is one of the two most recognized rookie cards that feature the legendary hitter. This Leaf card is actually the tougher one to find. It’s considered to be more visually attractive than the second one thanks to its use of color as opposed to the black and white that was normally used at the time. Stan ended up being a seven-time NL champion who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969. This PSA 9 1948 card sold for $312,000 in February 2018.
1933 Goudey Lou Gehrig
It turned out that Gehrig’s popularity was just as durable as his game was on the field. In 1939, the Iron Horse retired with the baseball record for most consecutive games played at 2,130. Since then, that record had been broken by Cal Ripken Jr. All the same, a PSA 10 1933 Goudey Gehrig, which was the only one to receive the Gem Mint grade, was valued at $33,000. That was before it was auctioned off for $274,950 in 2007. Over a decade later, this is still the only 1933 Goudey Gehrig that’s been graded PSA 10.
1911 General Baking Ty Cobb
Apparently, baseball cards were sold in all kinds of things, cigarettes, candy, gum…and bread. This 1911 PSA 8 is only one example of cards that were packaged with loaves of bread. The Ty Cobb card sold for an incredible $272,980 in September 2008. In fact, it’s the highest PSA-graded 1911 General Baking Ty Cobb. The closes is a PSA 6 as of August 2018. It’s safe to say that this is one card that would make a lot of money if it were sold today.
1910 E98 Ty Cobb
Speaking of Ty Cobb, he was probably the most gifted athlete of the early twentieth century. Not only was he an incredible hitter, but he was also the best base stealer and a great defense. There was no doubt that he was the dominant player in the American League during the Deadball Era. However, he did have an aggressive and competitive style of play which led to some controversy throughout his career. All the same, this century-old card will always sell, especially when it’s in great condition. The PSA 10 E98 Cobb sold for $270,600 in May 2019.
1909 T206 Christy Mathewson
Christy Mathewson had a great reputation. He used a specialty pitch that was likened to a screwball. The Pitcher was so amazing that he was one of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s first inductees, along with the likes of Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, and Walter Johnson. The winner’s plaque at the Hall reads: “Matty was master of them all.” In September 2018, a PSA 9 1909 T206 Mathewson sold for an incredible $264,000.
1939 Play Ball Ted Williams
We know there are a lot of great Williams items to choose from, most people go for the mainstream rookie cards more than anything. When it comes to Williams, this is the star’s true rookie card. Since it was produced in the ’30s, the card is relatively common. However, high-grade examples are difficult to find all the same. A PSA 9 1939 PLay Ball Williams sold for $239,000 in November 2016.
1933 Goudey Napoleon Lajoie
This 1933 Goudey Lajoie card is a truly rare one. There are about 100 of them in existence altogether. The reason for this is that the card was not included in the original set. Collectors in 1934 had to get the card directly from the manufacturer to complete their set. A lot of the cards were mailed to collectors with a paper clip on them, which left impressions on the surface of the cards. Still, a PSA 9 1933 Goudey Lajoie sold for $228,000 in November 2016.
1910 Standard Caramel Honus Wagner
While Cobb was the best hitter of his time, Wagner was part of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s class of 1936, also known as the “First Five”, along with Ruth, Cobb, Walter Johnson, and Christy Mathewson. There’s no doubt that this was not a consolation prize for the T206 Wagner. A PSA 9 1910 Standard Caramel Wagner was sold in September 2018 for a whopping $218,550. The player had no less than eight batting titles.
1941 Play Ball Joe DiMaggio
This is one card that’s considered to be a “true classic” in the industry and it’s Joe DiMaggio’s most popular card. In 1941, “Joltin’ Joe” couldn’t stop hitting, and he set a still-standing 56-straight game hit streak. Well, it turns out that this card is just as big of a hit in April 2019 as it was in the summer of ’41. A PSA 9 1941 Play Ball Joe Dimaggio sold for $216,000 at an auction. Aside from that, this card is the key to the 1941 Play Ball set.
1955 Topps Sandy Koufax
Even though his career was cut short by injuries, Koufax was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972. He was the youngest player ever elected at age 36. That just goes to show how dominant the left-handed pitcher was at his peak. A PSA 9 1955 Topps Koufax card sold in an auction n August 2018 for $215,100. From that time, there have been just three 1955 Topps Koufax cards graded PSA 10.
1914 Boston Garter Joe Jackson
While this card was originally meant for clothing store window display, it’s thought to be about six 1914 Boston Garter Jackson cards in existence right now. In August 2007, a Sportscard Guaranty 70 1914 Boston Garter Jackson (the equivalent of a PSA 5.5) had sold for $204,000. We can only imagine how much this rare card would sell for these days. It still remains to be one of the most attractive baseball cards ever made.
1954 Bowman Mickey Mantle
Seeing as Mickey Mantle is one of the most popular figures in sports history, it’s no surprise that his cards are extremely valuable, even to this day. In 1998, Mantle was added to the “Baseball’s 100 Greatest Players” list. That’s why high-grade vintage Mantle cards always sell for such high amounts. One example to prove this point is a PSA 9 1954 Bowman Mantle – a fourth-year Mantle – was sold in May 2017 for no less than $204,000.
1914 Boston Garter Ty Cobb
This is one card that is almost impossible to find, especially the only Ty Cobb that was graded by either PSA or SGC. It’s from the all-too-rare window display series. A Sportscard Guaranty 50 1914 Boston Garter Cobb, the equivalent of PSA 4, sold for a whopping $204,000 in August 2018. Ty Cobb is the very first baseball player to win a bronze plaque at the Baseball Hall of Fame.