For the past few years Formula One has been on a massive uptrend in viewership—with races averaging over 1.2 million a piece in 2022. Since Netflix premiered “Drive to Survive” in 2019, the sport has had a massive inflow of new money: new paddocks and racetracks built out in Miami and Vegas to satiate demand from newly converted formula 1 fans, a broadcast deal with ESPN for $85 million annually (up from $5 million per year in their last deal), as well as a 2020 deal with Topps to produce cards for formula one drivers and teams.
There have been formula one trading cards in the past, from brands like Futera, Panini, and GRID. All making sets of cards at different periods since the 1980s. If you look at most drivers still on the grid today however, you will only be able to find Topps cards, which only began printing for the 2020 season.
Before we go into the driver-by-driver breakdown, a few notes on what kinds of cards are in the data below:
-46 of 50 were manufactured by Topps
-4 of 50 were manufactured by Futera
-Of the Topps cards 26 are “Topps Dynasty” and 20 are “Topps Chrome”
Topps collectors from other sports will be familiar with Dynasty and Chrome cards, but if you are not among them here is a quick primer:
“Topps Dynasty” cards are a premium product that are scarcely produced—population per driver varies significantly. Often paralleling their baseball cards, Topps Dynasty cards feature high-end design elements, smaller production counts in parallel colors (gold, red and black), and 'relic' cards that are truly a spectacle. These special 'relic' cards don't just boast the driver's autograph, but they also feature actual memorabilia like driver overalls, commonly referred to as “patch cards”.
On the other hand, "Topps Chrome" is a more expansive collection, featuring a base set of 200 cards that includes F1 drivers, team principals, F2 drivers, team cars, and “parallel” cards. The parallel cards are essentially the same as the standard base card, but with a variation in the background. These variations come in different colors or reflective patterns, including gold, orange, red, purple, offering a visual feast for the collector.
Futera, though less represented in the data with only four cards, all of which are 2006 Lewis Hamilton rookie cards, still holds a significant place in the market. Albeit mostly for drivers who have since retired.
Max is on track to becoming the greatest driver of his generation. With two World Driver’s championships under his belt, while currently leading the race for his third, his card values have followed suit.
If he continues at his current pace he will have the hardware to prove that he is one of the all time greats, but as of right now his card values seem to reflect that already. Like in many other sports (I’m looking at you, people who paid 7 figures for a Justin Herbert card), young players attract significant attention from young collectors—betting that their guy will add his name to Mount Rushmore before hanging up his cleats or steering wheel.
And with Max regularly mentioning retirement, it would stand to reason that getting to 7 driver’s titles is a little bit ludicrous.
Of his top 5 sales, 4 are Topps Chrome and 1 is Topps Dynasty; all 5 are graded either a PSA 9 or PSA 10. All of them are one of one, completely unique. 3 of the 5 are signed, both of which were Chromes.
We will have to see whether these six figure sales will have been wise investments in a few years time. If Max continues to dominate for the next few years, they could have been a bargain!
Since we are going in order of the current WDC rankings, we have made it to second place. Only back six points to the leader, a gap narrowed after Perez took home first place at last weekend’s race in Azerbaijan.
As you would imagine, top sales of his cards do not reach quite as high as his teammate’s. Checo’s auction price record is a whopping $4,652; even Max’ 5th highest sale is a stunning 9 times more expensive than Perez’ highest. Overshadowing him on the track and on card marketplaces…
Checo’s top 5 sales are 3 Dynasty, 2 Chrome. A reversal from Max’ top cards, is it possible that worse performing drivers’ Dynasty cards become more valuable than their chromes? An interesting hypothesis to keep in mind.
Another difference of note is that one of Checo’s cards, the 5th most valuable, was ungraded. Being a Mexican Flag dynasty card had imbued it with significant value enough to make it onto the list.
The oldest driver on this list and third overall in WDC points, the 41-year old has had a beautiful start to the season. Although fans of today know Fernando as the storied veteran on the grid, at one time he was the youngest Formula 1 double world champion.
His card record sitting at just over $12,000 he is ahead of half of the drivers in this list, but if we go by number of wins he is in third place. And by a good margin too--fourth place has 10 wins to Fernando’s 32.
So it isn’t just performance that drastically drives up the value of your cards, two titles and 32 wins ain’t doing it for Nando. What other factors should we consider when analyzing the appeal of a driver’s cards?
I suppose age could be a limiting factor on Alonso card values; buying a young player allows for higher potential upside from the remainder of a hopefully long and successful driving career. Fernando’s career has been a storied one, but is all the glory in the rear-view? If not then there is likely quite a bit of upside in Alonso cards.
Returning to my theory from the above section, Fernando’s top 4 card price records were “Topps Dynasty”, strengthening my thesis or…?
Seven World Drivers’ Championships, 103 wins, 192 podiums, 103 pole positions. All records that Lewis holds in the sport. Since joining the circuit at 22 years of age and subsequently collecting more wins than any driver dares to dream of. And his cards’ values reflect such excellence:
A ‘2020 Topps Chrome F1 Superfractor #1 Lewis Hamilton (#1/1)-PSA NM 7” was sold for $900,000 (with fees) at Goldin on May 1st, 2022. A massive price that far outstripped the record price at the time, a Futera Hamilton rookie card that sold for $312,000 a few months prior.
Potentially nearing the end of his driving career, at the age of 38, Lewis' card values are more attuned to the continued impact Lewis will have on culture after he hangs up his driving suit. It is certainly possible for Lewis to rack up more wins and championships, but it would seem that the majority of his successes are behind him. Fans have grown up watching him dominate Formula One for years, though, his impact will surely be felt and thereby highly valued in his cards.
The first of the Ferrari Boys steps up to the plate! While Carlos Sainz has been a consistent performer in the midfield for the past eight years of Formula One, he's not the driver that immediately comes to mind when you think of F1 legends. With one win and 15 podiums in 167 starts, his on-track resume might not seem like the stuff of card-collecting dreams.
And yet, the value of his cards tells a different story. His top card, a 2020 Topps Dynasty F1 Triple Patch Autographs Gold, sold for a tidy $5,550 at a Goldin auction. Three of his top five card sales were "Topps Dynasty", contributing to my pet theory on non-elite drivers’ Dynasty cards being more valuable compared to the chrome variety.
While Sainz hasn't hit the same heights as some of his counterparts in terms of race wins, there's something to be said for consistency and longevity in this sport. If we consider card value solely based on wins, Sainz might fall in the middle of the pack. But, as we've seen with Alonso, other factors come into play when evaluating card appeal.
Is it the magic of Maranello, the home of Ferrari, that's fuelling the value of Sainz's cards? To some degree the team of a driver makes an impact as significant as the skill of the driver themselves. If you are on a team that can build a car good enough to propel you to a WDC your cards should probably trade at a premium. Though, Ferrari’s name may be enough to coast on–because they sure ain’t building a championship winning car.
George Russell has been steadily making a name for himself in Formula 1. With 1 win, 9 podiums, and 86 starts under his belt, Russell's on-track performance has been impressive considering his relatively short career in an underwhelming car up until joining Mercedes in 2022.
As for his cards, the values reflect the potential that collectors see in him; similar to that of other young drivers on this list. Three of his top 5 card sales were Topps Dynasty and 3 were Topps Chrome. Again, we see the record being set by a very highly-graded Chrome card; a 2020 Topps Chrome Formula 1 F1 Sapphire Purple PSA 10, sold for $16,800 sold a full year after the british driver grabbed Mercedes’ second seat. Not necessarily the best time to buy, but we will see how George’s story plays out from here.
While Russell's win count may not be as high as some of the more established drivers on this list, his cards' values reflect his growing fan base and the bright future that lies ahead. The age factor could be contributing to the appeal of his cards as well, as investing in a young driver like Russell could potentially yield a higher upside throughout his career.
Another Ferrari boy, back again! Charles, the more accomplished of the two Scuderia drivers, has notched 5 wins in 106 races. The value of his cards reflect this impressive performance in a car that is known to be inconsistent at best.
Though his true rookie season was in 2018, all five of the cards here are labeled “Rookie” cards, as F1 didn’t have a deal with a manufacturer until two years later when Topps signed on. It seems to not be an issue as his cards have fetched as high as $264,000, with only Hamilton and Verstappen cards experiencing more pricey sales.
This premium likely comes due to the story of Charles’ career. Even before his F1 debut he was finding wild success; with securing first place with three races to go in F2 2017 and taking the title the year before that in GP3. The Monegasque driver bested his veteran teammate, Marcus Ericsson, by 30 points in his first season in Formula One.
After knocking it out of the park in his first season in an underwhelming car he earned a seat at Ferrari, allowing him the chance to fight for races at the front of the pack. His time in the Scuderia hasn’t panned out into anything more than a few race wins and 19 pole positions, but the value of his cards imply that collectors see the potential.
Of the five cards here, 3 are Dynasty and 2 are Chrome. So it would seem that my theory is not tracking across all drivers in the dataset. It is worth noting that by far his most expensive card is a Chrome Superfractor PSA 9 without an autograph, a beautiful and shiny one of one. The Dynasty set seems to be a worthwhile collectors piece, if only for the game worn-piece within it, but the real value seems to always lie in the uber-rare 1/1 Superfractors; especially when they receive a PSA MINT 9 like this one.
Leclerc is going to have to come through on this potential if he wants the collector who dropped $234,000 to come out ahead. Will that require a switch to a more competent team? Ferrari fans don’t seem too confident in the turnaround here, but collectors might have some different ideas.
Lance Stroll may not be at the bottom of this list in the WDC rankings, but he sure as hell is at the bottom when it comes to card values. Of the bottom ten cards on this list 4 are Lance Stroll cards; the three lowest are Lance cards and are also the only cards on the list that were not able to break the $1,000 mark.
Stroll's top card, a 2020 Topps Chrome F1 Autographs SuperFractor, fetched $3,600 at a Goldin sale. The card is not only a rare 1/1 edition but also features Stroll's autograph, which was graded PSA/DNA 10. Among his top sales we see three Chrome cards, all graded PSA 8 and above. The two others, Dynasty cards, are one of 2 Canada Flag Patch cards; which were sold one day apart on eBay. Bought by a Stroll super-fan or just a proud Canadian?
Though Stroll's racing stats might not scream "legend in the making," it's essential to consider other factors when evaluating the appeal of his cards. Stroll is only 24 years old and his career longevity is likely much more guaranteed than others on the grid. If your father owns the team, you can have all the time you want to become a great driver. There could be quite a bit of alpha on the table here if you believe in the Aston Martin revamp and a young guy who is doing his darnedest to make his Billionaire father proud of him.
A fan favorite, Norris has an undeniable charm that extends beyond the racetrack, which can be seen in the high value of his trading cards considering his lack of success on the grid.
Three Chrome and two Dynasty in Norris’ top five sales. His top card, a Chrome Autographs Red Refractor, fetched $19,200 at a Goldin sale in late 2022. This particular card is a pop 1, BGS 8 graded, signed copy
It seems that although the Dynasty cards individually are more rare, collectors seem to value the scarcity of Chrome cards more than the guaranteed uniqueness of the Dynasty set. Drivers that have a lot of hype behind them (read: Max, Lando, Charles, George) all had their price record set by a Chrome copy. It seems that if you can get a 1/1 or similar Chrome card, collectors are willing to pay a premium for them.
In addition to rarity and grading, Norris's off-track personality and fan engagement have likely contributed to his cards' appeal. His social media presence and likable demeanor have made him a popular figure within the F1 community, and collectors might be drawn to his cards as a way to support and invest in a driver they connect with on a personal level.
Norris seems to still be improving, getting the most out of what is an embarrassing car from McLaren this season. Though, in order to grow into one of the pre-eminent names in the sport he will have to do a lot more than have 6.1 million Instagram followers, but it would seem that that doesn’t hurt his card values..
To sum it up, Lando Norris's trading cards are gaining popularity among collectors who recognize his potential both on and off the track. The diverse range of cards, combined with Norris's charisma and growing success, make his cards an attractive option for fans and investors alike. As Norris continues to develop as a driver and works towards his first win, the value of his cards could very well reach new heights.
Pierre Gasly has demonstrated his talent and determination in Formula 1, securing 1 win, 3 podiums, and making 113 starts to date. While he may not be considered a superstar driver yet, Gasly's cards still manage to garner considerable attention from collectors, reflecting his potential for growth and success in the sport.
His top card sale, a 2020 Topps Chrome F1 Sapphire Edition SP Padparadscha #11 Pierre Gasly Rookie Card (#1/1) – PSA NM-MT 8, sold for a healthy $13,200 at Goldin on August 20, 2022. Four of his top five card sales were Topps Chrome, while one was a Topps Dynasty card. This seems to be in line with the rest of the young drivers who have had impressive sales on their chrome cards.
Gasly may not have had the most successful career so far, but he has proven himself far more often than many of the names on this list. He has won a race, which is more than many F1 drivers can say. And he seems to get the most out of what have been rather sub-standard cars since his departure from Red Bull early on in his time on the grid.
In conclusion, Pierre Gasly's card values indicate that he is indeed a driver to watch. If he continues to grow and perform well in the sport, the demand for his cards may increase, potentially leaving some upside in his cards if you believe in his future at Alpine.
Valtteri Bottas is just two points down from Nico in the current WDC standings, but he has had a far more impactful career. 10 wins, 67 podiums in just 204 starts. He was blessed with an excellent car during his years at Mercedes, but it still takes a great driver to achieve numbers like that in any car.
4 of his 5 top sales were Dynasty cards, two of which are Topps encased and the other two are graded 9 and up. The lone Chrome is a SuperFractor PSA 8 Pop 1, its price finding just $30 less than his record Dynasty auto racing glove card.
Though his time at Mercedes is marred by sitting under the shadow of Lewis Hamilton, he still had an impressive run that does not seem to have translated into high card values. In his five years at Merc he placed second twice and third twice in the world drivers championship. Not to mention his five years there each ended in Mercedes winning the constructor title. Not much more you could ask for out of your number 2 driver.
Collectors do not seem to appreciate Valtteri the way they do more aggressive and ostentatious drivers. Younger drivers on this list with less than a fraction of Bottas’ accomplishments have card prices fetching ten times the prices, why? Well his career with a top-tier constructor is over, and his chances of increasing his win count or having a title fight do not seem to be in the cards going forward.
Formula One Topps cards are a young market, with lots of young faces represented on them. If F1 continues to experience the upward trajectory in eyeballs and revenues, then there are certainly cards worth picking up. An eye towards value is likely the best way to figure that out, which underappreciated driver do you think deserves higher prices?
Photo: Jesper Giortz-Behrens
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