We compiled the all-time auction price records for sports cards as of February 16th, 2023. Be sure to check back as we update the list as new records are set!
The ’52 Topps Mickey Mantle card is the crown jewel of the Post-War era; it features a striking portrait of the player pensively looking into the distance. It is not the oldest card and it does not depict a player that regularly finds himself coming out on top of G.O.A.T. arguments—so why is it that this card receives so much love? The beautiful profile showing off Mantle’s Hollywood looks, the sky-blue background, the star of the best team in baseball, and a little mishap at Topps that found these cards at the bottom of the Hudson (allegedly) seriously deflating their supply. All factors in the value of cards like this one.
This example is one of the six highest graded copies among the 1,500 submissions PSA has graded—only three of which were graded higher. Only the highest quality and best maintained cards from this era will fetch such prices. At a PSA 9, this card cannot get much better.
Tom Brady was selected in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft and spent his rookie season as a second-string quarterback under Drew Bledsoe. Despite this inauspicious start, he went on to become the greatest player in NFL history and is considered by many to be the best draft pick of all time. Throughout his illustrious 20-year career, he won seven Super Bowls and numerous MVP awards (5x SB and 3x regular season, but who is counting). His 2000 Panini Contenders Autograph rookie card is regarded as one of the great objects in the hobby, a symbol of his unparalleled career and status as a living legend.
This card, an extremely rare PSA 10 Auto 10, is one of two like graded examples in the world. Out of the more than 500 graded copies of Tom Brady’s rookie card it does not get better than this one.
He was bound to appear again in this list, but so quickly? There is a joke in here somewhere about TB12’s double retirement, but we will leave that be for now.
Sold just months prior to the above Tom Brady card, this example received a full grade less from Beckett Grading Services (BGS) instead of PSA. Even when considering those marks against it, the card sold for $200,000 more! Likely explained by the sports card fervor that was striking the market at the time. It still illustrates that type of the demand that exists for uber-high-quality rookie cards for the G.O.A.T.
The lone basketball player on the list, Luka Doncic has garnered more praise in the first few years of his career than nearly any player before. It did not take long for Luka to display his basketball skill—averaging 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 6.0 assists in his rookie season. He was voted rookie of the year and has only gone on to exceed expectations in the following seasons. He is performing at the highest level in all aspects of the game. Evidenced by his current 10th all-time ranking in number of triple-doubles. As a 23-year old.
The amount of hype for Doncic is surely baked into the price of this card, but aside from his accomplishments on the court this piece has significant appeal from a rarity and aesthetics perspective. Firstly, it is a 1/1, there is not another like this card. Signed by the player, but also displaying the coveted “Logoman”. Graded a BGS 9, the card is made even more valuable by the quality of its printing. It is beautifully centered—a perfect 10 in the sub-category. It isn’t perfect, but its one-of-a-kind nature propels its value well past the standard price another BGS 9 card would fetch.
Printed between 1909 and 1911, the T206 series is among the most celebrated sets in the hobby. Still recognized names like Ty Cobb and Cy Young populate the list of players represented in the set. Wagner’s card carries quite some more weight due to the story behind it. During the production run the player refused to allow production of the card; some argue it was due to his being against children buying cigarette packs, others claim it was due to Wagner wanting more compensation from the American Tobacco Company. Either way the effect it had on supply is quite noticeable when compared to the other cards in the set.
This example is the most impressive T206 Honus Wagner card known to grading firms. At SGC 5, it is far from perfect. The portrait of the player does happen to be in great condition. An image from more than 100 years ago being this sharp is a testament to the quality of collector this card has had over its life. The remaining factors of the card are of below-average quality: corners are frayed and beat up, the centering is nowhere close to 50/50, and the edges are uneven at best. Although compared to similar era cards, you will not find much better than this.
Same card as above, with a lower grade—so how does it sell for more? Two things: A great story about one of our nation’s great sitcom stars and about six years’ worth of time and appreciation.
Charlie Sheen may be remembered now more for his time on Two and a Half Men or maybe for one of his many off-screen…antics? Moving past that for now, Sheen was on what can only be described as a hot streak in the late 80s; appearing in high-grossing films like Platoon, Wall Street, and Major League. He parlayed these Hollywood pay-checks into a number of pieces of classic cardboard.
This T206 Honus Wagner was one such piece of cardboard, he purchased it for $225,000 and proceeded to loan it to a newly opened Times Square Sports Bar (novel idea, we know). The bar displayed several pieces of sports memorabilia—this card being the most valuable among them. Employees of the aptly named “All-Star Café” conspired to steal the card and replace it with a fake. They sold the real card for a paltry $18,000. After a few flips in the following years, it finally ended up on the auction block at Mile High placing it firmly in the top ten sales between two other T206 Honus Wagners.
Another T206 Honus, but this copy is graded just barely higher at PSA GD 2. The fact that Wagner cards still exist after being printed over 120 years ago is something to behold. Among the forty or so that exist this card received a higher grade than half of them. It really says something about the scarcity of this card when grades like 1 and 2 are seen topping the price charts.
Mike Trout’s superlative individual career coincides with a beautiful, BGS MINT 9 graded, one of one card from his 2009 rookie year to make for one of the most valuable cards in history. Most baseball cards on this list are of players who made their debut 100+ years ago—this one is of one who is still playing right now, so what gives?
Older baseball cards are valuable for similar reasons to this one, namely rarity. Although when it comes to T206 Wagner cards, there are approximately 50 of them. When it comes to this Trout card, there is only one.
Not to mention the fact that this card is beautiful. Graded a BGS 9 with a 10 for Trout’s autograph, it did not receive a subgrade in any category below 9. Not only was this the only card of its kind made, it was also produced and maintained with extreme care. Leading to this extreme valuation.
Ahh! Back to our boy Honus! What else to say about this card. As you can tell when ever even relatively low graded T206 Wagner’s come up for sale they exhibit extreme demand. This card graded an SGC VG 3 is among the best of the best. Only four such examples can be found graded higher.
Even without knowing the grade, the naked-eye is all that is needed to witness the quality of this example. The portrait of Honus is only interrupted by a few small imperfections and the card is centered extremely well for a T206. The corners and edges are definitely worse for wear, but when considering the over 120-year-age of the piece, collectors have been known to be forgiving.
It is only fitting that the first and last on the list are of the ’52 Topps Mickey Mantle #311. This example received a half grade higher than the copy in the tenth spot, but almost a $10 million premium over it in price. I won’t regale you with details of Mantle’s illustrious career with the Yankees or with how supply of these cards is limited due to a print run of them being supposedly dumped into the Hudson. This card has somehow an even more interesting story than the average ’52 Mantle.
“The Rosen Find” is a bit of hobby lore that is the stuff of dreams for enterprising dealers and collectors. Hobby pioneer Al Rosen—self-proclaimed “Mr.Mint”—received a call from a Boston man claiming to have a collection of high-numbered 1952 Topps cards. The story was that his father was a delivery driver for Topps and when the distribution of these cards was axed, they ended up sitting in his basement for the next 31 years.
When Rosen went to go see the cards a week later he stumbled into what might be the best score in the history of the hobby. Seventy-Five Mickey Mantle #311 cards. This example was then sold off to Anthony Giordano for $50,000 in 1991. Implying an eye-popping 19.53% CAGR before fees.
Although there are three PSA GEM-MT 10 graded copies of the card, they have never shown up at auction. It is impossible to say if they ever will, or if their quality is noticeable better than this one. When it comes to ones that have come to auction, it does not get any better than “The Rosen Find”.
This card was sold in a deal brokered by Goldin in August of 2022. A year after the SGC VG 3 copy was sold for $6,606,296 in August of 2021. Demand for T206 Honus cards borders on the incomprehensible. Just the rarity of the card is enough to propel its record to new heights. High grades relative to the population alter the valuation, but when it comes to Honus it seems that collectors are buying the card as opposed to buying the grade.
January of 2021 found this copy in a sale brokered by PWCC. Thecopy is one of 6 examples graded PSA 9 (out of a total 1,897) and is one of the most beautiful examples of the golden age icon.
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