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What constitutes a low-risk baseball card investment? Essentially, it’s a card unlikely to lose money anytime soon.
This might be because the player is long retired, is better known for being in the Hall of Fame, and has GOAT-type status.
You won’t find cards from players like Tatis, Acuna, and Vlad Jr. here. Although their card’s potential return on investment is sky-high, the risk they bring is not exactly low.
Here you will find retired HoF GOATS and the biggest stars in the sport right now, who are future Baseball Hall of Fame, honorees. These are some of the best players to grace the sport of baseball.
Low-Risk Baseball Card Investments
These ten cards are ideal for collectors who are uncomfortable carrying much risk in their collection but still desire a moderate to high return on investment (ROI).
As always, we’d recommend looking at copies that have managed to achieve investment quality grades. For vintage cards, PSA or SGC is often the preferred service, while BGS is can also be added to modern baseball card purchases.
2011 Mike Trout Topps Update RC #US175
This is an easy one.
Similarly, the 2011 Topps Update is a must if you’re looking for high-reward baseball card investments with super low risk.
It benefits from having a GOAT as the subject, as it features Trout during his rookie season.
The crisp design shows the player after a successful swing, with no hard border and a small RC logo found at the base.
It doesn’t compare to the 2009 release regarding overall values, but it’s a more affordable option and is viable from an investment perspective.
Standard Parallels: Gold (/2011), Black (/60), Silk Collection (100 cards, /50), Printing Plates, Platinum (/1) 2011 Diamond Parallels: Platinum Diamond (1:4), Cognac Diamond, Hope Diamond (/60), and Canary Diamond (/1)
1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Upper Deck RC #1
Ken Griffey Jr. rookie cards are another name synonymous with baseball card investing. Griffey Jr. is often compared to Barry Bonds, as they are two of the greatest hitters from their respective eras. Unlike Bonds, Griffey Jr. escaped the ignominy of being accused of steroid abuse, and his legacy remains untainted today.
Another firm favorite with card collectors, the value of his RC has exploded in recent years. It features a simple image of the player as he smiles at the camera, in a shot that has become iconic in the collecting hobby. Despite a lack of parallels or unique versions, many contain a factory wrinkle on the reverse, which is prohibitive in terms of earning a high grade.
This card is another uptick in recent months, with the average price of a PSA 10 copy increasing steadily. As such, it’s another canny investment that could provide dividends if you wait a while.
T206 Ty Cobb HOF Red, Green, Polar Bear Back
When the Ty Cobb T206 baseball card hits an eBay auction, you can bet your last dime it will be one of the most-watched (and bids) cards on the platform. You would do yourself and your sports card investment portfolio one hell of a favor by adding one of these to your collection.
1948 Ted Williams Leaf RC #76
Ted Williams is a post-war icon, quickly making the list thanks to a 19-year career spent with the Red Sox. It would have been longer still, if not for the player being enlisted for military service during World War II and the Korean War.
He’s regarded as one of the greatest hitters ever, was an All-Star 19 times, and is the last MLB player to bat over .400 in a season. Found in the 1948 Leaf set, this is the first post-war edition featuring Williams. (He can also be found in early Goudey Premium and Play Ball sets from the late 1930s.)
The age, print defects, and centering are common issues that hold it back from higher grades, while the red coloration and blue tab make it stand out from the crowd. Williams is pictured doing what he does best, with the bat in hand. The condition and numerous problems cause mint editions to be precious, and reasonably risk-free from an investment perspective.
1963 Pete Rose Topps RC with Pedro Gonzalez, Ken McMullen, and Al Weis #537
Regarding legends, the Pete Rose RC from 1963 is another card that must be included if you want risk-free baseball card investments.
Rose is a former player and manager who was a 17-time All-Star and a 3-time World Series champion. He was banned from the sport in ‘89 after accusations that he gambled on baseball games, which he later admitted to in 2004.
His RC has a vertical layout despite featuring four players, with Ken McMullen of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the New York Yankees’ Pedro Gonzalez, and Al Weis of the Chicago White Sox joining Rose on the front the card.
It has a bright yellow background, with players’ heads found in red circles. The betting scandal 30 years ago casts a wide shadow and leads to the issue of Rose’s possible reinstatement and election to the Hall of Fame. It’s unlikely, although it would cause his RC prices to rise. In any case, it’s still incredibly popular with collectors.
1986 Barry Bonds Topps Traded Tiffany #11T
Barry Bonds. The recipient of a record seven NL MVP awards, eight Gold Glove awards, a record 12 Silver Slugger awards, and 14 All-Star selections, you’d be forgiven for thinking that his cards are some of the most expensive from his era.
Allegations surrounding the use of steroids have hurt his legacy significantly, even if others managed to get away with it at the time.
As such, several collectors shy away from the Bonds RC from ‘86, despite the addition of a Tiffany version, which was sold in a comparatively limited number, offering higher quality cards compared to the base release.
It’s another good choice considering it’s somewhat underpriced, and copies were going for $400 over a decade ago.
Gem mint copies now sell for four figures and could get higher still if he ever manages to get into the Hall of Fame.
1982 Cal Ripken Topps Traded #98T
‘The Iron Man’ Cal Ripken played 21 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, amassing 3,184 hits, 431 home runs, and 1,695 runs batted in over his career.
A World Series winner and a 19-time All-Star, he’s remembered as one of the best shortstops and third basemen in baseball history.
His ‘82 Topps Traded is a classic card that isn’t especially expensive when looking at ungraded copies due to the large print runs from the time.
“The card is another slow burner, but it’s exceptionally low-risk, and more affordable than many others.”
It has a posed shot of Ripken with a bat slung over one shoulder, with a printed auto included across the middle. However, it doesn’t grade well, so PSA 10 copies can result in a valuation of over $3,000.
2000 Miguel Cabrera Topps Traded #TTA40
At the turn of the century, Miguel Cabrera was one of the hottest prospects around. He made his MLB debut in 2003 and is still going as of 2020. His faltering numbers are one reason why collectors sometimes overlook him, despite being a 4-time AL batting champion, a World Series winner, and a two-time AL MVP.
The card has a posed shot of Cabrera holding a bat, while the addition of an on-card auto has helped boost the price in recent years. He might not be as exciting as those that came before or after, but he’s a steady choice from an investment perspective.
He will join the Hall of Fame when he retires, and people will likely remember just how good he was in his prime. Once again, it looks to be a solid investment piece.
1962 Lou Brock Topps RC #387
Lou Brock was an outfielder who spent most of his 19-year career as a left fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals. Best known for his base stealing, he broke Ty Cobb’s all-time major league career steals record and Maury Wills’s single-season record. He passed away in September 2020.
His ‘62 RC is special in a number of ways. It’s seen as his definitive rookie option, while the brown borders along the side are made to look like wood. They can come in lighter or deeper colors, and make the card especially susceptible to wear and chipping.
Brock’s legacy, his passing, and the card itself have made it one of the more popular auction pieces in recent months, as it would be a strong addition to almost any collection.
1954 Mickey Mantle Bowman #65
Mickey Mantle. If ever there was a player who encapsulated U.S. exceptionalism and the post-war glow of being a winning superpower, he was it.
Mantle is the subject of one of the most popular cards from the hobby, but first, we will look at his ‘54 Bowman release. It features a posed shot of the Yankees legend, with trees and a cloudy sky.
You’ll also find a copy of his autograph at the bottom, although it hasn’t been hand-signed by the man himself. Despite being a lesser option than the card seen below, mint copies will still sell for an eye-watering six-figure sum.
As one of the greats, prices remain steady for his early cards and continue to provide good returns year on year.
1952 Mickey Mantle Topps #311
The Topps ‘52 Mickey Mantle is seen as ‘the holy grail’ of the hobby, such is its value and importance for baseball card collectors.
In 2018, a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle made headlines when it sold for 2.88 million dollars at an auction hosted by Heritage Auctions. The card belonged to former NFL player Evan Mathis and was graded a 9 MINT by PSA auctions.
Extreme prices have increased interest in lower-graded copies and cards like the ‘54 Bowman. It’s another solid baseball card investment, although the entry price will be too prohibitive for many would-be owners.
1954 Ted Williams Bowman #66
Williams’ ‘54 Bowman is a great alternative if you’re looking for a cheaper option than the 1948 Leaf. It features a simple posed photo of the player, with a copy of his autograph at the bottom.
The card makes a list as it was pulled from production following a contract dispute between the player and the manufacturer, and it’s prone to a range of issues. (It’s also why he’s also found twice in ‘54 Topps sets.)
Another vintage card that has slowly risen over the past decade, it’s hard to find a better option considering its scarcity and story. Lower PSA grades have risen rapidly over the past few years, while 7s and 8s are more stable as a long-term investment.
1954 Hank Aaron Topps #128
“Hammerin” Hank Aaron is another icon who held the MLB record for career home runs for 33 years and still holds several MLB offensive records.
The last player to feature in the Negro leagues following his retirement, he was celebrated with a trophy released in his name, awarded annually to the best overall offensive performer in each league. His 1954 RC is notable for a number of reasons.
The bright orange coloring makes it instantly recognizable, although it’s prone to various issues relating to the condition. For example, you can expect to find poor centering, print defects in the orange background, and chipping along the green reverse.
“High grades are a stable baseball card investment, and should see good returns in the future.”
It might not be as popular as the Mickey Mantle card from the same year, but the sole PSA 10 grade sold for $357,594 in 2012.
2009 Mike Trout Bowman Chrome Draft Picks & Prospects #BDPP89
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Considering that we’re looking at the best players and their top RCs, it would never take that long for Mike Trout to make it onto the list.
The LA Angels star has a reasonable claim to being the GOAT, while you can’t argue with either the numbers he puts up or the sheer consistency he shows while doing so. After dominating the minor leagues, Trout has gone on to become a living legend at the age of 29.
He’s been named the AL MVP three times, (2014, 2016, and 2019) and it’s hard to find a more exciting set of rookie cards to collect. Any of his early cards are seen as great options from an investment perspective, and we’re focusing on his ‘09 Bowman Chrome auto first. It’s Trout’s key RC, even if it’s an insert rather than an ‘official’ rookie release.
It’s his 1st Bowman Chrome card, with the outfielder pictured in his Angels uniform. The parallels listed below are some of the most popular Trout cards that money can buy and look like a low-risk, albeit relatively expensive, investment.
2009 Bowman Chrome Draft Picks and Prospects Parallels: Refractors (/500) X-Fractors (/225) Blue Refractors (/150) Gold Refractors (/50) Orange Refractors (/25) Red Refractors (/5) Printing Plates (1/1), SuperFractors (1/1)
2011 Mike Trout Bowman Chrome #175
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Lastly, we’re rounding off with another Trout card from 2011. It might not have caught on with collectors similarly to the Topps Update from the same year, but it’s still a great choice if you’re looking for cheaper baseball card investment pieces.
Of course, this means there’s less profit scope, but it’s another good long-term pick. It features an action shot of Trout with his bat at the ready, while colored refractors will change the border’s color.
2011 Bowman Chrome Parallels: Refractors, Blue Refractors (/150), Gold Refractors (/50), Orange Refractors (/25), Red Refractors (/5)
It’s fair to say that most baseball card investments aren’t worth the ink used in printing. This is especially true when looking at newer cards or copies with a high print run.
The most significant low-risk investments are typically tried and tested; they have risen in price significantly over the past decade. Take the Griffey Jr RC as a prime example or anything featuring the likes of Mickey Mantle or Mike Trout. Check out how much they were selling for five years ago if you’re tempted to hold onto them as a long-term investment strategy.
Honorable mentions have to go to cards like the Babe Ruth quartet from the 1933 Goudey set and many others for which we didn’t have space.
Of course, this means that there’s a higher entry price, as most cards to make a list are already worth a fair amount. As such, we’ve tried to include various options with something to suit everyone.