For anyone looking for the best baseball card investments, we’ve come up with a list containing some of the biggest names in the game, along with a number of great low-risk options.
Here’s a rundown with 20 of the best cards on the market right now, which are only likely to see increased values over the next decade or so.
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20 Low-Risk Baseball Card Investments
What constitutes a low-risk baseball card investment? Essentially, it’s a card that is unlikely to lose money anytime soon. This might be because the player is long retired, and is better known for being in the Hall of Fame. Others are the biggest stars in the sport right now, who have only seen the prices of their cards increasing each year.
“Whatever the case, we’ve come up with a list containing 20 great low-risk investment options, with some of the best players to grace the sport.”
As always, we’d recommend looking at copies that have managed to achieve a high grade. For vintage cards, PSA is often the preferred service, while BGS is ideal if you’re looking at modern versions instead.
2019 Fernando Tatis Jr. Topps Update RC #US56
We’ll start with a rookie card that is quickly gathering steam in the hobby.
Fernando Tatis Jr. is a shortstop who was ranked as one of the top three prospects in baseball by MLB Pipeline, ESPN, Baseball America, and Baseball Prospectus in 2019. He promptly signed with the Padres and finished in fourth place for the National League MVP Award for 2020.
One of the few players to live up to the hype, his 2019 Topps Update RC looks like a dead cert if you’re hoping for low-risk investments. It features an action shot of the player as he swings a bat, and there’s a large variety of parallels which are fairly rare. Another solid season should see good returns.
2019 Topps Update Parallels: Purple, 150th Anniversary, Rainbow Foil, Gold, Independence Day (/76), Black (/67), Mother’s Day Pink (/50), Father’s Day Blue (/50), Memorial Day Camo (/25), Clear (/10), Platinum (1/1), Printing Plates (1/1)
2019 Wander Franco Bowman Chrome Prospects #100
Wander Franco is another rookie who has been under the spotlight in recent months. Prior to the 2020 season, Franco has ranked the #1 prospect in all of baseball, while he joined the Rays’ player pool as of September. If you’re willing to take on some risk, his 2019 Bowman Chrome Prospects card is another great option from an investment perspective.
It’s his 1st Bowman card, which always adds value, while it features a great image of the player in his Rays uniform as he sprints to the next base. Franco might be a bit of a risk, but it’s decidedly lower than many of the other hyped rookies from recent years.
Base Chrome Prospects Parallels: Atomic (Hobby), Base Refractor (/499), Speckle (/299), Purple (/250), Blue (/150), Blue Shimmer (/150), Aqua (/125), Aqua Shimmer (/125), Green (/99), Green Shimmer (/99), Yellow (/75), Gold (/50), Gold Shimmer (/50), Orange (/25), Orange Shimmer (/25), Red (/5), Red Shimmer (/5), SuperFractor (1/1), Printing Plates (1/1)
2019 Fernando Tatis Jr. Topps/ Topps Chrome #410 or #203 Padres RC
The second Tatis card to make it onto the list is also an RC from 2019. There are two variations of his 2019 Topps Chrome, numbered to #410 or #202 respectively.
They’re worth a fair deal more than the Tatis RC listed above, especially when looking at graded options. Each has a landscape design, featuring an image of the young star as he prepares to make a throw.
Topps Chrome Parallels: Refractors, Prism Refractors, Negative Refractors, Pink Refractors, Sepia Refractors, X-fractors, Purple Refractors (/299), Blue Refractors (/150), Green Refractors (/99), Green Wave Refractors (/99), Blue Wave Refractors (/75), Gold Refractors (/50), Gold Wave Refractors (/50), Orange Refractors (/25), Orange Wave Refractors (/25), Red Refractors (/5), Red Wave Refractors (/5), Printing Plates (1/1), Superfractors (1/1)
Topps Chrome Sapphire Parallels: Orange (/25), Purple (/10), Red (/5), SuperFractor (1/1)
1948 Ted Williams Leaf RC #76
Ted Williams is a post-war icon, easily 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, and 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 exceptionally valuable, and reasonably risk-free from an investment perspective.
1963 Pete Rose Topps RC with Pedro Gonzalez, Ken McMullen, and Al Weis #537
On the subject of legends, the Pete Rose RC from 1963 is another card that has to be included if you’re looking for 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 of the card. It has a bright yellow background, with players’ heads found in red circles.
The betting scandal that took place 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 at present, although it would likely 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, a number of 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 just 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.
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.
“The card is another slow burner, but it’s exceptionally low-risk, and more affordable than many others.”
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 he’s sometimes overlooked by collectors, despite being a 4-time AL batting champion, a World Series winner, and a two-time AL MVP.
The card itself has a posed shot of Cabrera holding a bat, while the addition of an on-card auto has helped to boost the price in recent years.
He might not be as exciting compared to those that came before or after, but he’s a steady choice from an investment perspective.
He’s sure to join the Hall of Fame when he retires, and people are likely to 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 the majority 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 led to it being 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; as well as 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’re going to look at his ‘54 Bowman release.
It features a posed shot of the Yankees legend, with trees and a cloudy sky making up the background. 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 compared to 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.
The extreme prices have led to increased interest in lower graded copies, as well as cards like the ‘54 Bowman seen above. It’s another solid baseball card investment, although the price of entry 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 compared to the 1948 Leaf. It features a simple posed photo of the player, with a copy of his autograph found at the bottom. The card makes the 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 the reason why he’s found twice in ‘54 Topps sets.)
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Another vintage card that has slowly risen over the past decade, it’s hard to find a better option considering the scarcity and the story behind it. Lower PSA grades have risen more 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 he still holds several MLB offensive records to this day. 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 a variety of 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.
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 back in 2012.
“High grades are a stable baseball card investment, and should see good returns in the future.”
2017 Ronald Acuna Jr. Bowman Chrome Prospect RC #BCP127
Ronald Acuna Jr. made his MLB debut in 2018, going on to be named as the NL Rookie of the Year. The season after he was an MLB All-Star, was the NL stolen base leader, and won a Silver Slugger Award, as he lived up to the hype in spectacular fashion.
From the 2017 BCP subset, this is Acuña’s 1st Bowman, so there’s lots of interest in rare refractor versions, which feature the player mid-sprint, in his Atlanta Braves uniform. It’s an ideal choice if you’re on the market for a modern option, or if you’d prefer to invest in rare parallels.
2017 Bowman Chrome Prospect Parallels: Yellow, Silver (/499), Purple (/250), Bowman 70th, Blue (/150), Green, Gold (/50), Orange (/25), Red (/5), Black (1/1), Printing Plates (1/1)
2016 Fernando Tatis Jr. Bowman Chrome Prospect RC #BCP17
The Tatis Jr. cards seen above released in 2019, but what about his BCP version from 2016? It’s actually our top rookie card pick, featuring the player in a Chicago Whitesox jersey. Whether it be the shiny refractor versions or even the base edition, it’s another viable investment piece from the last five years.
The youngest player in Padres history to start on Opening Day is still only 22, and has what looks to be a clear path to future success. In February 2019, PSA 10 copies of this card were going for roughly $500 at auction. As of Jan 2021, the average price has increased to $3,000.
2016 Bowman Chrome Prospect Parallels: Refractor, Blue Refractor, Green Refractor, Gold Refractor, Orange Refractor (/25), Red Refractor (/5), SuperFractor (1/1), Printing Plates (1/1)
2009 Mike Trout Bowman Chrome Draft Picks & Prospects #BDPP89
If you consider that we’re looking at the best players and their top RCs; it was never going to 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 that 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 as 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 to be 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 Topps Update Rookie Card #US175
In a similar vein, the 2011 Topps Update is another great choice if you’re looking for high-reward baseball card investments. 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 in terms of 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)
2011 Mike Trout Bowman Chrome #175
Lastly, we’re rounding off with another Trout card from 2011. It might not have caught on with collectors in a similar fashion 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 that there’s less scope for profit, 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 color of the border.
2011 Bowman Chrome Parallels: Refractors, Blue Refractors (/150), Gold Refractors (/50), Orange Refractors (/25), Red Refractors (/5)
1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Upper Deck RC #1
Ken Griffey Jr. rookie cards are another name that is 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 from the ignominy of being accused of steroid abuse, and his legacy remains untainted to this day.
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 special 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 and could provide dividends if you’re willing to wait for a while.
2017 Jo Adell Bowman Chrome Draft #BDC95
Despite his RC being produced in 2017, Jo Adell had to wait until midway through 2020 to make his first appearance in the major leagues for the LA Angels. He’s clearly immensely talented but struggled during his debut season. He was the worst player in all of baseball in 2020 with a -1.3 WAR and could be sent back to the minors.
His 2017 Bowman Chrome Draft card is one of the cheapest to make the list, ensuring that there’s an option to suit almost every budget. It goes with a traditional look, featuring the player after a successful swing.
He makes the list despite being an overhyped youngster who clearly needs more time before taking on the best in the world. But why? It’s worth a punt at the very least, as it’s not like it can lose much value. Given his talents and his young age, there’s still every chance that he could realize his potential, which would see prices increasing quickly.
2017 Bowman Chrome Draft Parallels: Refractor, Sky Blue Refractor, Purple Refractor, Bowman 70th Logo Refractor, Blue Refractor, Green Refractor, Gold Refractor, Orange Refractor (/25), Red Refractor (/5), SuperFractor (1/1)
20 Low-Risk Baseball Card Investments: Summary
It’s fair to say that the vast majority of baseball card investments aren’t worth the ink used in the printing process. This is especially true when looking at newer cards, or copies with high print run.
The greatest low-risk investments are typically tried and tested; 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 just 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, as well as many others that we simply didn’t have space for.
Of course, this means that there’s a higher price of entry, as the majority of cards to make the list are already worth a fair amount. As such, we’ve tried to include a range of options, with something to suit everyone.