Are baseball cards worth money? It’s a common question for anyone interested in getting started with the hobby for the first time.
The answer is a resounding yes, but the intrinsic value of baseball cards will differ wildly depending on several factors. Who is the player on the card? What was the year of release? Does it have an auto, or is it a rare one-of-one? If you’re looking for baseball cards with value, you’ve come to the right place.
30 Most Valuable Baseball Cards To Invest In
We’ve listed 30 of the most valuable baseball cards to invest in below, updated midway through 2022 to reflect the most recent sales and data.
1. 1914 Babe Ruth Baltimore News ($6 million)
Almost a century old, the 1914 Babe Ruth Baltimore News is the most valuable baseball card to invest in. An SGC 3 graded copy sold for an astounding $6m in June 2021, making it the world’s most expensive sports card.
It features a 19-year-old Ruth as a minor league pitcher for his hometown Baltimore Orioles, while PSA notes that there are fewer than 10 known surviving copies of the legendary card.
2. 1952 Mickey Mantle Topps ($5.2 Million)
The former record holder in terms of value, Mickey Mantle’s 1952 Topps card is one of the most popular collectibles of all time. It’s more valuable than the Mantle Bowman RC from ‘51 and was designed by Woody Gelman and Sy Berger on the kitchen table of Berger’s apartment on Alabama Avenue in Brooklyn. Little did they know that they would be creating a real piece of classic Americana.
3. 2009 Mike Trout Bowman Chrome Draft Prospects Superfractor Autograph 1/1 ($3.9 million)
Think back to the intro and the prerequisites we laid out for any expensive modern card. The 2009 Mike Trout Bowman Chrome Draft Prospects Superfractor just happens to tick every box.
It features a GOAT of the sport, and it’s also an RC. There’s a large auto at the bottom, while as a Superfractor, it’s also a one-of-one. The owner gets to set the price, and it last sold for $3.9m, a record when it was auctioned midway through 2020.
4. 1909-11 Honus Wagner T206 The Jumbo Wagner ($3.3 million)
Many of the remaining T206 Honus Wagner cards have achieved low grades on the PSA scale. Only three versions have received a PSA rating of 5 or above, including the ‘Jumbo Wagner’ next on the list. As the name implies, it was miscut, virtually preserving a Near Mint example within its boundaries. It’s the version that sold for $3.3m, and could yet break the record again.
5. 1909-11 Ty Cobb Tobacco T-206 Ty Cobb Back ($1.1 million)
Our list of value baseball cards leads us to Ty Cobb. Also found in the T206 set, this is the fifth card to feature the player known as the ‘Ty Cobb Back’. At first glance, it appears to be a slight variation of the Red Portrait Cobb, virtually identical on the front, aside from a glossier coating. However, the reverse is labeled “TY COBB, KING OF THE SMOKING TOBACCO WORLD” in green ink. PSA has graded only 19 copies, the highest being a single VG-EX 4.
6. 1955 Roberto Clemente Topps RC #164 ($1.1 million)
Roberto Clemente quickly makes the top ten thanks to an RC which sold for $1.1m. It was sold as part of Goldin Auctions’ Winter Auction 2021. He is the first Latin player to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973, his tragic death following an airplane accident has only enhanced the mystique of the player. The $1.1m fees were for a PSA 9 grade, of which only 11 exist. A copy previously sold for $478,000 in 2016. There’s also a sole gem mint copy, which went for $432,690 in 2012. What would it sell for today?
7. 1969 Reggie Jackson Topps RC #260 Dmitri Young Collection ($1 million)
Another RC to make our list of baseball cards worth money is the 1969 Reggie Jackson Topps release. It recently sold for $1,005,600 at Heritage Auctions’ Winter Platinum Night Sports Auction in Dallas in February 2020. The $1m card is the only copy to have achieved a PSA 10 grade, while it sold for just $115,242 back in 2012.
8. 1952 Jackie Robinson Topps #312 ($984,000)
Jackie Robinson’s 1952 Topps card might not be an RC, but it’s a key option that was double-printed along with Mickey Mantle and Bobby Thomson. This means that 11 PSA Mint 9 copies have survived to this day, and the number is the only reason why they haven’t broken the $1m barriers yet.
It features a deep red background, with Robinson smiling widely with a bat strewn over his shoulder, and it’s just as iconic as the Mantle card, given it was his first-ever Topps release
9. 2009 Mike Trout Bowman Chrome Draft Red Refractor Autograph /5 ($800k to $1 million)
Mike Trout is back again, this time with a card numbered to five. The $922,000 copy was sold as part of Goldin Auctions’ Spring 2020 Premium Auction. You’d think that baseball cards with value would have to be older, but this release is already ultra-rare, while it earned a Gem Mint 9.5 grade from Beckett. The signature received a grade of 10.
10. 1909-11 Eddie Plank T206 ($780,000)
Widely regarded as the second most popular in the T206 set, Eddie Plank’s card features a white border and a blue background, similar to the other in-demand portrait cards. There’s no real explanation as to why it’s one of the rarer T206 options, but it’s estimated that only 75 to 100 exist. (Plank was a noted anti-tobacco advocate and was never seen smoking.) It almost manages to sneak a spot in the top ten baseball cards with value thanks to a 2012 sale for $700,000, which is worth roughly $780,000 today.
11. 1916 Babe Ruth M101-5 Sporting News Blank Back ($773,000)
The Sporting News rookie card featuring Babe Ruth and a blank reverse is another which will sell for serious money. Only 30 versions have been graded by PSA, with a population of three PSA 7 grades and three PSA 8 copies. Interestingly, a PSA 7 card is the one to make a list after a collector paid $717,000 in April 2016. Roughly $764,000 after inflation. For the 8 grade, the Sports Market Report (SMR) has set a suggested price of $3m.
12. 1951 Mickey Mantle Bowman RC ($772,000)
One of the rare occasions in which an earlier release is disregarded, the ‘51 Bowman RC is undeniably one of the best-looking Mantle cards ever printed. The 1952 Topps card is often preferred, but that didn’t stop a collector from paying $750,000 to add a PSA 9 copy to their portfolio following a 2018 auction. It’s the sole Mint 9 ‘51 Mantle, and it has a current SMR price of $1.2m. Don’t be surprised if it breaks the $1m mark in the future.
13. 1909 Shoeless Joe Jackson American Caramel ($719,000)
‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson’s 1909 RC is another worth keeping tabs on. There are only a few options featuring the player, and it’s one of the rarest cards on the list. Jackson played ten games with the Philadelphia Athletics between 1908 and 1909. There are just two PSA 8 copies of the Caramel tobacco card, one of which sold for $667,149 in SCP’s Mid Summer Classic Auction 2016.
14. 1909 Sherry Magee T206 Error ($680,000)
This classic from the T206 set features Sherry Magee, although his name was initially misspelled as “Magie” at the bottom of the card. The error was quickly rectified before a number of the ‘Magie’ cards made it onto the market. It’s unclear how many were produced, but graded copies are few and far between.
15. 1968 Jerry Koosman / Nolan Ryan Topps ($660,000)
We’re not especially fond of duo cards, but we’ll make an exception for the 1968 Topps Mets Rookies, which features the combined talents of Jerry Koosman and Nolan Ryan. Of course, the latter is the main draw, making the MLB All-Century Team. Milton Bradley, O-Pee-Chee, and Venezuelan Topps all released Ryan RCs, but none are as famous in terms of mainstream appeal. There’s also a sole PSA 10 graded copy, which has to be seen as a solid investment piece.
16. 1910 Shoeless Joe Jackson Old Mill ($607,000)
Shoeless Joe Jackson is back again, in a rare card that came out in 1910. It is typically seen as a slightly less popular option compared to the 1909 American Caramel, this can be explained due to the uniform and the fact it was released a year later. Fewer than 15 have been accounted for in the present, while the surrounding red borders will always be prone to wear and tear. A VG+ 3.5 graded version sold for $600,000 at Heritage Auctions’ Platinum Sports Auction in February 2019.
17. 1909-11 Ty Cobb Bat Off Shoulder T206 Sweet Caporal 350 ($526,000)
Ty Cobb features once more in another vintage T206 release. The artwork brings Cobb to life, with his trusty bat held just off his shoulder. Sweet Caporal versions can be identified by checking the reverse, which notes that the ‘Base Ball Series’ has ‘350 Subjects’ in red print. There are others to keep an eye on, as T206 cards were issued with 16 different backs. One example for Cobb would be Piedmont, another famous cigarette brand at the time.
18. 1952 Willie Mays Topps ($515,000)
A 24-time All-Star, Willie Mays won two NL MVP awards and was a World Series champion in 1954. As part of the stellar 1952 Topps set that helped to modernize the hobby, Mays’ RC was released in the “semi-high” series (251-310), which was slightly rarer than the ones seen before. Interestingly, it’s not his official rookie (which came a year earlier), but it’s his first Topps option, making it a coveted card for collectors.
19. 1915 Ty Cobb Cracker Jack ($510,000)
As we stated earlier, all baseball card values lead to Ty Cobb. Why don’t all cards from this era look so good? The 1915 Ty Cobb Cracker Jack issue has a great image of the player with a bat in hand, set against a deep red backdrop. A trio of mint 9 grades has made it to 2021, with the last going for just over $500,000 in 2019.
20. 1933 Babe Ruth Goudey #53 ($350,000)
The famous 1933 Goudey set leans heavily on Babe Ruth, featuring the icon on four cards numbered 53, 144, 149, and 181. Of the quartet, #53 (or Yellow Ruth) is considered the toughest to find in good condition as of 2021. This was confirmed in a recent auction in June 2021, in which the sole PSA 9 copy sold for an eye-watering $910,000.
21. 1933 Babe Ruth Goudey Sport Kings #2 ($350,000)
Babe Ruth will always feature heavily when looking at the best baseball cards with value. This might not be one of the iconic four from the 1933 Goudey baseball set, but it is the only Ruth card found in the 1933 Goudey Sport Kings release. There are just two PSA 9 copies on the registry, with an SMR price of $400,000. A sale would see it boosted up into a higher position on the list.
22. 1948 Jackie Robinson Leaf RC #79 ($350,000)
Anyone who knows the true value of baseball cards is likely to recognize Jackie Robinson’s 1948 Leaf RC. The only rookie card for a player who helped to end 60 years of segregated Negro leagues, his historical importance is second to none. The PSA pop report lists only 8 PSA 9 copies, this time with an SMR price guide set at $800,000. It has to be seen as another one to watch in the future, with great potential to climb the list.
23. 1953 Mickey Mantle Topps #82 ($325,000)
We’ve already seen a ‘51 Mantle card and the famous ‘52 version, so it makes sense that the 1953 Topps Mantle manages to find its way onto the list. In many ways, it’s the best looking of the trio, with a close-up image of The Mick with lots of detail regarding the shading and his overall likeness. Somehow there are two gem mint versions, while 10 PSA Mint 9 copies have been graded. The last PSA 9 hit the market for $396,000 in July 2019. Trends would suggest that it’ll be worth far more in the future.
24. 1955 Roberto Clemente Topps RC #164 ($325,000)
Roberto Clemente quickly makes the top ten thanks to an RC which sold for $1.1m. It was sold as part of Goldin Auctions’ Winter Auction 2021. The first Latin player to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973, his tragic death following an airplane accident has only enhanced the mystique of the player. The $1.1m fees were for a PSA 9 grade, of which only 11 exist. A copy previously sold for $478,000 in 2016. There’s also a sole gem mint copy, which went for $432,690 in 2012. What would it sell for today?
25. 1909-11 Ty Cobb T206 White Border Bat Off Shoulder ($315,000)
Ty Cobb features once more in another vintage T206 release. The artwork brings Cobb to life, with his trusty bat held just off his shoulder. Sweet Caporal versions can be identified by checking the reverse, which notes that the ‘Base Ball Series’ has ‘350 Subjects’ in red print. There are others to keep an eye on, as T206 cards were issued with 16 different backs. One example for Cobb would be Piedmont, another popular cigarette brand at the time.
26. 1902-1911 Ty Cobb W600 Sporting Life Cabinets ($300,000)
The W600 Sporting Life cabinet set was issued over a period that nearly lasted a decade (1902-1911). Mounted on heavy cardboard, these oversized cards were initially offered as premiums from a sponsor, which can sometimes be found on the reverse. The Cobb card, which makes a list, was released in 1907 and happens to be his rookie year. It features the same pose as the famous T206 portrait cards and a PSA 2 copy sold for $300,000 as part of Robert Edward Auctions’ 2020 spring collection.
27. 1932 Babe Ruth U.S. Caramel #32 ($300,000)
Yet another valuable baseball card to feature the Bambino, the 1932 U.S. Caramel, features an image of the player as most fans best remember him. Set against a solid red background, it lists his name (George ‘Babe’ Ruth) at the top and has a Hall of Fame-caliber lineup that includes boxers and golfers. Two PSA 9 grades are the best, with one selling for $432,000 after a 2019 Heritage Auctions listing.
28. 1933 Lou Gehrig Goudey #160 ($300,000)
Lou Gehrig spent his entire career with the New York Yankees, winning everything imaginable during his 17 seasons with the franchise. The 1933 Goudey set has two Gehrig cards, numbered #92 and #160. They’re both seen as his RC for many collectors and have the same design on the front. For this list, we’re focusing on the latter, as the sole PSA 9 graded copy sold for an eye-watering $576,000 in 2019.
29. 1933 Babe Ruth Goudey #181 ($300,000)
The Sultan of Swat is again as part of the 1933 Goudey collection. The #181 features an over-the-shoulder image of the player, with the most detailed illustration of Ruth in the set. It has moved up the list following a recent sale of a PSA 9 copy in the June 2021 Memory Lane, Inc. Newman Auction, which eventually went for $430,000. There are five others, as well as one gem mint copy.
30. 1909-11 Ty Cobb T206 White Border Green Portrait ($300,000)
Many final cards to make a list are somewhat interchangeable in that others could take their spot in the long run. For now, the 30th position is filled by another Ty Cobb T206 card, better known as the ‘Green Portrait’. The name is easy enough to understand, as it’s a portrait shot of the player with a deep green background. The sole NM-MT 8 graded card has an SMR price of $350,000.
Most Valuable Baseball Cards To Invest In Summary
If you couldn’t tell, the value of the greatest Topps Baseball Cards has increased rapidly over the past two decades. Even the SMR value on baseball cards is often low compared to the final sale price. When looking at high grades, there aren’t enough copies, and demand far exceeds supply.
Aside from a few notable exceptions, most of the cards to make a list were released before many of us were born. It shows that if you’re looking for baseball cards with value, it’s probably best to stick with GOATs or true legends of the sport like Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth.
However, Trout is still strong and could add to his legacy. We’d advise sticking with graded versions, especially given the number of fakes sellers will attempt to pass off as the real deal. You’ll have a better idea of the overall value and the potential ROI that could be seen in the future.