Millions of grown men can probably recount the day they found out their mom or new wife tossed out their baseball card collection. Then when they find out just how much those cards are worth today it makes a grown man want to cry.
But the old boxes being tossed away is exactly the reason some of these cards have such extreme value. So few survived over the years it is a simple matter of supply and demand.
1909-11 T206 Honus Wagner – $3,120,000
Most people have heard of this card by now because of its staggering price. Four out of the five highest selling cards of all time are T206 cards.
The reason this card fetches so much is its rarity. The card was very hard to find even in the early 1900s because Wagner wanted the cards taken off the shelf. At the time the cards were distributed with tobacco products.
Some say Wagner did this because he wanted to be paid by the Tabacco companies to use his likeness, while others say Wagner did not want kids to think he endorsed Tabaco products. Either way, his protest resulted in the cards being pulled from the products leaving only a few on the market causing this extremely high price.
1952 Topps Mickey Mantle #311 $1,135,250
This card was sold by Heritage Auctions is 2016. Obvious anything Mickey Mantle has value, even fake versions of these cards sell for a few dollars apiece regularly on eBay. This particular card has so much value due to so few cards making it onto store shelves in 1952. At card number 311, Mantle was part of the first “high series” cards Topps produced. Due to unrealistic deadlines and poor planning, most of these cards never left the warehouse. They were eventually dumped somewhere near New Jersey into the ocean to free up space in the warehouse.
1916 Babe Ruth Blank Back Sporting News Rookie $717,000
In my opinion, this is probably the must undervalued card in the group. While it does not have the unusual circumstances of the first two card being short printed, its Babe Ruth. A hundred years after this card was printed, the name is still recognized around the world. This particular card was graded as an NM 7. The highest grade ever for this card is an eight, and only four of those are known to exist.
1963 Topps Pete Rose Rookie Card $717,000
This is by far the second newest card on the list. So you might be wondering how a man banned from the Hall of Fame could command such a premium for his cards? Because everyone but the Commissioner of Baseball loves Pete Rose. That and this is the only Pete Rose RC to earn a PSA 10 grading. That means this card is in absolutely perfect condition. That means a lot to collectors. In the 60’s it was hard to get cards that would grade at a ten right out of the pack because they often had defects, so this is extremely rare. If this card had earned a PSA 9 it would be worth about $70,000.
1909 Shoeless Joe Jackson American Carmel $667,149
Shoeless Joe Jackson is an American Legend. One of the best ballplayers of his era but his reputation was destroyed when he was linked to the Black Socks World Series fix scandal.
This is widely considered to be Jacksons rookie card. It earned a PSA 8 rating making this card super valuable in the eyes of collectors.
1968 Topps Nolan Ryan/Jerry Koosman, $612,359
This is the newest card to make the top 10 list. And like most of the cards on this list, it made it because of its extremely high grade. Over 8,000 Nolan Ryan rookie cards have been submitted to be graded, and this is the only one to earn a gem mint PSA 10 rating. Cards rated at a PSA 9 typically sell for around $30,000.
1914 Babe Ruth Baltimore News 575,000
With only ten of this card believed to be around to this day, it is one of the few cards collectors worry less about the condition than just getting their hands on the card. This card was graded at a dismal PSA 2, but when there are no other copies available to purchase you can’t be picky.
It’s not a surprise that the Babe is the only person to appear on this list more than once.
1933 Babe Ruth Goudey $528,000
This is the Great Bambino’s third appearance on the list is probably the one that most card collectors recognize. It’s the card I have in my mind when I think about Ruth. Perhaps it is the popularity of the Goudey Cards is why this one is so prominent as the “card to have” when they think of Ruth.
1952 Willie Mays Topps $478,000
This is not Mays rookie card, but it is his first Topps card. With the vintage card market being hot seeing a highly graded copy like this one go for such a high dollar amount should come as no surprise. This card was a rare PSA 9 rated card. A lot of the Mays cards from 1952 had issues with them being off center making it very tough to find such a nice card.
You can find these graded as a PSA 2-3 for $1500-2500 on eBay all day long. But getting a high-grade card is extremely tough.
1955 Roberto Clemente Topps $478,000
This is another one of those hard to come by high grade cards. This card was graded a PSA 9 and sold in 2016 for $478,000. Four years earlier as PSA 10 sold for $432,690. But the price drops significantly if the card is graded any lower. A PSA 8 will typically sell for around $30,000.