Since the 1880’s, people have been buying packs of gum and tobacco not for the taste or flavor, but for the little cardboard cutout of what was inside – the baseball trading card. Now spread to all sports, these cards are no longer only for kids, but also for kids at heart – with money. Some of these cards have come to be collectors items, with people spending more money on trading cards than on cars or houses! Here are 30 of the most expensive of all time.
Mike Trout mint condition rookie card- $1,325
This signed Mike Trout card was sold on Ebay for over $1,350. The card was signed by the then rookie, and is in perfect, fresh out of the box condition. Nicknamed “ The Millville Meteor,” the 25-year-old is currently a center fielder for the Los Angeles Angels, having a been a first round pick for the Angels right out of high school in 2009, and ended up winning Rookie of the Year in 2012.
Connor McDavid rookie card – $4,150
This Center for the Edmonton Oilers is young but making a huge splash in the hockey world, as is his trading card. His rookie card’s value increased exponentially once this first round draft pick was named to be captain of the Oilers. Sadly, in a game against the Dallas Stars he was injured with a broken clavicle, knocking him out for 37 games. However, he soon recovered, and became one of the youngest NHL players to score a hat trick!
Kobe Bryant near mint condition rookie card – $9,998
Entering the NBA straight out of high school, Bryant quickly rose to become one of the best in the game, rivalling Michael Jordan, and being the perfect partner for Shaquille O’neal during the beginning of his career. It’s surprising therefore that Bryant’s near mint condition rookie card was bought for such a low price, as he is a 15-time member of the All-NBA Team, 18-time NBA All-Star, and ranks third in the NBA’s all-time regular season postseason scoring lists.
Steve Young rookie card – $16,400
Steve Young played as the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers for 13 of his 15 year career, being named MVP of the league in both 1992 and 1994. He also brought the 49ers to victory in Super Bowl XXIX, winning MVP of that Super Bowl as well. He is currently ranked the fifth in all time passing, and second amongst rushing touchdowns. No wonder his rookie card is worth so much!
Johnny Unitas rookie card – $19,000
Johnny Unitas was the star quarterback for the Colts back when they were based out of Baltimore, creating records in the early days of the sport. He won the NFL’s MVP award four times, and held the record for most consecutive games with a touchdown pass for over half a century. He also was in the first NFL overtime game ever, in a game billed as the “greatest game ever played,” drawing attention to televised football back in the 1960’s.
Tom Brady rookie card – $23,901 ($24,329 With Autograph)
This multiple Super Bowl winner for the New England Patriots has a lot to be famous for. From being one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL to being honored for four Super Bowl MVPs – more than any other player, and is also the winningest NFL quarterback in history. Who would have thought that a guy who was picked sixth in the 2000 NFL Draft’s mint condition autographed rookie trading card by would be worth so much!
Peyton Manning mint condition signed rookie card – $35,105
Considered to be one of the greatest quarterbacks to have ever played the game, this southern boy was the first overall pick in the 1998 draft by the Indianapolis Colts. He has since gone on to make and break records, including most passing yards (71,940) along with being the only quarterback to take two different teams to the Super Bowl two different times. No wonder his signed rookie card is worth more than a new Mercedes!
1954 Ted Williams near mint condition card- $50,000
Ted Williams, nicknamed “The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived,” played his entire career with the Boston Red Sox. However, he took time off twice in order to fight in both World War II and the Korean War, serving as an officer in the Marine Corps Naval Aviators unit. He finished his career as a two-time recipient of the American League (AL) Most Valuable Player Award, and an incredible .344 batting average, the highest of any player with more than 302 career home runs.
Terry Bradshaw rookie card – $50,190
Terry Bradshaw had one of the strongest arms during his career as an NFL quarterback, along with one of the strongest brains, as he would call all of his own plays. Bradshaw would go on to win his Pittsburgh Steelers 4 Super Bowls over the course of his 14 season career with the western Pennsylvania team. He is now a football commentator, and has even done a bit of acting on the side.
Bob Gibson mint condition signed card- $53,759
Nicknamed “Hoot” by his teammates, Bob Gibson played for the St. Louis Cardinals for 17 seasons as a pitcher. Despite his sickly childhood, Gibson persevered, and the Omaha, Nebraska native ended up playing for both the Harlem Globetrotters and the St. Louis Cardinals. He found his niche in baseball however, and took the Cardinals to the world series twice. He was eventually placed in the baseball hall of fame in 1981, and inducted into the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2014
1955 Sandy Koufax mint condition rookie card – $65,100
Sandy Koufax was a monumental pitcher for the Dodgers both when they played in Brooklyn as well as when they moved to Los Angeles. He won the MVP award for the MLB in 1963 and became the first person to pitch four no hitters in a row in baseball history before his early retirement from the sport due to arthritis. One of the few Jewish major league athletes is perhaps most well known for refusing to play on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.
Mint condition Willie Mays rookie card – $75,375
Nicknamed the Say Hey Kid, Mays played center field for 22 seasons, mainly for the Giants when they were both in New York and San Fransisco. He has been called the “greatest player to ever play the game,” and his record of being in the most All Star games along with his two MVPs help to prove this. Baseball great Ted Williams was once reported saying that “They invented the All-Star Game for Willie Mays” because he was so good at the sport.
Joe Namath rookie card – $92,433
Namath is the only Jets player to make it into the The Sporting News’ list of the 100 Greatest Football Players while playing for the New York Jets, he brought them to the Super Bowl in 1969, bringing the team to victory. Despite multiple injuries, Namath managed to play in 143 games throughout his 13 season career, ending it with the former Los Angeles Rams. He also played in the first nationally televised Monday Night Football game. Now, his mint condition rookie card can buy you a nice boat!
Wayne Gretzkey rookie card – $94,162
Possibly the most famous hockey player to ever skate in the rink, Gretzky’s rookie card is now worth a lot of money. Gretzky himself, nicknamed “the great one,” has scored over 100 goals as a player since he began in the minor leagues in the city of Indianapolis. By the time he retired, he had set 61 NHL records, of which 60 still have yet to be broken. He went on to coach the Phoenix Coyotes, and is now a partner in the Edmonton Oilers Entertainment Group.
Michael Jordan mint condition rookie card – $100,000
The first trading card on the list to break the six figure mark, the mint condition, perfect Michael Jordan Rookie card is one of only three cards of its caliber it in existence. The card itself is perfectly printed and centered, while the corners and edges have no signs of wear and tear – the perfect harmony of when printing machine and care are met. Due to it being the most sought after basketball card in existence, it is often the victim of counterfeiters trying to make a quick buck.
1969 Reggie Jackson card- $115,242
Known as “Mr. October” for his clutch hitting – especially when the pressure was on like when he helped bring home both American League and World Series Pennants. This baseball great has won several MVP awards, and has even won the Babe Ruth award. This Philadelphia native started out in the Negro League, but broke through the color barrier to play in the MLB. He is still involved in baseball as a Yankees advisor.
Jim Thorpe card – $119,500
Part of the Sac and Fox Native American tribe, Thorpe grew up in a poor town what is now Oklahoma when it was called “Indian Territory.” Before becoming a professional football, baseball, and basketball player, Thorpe played for the US olympic team, becoming the first Native American to win a gold medal for the United States at the Stockholm Olympics. Americans soon came to know the man as an all around sports champion.
1888 Albert Spalding card – $120,000 (G & B Chewing Gum Company)
Albert Spalding was an early baseball player from the beginning of the game. He is credited as being the first player in the history of the sport to decided that he wanted to protect his hand from the rock-like ball, and invented a glove to help protect himself. Because of him, baseball gloves are used by every athlete playing the sport. He went on to found the Spalding sporting goods company which makes a plethora of sports gear to this day.
1948 Satchel Paige near mint condition card- $125,000 (1948 Leaf)
1948 George Mikan basketball card – $218,550
When George Mikan’s card was sold off in auction in 2009, it was the highest ever paid for a single baseball card in history up until that point. One of the things that made the card so valuable is that it was printed completely perfectly and with no flaws of any kind, a marvel and rarity for anything mass produced during the late 1940’s. Sadly, we don’t know who bought the card, as the winners were an auction company buying on behalf of a client.
1910 Honus Wagner card – $218,550
Born to German immigrant parents in Eastern Pennsylvania, Honus dropped out of school at the age of 12 to work the coal mines with his father and nine siblings, he and a few of his brothers eventually went on to become professional baseball players, with Honus playing for 21 seasons as shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was one of the first players to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and held records lasting nearly half a century. No wonder his 1910 baseball cards costs nearly a quarter of a million dollars!
Ty Cobb card – $272,980
Nicknamed the Georgia Peach, Ty Cobb was one of the best baseball players in the history of the sport, and set over 90 MLB records over the course of his 22 season career with the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Athletics – several of which remain unbroken, such as most batting titles (12) and highest career batting average(.366). The card – which sold for over a quarter of a million dollars – was made by a baking company to encourage sales, and was in the best condition of any of 15 cards of its type ever made.
1933 Lou Gehrig card – $274,950
Known today for the degenerative disease which took his life, Lou Gehrig was an multiple All Star and Triple Crown winner for the New York Yankees in the 1920’s and 1930’s. With a .344 batting average along with an RBI of 1,995, the Iron Horse – as Gehrig was affectionately nicknamed – was inducted into the Baseball hall of fame in 1939, the year he retired. His baseball card from six years before his retirement recently sold at auction for over a quarter of a million dollars, and is only expected to increase in value.
1952 Mickey Mantle baseball card – $282,000
Sometimes playing center field while playing first base at others, New York Yankee Mickey Mantle is also considered to be the greatest ambidextrous switch hitter to have ever played the game. He is known for being a strong and powerful slugger who would regularly hit balls so hard that they flew out the stadium! One of the reasons his card is so valuable is because not only was it trading card company Topps’s first ever card, but also because a ship carrying crates full of the cards sank, giving the card extra value.
1954 signed mint condition Hank Aaron card – $357,594
While he currently serves as the senior vice president for the Atlanta Braves, Hank Aaron is ranked one of the best baseball players of all time, and to this day has records that were never broken. He played for the Negro League Indianapolis Clowns before being picked up by Boston Braves, having been offered a mere $50 more a month to play for them than the New York Giants. Since his retirement from playing, he has earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom, as well as inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Roberto Clemente rookie card – $432,690
Baseball Hall of Famer and Former Marine Roberto Clemente came to the mainland from Puerto Rico, forging the path for other players from Latin America and the Caribbean to compete and succeed in America’s national pastime. He spent 18 seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates as a right fielder, but sadly died before his time, being killed in a tragic plane crash on his way to deliver aid to Nicaraguans in need to due their civil war. This is one of the many reasons Clemente’s card is worth close to a half million dollars!
Babe Ruth rookie card – $517,000
Even non-baseball fans know of Babe Ruth as the greatest baseball player who ever lived. Playing as a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, this left hander had the record for most home runs and RBIs for most of recorded baseball history. However, he started out playing baseball for his local minor league team – the Baltimore Orioles in 1914. Ruth’s first baseball card was issued by The Baltimore News newspaper, and shows him in an Orioles uniform, and this card is worth over a half million dollars today!
1909 “Shoeless” Joe Jackson card – $667,189
Known as shoeless Joe Jackson for playing on his factory’s baseball team without wearing any shoes, Jackson ended up becoming one of the first greats of the game, having a career .356 batting average. His card, worth more than a Lamborghini Murcielago, was packaged with caramel candies at the turn of the 20th century. There are only approximately five of the cards left in existence, and the card which was sold is in the best condition.
1963 Topps Pete Rose, PSA Gem Mint 10: $717,000,
Playing for the Cincinnati Reds, Pete Rose is one of the greatest players to ever play the sport, breaking records set by the previous greats in the beginning of the 20th century. However, after a controversy when he was accused and eventually admitted to betting on, but never against, the Reds, he was given a lifetime ban from baseball. This card, with other greats on it such as Pedro Gonzales Ken Mcmullen, and Al Weis, is known to be Rose’s only rookie card.
Honus Wagner 1909-11 Baseball Card – $2.8 million
This card is the second one of Honus Wagner on the list, but is worth more than any of the other cards by a wide margin because of the card itself. Packaged with tobacco products, this card fetch such a huge price not only because of the legend which is Honus Wagner, but also because of its rarity, with only about 50 in existence. Also, due to its near perfect condition and its value as a collectors item, this card’s value rose to cost the same as a mansion in Malibu!