sport cards
Updated September 17, 2023
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The Most Expensive Sports Trading Cards of All Times

Collecting sports cards is not something that is new in the sports industry. Over the years, the cards have grown in value, getting sold for massive prices in the sports card market.

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Baseball is extremely popular around the world, especially in its home country of America. Baseball enthusiasts are known for purchasing a variety of items and memorabilia, but baseball cards are possibly the most widespread and exciting to collect. Baseball card values, like most collectibles, are influenced by market values, grading, trends, age, and the general condition of the card. It is therefore of no great surprise that baseball cards are prominent in the list of sports cards being sold. 

In ascending order, below is a list of the most expensive cards sold in time.

T206 SGC 3 (Honus Wagner)$6.6 million
1952 Topps (Mickey Mantle)$5.2 million
2003-04 Rookie Patch Autograph (LeBron James)$5.2 million
1:1 Logoman Autographed (Luka Doncic)$4.6 million
2017 Rookie Auto BGS 8.5 (Patrick Mahomes)$4.3 million
2009 Superfractor Autograph (Mike Trout)$3.9 million
T206 PSA 2 (Honus Wagner)$3.75 million
1979 Wayne Gretzky O-Pee-Chee (Wayne Gretzky)$3.75 million
PSA 3 (Honus Wagner)$3.7 million
T206 PSA 5 (Honus Wagner)$3.1 million

The Honus Wager Card 

Appearing three different times on this list, it can be easily seen that the T206 Honus Wager is a favorite for many as it is known to be quite famous. Honus Wagner is a bulky shortstop who spent most of his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was one of the original five players elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936 and is widely regarded as one of the best all-around players of all time. He was also the first player to have his signature engraved on a Louisville Slugger in 1905. 

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From 1909 to 1911, packets of cigarettes featured Wagner's picture, which was part of the T206 series (a two-year run of cards by the American Tobacco Company). Asides from being famous, this card is also known as the priciest of all baseball cards. It’s $1 million sales in 2000 was a major one. However, this card sale has been exceeded by other cards in more recent times. The card series is quite popular in the collecting community, which fantasizes over each remaining T206 card because of the rich lithograph colors, unique size, borders, and general rarity of each card. 

The Honus Wagner card is considered by many collectors to be the "Holy Grail" of baseball cards. a possible reason for its high values is that Honus forced the ATC to take his card from production for unknown reasons, and as a result, only 25-200 cards were considered to exist, making them exceedingly uncommon and precious. Over a century later, his choice to discontinue production has resulted in his card becoming the most valuable baseball card in the world.

Mickey Mantle Card

This 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle rookie card is without a doubt one of the most famous in the hobby. However, it is frequently contrasted to the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card because the 1952 card is more popular and well-known. On the face of the card is a large shot of Mantle holding his bat, with square white borders on each side. The player's description may be seen on the reverse of the card, which is printed vertically. 

The card is noteworthy because it depicts Mickey Mantle as a young prospect who was still regarded as a good player at the time. It was his real rookie card from his first game with the New York Yankees, when he wasn't even a pro yet. On the back of his shirt, he was still sporting no. 6. (which he changed to 7). It's nearly impossible to come across one in decent shape. Only 1515 of these cards are known to exist — The majority of them will be kept by collectors, some will be lost over time, and only a handful will be traded. 

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However, a 1952 Mickey Mantle card went for $5.2 million just last year. While the 1952 card is not his real rookie card, it is the player's most valuable card. Why is it the case?  It is an iconic card because it is the first Topps card to feature Mantle. Second, the card's design wins out – it appears modern, even futuristic-looking (for the 1950s, at least). A series of recent cards surpassed the previous high for a Wagner, which was $3.75 million in May. 

Lebron James Logoman Card

It's a one-of-a-kind jersey patch card with the NBA logo. This means that each player gets only one duplicate of each card, making them extremely rare. These cards may also include autographs, which makes them even more coveted. There are also dual logomans and triple logomans, which have numerous game-used patches. If both players are superstars, the value of those cards can skyrocket. There's no guarantee it will sell for that much, but it does demonstrate the market value of these cards. 

Every year, Logoman cards are sought after, but the 2020-21 Flawless collection took things to a new level. The LeBron James triple logoman card has piqued the interest of every collector in the hobby, even attracting Drake's notice. This one-of-a-kind card contained three LeBron logoman patches on the same card, one from the Cavs, one from the Heat, and one from the Lakers. For the game's most powerful modern player, it's perhaps the most crucial card. Because LeBron James does not sign signatures for Panini, the NBA's official card manufacturer, the logoman is as big as it gets for The King. A LeBron James logoman card fetched $5.2 million at an auction. 

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Luka Doncic Logoman Card

Luka Doncic is a big deal, therefore it's no wonder that his rookie cards are among the largest values in modern sports trading cards. Luka Doncic has already established himself as a superstar in the NBA at the age of 22, and his potential is limitless. Some would argue that Doncic's development is ahead of LeBron James' when he was 22 years old.

While 2018-19 Luka Doncic Rookie Cards are available, they are not his first. The 2016-17 Upper Deck Turkish Airlines EuroLeague earned this honor. He has two cards in the set, one of which is an autograph. Doncic is also featured in the 2017-18 collection. A Luka Doncic logoman card fetched $4.6 million at auction. 

Patrick Mahomes Rookie Card

Panini has Patrick Mahomes Debut Cards covered as a top quarterback prospect entering his rookie season. He owns almost 30 RC cards from popular base sets. That's not even counting the hundreds of different inserts, parallels, autographs, and memento cards. That means collectors have a lot of options when it comes to finding the correct cards for their budget and collecting preferences. Some are simple and bountiful, while others are jam-packed with autographs, patches, and limited editions.

Some designs are deeply rooted in tradition, while others are anything but. All Patrick Mahomes rookie cards are currently showing phenomenal growth. That momentum continues to grow with each outstanding performance, victory, and championship.

Having only 20 copies in the world, the 2017 Panini Flawless Patrick Mahomes Rookie card is considered the most valuable of the different types. A rookie patch card of Patrick Mahomes actually sold for $4.3 million.

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Mike Trout Superfractor Autograph Card

Mike Trout's first baseball cards were released not long after he turned sixteen, and collectors have been keeping track of them ever since. The Angels selected him with the 25th choice in the 2009 draft, and he immediately rose to prominence in the league and in the hobby, putting Mike Trout rookie cards on the map. 

To begin, the most prominent Mike Trout cards were released in 2009. Both 2009 Bowman Chrome and 2009 Bowman Sterling feature him in an Angels jersey with an extra signature, despite the fact that they are not official rookie cards. Meanwhile, the 2009 Donruss Elite Extra Edition includes one of the best Mike Trout cards available, with a print run of 495 and an autograph.

Mike Trout rookie cards appeared in a number of 2011 sets, a few years later. None are autographed, however, there is a signed parallel in 2011 Topps Finest Baseball. While all of Mike Trout's official rookie cards have appreciated in value, his 2011 Bowman Sterling rookie is by far the most valuable of the first-year Mike Trout cards.

The year 2020 was the year of Goldin Auctions' record-breaking Mike Trout card sale. The one-of-a-kind Superfractor was sold for $3.84 million. This confirmed transaction shattered the previous record of $3.12 million set in 2016 by the 1909 T206 card for Honus Wagner.

O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky Rookie Card

Wayne Gretzky was hockey's best player, and this is his important rookie card. Gretzky set more than 60 NHL records during his career, including regular season, playoff, and All-Star games. His 92 goals, 163 assists, and 215 total points in the regular season appear unattainable. In fact, he is the first player in NHL history to score 200 points four times in a season. In 1999, he was admitted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, as expected.

This card, which is more difficult to get in mint condition than its Topps version, has a number of major condition issues, including chipping, print defects, and severe rough-cuts, making PSA Mint 9 or better copies extremely rare. Furthermore, the centering on this card is frequently found to be 60/40 or worse.

In a private auction conducted by Heritage Auctions, a 1979 O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky rookie card sold for $3.75 million.

Reading on, these are updated events on the different cards records;

As of July 28, 2021

Patrick Mahomes, the quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs, continues to smash records, this time in the artifacts market. The most expensive NFL trading card sale to date was a 2017 National Treasures NFL Shield Patrick Mahomes rookie signed card that sold for $4.3 million at a private auction. The card is a 1-of-1 BGS 8.5. It easily outsold Tom Brady's $3.1 million autographed card from the 2000 Playoff Contenders set.

As of June 5, 2021

Tom Brady is back in the top 10 a week after being knocked out. On Friday night, Brady's 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship signed rookie card went for $3.1 million. At Lelands, the BGS MINT 9 sold after 32 bids. It is presently the most valuable football card ever sold, as well as the only one in the top ten. A Brady rookie card had previously sold for $2.25 million. One of the Honus Wagner T206 cards dropped off the list after Brady's insertion. The PSA 8 fetches $2.8 million.

As of May 27, 2021

A 1979 Wayne Gretzky O-Pee-Chee rookie card was sold for $3.75 million, breaking the record for the most expensive trading card ever sold. The card was the highest hockey card to sell in a live auction, according to Heritage Auction. Joe Garagiola's T206 Honus Wagner card, which sold for $2.5 million, was knocked out by the Gretzky addition. Another four Wagner cards are still in the top ten.

As of May 24, 2021

Honus Wagner cards continue to rise in value, with the most expensive Wagner card sold at Goldin Auctions on Saturday. The Wagner card, a T206 White Border with a PSA grade of 2, surpassed the previous high of $3.7 million for a T206 PSA 5. Wagner currently has five of the top ten most valuable trading cards on the market. Tom Brady's rookie card was removed from the list after the current card was added. Brady's card fetched $2.25 million at auction. In unrelated trading card news, Goldin Auctions sold the priciest Michael Jordan card ever sold for $2.1 million. It was a 1997 NBA All-Star Game autographed game-used jersey card.

As of April 26, 2021

Mickey Mantle has been overtaken as the most priced trading card sold to date by his company. With a price tag of $5.2 million, a LeBron James 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite rookie patch autograph set a new record for the most valuable basketball card ever sold, tying Mantle for the most expensive card ever. PWCC graded the card as a 9 mint when it was sold on April 26.

As of April 3, 2021

Tom Brady, of course, is the first NFL player to make the list. Brady's NM-MT+ 8.5 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Rookie Ticket Autograph sold for over $2.25 million in an early Saturday morning auction on Lelands. The first offer was $75,000, with a total of 67 bids on the card. Brady's arrival knocks Kobe Bryant's 1996-97 Topps Chrome, which went for $1.79 million, off our top-10 list.

As of March 6, 2021

1996-97 Topps Kobe Bryant Late Saturday, March 6, Chrome Refractor surpassed Michael Jordan as the 10th-highest widely known trading card transaction of all time. At Goldin Auctions, the Bryant card surpassed Jordan's $1.4 million 1997 autographed jersey card for No. 10 on our all-time list. If Bryant's card didn't make Jordan jump, another one did. A LeBron James 2003-04 Rookie Patch autographed card also auctioned at Goldin Auctions for $1.5 million. On the chart above, a LeBron card is now ranked No. 9.

As of February 28, 2021

Regardless of how many new collectibles appear, an original sports trading card can never be replaced. Since Honus Wagner's T206 first sold for $1 million in 2000, trading card sales have become popular. While the card is now the face of high-end sports cards, it is not the most valuable purchase ever. This accolade goes to a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card, which has two slots in the top-10 sales list. It was initially sold in April of 2018 for $2.8 million.

When Rob Gough bought it for $5.2 million in January 2021, it became the highest known transaction of all time. A Luka Doncic card got the second-highest sale ever on February 28, 2021. Nick Fiorello paid $4.6 million for a one-of-one autographed Doncic Logoman card.

Mike Trout's 2009 Bowman Chrome Draft Prospects Superfractor signed card sold for $3.9 million in August of 2020, breaking the previous record. At $3.1 million, Wagner's infamous card ranked fourth on the list. There are three Wagner T206 cards in the top ten. Arizona Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick bought the 'Gretzky Wagner' for $2.8 million in a private sale in 2007, but his identity wasn't known until 2011.

Heritage Auctions sold the final Wagner on the list for $2.5 million on February 27, 2021. Because it was owned by former Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Joe Garigiola, this Wagner is known as the 'Garigiola Wagner.'

The top ten is rounded out by a trio of NBA superstars, starting with Giannis Antetokounmpo's Logoman, which went for $1.8 million. The rookie patch signed card of LeBron James also went for $1.8 million. A Michael Jordan 1997 match jersey signed card auctioned for $1.44 million on Feb. 4, 2021. Wayne Gretzky's 1979 O-Pee-Chee card, which went for $1.3 million, is just missing the list. A 1996-97 Kobe Bryant Topps card is currently up for sale, with the highest price exceeding $1.2 million.

Key Takeaways

  1. T206 Honus Wagner is the most expensive card, sold for $6.6 million.
  2. 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card fetched $5.2 million.
  3. LeBron James' 2003-04 Rookie Patch Autograph went for $5.2 million.
  4. Luka Doncic's 1:1 Logoman Autographed sold for $4.6 million.
  5. Patrick Mahomes’ 2017 Rookie Auto BGS 8.5 fetched $4.3 million.
  6. Mike Trout's 2009 Superfractor Autograph emerged at $3.9 million.
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In conclusion 

The renowned Wagner card is seen on cigarette brands from 1909 to 1911 and sold for $6,626,096, plus buyer's premium, at Robert Edwards auctions, reclaiming the title of the most expensive baseball card. Wagner now holds four of the top ten sales positions in history. Baseball players Mickey Mantle and Mike Trout, who are frequently compared, occupy two more slots on the list.

The priceless cards are not only collectibles, but they also transport us to a happy memory. Nothing beats opening unopened packets and discovering photos of legendary players. This is an important factor in determining their value; they are similar to a lottery ticket. Not all the cards sold are common knowledge and known to the general public. However, this list contains all of the publicly available cards.

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