Baseball is one of the top sports in America and, a bit strangely, in Japan. Watching MLB games and betting on them is a fulfilling pastime for millions of fans, but baseball's popularity is also fuelled by the rare cards fans collect. Call card collecting the Holy Grail of baseball, as some of these can reach head-spinning sums of cash.
We’re not sure if it’s the thrill of the chase or the thrill of possessing a rare collectible, but baseball fans are willing to part with thousands (or even millions) of dollars just to get a card. While some can be bought for as much as 10 cents in malls, others have drawn incredible prices on auctions.
Without dabbling in the reasons why they’re so popular, here are the rarest and most expensive baseball cards ever.
Babe Ruth is a legend in his own name, but weirdly enough, some of his cards are worth more than what he earned during his career. Take this 1914 Baltimore News card of the legendary player – it was sold for a massive $574,000 in 2012. Of course, the card was in mint condition and was purchased by a private buyer whose name was never disclosed.
Joe Jackson never reached Babe Ruth’s heights, but his card toppled the legendary player on one occasion. In 2008, a worn-down card of Joe Jackson from 1909 was sold for just over $86,000. The same 1909 American Caramel card was sold for a whopping $667,149 in 2016, which shows just how important it is to keep your cards in excellent condition. Who knows when they might draw the attention of a millionaire.
Here’s another Babe Ruth card that was sold for a record price just under one million dollars. It shows the greatest pitcher ever when he was slim, so he might be a bit unrecognisable to some. There were two of these cards sold at auctions, with the one sold in 2016 topping the first one thanks to the $717,000 cost. For comparison, the other was sold a year earlier for ‘only’ $550,000.
On the penultimate spot, we have the great Mickey Mantle on a Topps 1952 card that sold for a record $1,133,250 in 2016. It's one of the rarest cards in the world, and it went into the hands of a private buyer. It was graded PSA NM-MT +8.5, which is near mint condition. Congrats to the lucky buyer.
Often called the Holy Grail of baseball cards, this Horus Wagner card is bigger than the player himself. Why? The player himself asked American Tobacco to remove his card from production, resulting in only 25-200 cards in existence. It’s one of the rarest baseball cards of all time, and that’s why the value is so high.
The highest-rated PSA-5 Wagner card sold for a record $3.12 million in 2016. However, other examples have topped it. In May 2021, one Wagner card sold for $3.75 million, while the most expensive T206 Honus Wagner card sold in August 2021 for a mind-bending $6.6 million.