How To Make Money Selling Baseball Cards – Baseball cards were not mass produced until the 1880s, although they were introduced to the public in the mid-1860s, not long after the game began, and shortly after the image became popular. At the time, tobacco brands such as Old Judge and Gypsy Queen included cards with pictures of players inside their products, mostly without covering the packaging. Baseball cards have been a hit with fans, especially children, since the early 1930s, who received chewing gum in packs.
But by the 1980s, due to the public’s deep interest in nostalgia and the explosion in popularity of “Basic Cards”, baseball card values increased.
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Now considered investment pieces by high-end collectors, rare cards in top condition have sold for millions. In 1991, Professional Sport Authenticator, a sports memorabilia company, established the industry standard for grading and authenticating cards. Other companies, such as Beckett Grading Services (BGS) and the Sportscard Guarantee Company (SGC), grade cards on a case-by-case basis.
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For more than 70 years, a major card player has been Topps, licensed by MLB and the MLB Players Association to produce official baseball cards. In August 2021, Topps was named the successor to Fanatics, which will produce officially licensed MLB cards starting in 2026.
From Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Famer Honus Wagner to Los Angeles Angels shortstop Mike Trout, here are nine iconic cards of star players that have sold or been auctioned for significant amounts:
Star power: Known as the “Flying Dutchman,” Wagner had 3,420 hits and 723 stolen bases during his career with the Louisville Colonels and Pittsburgh Pirates from 1897-1917. He led the National League in hits with eight hits and had five hits and a steal each. In 1936, he became the first member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
According to legend, Wagner was a teetotaler who hated using his likeness to sell tobacco. Others claim that Wagner demanded more compensation from the company for using his likeness, thus limiting production of the card. Regardless of the reason for its rarity, the Wagner T206 card remains the most popular baseball card.
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Star Power: Manty, who played from 1951-1968, was considered MLB’s best switch hitter before injury. Had he not been injured so often, Ruth’s home run record might have been threatened. Manty finished his MLB career with 536 homers.
It might be the most famous trading card in sports, and it’s not even Manti’s new card. That honor goes to the 1951 Bowman map. 195 But the 1952 Topps Manty card has one thing it lacks: a great scene.
In 1952, Topps owner Sy Berger allowed printers to work on some of his company’s cards. But by the end of the summer, collectors had cooled on the cards, and the product cases had not sold. In 1960, nearly 500 of Berger’s cards, including Manty’s now treasured card, were dumped in the Hudson River.
Star power: Ruth, known as ‘The Big Bambino’, ‘Sultan of Swat’, ‘Colossus of Colossus’ or simply ‘The Kid’, was the game’s first global star. Like Wagner, he was named to MLB’s All-Century Team and became the first Hall of Famer in 1936. Ruth, who played from 1914-1935, was the longest reigning MLB home run champion until being surpassed by Hank. Aaron (1974) and Barry Bonds (2004).
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In 1933, a year after the last World Series title, the Goudey Gum Company produced a set of 240 cards, including four Ruth cards. But card 53, set in bright yellow, remains the standard. This badge has been customized by Professional Sport Authenticator.
Star power: Widely regarded as the game’s most active player, the future Hall of Famer was an All-Star in nine of his first 11 seasons. The Los Angeles Angels’ outfielder has won three American League MVP awards.
Topps, maker of Bowman cards, began creating “parallel” cards in 1992, making short-run versions of the rarer and more valuable base cards. The Superfractor version of Trout’s Bowman Draft, a shiny gold edition limited to just one copy, held the record for the most cards until held several times in 2020 and 2021.
Star power: Ryan, one of the game’s most feared power pitchers, hit the MLB record 1,000,000 times more than Randy Johnson, the No. 2 man on the list. A blacksmith, he pitched for four teams in his 27-year career from 1966-93 before retiring at age 46.
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Icon Card: Topps Rookie Card #177 (with fellow Mets pitcher Jerry Koosman) sold in August 1968 for $600,000,000.
Some might argue Ryan’s lack of team success. He played for the New York Mets in his only World Series championship in 1969. But he set many records. Koosman, who earned the most money on the card, was a good player in his own right. He finished his career with 222 wins. Many of these cards were found in excellent condition.
Star power: Hall of Famer Robinson broke the MLB color barrier in 1947, becoming a social justice icon in the process. An all-around great athlete, he starred in four sports (baseball, basketball, football and track) at UCLA. Robinson, who played from 1947-1956, was a six-time National League All-Star and was named Most Valuable Player in 1949. The number 42 jersey has been retired by all MLB teams.
The iconic 1948 card earned a coveted PSA 7 rating in a set filled with early cards of stars such as Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Warren Spahn and DiMaggio. PSA rating
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Star power: Joltin Joe’s 56-game hitting streak in 1941 is one of sports’ greatest hits. A 13-time All-Star and nine-time batting champion, DiMaggio was a pop culture icon who married Marilyn Monroe and was immortalized in 1941 by the Les Brown Orchestra with lyrics by Alan Courtney and Ben Homer.
The 1939 Play Ball card, one of several DiMaggio cards from an obscure manufacturer, is considered the most recent card. The usually stoic star smiles in Play Ball Cards. Other high quality versions of the 1936 World Wide Gum and 1938 Goudey cards can command more than this card.
Star power: Henderson, who starred for the Oakland A’s and New York Yankees during a 25-year career known as “The Man of Steal,” is considered MLB’s most prolific player. All-time leader in stolen bases and runs scored (2, 295). Henderson’s 1,406 career steals are nearly 500 more than the No. 2 player on the list, Lou Brock.
From the 1950s to the early 1980s, Topps often produced cards that quickly deteriorated and thus lost value to card collectors. As a result, it was impossible to find the new Henderson mint condition card created by Topps. According to Professional Sport Authenticator, a sports memorabilia grading service, more than 23,000 copies of the card have been graded. Only 25, 0.1 percent of those produced specified mint conditions.
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Star power: The Kid combined a rare blend of skill and athleticism to become a fan favorite, especially with his first team, the Seattle Mariners. A Hall-of-Famer who received 99.3 percent of the first-ballot vote, Griffey, who retired after the 2010 season, was a 13-time All-Star and led the American League in home runs four times. He finished his career with 630 home runs.
Griffin’s 1989 Deco card design was a sensation. Unused copies sold for over $100 shortly after the set was released. Griffey went on to live up to that lofty accolade by becoming the best player of the 1990s.
PROVIDING FACTS: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn’t look right, click here to contact us! is regularly reviewed and updated to ensure its content is complete and accurate. This guide to investing and trading trading cards was written by Gary Vaynerchuk, Jason Koeppel, Raghav Haran, Tyler Schmitt, and Lou Genux.
So… you’re thinking about investing in sports and trading cards. This guide covers everything you need to know to get started—from figuring out what you need your old cards to, buying new cards, and more.
When It Comes To Trading, Sports Cards Are In Another League
Also, bookmark this post and listen to the Card Talk podcast for more tips and advice along the way.
Another fascinating element, especially as you read this article, is the current generation’s concept of business cards.
As perceptions and values change, many people display a new Michael Jordan card in their home that they can show their friends instead of a Jackson Pollock photo. Like how Justin Bieber displayed a crazy Pokemon card hanging on his wall.
Likewise, the scarcity and supply-demand elements of some sports cards make them great long-term investments that can increase their value—something like fine art.
Beckett Baseball Card Monthly Magazine Vintage Issue June 1999
Here’s a stock-by-stock comparison of the trading card market
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