The 10 Most Valuable Trading Cards Ever Sold

The 10 Most Valuable Trading Cards Ever Sold

Baseball players hold all top five spots, with Babe Ruth coming in at number three. Do you know who’s number one?
Baseball players hold all top five spots, with Babe Ruth coming in at number three. Do you know who’s number one?

T he sports trading cards space has seen massive growth in both interest and value throughout recent years. Tens of thousands of cards are bought and sold every day, and with dozens trading for over $1 million since 2020, records are being set so quickly that if you blink, you could miss them. Here are the (as of now) ten most expensive sports cards that have ever been sold and publicly recorded – as well as the considerable price tags they commanded.

10. 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth #53

First up is a classic Babe Ruth card that achieved $4.2 million in a 2021 sale. Out of the 973 graded by PSA, this is the world’s lone 9 and highest-graded example of one of Babe Ruth’s most recognizable cards. Its stunning condition after almost 90 years put it in the pantheon of all-time sports cards.


9. 2017 Panini National Treasures Patrick Mahomes II Rookie Patch

Image via PWCC Marketplace

At $4.3 million, the 1/1 Platinum Shield of Patrick Mahomes II is American football’s top entry, and a relative newcomer in the card world. Like Mahomes himself however, the card did not take long to make a major impact. Coming off his third AFC championship appearance in as many seasons when the card sold, Mahomes’ near-instant success as a starter had pundits, fans and collectors singing his praises. Since, Mahomes has made three more AFC Championship games and won two more Super Bowls, for a total of three.


8. 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle #311

Image via Heritage Auctions

The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle, once dumped by the caseload into the Atlantic Ocean along with thousands of other 1952 Topps Series 2 cards, stands among the most sought-after trading cards in history. This SGC 9 example was the third Mantle card over the course of three years to eclipse $4 million, and one of several copies from perhaps the largest cache of 1952 Mantles ever recorded, the “Rosen Find.” Its sale helped demonstrate the willingness of collectors to spend top dollar for important trading cards despite fluctuations in the overall card market. It remains to be seen if this card can continue its stellar streak of one entry per year on the top ten since 2021.


7. 2018-19 Panini National Treasures Luka Dončić

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This unique card, featuring a whole NBA logo from Luka Dončić’s jersey, is the most recently published card on this list, and it takes a player as special as Luka to achieve such a feat: $4.6 million in a 2021 sale. In his young career, Dončić has already electrified the NBA with all-time great averages (28.4 points, 8.6 rebounds and 8.1 assists per game) and individual performances, such as his recent 73-point game. The card-collecting community saw Luka’s promise early, sending perhaps his most sought-after rookie card to all-time heights during only his third season. With many more years and accolades sure to come, the future for Luka, and his cards, certainly seems bright.


6. 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection Lebron James

One of the most iconic basketball cards ever produced, this parallel of the rookie patch autograph of Lebron from 2003-04 Exquisite Collection hit the stratosphere of card collecting in 2021 when, at $5.2 million, it matched the 1952 Mantle for most expensive trading card ever. To this day, it remains the single largest price paid for a basketball card (unless you count the fractional ownership company that purchased a 51% stake in a Stephen Curry rookie at a $5.9 million valuation). With Lebron about to eclipse 40,000 career points, it is anyone’s guess if it has reached its peak yet.

5. 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle #311

The second appearance of a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle on this list (and spoiler alert, not its last) is one of the six PSA 9s in the world. When it sold for an amazing $5.2 million to Billionaire Boys Club actor Rob Gough, it again set a world record.


4. 1909-11 T206 Honus Wagner

Image via Robert Edward Auctions

The demand for the T206 Wagner is perhaps most clearly demonstrated by its consistency at the top of sports card sales leaderboards. During a $6.6 million sale in 2021, this example set the record for highest price achieved for a sports card, and it remains near the top to this day!


3. 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth Rookie

Image via Robert Edward Auctions

Before playing in pinstripes or laying “The Curse of the Great Bambino” at the feet of Boston’s baseball faithful, Babe Ruth spent three months in the minors with his hometown Baltimore Orioles (not the same team as today’s major league side), immortalized on this SGC 3 rookie card that sold for $7.2 million in 2023. Ruth was a high school baseball star at St. Mary’s Industrial School. At the age of 19, he was signed straight from high school by the owner and manager of the local Orioles, and the rest is history. After Baltimore, Babe went to the majors with the Red Sox and became one of the most storied sports figures in US history as a New York Yankee. Over a century after his debut, his gravitas among collectors has not waned one jot.


2. 1909-11 T206 Honus Wagner

Image via Goldin Auctions

Only a couple weeks before the top card on this list, this SGC 2 Honus Wagner claimed the title of most expensive sports card ever during a $7.25 million sale. The 1909-11 T206 Wagner has become synonymous with sports cards over the course of the past century. Although recent years have brought fierce competition at the top, the Wagner has remained so etched in the minds of collectors that some will pay more than $400,000 for one that has been torn in half. This copy of the exceptionally rare card asserted its dominance in card collecting in 2022, claiming the record from another copy sold the year before, and was only felled by the most expensive piece of sports memorabilia ever sold.


1. 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle #311

Image via Heritage Auctions

A 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle retook its spot as the most valuable piece of sports memorabilia in history when another example of the “Rosen Find” sold on 22 August 2022 for $12.6 million. The SGC 9.5 card (unlike PSA, SGC does not give 10s) came close to doubling the previous record for cards, which stood at $7.25 million.

The 1952 Topps Mantle has become legendary in the hobby, thanks in no small part to the prowess of its featured athlete, the curious nature of its early years, its design, the existence of a precious few “gem mint” examples, Mickey Mantle’s engagement with the hobby and the incredible price tags that have come with some of the most recently sold high-grade copies. Often referred to as “The Finest Known Example” and the only example ever given SGC’s 9.5 grade , this card combined the fourth-highest grade ever given to the card by a major grading company with a thrilling provenance. It is little wonder that these factors combined into a perfect storm and led to the highest sale in the history of sports memorabilia.


These are the most expensive sports cards that have been sold to date. Do you have any of these treasures hiding away somewhere? What cards do you think should be on this list that are not? Do you think any newcomers will break into the fold in the next few years? What would you pay for these? We invite you to make history at Sotheby’s.

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