When the pandemic shut down live games, fans appeared to have turned to trading cards to get their sports fix, sending the collectible card market soaring. According to eBay, the trading cards category, which includes sports, collectible card games, and other corners of pop culture including Pokémon, grew 142% domestically in 2020 over the year prior.
Just as in the late 1980s and early 1990s, investors are once again seeing the value in sports cards and are sinking big money into them. How much? In 2021, a T206 Honus Wagner baseball card sold for a record-breaking $6.606 million.
Not every trading card commands that kind of money. A card’s value comes from the importance of the player to the sport, the authenticity and scarcity of the card, and its condition. To determine authenticity and condition, collectors mainly use a 10-point grading scale developed by Professional Sport Authenticator, or PSA, to rate cards from 1, which is poor, all the way to 10, or “gem mint”—as perfect as it gets.
Midwest Cards ranked the top 25 sports cards with the highest market value, as calculated by PWCC. The dataset only covers cards from pre-2000 and only auction sales are included in the calculations. Besides the market value of each card, the dataset also includes each card’s five-year and 10-year return on investment. The market values were last updated on March 30, 2022.
While baseball dominates this list with 18 of the top 25 most valuable cards, other sports are gaining traction in the market. eBay found that the baseball card market grew by 73%, but other sport cards grew more, with hockey cards experiencing a 258% uptick, basketball growing by 373%, and soccer up by a whopping 1,586%.
Before you dig through your childhood stash of trading cards to try and cash in on the bull market, read on to see which cards made the list. Keep in mind that it can take decades for a trading card to realize its true value, as just three cards in the top 25 ranking are from 1980 or later.