Most Expensive Trading Cards Ever

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October 2022 Update: Mike Trout is in with another entry thanks to the recent 1MM+ sale from a couple of weeks ago. More info below!

When it comes to the most expensive trading cards ever, is it safe yet to assume that the title will always be held by pristine vintage, or will we continue to see this trading back and forth between antique baseball cards and modern spectacles?

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Tough to say, and time will tell! If anything it just goes to show the range of this “hobby” or “business” however you want to look at it. Meaning, there is something for everyone, with people in both camps – modern and vintage – willing to pony up big investments for the cards they either love and/or believe will increase in value in the future.

So, let’s take a look at the most expensive trading cards ever. Of course, some of the most valuable still might be sitting on someone’s shelf and not for sale, so all of this will be based on past sales.

CBS Sports Mickey Mantle 1952 Topps card, the ‘finest known example’ of its kind, sells for record $12.6M…

CBS Sports

You’ve probably heard of this one given it is the most recent record-breaking sale of its kind. A holy grail of sorts in its own rights even as a beat up raw/ungraded card, the $12.6M record-breaking card wasn’t just any 1952 Mickey Mantle, but a graded 9.5 by SGC.

As the article notes:

“That is the most money anyone has ever paid for any type of sports item, card or memorabilia.”

The question I and many others have is, what if it was graded by PSA? And if you don’t know what I mean by that, but generally, cards graded by PSA sell for more than their counterparts graded by SGC and other companies.

Now, can you even imagine a card selling for more than $12.6M? I can’t, which makes me believe that the grading company in this situation doesn’t really matter as long as it is a reputable one. Then again, I couldn’t have ever imagined a card selling for $12.6M to begin with, so who knows.

Rare T-206 Honus Wagner baseball card sold for record $7.25 million in private sale

ESPN

When the Mantle sold, I was thinking to myself that it didn’t take long for us to move on from the previous big sale of the T-206 Honus Wagner that surpassed $7M in August 2022. It also makes you think about what might come next.

If anything, this much is clear—for a card to surpass $7M and then $12M, it most certainly will need to be a vintage or antique baseball card, and graded at that.

Interestingly enough, this one was only a “2” but also from SGC, who off these most recent (and most expensive) card sales, is getting a lot of good press.

World’s rarest Steph Curry autographed card sells for $5.9M

NBC Sports

Basketball, yes, basketball! If you were told a basketball card was on this list, it’s a little harder to believe because basketball cards don’t go as far back in age as say something like a Honus Wagner. Secondly, one of the greatest players of all time, Michael Jordan, didn’t play that long ago, relatively. Meaning, his rookie card in decent condition is a lot easier to find than someone like Mickey Mantle.

All that said, we aren’t even talking Michael Jordan here, but Stephen Curry, and our first example of wow, sometimes you don’t have to get lucky with a box full of cards in your grandparents’ attic to cash out with cards.

As you can see, this modern treasure was a 2009-10 Playoff National Treasures Rookie Logoman Autograph Stephen Curry. The card was graded by PSA, receiving an 8 on the card and a 10 on the auto.

Hank Aaron baseball card sells for record price – Yahoo News

Yahoo

What do you get when you combine the legendary Hank Aaron, his 1954 Topps rookie card, and a grade of “9” from the top grading company around, PSA? Well, only about $720,000 compared to the cards worth millions on this list, but a record for a Hank Aaron card.

With this one being a 9, it does leave the door open for a much larger sale if a 10 is ever found, which my brain just can’t compute. Another thing that has me a little backwards is just how much more the above Steph Curry card sold for, but I guess one can make the argument that the Curry card is truly one of a kind.

Charizard Pokémon Card Sold For Record $420,000, How Much Is Yours Worth?

FORBES

Alas, non-sports has made it onto the list, and of course it is Pokémon, but probably not the character you’d immediately think of. Well, if you’re new to flipping Pokémon cards, the name Charizard is no secret, but might be a surprise who only knows Pokémon through the popular Pikachu.

This card was a 1999 Charizard Pokémon, selling for $420,000 thanks to its Gem Mint 10 grade from PSA. The article goes on to mention that even of the few 10s in existence, this is one of the cleanest.

Rare Kobe Bryant card sells for a record $2 million

sports illustrated

Mantle, Aaron, Charizard, Kobe—the list goes on and on, and we haven’t even mentioned Brady or MJ. Anyway, I love this entry for the fact that it isn’t a rookie card, and growing up a 90s insert collector, it being a beautiful 1997-98 Metal Universe Precious Metal Gems Emerald takes my breath away.

In fact, speaking of PMGs, you might have seen Jordan cards in the headlines again with the new release and chase of 2021 Upper Deck Skybox (maybe we will see it on this list some day!)

For Kobe, only 10 of this card exist, and this one is only a BGS 8.5 with subgrades. It’s amazing to think what a version in better condition would sell for, and how much above the $2 million price tag it would go.

Tom Brady rookie card sells for record-breaking price at over $3.1 million at auction

CBS Sports

You just knew Brady was going to be on this list, right? The question is, of all the Tom Brady cards to collect, which one would it be.

If you guessed the coveted Gio Carmazzi dual rookie, you’re absolutely…wrong, though still a cool card! No, we are talking about the 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket Auto. The card was graded by Beckett as a 9 with subgrades of 9.5 for centering and corners, and 9s for the edges and surface. The auto was graded a 10.

Patrick Mahomes rookie card sells for record-breaking $4.3 million

CNN

On a list full of GOATs, this Mahomes card sale is more than a bit surprising, not to mention the enormous $4M+ price tag. Don’t get me wrong, Mahomes is great and has accomplished a ton in his young career, but he isn’t Tom Brady, and not the Stephen Curry of football.

Either way, in July of 2021, his 2017 National Treasures (which is the brand for modern football and basketball rookie cards) sold for $4.3M. The card isn’t only autographed, but is a 1/1 featuring the coveted NFL shield patch as well!

Mike Trout Baseball Card Sells For Over $1 Million

Just BAseball

There he is—Mike Trout, my friends! This is actually the second-highest Trout sale, but being so recent, I had to include it. 1,080,000 for a 2009 Bowman Chrome Draft Prospects Red Refractor Auto /5 grade by Beckett as a 9.5 with 10 centering. Big WOW.

Record-breaking Michael Jordan rookie card sells with Christie’s for over $1 million

ABC NEWS

The thing about Michael Jordan in comparison to everyone else on this list is that he doesn’t have a ton of “rare” cards—meaning, when you think about a Mantle in great condition, it’s going to be hard to find given its age, and a 1/1 Patrick Mahomes will be rare because, well, it’s a 1/1.

But Michael Jordan cards were part of the 80s boom, and MJs exclusive Upper Deck contract has kept him out of the modern card spotlight.

All that said, we have a million-dollar entry and while it is a rookie card, it has a modern twist thanks to the autograph and the fact that the card was a buyback edition.

About Ryan from Ballcard Genius 183 Articles
Ryan is a lifelong member of the hobby and sports card expert. Specializing in baseball cards, and showcasing a love for flashy 90s inserts and all things A's, Ryan enjoys sharing the ins and outs of collecting, while highlighting the best cardboard options to add to your collections.