Valuable Cards From Each DecadeJason O'Day
We all dream about it – opening a new box or pack and there it is, the most valuable sports card on the market. Unfortunately, we all know how rare it is to pull a big hit like that, especially in today’s market. The most valuable modern sports cards are usually serial numbered 1/1 or, at most, #/10. They also usually include an autograph and/or memorabilia like a piece of game worn jersey. On top of all that, it needs to be grade a perfect 10/10 to command the highest dollar value. Vintage cards, on the other hand, don’t need to be anything fancy, or even have the picture of a major player on it sometimes. The T206 cards from 1909 are all valuable, regardless of the player on the card. But the opportunity to pull one of these is simply rare, and most of us will go our entire lives, including decades of collecting, without even coming close to pulling one of these cards.
There is another challenge as well as a collector – pulling a great rookie card, but choosing to sell/trade it way too soon. How many people do you think had a Wayne Gretzky O-Pee-Chee rookie card from 1979 but parted ways with it? Or a 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan rookie? I actually know someone who had both, and much more than one of each. Had he held onto those cards, and had they graded well, they would collectively be worth well over $100,000 today. A 1986-87 Fleer Sticker Michael Jordan rookie, graded PSA 9, recently went for $24,000 alone.
So with all of this in mind, I was curious…What are some of the most valuable sports cards from each decade? Here is what I found:
1909 T206 Sweet Caporal Honus Wagner PSA 5
- In 2016, this card sold for $3.16 Million and held the most valuable record until 2020.
1916 Sporting News Babe Ruth PSA 7
- This card sold for $717,000 in 2016.
1922 E120 American Caramel Babe Ruth PSA 9
- This card is considered one of the most valuable from the 1920’s, and is estimated to be worth $65,000.
1932 Caramel Babe Ruth PSA 9
- This Babe Ruth card sold for $432,000 in 2019.
1948 Leaf Leroy Page PSA 8
- This card sold for $432,000 in 2018.
1952 Topps Mickey Mantle PSA 9
- This decade is easy, because this card is the most valuable card in history as of today. It sold via a private sale for $5.2 Million. And here’s the kicker – there are a total of six of these cards in existence, so more are out there and I’m sure we’ll see it break its own record eventually.
1963 Topps Pedro Gonzalez/Ken McMullen/Pete Rose/Al Weis PSA 10
- All of this card’s value comes from having Pete Rose on it. It sold for $717,000 in 2016.
1971 Topps Roberto Clemente Slusser Collection PSA 10
- It is rare to find a card from the 1970’s that grades at a 10, and this 1971 Topps Roberto Clemente is one of a kind – it is the only one to grade a PSA 10. When you have literally just one of a certain card, its value is set by the market. The market determined this card is valued at $71,700 when it sold in 2016.
1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan SGC 10
- One of MJ’s rookies sold for $420,000 in 2020.
1996 Topps Chrome Refractor Kobe Bryant PSA 10
- This card recently sold for $500,000.
2009 Bowman Chrome Mike Trout Superfractor BGS 9 (10 on Autograph)
- This card is serial numbered 1/1, is autographed, and sold for $3.936 Million in August 2020. It held the record for the most valuable card for five months until the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle came along.
2013-14 Panini National Treasures Giannis Antetokounmpo Logoman Patch BGS 9
- This 1/1 card sold for $1,857,300 in 2020 and holds the record for most valuable basketball sports card.
2020’s To Be Determined…
- This decade is still young so it is too early to determine which card will be the most valuable, but we’ve already seen to major sales. A 2020 Bowman Sterling Pete Alonso 1/1 Super Refractor has sold for $55,550. A 2020 Flawless Collegiate Football Justin Herbert 1/1 recently sold for $26,999. And shockingly, neither of these cards were graded! So the decade is off to a good start and we’ll most likely see more high dollar sales in the coming years.