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Love him or hate him, Muhammad Ali is one of the greatest sportsmen in history.
He’s a two-time undisputed champion of the ring and also the champion of many people’s hearts. Muhammad Ali was initially known by his name, Cassius Clay – he changed his name to Muhammad Ali in 1964.
“The Greatest” and “The People’s Champ” are just two of his nicknames – both of them reveal a bit of his character.
Aside from his flashy antics inside the ring, he was also known for his political activism and his love of quotes, which are still famous today.
“Don’t count the days, make the days count.”
Best Muhammad Ali Rookie Cards
Boxing cards are still not as highly valued as baseball or basketball cards, so you might be able to get yourself a nice deal with a Muhammad Ali rookie card.
The earliest Cassius Clay cards are still among the most expensive cards from the 1960s, though… But you might have some luck if you’re willing to compromise on the quality of the card.
These are the best Muhammad Ali rookie cards that you can consider.
1960 Hemmets Cassius Clay Rookie Card #23
Here is the Muhammad Ali card that everyone is talking about: the 1960 Hemmets Cassius Clay card.
It is his most expensive card, and the earliest card by a country mile.
It’s also officially known as the only rookie card of Muhammad Ali by many collectors, which is why this card will obviously always be desired.
Be warned: you won’t be able to get this card if you don’t have a five-figure sum ready to be spent. If you’re a budget card collector, then buying this card might feel a bit like Muhammad Ali dodging the opponent’s punches.
But if you’re a high-end collector or simply a Muhammad Ali fan, then this card will be a must-own card.
There is only one PSA 10 known to date, and the prices for that type of grade will be well into six figures. The estimated value by the PSA for such a card is around $250.000, although it will likely increase.
There are also only 10 PSA 9-graded cards of this type, which means that you might have to accept that you’re going to get one of the lower graded cards. The highest population is for PSA-5 graded cards with 32 cards.
For comparison with the PSA 9 card above, here’s how a PSA 4 card looks like:
The biggest difference is in the surface of the card, where the lower graded card doesn’t have as bright colors, and you can see some imperfections with the surface. It’s also not centered as accurately as the higher graded card.
All in all, this card remains to be the most popular and the most valuable Muhammad Ali card to date, and should be one of your priorities if you’re a massive Ali fan or if you’re looking for a high-end investment.
Other Muhammad Ali Rookie Cards
The Hemmets card is the official rookie card that will always attract the most dollar bills, but there are also other cards that can be considered rookie cards.
1962 Swedish Rekord Cassius Clay
1962 Swedish Rekord cards were included as a journal for boxing cards which included all of the biggest boxing stars of that period. It was originally released in Sweden but with many collectors wanting to own a Cassius Clay card, it was also spread internationally – especially in recent years.
Since this card is the second-earliest Muhammad Ali card, it is sometimes considered a rookie card by some collectors.
There are two versions of Cassius Clay cards from this journal: the first one is the shared card you can see above, where Cassius is featured alongside Kjell Jarlenius; the other card has Cassius Clay only (the more popular card, but harder to find):
This card is slightly smaller than the 1960 Hemmets card, and also from the card where Cassius is featured together with another fighter. But the main issue with this card seems to be finding the right quality.
Higher graded cards will cost well into five figures and might go even higher than that. They’re rare though, and especially hard to find considering that most of these cards were hand-cut.
Most of them were not cut properly, which means that the centering will be slightly off, and the corners might also be affected. If you look at the below card, that’s exactly what’s happening. The lines are a bit fluffed at the bottom of the card, which is a minor imperfection that can always affect the price.
1966 Panini Campioni Dello Sport Cassius Clay #377
The 1966 Cassius Clay card is the first time when Cassius Clay was included in a large, commercial set. Even though this Panini Campioni Dello Sport set was originally released only in Italy, this card was one of the rare cards that was sold worldwide even back then.
The set was meant to feature all (or most) of the biggest sporting stars at the time – footballers (Pele, Lev Yashin, Eusebio), cyclists, boxers. One of them was obviously Cassius Clay.
Cassius Clay’s card was near the end of the set, as the majority of the set consisted of football stars.
Here’s an example of the same #377 card, but with a much lower grade.
You can clearly see the differences between the two grades. The PSA 9 graded card is near perfect as it has clearer colors, better surface, and most importantly, is cut correctly so that the card seems properly centered.
The second card clearly had some issues with centering, as you can see on the right side its flaw that will slightly decrease the price.
Still, this is one of the most valuable Clay cards, especially considering that it’s the first card from a major set like Panini, even though it was released only in Italy initially. For this reason, this is considered by some collectors a rookie card in this regard.
1971 Barrat & Co Famous Sportsmen Cassius Clay #24
One of the main reasons why Muhammad Ali are not nearly as valuable as they should be (at least compared to baseball or basketball cards) is because boxers were not often included in sets of the biggest card companies.
In this sense, boxing cards are in the same boat as golf cards – they were considered as very niche initially and did not have their own sets up until 1971.
This Barrat & Co set was released to “repair” that problem.
You can imagine just how popular this set was to be. In many ways, it meant to feature all the biggest sporting stars in the world – much like the 1966 Panini set that we featured earlier, only for the US market.
Muhammad Ali was one of the standout figures of that set – and that says a lot about his fame as a boxer, considering the set also had fantastic sportsmen like George Best, Pele, Bobby Moore. It also included famous sportsmen from other sports that were often neglected by big card sets, such as athletics, golf, cricket, horse riding, racing, tennis.
One of the main problems with this card will be availability. For that reason, the prices of this card will remain high.
Other Notable Muhammad Ali Cards
So those are the main cards that many collectors consider to be the rookie cards. But for such a big sports figure as Muhammad Ali, you can expect to find many different cards and pieces of memorabilia, which we’ll go over here.
1964 Chocolates Simon Cassius Clay
Now, this card is not necessarily a card on its own, but rather a piece of memorabilia. It doesn’t have an image but it looks like it’s a hand-drawn painting of Muhammad Ali celebrating a famous win – or it looks like that, at least.
Out of all the cards we’ve featured here, this will probably be the hardest to find, since it was originally issued only in Spain.
Chocolates Simon were cards that were issued with chocolates, and were dispersed into the products randomly. So the lucky few people that got this card in their chocolate must be laughing today.
Among the stars that were featured in that set was obviously Cassius Clay, along with some other sporting legends of the time – most notably, Pele.
Getting this card will probably be a challenge, but if you do manage to find it, it will likely cost quite a lot.
1965 Bancroft Tiddlers Cassius Clay #12
This Bancroft Tiddlers card is slightly different from other cards. It has a Muhammad Ali staring at your soul on one side of your card, and on the other, he’s depicted inside the ring.
This dual type of design is a novelty among all other cards. Those tend to include only frontal images of Cassius Clay, while this could be the 2-in-1 card that you’ve been looking for.
Apart from that, there’s the distinct, almost yellow background to this card that gives it the classic, 60s feel. You can immediately notice when looking at the card that it’s a classic, which will appeal to you if you’re looking for that sort of thing.
It’s also worth mentioning that this is still one of the earliest Muhammad Ali cards. So if you’re looking at the earliest cards of this sporting legend, this one might be near the top of your checklist.
1965 Swedish Candy Cassius Clay
As you may see, many of the earlier Cassius Clay products were released as a part of other products, such as chocolates or candy. This particular card was included in candy packets in Sweden.
The card comes from 1965 when Cassius Clay was already renamed to Muhammad Ali – but the card still includes the name Cassius.
If you look at the card, the most appealing thing about it is the frontal image of Cassius. It looks as though he’s trying to fight you – yes, you!
He would be a terrifying opponent to face, wouldn’t he?
1967 Panini Campioni Dello Sport Cassius Clay #451
When Cassius Clay’s card debuted in Panini sets in 1966, it caused a craze among collectors. It was the most desirable card from the set by a long distance, which is why Panini continued to include him in subsequent sets.
The same can be said about the 1967 card. While it is not considered to be his rookie card, it is still one of the earlier cards for Muhammad and still one of his most popular.
Again, the design of the card is nothing to shout about, which you can expect from 1960s cards. But the beauty of this card, like of so many other cards from this list, is in its simplicity. The simpler it is, the more accurately it shows Cassius Clay in all his glory.
This card also has its own issues.
Like most cards we’ve seen so far, it had issues with centering because the cutting techniques were still not as well developed as they are today, and most cards were cut by hand.
That’s why you’ll see borders of the cards being cut wrongly, and the corners will not be as sharp as they should be.
In addition, some cards were prone to discoloration as you can see on the second, PR 1-rated card. So in addition to the fact that there are not many cards of this type selling nowadays, many of them are also not preserved very well.
The value of this card will go into thousands of buckaroos, but definitely not as high as the 1966 Panini cards.
1965 Collezioni Lampo I Grandi Campioni Cassius Clay #154
Italy was the place to be if you really wanted to get a Cassius Clay card in the 1960s. This card from 1965 is yet another instance that confirms that notion.
This card set made by Collezioni Lampo also meant to include all the greatest sporting stars of that time, which is nicely depicted by the name of the set. Namely, “I Grandi Campioni” roughly translates to “The Great Champions” in English.
The sky blue background is the one thing that jumps out instantly from this card, as well as the American flag on the left bottom corner of the card (which seems to be hand-drawn, by the way).
Depending on the condition of the card, this one still seems to be one of the most expensive Muhammad Ali cards selling out there, as the prices can reach up to $100.000 for a tidy card.
1983 Topps Olympic Heroes Cassius Clay #7
Even though Cassius Clay won the gold medal at the 1960 Olympics, the only card to honor that achievement was the 1983 Topps card.
These were released as a part of M&M’s packets, which meant that the lucky few who bought these packets got this card inside. If you own this one today, you’re looking at several hundred dollars of value.
Then there’s also another card that needs to be mentioned with the same image. It’s the 1983 Topps Greatest Olympians card, which looks almost exactly the same as the above card, but with a few small changes to the overall design of the card.
Both of these cards are excellent choices if you’re a budget collector and you’re looking for a Muhammad Ali card, especially the yellow one. The M&M’s card is a bit harder to find, which means that the prices will likely go higher for that card.
Still, the prices for these two will feel quite low considering the high prices of some other cards we’ve just featured. Perhaps it’s the fact that they were made much later than the original cards from the 1960s.
1992 Classic Muhammad Ali Auto
We’re edging closer into the realm of modern cards with this 1992 Classic Muhammad Ali card, which also included an autograph of Alli.
The good thing about this card is that it’s relatively cheap because it was a part of the set with a massive print run – just shy of 300.000 copies. This is great for the prices today, because this card will be available for a low price.
The autographed card is a bit rarer, though. It was limited to 2500 copies, but that’s still much higher than the print runs of some other rare cards we’ve already seen of Cassius Clay.
Many of these are ungraded, so you’ll want to be careful that the autograph is certified and authentic, so the best way to make sure of that is to go for graded cards which confirm the authenticity of the autos.
1992 Pro Line Portraits Muhammad Ali #1a
This Muhammad Ali card is one of the rarest cards when it comes to cards that don’t involve him in his boxing capacity. It is a card affiliated to the NFL, so if you’re both an NFL and boxing fan, this might be a good option for you.
It’s known as one of the earliest signed cards, though. The signature was placed on the back of the card.
If you’re looking to get this card, then you might want to be careful about getting the Embossed version of this card. The authentic cards will have an embossed logo on the bottom of the card.
Note: there are two versions of this card: Muhammad Ali and Cassius Clay. So if you prefer one name over the other, you’ll have the option to make your pick here.
2000 Upper Deck Master Collection Muhammad Ali #AliA5
The 2000 Upper Deck Master Collection Muhammad Ali card is probably the best autographed card that you’ll get for your money out there.
It features the high-quality production of Upper Deck from modern cards from the early 2000s, while also incorporating Ali’s autograph and a classic image of Alli. It has it all.
You’ll be able to choose from several cards from this set.
The two other cards are also fantastic choices, where the #AliAG card also features Muhammad Ali’s glove. That is another appealing premium option if you prefer modern cards with an old-school feel to them.
Of course, these cards won’t come cheap, either. While they might not reach the prices of his rookie cards, they will still command four-figure sums.
These cards will take you down memory lane and make you feel inspired, as you will be able to appreciate Muhammad Ali both as a sportsperson and as a man.
How Much is a Muhammad Ali Card Worth?
Muhammad Ali’s rookie card is worth up to $250.000 for the highest graded cards, while some other cards from the 60s can also reach a five-figure sum if they are preserved well.
More modern Muhammad Ali cards are not as expensive as the rookie card, but they can still reach the values of several thousand dollars.
You’ll also find some other options when it comes to his cards, especially from an earlier part of his career. Many of those cards were produced for foreign markets like Sweden and Italy or Spain, and they were often a part of other products such as sweets and chocolates. Those cards might be a bit rarer and more difficult to find, which means they’ll also dictate higher prices.
Muhammad Ali is an eternal sporting legend. He’ll stay in people’s memories and hearts forever, with his fast and attractive style of boxing that set the tone for the future of boxing, but also with his flamboyant character.
To celebrate his career and his personality, many card collectors choose to buy his cards, especially his rookie cards. Muhammad Ali’s cards are some of the most expensive cards in the card collecting world, but they’re absolutely worth it for their sentimental value alone.