What Sports Cards are Worth Money?

Sports cards are a speculative market. The prices of sports cards are dictated by supply and demand. The more demanded and scarce a card is, the more it will be worth.

What sports cards are worth money?

These types of cards will usually be worth more than others:

  • Cards of important and popular players
  • Rookie cards
  • Cards from main brands
  • Rare cards
  • Old and popular cards
  • Cards with the highest condition possible

Many people make the mistake when they think that a player’s performance will impact the card value. Sometimes that is the case, but this will only happen due to the supply and demand for the card. A card is always going to be more popular if a player starts doing well.

Cards will make no money unless enough people are willing to pay for them.

What Sports Cards are Worth Money?

Some sports cards will be worth more than others. This will depend on several factors, such as the player on the card and the type of card.

These types of sports cards will usually be worth more money than the rest.

Cards of Important and Popular Players

If you have a card that ticks at least one of these two boxes, then you’ve already got a valuable card.

If the card happens to tick both boxes, then the prices are likely going to be even higher. However, if you have a card of a player that isn’t popular, then nobody will be willing to pay the money to get the card. Hence, the value of the card will not be very high.

The main determining factor for the card price will be the supply and demand for the card: the lower the supply and the higher the demand, the more expensive it will be.

Now, if a card of a popular player is selling well, then collectors will be willing to pay higher prices for the card. And the more people buy the card, the more demand there will be, meaning that the prices can start to rise quite rapidly.

Sometimes, the performances of the player will increase the demand for the card – but not always.

This might only be a short-term boost to the demand, but if the player doesn’t remain popular, then the prices will not maintain a high value.

Cards will only be valuable as much as people are willing to pay for them.

Rookie Cards

Rookie cards will be the most popular card of a player.

Why is that?

Because no matter how long a player continues their career, there will always be only one rookie season.

Card companies can only create rookie cards once in a player’s career, so it’s a bit hard to tell whether a player will do well or not.

They can’t go back and make more rookie cards, while with subsequent cards, it’s much easier to sell them in bulk once the player becomes more popular, so the values are not going to be as high.

There’s also some history with rookie cards. In the past, rookie cards were usually much harder to get than nowadays. Another huge problem was the condition of the rookie cards. These were usually not maintained well as later cards since not many people expected a particular player to do well.

Today, things are a bit different, but the rule remains the same: rookie cards remain to be the most valuable cards of one particular player.

Cards from Main Brands

If you’re buying cards that you want to have more value, then it’s better to stick to the main brands.

A lot of time some card brands will create unlicenced cards with player images but not the teams. So they don’t appear in their uniform, or club logos are airbrushed off.

Whereas with main card brands, they will usually have club logos and player images that are authentic because they’re licensed. These cards will always sell better than the cards that are not licensed.

When you’re buying a card of your favorite player, or a popular player, look for cards with a good reputation. Each sport has its card brands, but some brands also create cards for different sports.

Panini, Donruss, National Treasures, and Crown Royale are some of the most popular brands for NBA and basketball cards. Although Panini is the only officially licensed company for NBA cards.

For baseball and football, Topps will take the crown. For baseball, Bowman and Upper Deck cards will also be popular.

Rare Cards

This should go without saying, but the rarer the card is, the more it is going to be worth.

Take, for example, the 1909 T206 Honus Wagner card. It is among the most expensive cards in the world, as decently preserved cards of this type can cost several million dollars.

Now, it is true that Honus Wagner is one of the best players in baseball history.

However, it is the rarity of the card that makes the card so valuable. There are only about 50 copies of this card left in this world. And since it comes from 1909, not many of these cards will be preserved well. So if you happen to own a decently graded Honus Wagner card from 1909, you’re laughing.

Cards with low print runs and numbered cards and parallels will also be more expensive. Again, we’re looking at the supply and demand issue here. The fewer cards there are and the bigger supply there is, the more the card is going to cost.

Old Cards

Not all old cards are worth a lot of money, but they tend to be more expensive than some modern cards for several reasons:

  • The condition. It’s much harder to find an old card that gets a good grade rather than a newer card. If the card can withstand the test of time, then it’s going to be more valuable than newer cards.
  • Rarity. Before the 1980s, the card print runs were much lower than the print runs later on. Before the so-called Junk Wax Era (1986 – 1992), there just weren’t as many options as we have today, so rookie cards were sometimes rare and hard to find.
  • Popularity. The more popular the player, the more expensive the old card will be.

In general, old cards in good condition will sell for very high amounts, because most people just want to buy the best-preserved card possible (those who can afford it, of course).

Cards with Highest Conditions

Normally, cards that are graded highly by grading services will be worth more than the ones that are graded poorly.

The higher the grade, the more the card will be worth. The main reason for this is that card collectors always look for the best graded cards possible. The demand for these cards will thus be higher.

The condition of the card will depend on several factors. The most imoprtant factors include the quality of corners, surface, and edges. The better these factors are preserved, the higher the condition of the card will be, and the more it will be worth.

If you own sports cards, then it’s recommended that you keep them preserved well. You should use a toploader and a card sleeve, or a slab that you receive from a grading service.

How Do I Know if My Sports Cards are Worth Money?

If you happen to find an old card that’s been lying in your garage or in your house for some time and you’re wondering if it’s worth anything, there are a few things that you can do to estimate the value of the card.

The most important factor that will help you know if your card is worth anything is the condition.

These are a few things that you’ll want to check on your card:

  • The corners – they should be as straight as possible, and ideally, they should be damaged as little as possible. This is especially important for older cards where the corners get damaged easily.
  • Edges – have a quick look at the edges. They should not be damaged or bent. The straighter the edges are, the more the card will be worth.
  • The surface – is the surface of the card nice and even, without too much imperfections? Now, for older cards, this will be the biggest vulnerability, especially if the card has not been cared for properly.
  • Centering – again, this issue regularly comes up with older cards in particular. They might not be centered properly, which is an imprefection that can cause the value of the card to plummet.

You might also want to check a few other things to determine if your card is worth anything.

Have a look at the card, and the player on the card. Is the player popular and well-known? Then it’s likely that the card might be worth something.

Also, check the date and year for the card. If the card comes from a player’s rookie year, then the card is going to be quite valuable, likely. However, even some second-year cards and sometimes even older cards can be worth quite a lot of money.

Lastly, check other features on your card, such as the autograph or any additional features. If there is an autograph or maybe even a jersey patch, then you’re looking at a slightly more valuable card.

Are Any Sports Cards from the 90s Worth Anything?

90s cards are not particularly worthy. The main reason for this is that cards were printed in bulk in that period, and the supply far exceeded the demand for these cards.

This created the so-called Junk Wax Era. This was between roughly 1986 to 1992 when sports cards could be bought in almost any store imaginable.

The result is that the majority of these cards, including cards of the most popular players, are now worth pennies (at least compared to what they could have been worth).

There are a few exceptions to this rule, though. For example, Kobe Bryant rookie cards are going to still be worth quite a lot.

Are Football Cards Worth Any Money?

Football cards are some of the most popular sports trading cards out there. These can be worth a lot of money. The most expensive football cards will sell for six-figure amounts, easily.

Some of the most expensive football cards include:

2000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady #144 (or any Tom Brady rookie card, especially the Playoff Contenders cards)
2018 National Treasures Patrick Mahomes II RC
1958 Topps Jim Brown RC #62
2005 SP Authentic Aaron Rodgers
Any older football cards of footballing legends

Football cards are among the most popular cards out there, along with baseball and basketball cards. Other popular sports for sports cards include soccer, golf, hockey, tennis, and even auto racing.

Which Sports Cards are Worth the Most?

The sports card that are worth the most money include:

1909 T206 Honus Wagner
1952 Topps Mickey Mantle (Find that whole 1952 Topps checklist here)
1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle
1916 Sporting News Babe Ruth
1963 Topps Pete Rose
2009 Bowman Chrome Mike Trout (Find more Mike Trout Cards)
2003 Topps Chrome Refractor LeBron James (check LeBron James cards here)
1909 T206 Eddie Plank
1909 American Caramel E90-1 Joe Jackson

These are some of the most expensive sports cards out there. Most of these are worth six-fiure amounts, although some of the top ones will sell for millions if they are found in top conditions.

The 1909 T206 Honus Wagner and the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle cards have long believed to be some of the most expensive sports cards in the world. Because they’re hard to find in the best conditions, these will sell for very high amounts.

Final Thoughts

Sports cards can be a profitable market if you know how to buy and sell. Some of the most expensive sports cards can be sold for millions and six-figure amounts, although these are hard to find.

The rule of supply and demand applies for sports cards, as it does with almost any market. The shorter the supply and the higher the demand, the more expensive the card will be.


  • Vince

    I'm a big time sports nerd, with soccer being my first true love. I've been collecting sports cards since I was a little kid, and now... well, not much has changed, but I write about it... and I have facial hair.

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