WHAT IS THE RAREST BASEBALL CARDS

One of the rarest and most valuable baseball cards is the 1909-11 T206 Honus Wagner card. It is widely considered the most coveted and valuable trading card in existence today. Only around 60 authentic Honus Wagner T206 cards are known to exist today in varying conditions. What makes this card so rare is that Wagner demanded his card be pulled from production due to not being compensated for its usage. Only a small number of cards made it into circulation before the full print run could be stopped. This scarcity has driven prices of authentic cards to astronomical levels.

In the 1980s and 1990s, prices for Wagner cards were a few thousand dollars but by the 2000s they started selling for over $1 million. In 2007, one card received a record price of $2.8 million at auction. In 2016, another pristine graded example sold for $3.12 million. In 2021, another mint condition Wagner card set the all-time record when it achieved $6.6 million at auction. The 1909-11 T206 Wagner is now valued over $10 million for a gem mint PSA 0 graded copy, making it the most valuable collectible card in the world.

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Another extremely rare pre-war card is the 1909-11 T206 Sherry Magee card. Only 116 are believed to still exist in all conditions combined. High graded examples of this card have sold in recent years for over $1 million, making it one of the most valuable non-Wagner cards from the iconic T206 set which had over 500 different player cards issued. Like Wagner, Magee’s rarity comes from very low original print numbers.

A few other select pre-1930 cards that command huge prices due to their extreme rarity include the 1933 Goudey Billy Jurges (#178) and the 1909-11 T206 Fred Clarke. Only a handful are known to exist for each of these cards and they can sell in the $500,000 range when top-graded. Some consider the Jurges and Clarke to be on par with the Wagner for their historical significance and low populations.

Moving into the post-war 1950s and 1960s era, one of the rarest standard issue baseball cards is the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle rookie card. Only a small original run was produced making it scarce, and high grades are exceptionally rare. Pristine mint condition copies have sold for well over $1 million.

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The 1964 Topps Hank Aaron rookie (#5) is similarly prized as it is iconic but also quite rare in pristine grades due to print quality issues. Recently a BGS-graded 9.5 example achieved $1.8 million at auction. Other super rare post-war cards that sell for six figures include the 1954 Topps Roberto Clemente (#313), 1959 Topps Sandy Koufax (#253), 1967 Topps Tom Seaver rookie, and 1969 Topps Johnny Bench rookie. All of these have iconic subjects and populations under 100 pieces in the highest grades.

In the 1970s, two star rookies stand out for their rarity – the 1975 Topps George Brett rookie and the 1979 Topps Cal Ripken Jr. rookie. Both of these influential players have exceptionally low populations of their debut cards in pristine condition. Recently a PSA 10 Ripken sold for over $400,000. The Brett rookie is similarly scarce and high graded copies sell comparably.

Some ultra-rare error cards also command big money. The 1939 Play Ball Dazzy Vance Post Office Error is one of the most valuable as only 5-10 are known. A PSA 5 example of this error sold in 2016 for $360,000. The 1925 Exhibits Cobb Back Variation is considered the most famous baseball card error. Only two PSA-graded copies exist and both have achieved over $150,000 at auction in recent times.

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The rarest and most valuable baseball cards combine iconic players with extremely low original print numbers resulting in populations under 100 pieces for the highest graded specimens. Cards like the T206 Honus Wagner, T206 Sherry Magee, 1933 Goudey Billy Jurges, 1909-11 T206 Fred Clarke, 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle, 1964 Topps Hank Aaron, and 1975 Topps George Brett rookie all fit these criteria of rarity and player significance to be worth over $500,000 in top condition. With new records being set every few years, the scarcest early 20th century cards as well as pristine 1970s stars rookie cards remain the Holy Grail treasures for serious collectors.

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