Rookie cards are king. They’re always the most valuable to buy– and the better the player turns out to be the more expensive the card is.
So, what are the most valuable rookie cards?
We’ve compiled a list of the most expensive sports cards ever sold across all sports.
Let’s dive in.
10 Most Valuable Rookie Cards Of All Time
- Release Year: 2003
- Collection: James Exquisite Collection Patch
- Price: $5.2 million
LeBron James is one most popular basketball players in the world– with one of the biggest sponsorship deals in sports– and his rookie card is the most expensive basketball card of all time.
The card features James’ autograph tied– a signed 2003 James Exquisite Collection patch card–sold for $5.2 million in a private sale, tying with the rookie card value of Mickey Mantle’s card.
Patrick Mahomes II
- Release Year: 2017
- Collection: 2017 National Treasures NFL Shield Mahomes Rookie Auto 1/1 BGS 8.5
- Price: $4.3 million
The son of former Major League Baseball (MLB) pitcher Pat Mahomes is a well-known name in the NFL world.
In 2021, his rookie card broke the record for the most expensive NFL card ever sold– an ultra-rate 2017 Panini National Treasures–with a price tag of over $4 million.
The card is one of a kind (a 1-of-1) and was given an 8.5 grade, which means it was in near-perfect condition.
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- Release Year: 2009
- Collection: Bowman Chrome Draft Prospects Superfractor
- Price: $3.93 million
Mike Trout is one of the most recognizable rookies of the 2010s and the first player in history to hit 30 home runs.
Back in 2020, a rare signed Trout rookie card sold for a record-setting $3.93 million at auction– the highest that has ever been fetched for a trading card by 2020.
The card, which was sold by Goldin Auctions, was graded by Beckett Grading Service as a Mint 9 and featured a certified autograph issue logo.
- Release Year: 2019
- Collection: Panini Prizm Black
- Price: Over $100,000
Zion Williamson has been a hot prospect in the world of basketball since the very beginning of his career.
That’s why it comes as no surprise that all rookie cards worth money have his name attached to them– even when he’s off the court (like earlier this year when a card with his name sold for $594,000).
The most valuable Williamson card was a Panini Prizm Black rookie card that was found by a customer in a pack at the Dave & Adam’s Card World store in Williamsville, New York.
- Release Year: 2003
- Collection: 2003 Topps Chrome Dwayne Wade Xfractor RC
- Price: $12,655
One of the most electric NBA players and former Finals MVP, Wade’s rookie cards are always on the radar of avid collectors and investors.
The most valuable Dwayne Wade rookie card is the 2003 Topps Chrome Xfractor RC, which sold for $12,655 in 2020.
Another one to keep an eye on– in terms of price– is the 2003-2004 Upper Deck Exquisite Dwayne Wade rookie card, which is one of the top expensive sports cards on the market.
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- Release Year: 2018
- Collection: 2018 Panini Prizm Stained Glass Gold Mojo
- Price: $9,000 – $10,000
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, one of the NFL’s top quarterbacks, has an extensive collection of cards attached to his name. Investing in one of his cards should be a solid move, given that most pundits believe he is on his way to earning a Superbowl ring.
When it comes to the price tags on his cards, you can find a Jackson card that’s worth as little as $7-8, though the rare, top selling rookie cards reach 4 figures.
- Release Year: 2007
- Collection: Upper Deck Exquisite Collection Kevin Durant Rookie Card Parallel #94
- Price: $799,500
The Kevin Durant rookie cards are not the rarest cards in the sport, they’re certainly worth keeping an eye on, given that he is the most talented scorer of all time.
The most expensive card ever sold on the market was the 2007-2008 Upper Deck Exquisite Rookie Patch Autographed 23/25 card. The sale took place in 2021 in an auction held by Goldin Auctions.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
- Release Year: 2016
- Collection: Bowman Chrome Red Refractor rookie card
- Price: $552,000
Toronto Blue Jays star Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was off to a great start in the 2020 season, hitting 5 home runs in his first 10 games. Several months later, his 2016 rookie card set a new record– after it sold for a whopping $552,000 at PWCC Marketplace.
The autographed card is only one of 5 that are in existence and is graded 10 Pristine by Beckett.
What makes it one of the top rookie cards– in addition to its price tag– is that it sold almost three times the previous record for a Guerro Jr. card.
- Release Year: 2015
- Collection: 2015-16 Upper Deck ‘The Cup’ Rookie Patch
- Price: $135,811
The most valuable Connor McDavid rookie card made a retired carpenter over $100,000 richer.
The man sold the rookie card featuring the ice hockey legend’s signature for a final bid of $135,811.20 in the Lelands Spring Classic Auction in 2020.
The card was No.97 out of the 99-card run, which is the number McDavid wore with the Edmonton Oilers.
For comparison, other rookie card versions featuring McDavid sold at around $50,000.
- Release Year: 2020
- Collection: Kyle Lewis 2020 Bowman Chrome Gold Superfractor Auto 1/1 PSA 9 Rookie Card
- Price: $1,775
When it comes to baseball cards, Kyle Lewis– who was named American League’s Rookie of the Year in 2020– is one of the top picks for sports card collectors across the US.
Lewis rookie cards range between $7.20 and $299.99 on average, but the most expensive one was sold for $1,775, back in December 2021 on eBay. The cheapest Kyle Lewis rookie card fetched only $0.01 in August 2022.
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Collecting sports cards has always been around, but they became massively popular in recent years.
Regardless of whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned collector, one thing is certain– rookie cards are the most valuable cards on the market, which makes them a solid investment.
And when it comes to the most valuable rookie cards– they always feature the best of the best athletes in the sports, like LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
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