How to Value Sports Cards

written by Alexander Bitar
People have been enthusiastic about sports since ancient times, and with the advent of the radio and television in the 20th century, the sports cards phenomenon began. Today, they have become an even greater influence in entertainment and popular culture. Read more about how to value sports cards below.

Sports Cards

Lot of assorted sports cards

Thus it is no surprise that many people collect sports cards as a way to express their enjoyment and admiration for their favourite sports teams and players. Do you have a sports card collection that you would like to have valued? You may be pleasantly surprised by your discoveries.

A Brief History

The first examples of sports cards can be traced all the way back to the period just after the Civil War, when baseball saw a great increase in popularity amongst Americans, and photographs of baseball players would be printed on either cabinet cards, or the smaller ‘carte de visite, and kept as souvenirs. Later on, sports-related images would be printed on cards with advertisements on the back and passed out on the streets as ‘trade cards’. Tobacco companies in the late 19th century would include small sports cards in a pack of tobacco with the intention of boosting sales. 

However, the sports card as we recognize them today until the middle of the 20th century, with brands like Bowmans and Topps producing large numbers of products to be collected by young sports enthusiasts.

Pelé's rookie card from 1958. (Goldin)

Pelé's rookie card from 1958. (Goldin)


As with any other collector’s item, one of the first aspects to take into consideration when endeavouring to determine the value of your sports card is its condition. Naturally, cards that are in pristine condition are the most sought after, and the more like new it appears, the more money it will be worth. If a card has suffered from any type of severe damage, such as noticeable rips, tears, folding, fading, staining, or water damage, its value will be significantly decreased. However, if your item is particularly rare and in high demand, some damage may be allowed. 


It goes without saying that the level of the rareness of your item will significantly impact its pricing. Even if your card is in mint condition, if there is a disproportionately large supply to demand, it will be worth very little, if anything at all. Generally, the older your sports card is, the rarer it will be and, thus, the more monetary worth it will have as well. The most valuable cards tend to date from the first half of the 20th century, of course, with some exceptions. One of the rarest sports cards, with only 50 known copies to exist, is the 1909 T206 Honus Wagner.

Do you perhaps own a rare Honus Wagner, or another card you don't know the value of? Begin your valuation here!

The iconic Honus Wagner T206 Honus Wagner. (Public Domain)

The iconic Honus Wagner T206 Honus Wagner. (Public Domain)

"In many cases, the content of the card will be a motivator for interested buyers if the featured figure was particularly interesting or influential."

Other Factors

There are a variety of other factors that come to play when attempting to make an accurate estimate of a sports card’s value. In many cases, the content of the card will be a motivator for interested buyers if the featured figure is particularly interesting or influential. Similarly, if the card itself has a fascinating history behind its production or cultural significance, this will also play into how much it is worth. 

Price Guides

Another tool that can be helpful when it comes to narrowing down your estimated range of value, is price guides. Luckily with the availability of the internet today, there is a variety of price guides free for you to access; these guides are essentially lists of different cards and their estimated value, or how much they have sold for in the past. However, it is important that one takes the suggestions of these resources as merely that - suggestions; for the sports card collecting market, as any other, is constantly changing and evolving, and the value of each item will reflect the same.

The Next Step

The above tips in determining an estimated value will help you attain a ballpark idea of what your item may be worth, however in order to get the most accurate estimate possible, the most important step in this process is to seek professional appraisal. An appraiser will be able to eliminate as much risk for error as possible and thus lead you toward the right path in your endeavour to value your piece. Here at Value My Stuff, we have experts in the field to help you find the most accurate valuation possible!

Top 3 Most Expensive Sports Cards

Among the most expensive sports cards ever sold at auction, there's a domination of baseball and basketball, with names such as Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, and Michael Jordan. But there are some exceptions like all-time greats Wayne Gretzky and Tom Brady. Below are the three most expensive sports cards ever sold at auction.

1. Mickey Mantle 1952, Topps #311, SGC 9.5. Sold for £12,600,000 by Heritage Auction in 2022.

2. Honus Wagner 1909-1911, T206, SGC 3. Sold for £6,900,000 by Robert Edwards Auctions in 2021.

3. Lebron James 2003, Upper Deck #78, BGS 9. Sold for £5,400,000 by PWCC Marketplace in 2021.

The record-breaking Mickey Mantle card that sold for £12.6 million. (Heritage Auctions)

The record-breaking Mickey Mantle card that sold for £12.6 million. (Heritage Auctions)

How to value your sports cards? 

It goes without saying that the single most essential step to take when seeking valuation for your item is to seek professional valuation! Only a trained expert will be able to eliminate any doubt regarding the authenticity of your sports cards, and make the most accurate estimate of its worth as possible. Contact a professional in the field today, here at Value My Stuff, so you can find out what your sports cards are worth today!

Alexander Bitar is an international dealer of high-end collectibles. Based in Stockholm with office in Beverly Hills, some of Alexander Bitar's specialities are entertainment memorabilia as well as autographs and manuscripts.

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