15 Baseball Cards That Could Get You Through College
There’s no telling how many millions of dollars have been flushed down the drain by moms who threw out their kids’ baseball cards with the trash. And yet, ironically, those very same women deserve the thanks for driving up the value of the rest of the cards in circulation. If you are strapped for cash and looking for a way to pay for college, the answer could be lying in a box in your grandmother’s attic, or on sale for $1 at some garage sale. Most of these cards are quite hard to find, so the odds are against you. Still, there’s always the dream of discovering a rare card like one of these and selling it for the $80,000 you need to get a degree these days. Batter up!
This is the Holy Grail of sports memorabilia. It has sold for anywhere from $200,000 to $2.35 million. Legend has it Mr. Wagner objected to smoking, and this was a tobacco card, so he had it pulled from production. Less than 60 are believed to exist. There’s no way you own this card. You don’t, right?
OK, permit us to mention one more ridiculously rare piece of baseball history. This 1914 rookie card of the most famous player to ever take the field is valued around $500,000. Only 10 are known to be out there, but every blue moon one is discovered, so there’s always hope.
Ah, yes … Albert G. Spalding. OK, we’ve never heard of him either. But he won a mind-boggling 47 games for the Chicago White Stockings in 1876, and apparently he published the first baseball rulebook. This set was the first to be included with a pack of gum, and Spalding’s card maxes out at a worth of $120,000.
You’ve got to think anything that’s nearly 150 years old is going to be worth something. When it comes to this advertising card for the first pro baseball team ever, you’d be right. In 2009, an elderly antique dealer tried briefly to sell this card on eBay for a starting price of $9.99. When she realized what she had and sold it at auction, it brought in $75,000.
This card features a stately-looking Cy Young, and it’s the earliest known card of the pitching legend. Apparently in the old days it was perfectly fine for tobacco companies to introduce products they knew would be collected primarily by children. This rare card made by the Just So Tobacco Company is worth up to the low six figures.
Ty Cobb has been called the greatest ball player who ever lived. He played his 10th season in 1914, only entering 98 games. But the season is remarkable because of his baseball card that year, made by the Cardinet Candy Company. It is consistently valued at upwards of $100,000.
True baseball fanatics will probably be the only ones who know the name Buck Ewing, but he was a star in his day and proponents call him the greatest catcher of all time. This card that captions Ewing as New York’s team captain also instructs you to “Smoke Four Base Hits.” We’ll pass on that, but we wouldn’t turn down the 100 grand this card is valued at.
We’re starting to get the urge for a cigarette. Another card from this rare 1887 set, The King’s card is estimated at anywhere from $60,000 to $120,000. He was a utility guy for the Boston Beaneaters, the Cincinnati Kelly’s Killers, and the Pennsylvania Periwinkles (we only made the last one up). If you came into possession of one of these cards, you’d be laughing all the way to the bank.
“Shoeless Joe” was disgraced in the Black Sox scandal and banned from baseball in 1920, but collectors and baseball historians have been kind to him in the ensuing decades. Today he is painted as a true lover of the game who got in over his head. Whatever the truth is, he was a phenomenal player and this card from his third season recently sold for $92,800.
Now here’s a cool-looking card. It’s got that vintage, old-timey-illustration feel, and it doubles as an advertisement for women’s underwear. A few years ago a collector paid over $86,000 for this card at auction, which would leave you $6,000 to spend on beer, pizza, and other cliché college guy stuff.
He may have been the greatest switch hitter ever, but boy did they make him look corny in the photo for this card. No matter; 1961 was the year of The Mick’s legendary home run race with Roger Maris. Couple that with the fact that this card is part of Topps’ bizarre Dice Game series of cards that they ultimately abandoned, and this becomes one drool-worthy item. Typical sale price: $32,000.
Terrific Tom stormed into the Hall of Fame by the highest vote percentage ever, which is befitting his 20-year career of striking out everyone and their mother. The year 1967 just happens to be his rookie year, and this rookie card from Topps recently pulled in $24,000. With the benefit of hindsight we (and Topps) now know Seaver merited his own card, instead of being coupled with some scrub with a career record of 1-10.
With five World Series championships, including one where he was the MVP, four Golden Gloves, 3,000-plus hits, and a lifetime batting average over .300, Jeter is a sure-fire Hall of Fame first-round inductee. Right now, his ’93 SP rookie card goes for as much as $25,000 in gem mint condition. If you’ve got it and you’ve kept it in good shape, there’s money to be made.
Another Yankee star of the current era fetches a pretty penny for his rookie card. Gem mint versions are extremely hard to find because the card is so delicate, but in perfect condition they have been offered for as much as $1.4 million. The poor economy has hurt its sales price, but $5,000 to $15,000 is not out of the bounds of reality. And you might actually own one.
Bowman Chrome took baseball cards to a new level. Every card felt like a special insert, but buying a pack was a splurge. If you were lucky enough to come across this rookie card of the guy many are already suggesting will go down in history as the greatest slugger in earth history, count yourself fortunate. These things go for a base of $4,000, and the dude’s not even through yet.