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The Most Expensive Modern Sports Cards in the Hobby

Posted by Vinnie Rullo on

Modern sports cards would forever change dating back from the early 1990s. What changed? Sports card companies quickly learned from their mistakes in the late 1980s and early '90s which were they were previously over producing certain cards and had to find a way to forever change the future of modern cards. Starting in the early '90s sports card companies quickly learned to re-create the supply and demand again for modern cards by establishing certified on-card autographs, rookie autographs, rare inserts like refractors, serial numbered cards, redemption cards, and eventually developing rare colored bordered autographed cards. The once prevalent stigma that only vintage baseball cards hold value has vanished. Nowadays modern sports cards are continually selling for record prices at baseball card auction houses and there are still many people unaware of the value that these cards. I have developed a list of some of the top 15 most expensive modern sports cards.

1. 2009 Bowman Chrome Mike Trout Superfractors Autograph 1/1 BGS 9/10   

The Trout Superfractor caused a huge buzz last spring in 2018 when it would sell at an auction for $400,000. The card had previously appeared a few times and could be found from a google search as well, and this card was actually for sale for a good amount of time. There is even some speculation that card could have been bought for around $250,000 just a few years ago but remained un-sold until last year. The buyer who bought the Trout card last year mentioned how he hopes to one day re-sell this card as the record for highest sale of any sports card one day. Could this card go down as the Holy Grail of sports cards?

2. 2003 Ultimate Collection Ultimate Logos Lebron James Rookie Auto 1/1 PSA 9

The Lebron James one of a kind, autographed rookie card featuring a NBA "logoman" patch sold in auction for a staggering  $312,000 sale in 2016. What is it worth today? 

3. 2000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady Autograph Championship Ticket Rookie /100 BGS 9/10                      

This card sold just a few months ago at the end of February through eBay auction for $400,000. The sale of this card caused a lot of buzz throughout the entire sports world, as many people were un-aware a modern sports card could sell for that much. Social media was buzzing and many other sports media outlets because of the sale of this card, and even Tom Brady himself noticed the price of what this card sold for and posted on his Instagram account jokingly saying “I have to look for things in my basement.” The sale of this card was recorded as the highest modern football card ever. Last year in 2018 the same card was actually sold for $250,000 on buy it now but there was speculation if the sale was not legitimate, but within only a year later the card reached as high as 400k! Is there any more contenders Brady autographs out there similar to this one buried away in sealed cases/boxes from 2000?

4. 2003-04 Exquisite Collection LeBron James Autographed Rookie Parallel Patch #78 /23 BGS 9.5/10          

This card is so rare that they are no recent sales within the last couple of years. The last confirmed sale of this particular card was in 2015, which sold for $95,000. Four years later, this card could exceed $200k. Supply and demand is the reasoning as to why this card is so valuable, this card is numbered to just 23 and there is only one graded a BGS 9.5 with a 10 Autograph. A similar card but only numbered to /75 sold for 13k in 2014, which was the 03-04 LeBron James UD Exquisite Limited Logos Rookie RPA Auto Rookie /75 BGS 9.5. As LeBron Exquisite Autograph rookies were actually pretty obtainable for years now they are impossible to find! LeBron will easily become the all-time leading scorer within about 3-4 years and that is when the value of his stuff will reach all-time highs in value.

5. 2018 Bowman Chrome Shohei Ohtani Auto Rookie Superfractors 1/1 BGS 9.5/10

Shohei Ohtani was drawing comparisons to Babe Ruth during the start of the 2018 baseball season. Ohtani was dominating both pitching and hitting and a player has not done this rare combination since Ruth. This buzz caused Ohtani to get a ton of publicity and his cards were beginning to become highly sought after. Each baseball season during the early part of the season, Topps releases the new Bowman set in the middle of April. Collectors and buyers quickly found out that Ohtani’s first autograph featured in an Angels uniform would be released in this product. Once the product was released set a bounty of $65k for anyone that would pull the Ohtani Superfractor Autograph and got it graded in BGS 9.5/10 condition. They would eventually increase the bounty to 75k and even 100k, within a couple of weeks the card was pulled out of a $110 box and received a BGS 9.5/10 grade in May of 2018. The card was not sold to blowoutcards, but however was put up through auction from Goodwin & Co. Auctions and would sell for $184,000 in September of 2018!

6.1993 Upper Deck SP Foil Derek Jeter Rookie #279 PSA 10  

Jeter’s SP rookie has soared in value since the start of 2019 in all grades especially PSA 7’s and up! His SP rookie is considered his most popular rookie card and is a short printed card along with being labeled as the registry card on the PSA’s Registry. Many of these are condition sensitive as a prime example shows that there is just only 22 graded PSA 10 examples according the PSA Population Report. This card featured in a 10 last year sold for almost 100k which was a record high for this particular card. Only dating back a few years ago you could have bought the same card for around 37k in 2016. Imagine being able to load up on these in 93 where many people then were un-aware of where the value of this card would be today. How much higher will Jeter SP rookies increase upon his Hall of Fame induction next January of 2020?

7. 2013-14 National Treasures Gold Giannis Antetokounmpo Rookie Patch Auto /25 PSA 9  

Giannis Anteokounmpo aka “The Greek Freak” has skyrocketed in value this 2018-19 basketball season. Giannis has reached all-time highs in value as he is bound to win the NBA MVP this season and has carried the Bucks deep into the playoffs. One of Giannis’s most sought after cards is his National Treasures Gold Rookie Patch Autograph numbered out of 25, as there is none higher graded than this one. This particular card has sold as high as almost 90k at eBay auction. In the beginning of the '18 season, ungraded versions of this card were selling for just $6,500-$6,800 range! Will this Giannis card continually trend up in value within in the coming years?

8. 2007-08 Upper Deck Kevin Durant Exquisite Kevin Durant Exquisite Auto 3 Color Patch /35 BGS 9/10 

Similar to LeBron, KD also features an Exquisite Rookie Auto card. As this is often regarded as KD’s most sought after card. This card has sold recently as high as $66,000, as only 6 out of 17 that are graded features a 3 color patch, as the 3 color patch on this card and other rookie patches autographs adds a lot more overall value. Other examples that are featured as only a one-color patch sell for just 35k recently. Only a couple of years ago KD’s autograph rookie in an Exquisite was in the 15k range as these have doubled in valued dating back to just 5-6 years ago. Where will these rare KD Exquisite Auto Rookies wind up within a couple of years?

9. 2006 Bowman Chrome Draft Clayton Kershaw Auto Red Refractor /5 BGS 9.5/10 

Dating back to 2002, Bowman created its own separate autographed set for the best baseball prospects. Each year the Bowman Draft sets are released with many high-end color variation autographs that are chase cards. In 2006, Evan Longoria appeared on the cover of the Bowman Draft box however, Clayton Kershaw turned out to be the best player from that box. One of the biggest cards you could have pulled from this particular box at the time was his autographed red refractor serial numbered out of five. This card is his second most sought after card with only his superfractor being more desirable. Kershaw’s red refractor autograph featured in a BGS 9.5 recently sold for $51,300 at eBay auction this month. Where will Kershaw rank as one of the all-time pitchers when he finishes his career? Are there any other Red autographs or even Oranges out there still waiting to be pulled of him.

10. 2009-10 National Treasures Steph Curry Auto Jry RPA 3 Color Patch /99 – BGS 9.5/10  

Steph Curry’s Autographed rookie cards continue to climb in value as he is already regarded as the greatest shooter in NBA history. Curry is trying to achieve his fourth NBA Championship this season and has single handily changed how the NBA is played today with him revolutionizing the three pointer. Curry’s most sought after card remains his National Treasures 3 Color Patch Auto /99, especially high-grade examples graded a BGS 9.5/10. This card has sold for as high as $55,000 recently within the last couple of months. Only dating back to last fall of 2018 these were 30-36k range. Will these continue to climb in value?

11. 2001 Bowman Chrome Albert Pujols Autograph Refractor /500 – BGS 9.5/10   

One modern sports card that has been considered one of the most sought after cards in the hobby is the 2001 Bowman Chrome Albert Pujols Auto Refractor. Dating back to 2001 this card was a redemption card, and not all 500 of these were actually redeemed, which makes this even more desirable and rare. Pujols Bowman Chrome Autos have been selling steadily for 15-20k range at eBay for the last couple of years. This card will always be regarded as his best, can this continually increase in value within in the coming years or has this already reached peaked value?

12. 2017 Panini Contenders Patrick Mahomes Cracked Ice Auto /25 PSA 10

 Cracked Ice football autographed rookie cards have become highly sought after. These types of cards are serial numbered typically 24, 22 and a couple of other examples. The vertical version is also a lot more valuable than the horizontal version. Mahomes Cracked Ice autographed rookie last season reached all-time highs and sold for 16k at auction. As these nearly went up 5x in value from the previous season. The sky is the limit for Mahomes and this card!

13. 2015-16 The Cup Connor McDavid Rookie Patch Autograph /99 BGS 9.5/10

New modern hockey cards have reached insane prices including many star players like Connor McDavid. McDavid’s high-end autographs sell for insane prices including this particular card called the The Cup featured in a rookie patch autograph numbered to 99 and graded a BGS 9.5 with a 10 autograph. This card has sold for as high 66k+ at an auction and BGS 9’s sell for nearly 40k. Can these continually go up in value?

14. 2001 SP Authentic Golf Tiger Woods Gold Rookie Autograph #45 /100 PSA 10 (card shown is /999; not 100)

Tiger Woods is arguably the most popular golfer of all-time. Many people ever wondered if he would ever make it all the way back and win another major championship again in his career. The historical comeback was completed this past April when Woods won the Masters and put back on the green jacket once again. His cards immediately reached all-time highs in value, one example being his 01 SP Authentic Rookie Autograph graded in a PSA 10 which sold for 35k at eBay auction shortly after the Masters win. A similar card in 2008 was only valued at just 5k!

15. 2018-19 National Treasures Luka Doncic Rookie Patch RPA Autograph /99

Modern sports card collectors or buyers are always trying to find the next best player to invest in that will pay off hugely someday. Luka Doncic last season quickly became a star in the NBA in just his rookie season with the Mavericks. As a result, his newest product a National Treasures Rookie Autograph /99, which only released last April has already sold for over 15k at eBay auction ungraded and some other versions even higher. Many collectors or buyers belief he is the future of the NBA and are investing with confidence hoping that this card will easily double or triple in value someday similar to other NBA established stars.

UPDATE (2/19/20): Breaking News

A one-of-a-kind basketball card with an NBA logo patch of Michael Jordan and Lebron James' jerseys sold for $900,000 in February of 2020 through Goldin Auctions. The 2003-2004 Exquisite Collection All NBA Access Pass Michael Jordan/Lebron James 1/1 BGS 8.5 is the new holy grail of modern sports cards. 

Which modern cards do you think are the most sought after? Which of these are the best investment for high-end collectors or buyers? Time will only tell as many of these cards are highly sought after!

For information regarding some of the most expensive vintage baseball off all-time, click here for our "Top 10" list.