Modern era cards have been on fire since the pandemic started. There doesn’t seem to be any end in sight of that slowing down. Since 1980, there have been so many landmark cards that have been released, but we are picking just a couple handfuls as the Top 10 Modern Era Cards from the Major Sports. We have selected three baseball, three football, three basketball and one hockey – sticking to base cards and sans autographs.
1. Michael Jordan 1986 Fleer
This was a slam dunk for the top modern era card in any sport. The card is iconic with “Air Jordan” having his tongue hanging out ready to rock the rim. To score a PSA 10 of this Jordan was relatively affordable until ESPN released “The Last Dance” last April – then MJ’s prices soared. In September 2004, Heritage Auctions sold a PSA 10 for $6,871. Fast forward 16 years, and the same auction house sold a SGC Pristine 10 example for $420,000. PSA has graded 317 Jordan rookies in a 10.
2. Tom Brady 2000 SP Authentic
The sixth-round pick in the 2000 NFL Draft has become the best postseason quarterback in NFL history. He’s played in nine Super Bowls and taken home six rings. Not too shabby for the former New England Patriots’ back up. Brady has a lot of great rookies, but the 2000 SP Authentic is his most valuable. The base card is out of 1,250. PSA has graded 98 of them in a 10. In the last 4½ years, a PSA 10 has gone from selling for $10,000 to $53,433 in December 2020.
3. LeBron James 2003 Topps Chrome
Even as a high school player, James was getting hyped up as the next Jordan. When the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted him No. 1 overall in 2003, it didn’t take fans long to realize he was a generational talent. Entering the 2020-21 season, James was third on the NBA all-time scoring list, just over 4,000 points shy of Wilt Chamberlain in the No. 1 spot. As “King James” grew in popularity, his card prices soared. In late 2016, PSA 10s of James were going for as low as $710. In mid-December 2020, a mint James went for $16,500.
4. Derek Jeter 1993 SP
This card is an amazing specimen. When Jeter was drafted by the New York Yankees out of high school, it was at the tail end of the junk wax era. PSA has graded just over 18,000 of these SP Jeter rookies, yet only 21 have been worthy enough to get graded a 10. According to PSA, the dark edges coupled with the foil coating are the major issues with the card. Back in 1993 when collectors were ripping open packs, a Jeter could be pulled and already have chipping problems. In January 2020, a PSA 10 sold for $180,000 through Memory Lane.
5. Mike Trout 2011 Topps Update
During his nine full seasons in the majors, Trout has proved he is one of the top athletes ever to play the game. The Los Angeles Angels center fielder has won three MVP trophies and finished runner-up four times. This past season, Trout became the fastest player in MLB history to surpass 300 home runs and 200 stolen bases in his career. His 2011 Topps Update card has been on fire. On Dec. 20, 2019, a PSA 10 sold on eBay for $1,050. One year later to the day, a 10 went for $3,000.
6. Patrick Mahomes 2017 Donruss Optic
This card could become the next Brady of football. It’s a nice-looking card of the first-year gunslinger, who when it was released had yet to make a big-time name for himself. After being the 10th pick by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2017, Mahomes sat behind Alex Smith for one season before getting his shot. Just think, in early September 2018, a PSA 10 of this card could be purchased for as low as $12 on eBay. In December 2020, a PSA 10 sold for $1,600.
7. Jerry Rice 1986 Topps
Widely regarded as the best football player of all time, this is great looking card from an epic set. Rice holds almost every major receiving record in the regular season and postseason. His only true rookie card reflects his popularity. Because of the green borders in 1986 Topps, finding sharp corners is extremely difficult. PSA has graded just 58 cards with a 10 out of nearly 23,000 submissions. Back in January 2010, a Rice 10 sold for $2,644. In August 2020, a 10 went for $34,788.
8. Ken Griffey Jr. 1989 Upper Deck
To a lot of folks these days who might have collected cards when they were younger and recently jumped back into the hobby, the Griffey 1989 Upper Deck was the Mona Lisa back in their heyday. It is card No. 1 in the set of the sharp, new company on the block. This card saturated the market – which is evident by over 78,000 being submitted for grading through PSA. There have been 3,901 with a 10 grade. In mid-December, a 10 sold for $1,825. Not bad for a junk wax card.
9. Stephen Curry 2009 Topps
Curry, the No. 7 overall selection in the 2009 NBA Draft, has become arguably the purest shooter in NBA history. He’s a three-time NBA champion with the Golden State Warriors and two-time league MVP. A baby-faced, grinning Curry is shown on his Topps rookie card. In September 2016, a PSA 10 Curry could be yours for $401. In July 2019, one sold for $8,400.
10. Mario Lemieux 1985 O-Pee-Chee
“Super Mario” was sure fun to watch on the ice. Following his 17-year career, all with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Lemieux finished seventh on the all-time points list at 1,723 and 11th all time in goals with 690. His 1985 O-Pee-Chee is the most expensive modern day base hockey card. A PSA 10 sold for $1,309.03 in 2009 with its highest figure hitting $23,066 in 2017.