Trading card sales absolutely shattered records in 2021. Of the top 10 selling sports cards of all time, the top six and eight of the top 10 records were broken last year.
As some more modern cards cracked the top 10, one fact is blatantly obvious: Honus Wagner and his ultra-rare 1909-11 T206 is still king. As you’ll notice, three of the top 10 spots are owned by that masterpiece.
Of the top 10 cards, six come from baseball, two from basketball and one each from football and hockey.
1. $6,606,296 Honus Wagner 1909-11 T206
The Holy Grail of sports cards had a magnificent 2021. This SGC 3 example, one of the rarest Wagner T206s in existence, sold last August through Robert Edwards Auctions for an eye-popping $6,606,296.
There are only an estimated 50-60 examples of the famous Wagner card that have survived the past 110 years. This card was originally discovered in 1973 on Long Island by Mike Aronstein, a dealer and collector from Westchester, N.Y. It later sold at a public auction in Detroit, where 26-year-old New Jersey collector Fred McKie bought it for $1,100.
Also See: Torn Honus Wagner card sells for $478K
2 (tie). $5,200,000 Mickey Mantle 1952 Topps
The card is a PSA 9, one of only six at that grade in the world. There are just three PSA 10s housed in private collections.
Also See: Topps recreating 1952 Mantle as NFT
This Mantle was purchased by actor/entrepreneur Rob Gough, who got back into trading cards as an adult.
Gough told Sports Collectors Digest that before he bought the 9 in January 2021, he had purchased a PSA 5, 6 and 8. The card traces back to former NFL lineman Evan Mathis, who sold it for $2.88 million in 2018.
2 (tie). $5,200,000 LeBron James 2003-04 Exquisite Collection Rookie Parallel
This rookie patch autograph card is numbered #7/23. What’s remarkable is this version is graded BGS 9, with sub-grades of 10s for centering and surface, and went for $5.2 million through a private sale.
Just nine months earlier, the same numbered version to 23 and a BGS 9.5 sold for $1.85 million. This is the fourth James card that has fetched $900,000 or more.
4. $4,600,000 Luka Doncic 2018-19 Panini National Treasures Logoman Rookie Patch Auto
This 1-of-1 Logoman was pulled during a live break by Layton Sports Cards in May 2019. Just 22 months later, it sold for a then NBA trading card record of $4.6 million in March 2021.
The card, which wasn’t graded, was purchased by collector and entrepreneur Nick Fiorella. According to TMZ Sports, Fiorella purchased it from collector Bolillo Lajan San, who had paid at least $400,000 from the original owner.
5. $4,300,000 Patrick Mahomes 2017 National Treasures Platinum
Over the last couple of years, Patrick Mahomes has proven on the field he’s one of the NFL’s up-and-coming stars. Off the field, he has the top-selling NFL card of all time.
In July 2021, Mahomes’ 1-of-1 2017 National Treasures Platinum Shield Patch Auto card sold for a cool $4.3 million. A BGS 8.5, it has sub-grades of 9.5 for centering and corners.
The rare card was purchased through PWCC Marketplace by Leo Ruberto, owner of LJ’s Card Shop in New Albany, Ohio. The card surpassed a 2000 Contenders Championship Ticket Tom Brady rookie card as the top-selling football card of all time.
6. $4,212,000 Babe Ruth 1933 Goudey
“The Sultan of Swat” has always been bigger than life. Now one of his cards sits in the top 10.
In July 2021, a Ruth 1933 Goudey card No. 53 in a PSA 9 grade, the highest grade in existence, sold for $4.2 million. It was previously owned by Dr. Thomas Newman, whose collection sold for nearly $25 million last summer at Memory Lane Inc.
Newman, who died of COVID in January of last year, purchased the breathtaking card for $20,000 in the mid-1990s. In the same Memory Lane auction, a Ruth 1933 Goudey No. 133 in a PSA 9 went for $1,272,000.
7. $3,936,000 Mike Trout 2009 Bowman Chrome Draft Prospects Autographed Superfractor
When this card was sold in August 2020 by “Vegas Dave” Oancea, it was the top selling card of all time. After a remarkable 2021 for card sales, it dropped down to No. 7.
The 1-of-1 is graded BGS 9 and auto BGS 10. The Trout price eclipsed the sales of a 1909 T-206 Honus Wagner for $3.12 million, sold through Goldin Auctions in 2016.
8. $3,751,500 Honus Wagner 1909-11 T206
When this PSA 2 card sold in May 2021, it was the highest selling Wagner T206 of all time. Well, that was until three months later when the SGC 3 went for an astounding $6.6 million.
This Sweet Caporal has two creases at Wagner’s head from one side of the card to the other. No worries, it’s still one of the most sought-after pieces of cardboard in existence. The card had been sitting in a personal collection for more than 40 years before it was sold.
9. $3,750,000 Wayne Gretzky 1979 O-Pee-Chee
“The Great One” now has the highest selling hockey card of all time. The iconic shot of Gretzky in his Edmonton Oilers sweater is just one of two PSA 10s that exist from O-Pee-Chee.
This rookie card sold for $3.75 million in May 2021, while the other PSA 10 sold in December 2020 for $1.29 million. There are also only two examples of Gretzky’s 1979 Topps — which uses the same image as the O-Pee-Chee — in a PSA 10.
10. $3,700,000 Honus Wagner 1909-11 T206
The third highest-selling Wagner T206 of all time is graded PSA 3. PSA has only graded 36 examples of this card and there are only three graded higher than a 3.
This card was purchased by real estate mogul Kurt Rappaport in December 2020.