BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — If one is familiar with the field of collectibles, then they know that in the right hands and the right condition, certain pieces of memorabilia or trading cards can be worth hefty sums. At times, a card of a special condition can sell for hundreds, thousands, or even millions of dollars. We’ve all heard tales of insanely pricey pieces of paper from all sorts of games or hobbies — but when you put them all together, which of these costly cards are the most expensive ever printed?
KX News took a look at the largest recorded auctions, Ebay transactions, and purchases for both trading and collectible cards to find out the most expensive sales for some of our favorite collectible and combat-based card games, and then ordered them according to their overall value. Check out some of the kings of cardboard, and be sure to check your own collection — you might be a millionaire, and not even know it.
Yu-Gi-Oh: 2001 Asia Championship Blue-Eyes-Ultimate Dragon ($335,402)
It’s odd to see a game like Yu-Gi-Oh that prides itself on tournament-exclusive rewards at the bottom of the list — but to be entirely fair, this is not the card that has been deemed as the most valuable card ever printed by players. That honor would go to a special stainless steel version of the mythical Black Luster Soldier — but despite supposed asking prices of $2 million and $10 million, there’s no public information of it actually being sold. However, there is another extremely valuable find that has a confirmed sale: a special tournament edition of Blue-Eyes-Ultimate Dragon.
Blue-Eyes Ultimate Dragon is famous for being the fusion of not two, but three of one of the game’s most famous monsters (Blue-Eyes White Dragon, who is available for a much more reasonable price), as well as one of the favorite cards of the series’ original rival character Seto Kaiba. This special, alternate-art version of the card is the only one of its kind, and was given exclusively to the champion of the 2001 game’s Asia Championship.
For some time, it was put up for sale at Spiral in Akibahara (a shop notable for specializing in extremely rare and valuable trading cards) for 45 million Yen (approximately $335,402 in 2023 exchange values). It was confirmed to have been sold, and the card’s current owner is believed to be affiliated with Japan’s largest content creator network. To this day, the exclusive alternate artwork is not featured anywhere other than on this exact card (including video games or digital versions of Yu-Gi-Oh).
Magic: The Gathering: Designer Black Lotus ($511,100)
Magic: The Gathering has always been infamous for having highly-priced cards — especially those from the early sets of the game. A certain set of them, known as the Power Nine (known as nine of the most powerful and expensive cards in the game’s history) have gone down in history as some of the most famous examples of costly cards ever printed. The undisputed king of the Power Nine, however, is Black Lotus — a gem from the early years of the series that has gone on to be one of the most coveted cards in not only MTG, but any combat card game.
In terms of base value, Black Lotus has the steepest cost of any version of a non-exclusive, non-sports trading card: even the cheapest tournament-legal version of it costs a minimum of $9,900 on the TCGPlayer market. This price only increases as you venture into the earlier editions: a Beta Edition Black Lotus is $42,000, and an Alpha version from the game’s first days will cost at least $60,000 due to their power and scarcity.
With such a reputation, it only makes sense that a variant of Black Lotus would be the most expensive MTG card — and this one is definitely deserving of the title. A 2021 Ebay auction sold a very special Alpha version of the card — one that featured a case autographed by Christopher Rush, Black Lotus’s original designer and the man responsible for the card’s iconic art — for a whopping $511,100.
Soccer: Alifabolaget Pele Rookie Card ($1,330,000)
Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pele, is one of the most notable, if not the most notable name in Soccer history — and as such, it only makes sense that the soccer card featuring his early days would be a big-ticket item for card collectors.
Not much is known about the Alifabologet company, other than the fact that they at one point produced sports cards — including this rare rookie variant of the famous Soccer star. This card features Pele at 17, when he made his debut for Brazil in the world cup, won the title of the tournament’s best young player, and started his legacy as one of the greatest players of all time.
In February of 2022, an Alifabologet Pele Rookie Card of an extremely high grade was sold by Rally Road for the price of $1.33 million. According to ESPN, this is one of only six rookie Pele cards to have received such an honor — with the latest beforehand selling for its own respectable amount of $900,000.
Football: Patrick Mahomes II Rookie Card ($4,300,000)
Although he’s relatively young, Patrick Mahomes II has quickly become one of the most decorated players of our time — with two Big Games, big game MVP titles, and NFL MVP roles as well. As such, it only stands to reason that his rookie card would stand as one of the most coveted by many football card collectors. The card itself features Mahomes’ signature, as well as a photograph of him in his uniform as a part of the Kansas City Chiefs.
In July 2021, a copy of the autographed rookie card sold for $4.3 million in a private sale. Collectors are already aiming to get their hands on these valuable early days cards — and as his titles grow, so too will its value, we’d assume.
Pokemon: Illustrator Pikachu ($5,275,000)
Pokemon is a franchise well-known for having costly cards: copies of Charizards from the first sets and limited-edition prizes frequently show up on lists of the most expensive trading cards on the market. However, none of these come close to Illustrator Pikachu — both due to a scarce number available and unexpected price hikes.
This special Pikachu card was issued exclusively to the winners of a series of contests in CoroCoro Comic between 1997-1998. Only 41 are known to exist — 39 issued to winners of the competitions, and 2 in the personal collection of the card game’s co-creator. In previous years, copies have sold for $195,000 to $900,000 — but a recent sale has blown all of these previous transactions out of the water.
In July 2021, controversial Youtuber Logan Paul purchased a Pikachu Illustrator with a condition grade of 10 in exchange for a copy with a grade of 9 (worth $1.275 million) and an additional $4 million in cash. Adding the value of the traded card onto the lump sum resulted in an overall sale worth $5.275 million — and also a Guinness World Record for the most expensive Pokemon card sold in a private sale.
Basketball: Stephen Curry Rookie Card ($5,900,000)
Steph Curry is regarded as one of the best players in basketball history, but his legacy actually started relatively recently. Case in point: while many of the rookie cards on this list stem from over 30 years in the past, this card depicting Curry as a rookie was released in 2009 — and has already risen to be one of the most expensive sports cards in history, as well as the priciest Basketball card ever, even beating out legends like Lebron James and Michael Jordan.
Released in 2009, this card not only features Curry in his jersey as a member of the Warriors but comes complete with an authentic autograph. On July 6, 2021, a high-grade copy of the card was sold for $5.9 million at a private sale.
Baseball: Mickey Mantle Rookie Card ($12,600,000)
It would be simply wrong to not mention baseball cards when discussing a topic like this — as it tops the charts not once, but twice. The famous Honus Wagner Card (which, depending on who you ask, is more well-known than the actual player) last sold in August of 2022 for a total of $7.2 million at auction. But of every other valuable card on the list, nothing comes close to the Mickey Mantle Rookie Card that shattered auction records last year.
Mickey Mantle’s rookie card is referred to as ‘The Chairman of the Cardboard’ by some sites, and it’s easy to see why: the combination of a legendary player and extremely low quantity that exist have both led to the card gaining tremendous notoriety for collectible card fans.
Supposedly, the Mickey Mantle card first appeared right when kids interested in collecting sports cards shifted over to Football cards instead — leaving the newest wave of Baseball cards thrown out when nobody would purchase them. In addition to this, the set that included Mantle was also the first one put out by Topps — making it a piece of history in multiple ways.
While Honus Wagner’s card is generally seen as the holy grail for baseball card fans, it’s Mantle’s rookie that takes the top spot. On August 28 of 2022, a Mickey Mantle 1952 Topps Card sold for $12.6 million to an anonymous buyer.
Are you surprised by any of these entries on the list? How much would you spend on a one-of-a-kind card? And what’s the most valuable trading card you own? Be sure to let us know on our Facebook pages!