The card didn"t look like lot when Bernice Gallego plucked that from a bin of unsorted was in she Fresno, Calif., neck shop. She check the an easy sepia-toned portrait of an unknown team native a bygone era and put it up on eBay for $9.99.

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Within hours, the mushrooming volume that inquiries convinced Gallego that this wasn"t just any old card. She quickly pulled the item native eBay and took it to an expert, wherein she learned it was the an initial card ever printed the the very first professional baseball team ever assembled, the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings. Through sporting activities memorabilia specialist storage Lane, Gallegos offered the map to Houston dealer Jeffrey Rosenberg for $75,000 in February.

"This is mine fantasy baseball--getting to own a card prefer this," claims Rosenberg, that purchased the card for his memorabilia company, Tristar Productions. "It"s the kind of thing you could put in the Smithsonian or the Baseball hall of Fame. I think us bought it because that a wonderful price."

The scarcest items deserve to command even greater prices: The top 15 vintage cards on regular basis fetch six numbers at auctions by memory Lane in Tustin, Calif., and comparable outfits like Goodwin & Co. In St. Louis, Huggins & Scott in silver- Spring, Md., and also Hunt Auctions in Exton, Pa.

The 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth map is the most valuable, worth $500,000 in good condition, according to Brian Fleischer that memorabilia evaluator Beckett Media. The second-most expensive card is the 1909 Honus Wagner rookie, precious $300,000 in similar condition.

In Pictures: The World"s most Expensive Baseball Cards

One Wagner rookie map miraculously survived the last century in near-mint condition. Dubbed the "Gretzky Wagner" after it to be purchased by the hockey star for $451,000 in 1991, the card marketed for $500,000 in 1995, then because that $640,000 in 1996, $1.265 million in 2000, $2.35 million in march of 2007 and also $2.8 million in September that 2008. Fleischer approximates it would bring $3 million today--and that a similar Ruth rookie would certainly go because that $3 million come $5 million

Rounding out the peak three is a card the bears the image of among baseball"s many controversial figures, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson. Accused that participating in the infamous Black Sox Scandal, in i beg your pardon the greatly favored Chicago White Sox threw the 1919 World collection in exchange for cash from mobsters, Jackson was banned indigenous baseball because that life. Scholars suggest out that he post a scalding 0.375 batting median in the series and didn"t make any errors in the field, fueling a recent motion to have actually him posthumously elected to the hall of Fame. Jackson"s 1910 Old Mill second-year card is worth $200,000 in an excellent condition.

"It"s simply one of the all-time an excellent baseball cards," says Robert Lifson, chairman of Robert Edward Auctions in Watchung, N.J., a sports house similar to memory Lane. "It"s Joe Jackson"s just tobacco card. Friend don"t have to be a baseball card collector to appreciate it."

Play her Cards ideal Vintage baseball cards have actually been miscellaneous of a for sure haven throughout the present recession. Last May, a 1909 Honus Wagner rookie in great condition fetched $317,000. Because then, the Wagner"s value has edged up to about $350,000. Other rare pre-war cards have held their value, and modern-day cards room down just 10-15% on typical in the critical year. That"s only a slight dip compared with the S&P 500, under 40% on the year.

"In past financial downturns, the hobby has actually done well," says Beckett"s Fleischer. "We"re see really solid sales ~ above high-grade pre-war vintage stuff. Civilization are placing their money in cards instead of traditional investments."

To be sure, the hidden costs of the understand are often steeper 보다 brokerage fees or fund expenses. Auctioneers generally charge sellers a 10% board of directors on tiny lots; for big-ticket items they regularly waive the seller fee and hit the win bidder through a buyer premium that 15% or so. Of the $75,000 Rosenberg laid the end for Gallego"s card, memory Lane took $11,000. A plan on together a card from Collectibles Insurance solutions in hunt Valley, Md., runs around $460 per year. Still, it"s tough to put a price on the satisfaction of ownership.

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"It"s more fun to buy a Babe Ruth card than some AT&T stock," states Fleischer. "You can"t show shares to your friends."

Bragging rights deserve to be rewarding, yet for part collectors, a solitary moment with a vintage map is the real treasure. If you take among these items out of that case, trace the weathering edges through a careful finger and smell the ancient traces the tobacco ingrained in the tiny fibers, for a minute you could feel baseball"s mystical soul shuddering v your own.

Regardless of her desire to commune v ball-playing ghosts, friend don"t necessarily have to shell out thousands of thousands that dollars to land a prime item of vintage cardboard. There will constantly be an ext unwitting excavators like Bernice Gallego. Critical year, a collector in Florida discovered a Wagner rookie in a tobacco tin in his grandfather"s attic.

"It"s exceptionally rare to hit the lottery prefer that," states Fleischer. "But the still happens."

In Pictures: The World"s most Expensive Baseball Cards


Zack O"Malley Greenburg is an elderly editor of media & entertainment at and author of four books, includingA-List Angels: just how a band of Actors, Artists and Athletes Hacked Silicon Valleyand the Jay-Z biographyEmpire State the Mind. Zack"s work-related has likewise appeared in the New York Times,Washington Post, Billboard, Sports Illustrated, Vibe, McSweeney"s and also the Library the Congress. In end a te at, he has actually investigated topics indigenous Wu-Tang Clan"s mystery album in Morocco to the return of tourism in post-conflict Sierra Leone come the earning power of Hip-Hop"s Cash Kings, writing cover story on subjects varying from Richard Branson to Ashton Kutcher come Katy Perry. A previous child actor, Zack played the title role in the film Lorenzo"s Oil (1992) and arrived at in 2007 after ~ graduating from Yale through an American researches degree. For more, monitor him ~ above Twitter, Facebook, newsletter and also via Gained a guideline on a music, media & to chat story? Send it over via SecureDrop. Accuse here: