Nearly 30 years after his passing, New York Yankees legend Mickey Mantle is still breaking records. The all-time leader for home runs (18), RBIs (40) and runs (42) in a World Series is now also the face on the most expensive sports card ever sold.
In August 2022, a 1952 Mantle card went for $12.6 million at auction, absolutely shattering the previous high watermark. That prior figure was $7.25 million for an extremely rare Honus Wagner card, sold just weeks before the Mantle.
Now tied for No. 3 on the list of the most expensive cards ever is the 2003 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection Rookie Patch Autographs #78 LeBron James, bought for $5.2 million in April 2021. This is the most expensive basketball card ever.
Since James plays for the Los Angeles Lakers, that card also tops the list of the 10 highest-selling sports cards featuring California athletes. We should add that six out of the top 10 highest-selling sports cards feature athletes who either played in California or were born here.
Why California athletes appear so prominently on that overall list is a mystery. But their fame and domination are undeniable if you browse the iconic names on the list of the most expensive sports cards to feature California players. Check it out below.
|Price Paid||Athlete||Card||Date Sold||Notable Information|
|1.||$5.2 Million||LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers)||2003 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection Rookie Patch Autographs #78 (07/23)||Apr. 26, 2021||Highest-selling basketball card in history|
|2.||$3.936 Million||Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels)||2009 Bowman Chrome Draft Prospects Superfractor Autograph||Aug. 23, 2020||Seller "Vegas Dave" Oancea only paid $400,000 for the card.|
|3.||$2.4 Million||LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers)||2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection Rookie Patch Autographs #78 (23/23)||Oct. 24, 2021||The last of the limited first run|
|4.||$2.252 Million||Tom Brady (Born in San Mateo, California)||2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Rookie Ticket Autograph #144||Apr. 3, 2021||Highest-selling football card in history|
|5.||$2 Million||Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers)||1997 Metal Universe Precious Metal Gems - Green||Fe. 22, 2022||1/10 as only 100 total cards produced, 10 Green and 90 Red.|
|6.||$1.795 Million||Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers)||1996-97 Topps Chrome Refractors #138 Rookie Card||Mar. 6, 2021|
|7.||$1.537 Million||LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers)||2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection Rookie Patch Autographs #78 (32/99)||Mar. 6, 2021||Second run from 23 to 99 cards|
|8.||$1.291 Million||LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers)||2004-05 Upper Deck Ultimate Signatures Logos #USL-LJ Signed Logoman Card||Mar. 6, 2021||Record for a LeBron James non-rookie card.|
|9.||$1.29 Million||Wayne Gretzky (Los Angeles Kings)||1979 O-Pee-Chee (Gretzky Rookie card)||Dec. 13, 2020||Highest-selling hockey card in history|
|10.||$1.050 Million||Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels)||2011 Topps Update Platinum #US175||Jul. 29, 2021||Bought by Scott Keeney (DJ Skee)|
|11.||$1.020 Million||Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers)||2012-13 Panini National Treasures #151 NBA Logoman Rookie Patch Autographs||Jan,.30, 2021|
|12.||$1.005 Million||Reggie Jackson (California Angels)||1969 Topps Rookie Card #260 - Dmitri Young Collection||Feb. 28, 2021|
|13.||$960,000||Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)||2009-10 Panini National Treasures "Century Platinum" Rookie Patch Autograph||Jan. 30, 2021|
|14.||$922,500||Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels)||2009 Bowman Chrome Draft Red Refractor Autograph||May 20, 2020|
|15.||$900,000||LeBron James / Michael Jordan||Upper Deck Exquisite Collection Logoman||Feb. 2020||Bought by collector Nat Turner|
|16.||$720,000||LeBron James||2004 Topps Chrome Superfractor (1/1)||Oct. 3, 2020||Record for non-autographed LeBron James card|
|17.||$691,410||Nolan Ryan (California Angels)||1968 Topps Nolan Ryan rookie card||Aug. 26, 2016|
|18.||$601,200||Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)||2009–10 Panini National Treasures "Century Gold" #206 Rookie Patch Autographs (10/25)||Dec. 12, 2020|
|19.||$501,900||Lew Alcindor / Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Los Angeles Lakers)||1969–70 Topps Rookie Card||Aug. 26, 2016||Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar rookie card.|