Collectors are always looking for the next big thing. In current cards, it’s about trying to determine which players are going to perform better than expected. Things are a little different with pre-war cards and vintage issues as players’ careers have long since ended. But trying to find the next hottest card applies in that era, too. Card prices rise and fall for all sorts of reasons and while prices for older releases are generally more stable than those of current issues, there are cards that see spikes in value.
As you might expect, trying to determine the next hottest cards is like playing the stock market. There are no guarantees, obviously, and this article shouldn’t be taken as even passive financial advise. But here are five cards that I like for potential future gains in value for one reason or another.
Ty Cobb T205
As I have mentioned in the past, T205 cards are much rarer than T206 cards. They are also often a popular target for collectors who have finished working on T206 sets or decide that T206 is too big of an undertaking. Needless to say, while it is not quite as popular as T206, it remains one of the more desired pre-war sets.
Unlike T206, there is only one Cobb card in the much smaller T205 release. So while there are more than 6,000 Cobb T206 cards that have been graded, only about 1,000 Cobb T205 cards have gotten that treatment. Even comparing it to a single Cobb card, it’s actually been graded about the same amount as the toughest T206 Cobb (green background). Yet, Cobb’s T205 cards generally remain cheaper than his T206 cards and is way behind the green background card. I’m a big fan of the Cobb T205 and if rarity has anything to do with it, it probably should be selling for significantly more.
Mickey Mantle 1951 Bowman
This card has already seen a jump in the last few years and I could see it continuing. The 1952 Topps Mantle, of course, is the one that gets the most attention. A PSA 9 recently sold for nearly $3 million, after all. But I’ve always preferred Mantle’s 1951 Bowman card. It’s not only his true rookie but is a fraction of the price of the skyrocketing 1952 Topps issue.
Decent low-grade ones generally top $2,000 and that’s still nowhere close to the 1952 Topps card prices. The Topps cards are, of course, rarer. But the Bowman cards are also high number cards and not drastically plentiful, either. Despite the recent increase in value, I still think there’s room to grow with this card.
E90-1 American Caramel SPs
The 1909-11 American Caramel set is full of shortprinted rarities. Several cards are extremely tough to find and have fewer than two or three dozen known copies graded by the three major companies, PSA, SGC, and Beckett. Several cards are on a rarity scale with the ultra tough cards found in the tough T207 set.
Despite that, prices on this set have taken a hit over the years and the cards are not selling for what they used to. Caramel cards, in general, seem to be a tougher sell. But given the rarity of these cards, I’m not sure that will always be the case. The shortprinted cards in the set have sort of bottomed out but I could see them bouncing back if popularity with other pre-war sets, such as T206, remains high. At some point, collectors of those cards will be seeking other alternatives and the E90-1 American Caramel set is one of the most popular ones around. I can see the prices, particularly for the rare short prints, going up in the future.
Babe Ruth 1914 Baltimore News
I know, I get it. This is already a six-figure card, even in low-grade condition. That’s true but consider what the most elite cards in the hobby are doing these days, then consider just how rare the Ruth Baltimore News cards are.
The 1914 Ruth Baltimore News card is Ruth’s minor league rookie issue. It is the most elite card of the most elite player in the history of the game. The card has already come a long way. In 2005, a PSA 4 (the highest known example) sold for $243,600 by REA. In 2013, a far worse PSA 1 sold for almost double that – and that was five years ago. With only about ten known examples, this card won’t often come to auction. But the next time it does, it should outperform past sales by quite a bit.
Hank Greenberg 1934 Goudey
Say what? One of these things isn’t like the others. I realize this card looks out of place on a list with several heavy hitters but wanted to add a single card that was a little more attainable than some of those. 1934 Goudey cards are much rarer than the 1933 set and that isn’t only because the set is smaller. Over 100,000 cards from the 1933 Goudey set have been graded by PSA and SGC compared to 1/4 that for the 1934 follow-up issue.
Aside from the Gehrigs, the Hank Greenberg rookie card is the set’s biggest prize and Greenberg was one of the best players in his generation. One of the most feared hitters in the 1930s, he won two MVP awards and finished third two other times. Like many other players, Greenberg’s career numbers suffered greatly because he lost the equivalent of nearly four full seasons in his early 30s to World War II duty. As a true rookie card, you’d expect it to garner more respect but it’s still really affordable. It does seem to have risen in value in recent years but still can be found for under $500 in decent shape. With the popularity of the Goudey name and with not even 600 total graded by PSA and SGC combined, I can see this card increasing in value.