Recently on Twitter, PSA posed an interesting question:
What would be on your Mount Rushmore of baseball cards?
After giving it a bit of thought, I’ve at least got my own list. As a bit of a disclaimer here, my Mount Rushmore is more about the most popular and prestigious cards, not necessarily the most expensive. These, to me, are the biggest cards in the hobby.
While you can give some consideration to iconic modern cards, for the sake of my own sanity, I’m making this a strictly vintage endeavor.
I don’t expect everyone will agree with this list and that’s part of what makes these sorts of things fun. One could make a strong argument for the inclusion of a few dozen others. But here’s one man’s shot at identifying the biggest cards in the hobby.
Honus Wagner T206
Even if you’re not a vintage collector, there’s no reasonable way to leave this one off the list, folks. The Wagner T206 is not only the most valuable card in baseball history, it’s one of the most recognized collectibles in any hobby. Even many non-baseball card collectors could identify it.
Most recently selling for more than $3 million, the card always brings a lot of interested bidders with deep pockets whenever it appears for auction. The $3.12 million it earned back in 2016 is the largest amount on record paid for a baseball card.
Shortprinted during production of the T206 set, not many of the cards are known, which is a large reason for its value. The perceived reasons for the shortprinting vary among collectors but the one thing we know is that not many were issued. And while there are rarer cards than the Wagner T206, certainly none are as famous.
Simply put, Wagner should not only appear on a Mount Rushmore but should headline it.
Mickey Mantle 1952 Topps
While Wagner’s card is at the top of the list in terms of popularity, the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card is right behind.
A high-grade version nearly topped Wagner’s record price and it is assumed that if one of the three PSA 10s on record were sold today that the card would easily surpass Wagner’s as the most valuable card ever sold. Pound for pound, the card is not as valuable as Wagner cards are not found in the high-grade condition as some Mantles are. But the Mantle 1952 Topps is certainly one of the most popular cards of all time.
Often touted as the Mick’s rookie card, it actually is not. That distinction belongs to Mantle’s 1951 Bowman card. But there is little doubt that it belongs on this list and is one of the most desirable cards in the entire hobby.
Babe Ruth 1916 M101-4/5 Rookie Card
Rookie card of the most famous player of all time? Check.
In all honesty, there’s simply no way to leave this card off the list. Much like the first two, it is one of the most prestigious cards in history and no list would be complete without at least one card of Babe Ruth.
Ruth’s much rarer 1914 Baltimore News minor league card belongs in the discussion and if you asked me on a different day, I might pick that one instead. It is much more difficult to find and, as a result, more valuable. But I’d place Ruth’s M101-4/5 issue over that one for this list because it’s a more iconic card that features him as a professional player.
Don’t get me wrong. If given the choice for my own collection, I’d take Ruth’s 1914 minor league card in a heartbeat. It’s a tougher, more expensive card. But in terms of popularity and prestige, Ruth’s M101-4/5 cards top that one. Heck, many collectors couldn’t even tell you what Ruth’s 1914 Baltimore News card looked like.
Somewhat close call here but, for Mount Rushmore, give me the professional card of the Babe as opposed to his minor league issue.
1869 Cincinnati Red Stocking Team Peck & Snyder Trade Card
I haven’t revealed PSA’s list yet but if you haven’t watched their video yet, I’m offering a spoiler alert here as I’m about to disclose it.
So far, PSA’s list has correlated exactly with mine. The truth is that many collectors’ Mount Rushmore of vintage cards would probably be similar. But where I think you’d get a lot of variation is with the fourth card.
PSA’s choice here was the Hank Aaron 1954 Topps rookie card. Fine card. But while I won’t argue Aaron’s importance to the game, I don’t think it has the prestige of several other cards. And if we’re going with 1950s rookie cards, I might even slot Willie Mays’ 1951 Bowman card over it.
For me, the fourth card isn’t quite the no-brainer the first three cards are. However, it belongs just as much, in my mind – the 1869 Peck & Snyder Cincinnati Reds trade card.
You might be unfamiliar with the card and that’s understandable. In short, though, it is considered by most to be the first true baseball card featuring a professional team. As with most things, there are some that will dispute that. But if you’re looking for the first true card, this will probably garner the most votes.
Distributed by Peck & Snyder, a sporting goods store, the card is a team issue that includes the Cincinnati Red Stocking squad. Even if it’s not the hobby’s most valuable, I think including the very first baseball card produced is a must on any “Mt. Rushmore” list.