Baseball cards are the most popular category of all collectable cards. The first baseball card was issued in 1886. Originally they were collected by adults but, gradually, collecting baseball cards came to seen as a children’s’ pastime. From the 1970s, it has re-emerged as an area for serious adult collectors.
The main factor in determining the value of a sports card is the player on the card. Newer players are a more risky investment. Rookie card prices are extremely volatile and can gain or lose value very quickly as people’s expectations of their future performance changes.
In baseball, the most popular team to collect is the Yankees and this has helped make Mickey Mantle the most collectable player from the 1950s and 60s. Second is Roberto Clemente, the first great Latin player. His status with Spanish-speaking collectors makes his cards more popular than those of famous baseball players like Willy Mays and Hank Aaron. Nolan Ryan, the most effective pitcher of his generation, is easily the most collectable player from the 1970s and 80s. Of more recent players, Cal Ripkin Jr’s cards are the most popular.
The other factor effecting the value of cards is scarcity. Currently the most valuable of all baseball cards is Honus Wagner. He was strongly opposed to smoking and, when he learned that a cigarette card featuring his was being produced, Wagner managed to have the card withdrawn. Only a few remain.