More Than the Usual Suspects: 6 Athletes' Rookie Cards Worth Owning
Beyond the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB these are the best rookie cards worth money for the savvy collector
Among collectors and sports fans, rookie cards hold a special value — both sentimental and monetary. If you’re hunting collectibles for contemporary players, scoring rookie cards worth money can be just as much about luck as it is foresight. It can be a truly profitable stroke of luck, too.
While rookie cards from North America’s big four sports often eclipse what even a high dollar collector can expect to spend (a PSA 10 Mickey Mantle Topps rookie card is estimated at between $15 and $30 Million in value) looking further afield can be a great way to find some very valuable cards in a less congested market. This list will show you 6 of the most valuable rookie cards from sports outside of the MLB, NFL, NBA, and NHL.
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Why Collect Rookie Cards?
You may be wondering what it is about rookie cards that makes them such a common interest among avid collectors. The biggest contributor is simple unpredictability: We don’t often know who’s going to go down as an all time great in their very first year at the pro level. Top draft picks rarely turn into the best players, and trading card companies aren’t going to print up a whole host of cards for unheard-of prospects. Scarcity drives value.
But hey, if you held onto that 2001 NFL Draft Round 6 choice #199 card, you’d be pretty pleased with your Tom Brady windfall.
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The 6 Non-Big 4 Rookie Cards You Should Know
Tiger Woods Rookie Card
Tiger Woods is one of the most dominant athletes of any sport of any generation. While off-the-field concerns and injuries have taken a bite out of Woods’ legacy, it wasn’t too long ago that oddsmakers would take favorites on Tiger versus the entire field of contestants at any given Major Championship.
Taking Woods was usually the sound bet. In his first year on tour, he won the 1997 Masters by a whopping 12 strokes. He reached No. 1 in the world by the time that rookie year was finished, and he spent the better part of the next decade winning 13 Majors and 18 World Golf Championships. Tiger maintained a streak of 264 consecutive weeks as the world’s top ranked golfer from 1999-2004, only to be bested by his own 281 consecutive weeks at #1 from 2005 to 2010. Tiger also broke ground as a person of color in a sport not otherwise known for its inclusivity, inspiring scores of athletes to follow.
That kind of generational dominance and cultural shifting has made the Tiger Woods rookie card quite the catch. A signed Gem Mint PSA 10 rookie card sold for $369,000 in 2021 — and another sold for $105,800 soon after.
Serena Williams Rookie Card
Serena Williams has taken 23 Grand Slam Singles Titles, the most of anyone in the Open Era, and that’s on top of her 14 Doubles Titles, which include a career Grand Slam in both Singles and Doubles. She’s won four Olympic Gold Medals, holding the rank of No. 1 for over 300 weeks (including 186 consecutive weeks), and done it all on either side of injuries, pregnancy, and two decades in the bullseye of media and culture. Serena Williams will undoubtedly go down as one of the most impactful athletes in the world of tennis and beyond.
So what does her rookie card fetch these days? In May of 2022 an autographed 2003 NetPro Serena Williams rookie card went for over $266,000 in auction. That set an all-time record for a woman athlete — and there’s no reason Williams rookie cards shouldn’t continue to set records for athletes of all kinds.
Roger Federer Rookie Card
Another generational great is Roger Federer, whose staying power has kept him in the inner circle of all time tennis stars and athletes of any sport. Federer has been ranked as world No. 1 for 310 weeks including a record 237 weeks in a row, and he has the record for the oldest player ever to claim ATP world #1 ranking, reaching that peak in 2018 at age 36. We also can’t forget his 20 Grand Slam Titles, including a run from 2005 to 2010 where he made the finals of 18 out of 19 Majors.
Surprisingly, Federer hasn’t seen any of the sky-high prices for his rookie cards that Williams has scored. Perhaps that makes sense given the niche of tennis cards, but with a PSA10 NetPro 2003 rookie card previously going for only about $1,000 on eBay, this might be a great investment — especially as his career moves toward its final days.
Mia Hamm Rookie Card
The heart of the US Women’s National Team from 1987 to 2004, Mia Hamm led the team to two Olympic Gold Medals and two FIFA World Cup Championships. Her stellar career inspired people around the world at a time when female athletics were just beginning to attract the attention they deserved, including at the inaugural FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1991. Hamm set the record for international goals scored, and is third among US Women in international caps and first in career assists, stats that led her to being named the FIFA World Player of the Year twice.
How much does a Mia Hamm rookie card go for? Well, until Serena Williams broke the record for highest-priced female athlete card in May 2022, Mia Hamm had set it back in 2021 with a PSA 10 card going for over $34,000 at auction.
Mike Tyson Rookie Card
Mike Tyson came into boxing like a whirlwind. He won his first 19 fights in a row by knockout, 12 of them in the first round, and eventually became the first heavyweight to hold the WBA, WBC, and IBF titles at the same time. Despite the infamous ear-biting incident and the temporary ban from the ring that ensued, Tyson stands out as a cultural phenomenon even now, almost thirty years after his fighting heyday.
Boxing cards can be a bit unusual compared to other sports, but collectors are also open to being creative; some of the most valuable Mike Tyson rookie cards are actually stickers, but this 1986 Panini Supersport Mike Tyson card can go for anywhere between $3,000 and $7,000 on the market.
Simone Biles Rookie Card
The youngest icon on this list is gymnast extraordinaire Simone Biles. We all know about her seven Olympic medals, tying her for most by an American gymnast, but what the general public often fails to recognize is her absolute dominance in the non-Olympic gymnastic circuit: Biles has the most world gold medals and the most world all-around medals of any gymnast ever. On top of her across-the-board greatness on the beams, bars, and floor, she has become a cultural icon for her ambassadorship of athlete health and mental health.
All that, and she just turned 25 years old! Getting your hands on a Simone Biles rookie card could be an incredible investment, especially since they’re still valued at a reasonable price. On eBay, graded Simone Biles rookie cards are going for anywhere from $250 to $700.