Baseball continues to expand worldwide, and the sport’s popularity increases yearly. Alongside baseball’s popularity is a growing interest in baseball cards. Once extremely popular in the mid to late 1980s through the early 1990s, baseball card buying collapsed before making a strong comeback during the 2000s but even stronger since Covid-19.
Baseball cards are now as popular as ever amongst sports card collectors, sports card investors, and sports card flippers looking to make money now and in the future. With baseball cards as hot as they are, it is worth looking at the best baseball card brands available.
Over the years, baseball cards have evolved to make them what they are now, with the value for rare baseball cards, including high-graded vintage baseball cards increasing.
From standard cardboard style stock designs starting as early as 1865 to the tobacco cards in the early 1900s to Bowman baseball cards hitting the shelves in 1948 to revolutionary design changes made by Upper Deck baseball cards in 1989, many new designs and elements to baseball cards and sports cards have been introduced, including autograph baseball cards, relic baseball cards, cut signatures, parallel baseball cards, and even 1/1 or one-of-one baseball cards, increasing their rarity.
As you start to look around at the best baseball card brands, a few major brands stand out, including Topps baseball cards and Panini America baseball cards, sitting at the top of the list.
Here is a look at the Best Baseball Card Brands:
Best Baseball Card Brands
As we currently look at the best brand of baseball cards, the leader of the pack is Topps baseball cards, including Bowman. Topps, who owns Bowmans, is the only baseball brand with the license to print baseball cards of MLB teams and players within the MLBPA.
While other brands are delivering excellent products, the lack of MLB teams and MLB players leave these card brands lacking baseball card collectors’ favorite MLB player and MLB teams.
What Makes Baseball Cards Worth Money?
When you think about baseball cards, the first thing that may come to mind of many is that it is just a piece of cardboard printed on with a baseball player’s photo. However, if you think about it, money is just paper printed with a face on it or logo while ultimately carrying a cash value.
That said, the main thing that drives the value of baseball cards and makes baseball cards worth money is the rarity of the baseball card.
For example, a high-graded baseball card from 1952 which is no longer available, will command higher values than a high-graded base set design baseball card from the 2023 Topps Series 1 baseball product.
That does not mean present-day baseball cards can’t be valuable or worth money. The opposite is to be said. As many current baseball cards as possible, from the 2000s to the present, have sold for six figures, like the 2009 Bowman Draft SuperFractor Mike Trout card sold for nearly 4 million dollars ($3.936 million). The reason for this is the availability of these cards, such as the SuperFractor Mike Trout, which is one of one with no duplicates made.
What Type of Baseball Cards Should You Look For?
Whether you are new to baseball card collecting or a novice card collector, understanding what makes baseball cards good and worth money comes down to understanding the different types of baseball card products available.
When looking for baseball cards to buy, the first thing you want to know about the product is whether the baseball card set is mass-produced with no set print run or is a limited print run.
In addition to the print run, other features to consider when buying baseball cards do the product feature insert sets and rare cards such as low-numbered parallel cards, autograph cards, autograph relics, bat knob baseball cards, and autograph booklet cards, to name a few.
What are these different types of baseball cards? Here is a quick look.
Different Types of Baseball Cards
Base Set (Base Card)
A base set or a base card of a baseball card product is the standard baseball card featured within a baseball card product.
While not all high-end baseball card products offer base sets, many do with lower print runs. A base card within a baseball card set typically features no print run, with sets ranging upwards of 700 cards per set.
This includes Topps Baseball cards which feature a 660-card base set. Base sets often have little to no value.
A rookie card is the first baseball card of a specific player once the player reaches the majors within Major League Baseball. The number of rookie cards made is unlimited because multiple products are released each calendar year.
For example, Adley Rutschman of the Baltimore Orioles could have rookie cards in 2023 Topps Baseball, 2023 Topps Five Star, and 2023 Topps Gilded.
Rookie cards can have value, especially those rookie cards that are graded and receive high grades.
A subset is a set featured along with the base set that will feature additional designs outside the base set design.
Subsets may vary from product to product but include Panini Kaboom! Which are highly collectible among baseball card collectors as well as baseball card investors.
Parallel sets will vary from baseball card set to baseball card set, featuring various colors and/or designs to mirror a base set, subset, or even baseball card insert.
Parallel cards are featured within Topps, Bowman, and Panini brands with lower numbered versions, such as the SuperFractor 1/1 and other 1/1, commanding top money and are highly sought after.
A relic card is an insert card featured within baseball card products that will include a piece of an authentic relic to accompany the player, team, mascot, or field associated with.
Different types of baseball card relics, including pieces of authentic baseball jerseys and baseball equipment used in games by the various individuals.
Manufactured Relic Card
A manufactured relic card is similar to a relic card but manufactured by the actual baseball card brand or a product the company works with. For example, Topps has featured manufactured team hat logo cards inserted within products.
Short Print (SP) and/or Super Short Print (SSP) Card
Short Print (SP) and Super Short Print (SSP) baseball cards are harder to obtain baseball cards of the base set that may feature a dedicated flaw or change to the card to include image variations or logos.
For example, a base set Mike Trout baseball card may have him swinging a baseball bat, whereas a short print image variation may have him sliding or giving a high five to a teammate.
Short and Super Short Prints have smaller print runs, increasing their interest.
Autograph baseball cards are inserted baseball cards featured in various baseball card products each year, with many having low print runs to include one of them.
Rookie Patch Auto (RPA)
Rookie Patch Autographs are more popular in football and basketball cards; however, RPA’s are still popular for baseball card collectors.
An RPA card is a rookie card of a specific player that also features their autograph and a piece of their relic card.
Bat Knob Card and/or Barrel Card
Bat Knob Cards are a higher-end relic card that features the end of the bat knob or a center portion of the bat barrel inserted within the card.
These cards are available from actual game-used bats of top baseball players, with some brands making versions of these baseball cards.
A cut signature is a card inserted within a set, including baseball cards with an autograph obtained from another product, such as an old photo or check.
The autograph is then inserted within the product as a card featured in the set. Cut signatures are often of players who are deceased and no longer available for autographs.
One of the newer inserts in sports cards is the booklet card which could come in various types, including autograph booklet cards, relic booklet cards, and autograph relic book cards.
The card folds open like a book, containing one player or multiple players per card.
5 Best Baseball Card Brands
Topps Baseball Cards
Today’s leader in baseball cards, holding the exclusive MLB and MLBPA rights to produce baseball cards, is Topps Baseball Cards.
Topps delivers a long list of baseball card products to collect each year, with many of their products being extremely popular among baseball card products.
One of Topps’s most popular baseball card products is Topps Baseball which is released in two series (Topps Series 1, Topps Series 2), as well as an updated series (Topps Updated Series) and a factory box set (Topps Series 1 and Topps Series 2).
Here are some of the Topps Baseball card products each year:
- Topps Series 1
- Topps Series 2
- Topps Update Series
- Topps Stadium Club
- Topps Five Star
- Topps Heritage
- Topps Allen & Ginter
- Topps Sterling
- Topps Tribute
- Topps Triple Threads
- Topps Pro Debut
Bowman Baseball Cards
Ultimately Bowman Baseball cards are their own product. However, Topps trading cards owns the product and delivers the product line as their own product without the Topps name.
While Topps focuses on current MLB stars, Bowman Baseball focuses on MLB prospects and draft picks each season who have yet to reach the majors.
In addition, many Bowman Baseball card products contain a small selection of current/former MLB stars.
Here are some of the Bowman Baseball card products each year:
- Bowman Baseball
- Bowman Baseball Sapphire
- Bowman Platinum
- Bowman Inception
- Bowman Sterling
- Bowman Draft
- Bowman Chrome
Panini Baseball Cards
Coming in as the third baseball card brand that is popular among baseball card collectors is Panini America baseball card products.
Despite not having an MLB and now an MLBPA licensing contract, Panini continues to make a solid baseball card lineup each year containing multiple products while now focusing on prospects who are not yet a member of the MLBPA.
Here are some of the Panini Baseball card products each year:
- Panini Donruss Baseball
- Panini Donruss Optics Baseball
- Panini Flawless Baseball
- Panini National Treasures
- Panini Prizm Baseball
- Panini Select Baseball
- Panini Capstone
Leaf Trading Cards
Another baseball card brand available for collectors is Leaf Trading Cards which offers a lineup of Leaf Baseball cards each year.
Leaf, known for their 1990 Leaf set that was extremely popular back in the 1990s while featuring rookie cards of both Frank Thomas and Sammy Sosa, has emerged as a player today.
While Leaf does not have MLB or MLBPA licensing, the product line features prospect cards and prospect auto cards of many of the top prospects in the game.
Here are some of the Leaf Baseball card products each year:
- Leaf Vivid
- Leaf Trinity
- Leaf Metal
- Leaf Valiant
- Leaf Perfect Game
Wild Card Baseball
The last of the baseball card brands, Wild Card Baseball Cards, like Leaf, re-emerged in the sports card industry after being available in the late 1990s.
The baseball card brand brings wild designs and autograph products, and like both Panini and Leaf, Wild Card Baseball cards feature no MLB and MLBPA licensing meaning none of the top stars in the game today are featured.
However, many top prospects are available within the product line.
Here are some of the Wild Card Baseball card products each year:
- Wild Card Auto Mania
- Wild Card 5 Card Draw