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Step into the exhilarating world of sports trading cards as we unveil the most promising rookie cards to watch in 2023. This incredible list will take you on a thrilling journey across the fields of baseball, the courts of basketball, and the rugged terrain of football.

Are you ready to discover the next diamond in the rough? Prepare to be amazed by the potential value and rarity that these rookies bring.

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15 Rookie Cards to Watch in 2023

Get your collector’s spirit fired up because what comes next could revolutionize your card collection. Stay tuned because these rookie cards are about to take the stage!

#1. 1993 SP Derek Jeter #279

The 1993 SP Derek Jeter #279 rookie card is a sought-after piece for collectors and baseball enthusiasts. This foil card, showcasing the legendary Derek Jeter in his rookie year, holds a unique place in sports memorabilia. Its value lies in the rarity, foil nature that makes it condition-sensitive, and the iconic player it represents – Derek Jeter, a Baseball Hall of Famer and one of the respected figures in baseball history.

The card’s value varies based on its grading. A top-tier card rated as PSA 10, indicating virtually flawless condition, was last sold for a remarkable $204,000 in December 2022. Cards with lower grades, like BGS 8.5, have been listed for around $399.99, and a BGS 9 Mint version was priced at $12,000.

Even if you’re not aiming for the highest-graded cards, you can still own this piece of baseball history. Prices for these cards can range from just over $100 to several hundred dollars, depending on the condition and grading. The card is a tangible connection to Derek Jeter’s phenomenal career, a remembrance of his early days before he became a household name, and it would be a pleasure to own it.

#2. 2011 Topps Update Mike Trout #US175

The 2011 Topps Update Mike Trout #US175 is an iconic piece of baseball history, capturing the early career of one of the most electrifying players, Mike Trout. This card is a must-have for any serious card collector or baseball fan.

Since its release, the value of this card has skyrocketed, reflecting Trout’s meteoric rise and consistent performance. The card varies in price depending on its condition, with listings ranging from $799 for a BGS 9.5 grade to $1,199 for a PSA 10 Gem Mint. However, the highest amount it has fetched is an impressive $3.93 million for a signed 2009 rookie card at a public auction.

But the actual value of the 2011 Topps Update Mike Trout #US175 extends beyond its monetary worth. It’s a tangible piece of the legacy of a player who has shaped the sport. Owning it offers a sense of connection to the game, its history, and Mike Trout’s extraordinary career.

#3. 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle #311

Mickey Mantle, an iconic figure in the annals of baseball, is celebrated for his remarkable 18-year career with the New York Yankees. Known for his switch-hitting prowess and power at the plate, Mantle hit a staggering 536 home runs, leaving an indelible mark on the sport. The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle #311 card is a tribute to this legend.

For collectors, it’s a piece of sports history, a connection to the golden era of baseball. This card encapsulates Mantle’s enduring legacy and the thrill of the game during his time. Over the years, the value of this card has appreciated significantly. It’s become a coveted item in the world of sports memorabilia. Today, depending on the condition, it can command a price in the high six to low seven figures.

Owning this card is like owning a valuable piece of Americana. It’s a tangible reminder of Mantle’s contributions to baseball and his lasting influence on the sport, a celebration of the iconic player’s career and a symbol of one of baseball’s most dynamic eras.

#4. 1989 Fleer Randy Johnson Marlboro Background #381

The 1989 Fleer Randy Johnson Marlboro Background #381 is a unique piece of sports memorabilia. This baseball card features Randy Johnson, a pro baseball player recognized as one of the most dominant pitchers in the history of Major League Baseball (MLB).

The card gained notoriety due to an unintended background detail – a Marlboro advertisement on the scoreboard behind Johnson. When Fleer, the card’s manufacturer, discovered this, they re-issued the card with the ad blacked out, creating a rare variation and adding intrigue for collectors.

Today, the value of this card varies significantly depending on its condition and rarity. The average price hovers around $24.77, but it can fetch up to $819.64 for pristine copies. The Marlboro-ad version is particularly sought after by collectors due to its unique backstory and limited availability. Its legacy is a testament to the unexpected ways sports and pop culture intertwine, making this card a fascinating piece of sports history.

#5. 1971 Topps Terry Bradshaw #156

The 1971 Topps Terry Bradshaw #156 card is a collector’s item and a piece of sports history. This card marks the rookie year of Terry Bradshaw, one of the most iconic figures in NFL history. Drafted first overall in 1970 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bradshaw led the team to four Super Bowl victories, forever etching his name in the annals of American football.

The card itself features an icon – a young Bradshaw in his Steelers uniform, poised and ready for action. This image encapsulates the beginning of an era that would see Bradshaw emerge as one of the greatest quarterbacks in the sport. The back of the card carries his stats, further adding to its value.

The price of this card varies significantly depending on its condition. A Gem Mint 10-graded card recently fetched a staggering $430,500 at auction, demonstrating collectors’ and fans’ high regard for this card. Lower-grade cards like a PSA 6 EX-MT Steelers RC can command prices around $275.79.

#6. 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan #57

The 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan #57 is more than just a basketball card. It’s a piece of history encapsulating the illustrious career of NBA legend Michael Jordan. This iconic card features Jordan’s rookie image, making it one of the most recognizable and sought-after cards.

The value of this card has skyrocketed over the years, with prices reaching up to $40,075.27, according to Sports Cards Pro, and even higher in some instances. Owning this card isn’t just about the monetary gain. It’s about holding a tangible piece of Jordan’s legacy.

In a world where digital assets are increasingly popular, the tactile experience of owning a physical item like this is irreplaceable. It’s a priceless investment, uniquely connecting to one of sport’s most significant figures. Owning this card means you’re part of the enduring legacy of Michael Jordan.

#7. 1992 Bowman Mariano Rivera #302

The 1992 Bowman Mariano Rivera #302 is a cherished artifact for baseball card collectors and fans. The card highlights the early career of Mariano Rivera, celebrated as one of the greatest closers in Major League Baseball history.

This rookie card captures the essence of Rivera’s promising talent that eventually led him to hold the record for most saves (608) in a career. The value of this card has seen impressive growth over the years, reflecting Rivera’s awe-inspiring legacy.

As of now, the highest price fetched by this card is an astonishing $2,100 for a PSA 10-graded version. Owning this card is like owning a piece of baseball history, a tribute to Rivera’s unmatched performance and contribution to the game. It’s not just a rookie card but an investment in nostalgia and the timeless spirit of baseball.

#8. 1989 Fleer Billy Ripken F-Face #616

Billy Ripken’s 1989 Fleer rookie card, famously known as the “F-Face” card, is an intriguing piece of baseball memorabilia. It features an error where the phrase ‘F-Face’ appears on the bat’s handle, which was overlooked during production, leading to its unique nickname.

Due to the unusual error, this card, #616 in the Fleer series, has become a collector’s item. The card’s value has fluctuated over the years, with current prices reflecting its rarity and demand among collectors. As of late August 2023, based on eBay listings, the card has sold for prices ranging from $33.00 to $69.00. A particularly rare version of the card-graded PSA 10 Gem Mint was listed at a higher price, indicating the card’s value can increase significantly depending on its condition.

Billy Ripken, brother of Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., had a solid 12-year Major League career. However, this rookie card has immortalized him in the annals of baseball card history. The 1989 Fleer Billy Ripken F-Face #616 card remains a fascinating collectible due to its surprising backstory and is a popular find for sports memorabilia enthusiasts.

#9. 1948 Bowman George Mikan RC #69

The 1948 Bowman George Mikan RC #69, a rare and historically significant sports card, is an invaluable asset for any serious collector. The worth of this card lies not only in its scarcity but also in the legacy of the athlete it represents. George Mikan, often hailed as the “first superstar” of the National Basketball Association (NBA), was instrumental in propelling basketball to its status as a major American sport.

His dominance on the court led to several rule changes in the game, earning him the moniker “Mr. Basketball.” The value of this card fluctuates based on its condition. However, mint versions of this card have been known to fetch over $200,000 at auctions. This high price point reflects both the rarity of the card and the enduring respect for Mikan’s contributions to the sport.

The 1948 Bowman George Mikan RC #69 is a testament to a pivotal figure in basketball history and a prized artifact of the sport’s evolution. Owning his rookie card means having a tangible piece of sports history in your hands.

#10. 1958 Topps Jim Brown #62

The 1958 Topps Jim Brown #62 is more than a rookie card – a piece of sports history. Considered the only recognized rookie card of football’s most feared fullback, this card fetches impressive numbers in the collector’s market. The figure worth of this coveted item has been known to soar as high as $27,368.

Jim Brown, an icon in the football world, had an illustrious career that started with his time at Syracuse, where he lettered in three different sports. His 1958 Topps card captures the 22-year-old Brown in a dynamic running pose, encapsulating the energy and prowess that would mark his athletic journey.

For collectors, the allure of this card goes beyond its monetary value. It’s a chance to own a tangible part of sports legacy, a snapshot of a time when Jim Brown was making his mark on the field. This card stands out with its unique design and autograph, making it a must-have for any serious collector.

#11. 1957 Topps Bart Starr #119

The 1957 Topps Bart Starr #119 card is a sought-after collectible in the world of sports memorabilia. This card is the only recognized rookie card of Bart Starr, a perennial winner in American football who led the Green Bay Packers from 1956 to 1971. The card’s value has seen significant appreciation over the years, with prices ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on the card’s condition and grading.

In 2023, the Starr card continues to fetch high prices in auctions. On February 8, 2023, a Starr card was sold for $660, while another went for $1,625 two days prior. Other sources list the card at prices ranging from $473 to over $20,000, indicating the wide variability in its value. A Starr card in excellent condition (graded 5 by PSA) is listed at $1,216 but can be found for as low as $499.

Despite the wide range in prices, one thing is clear. The 1957 Topps Bart Starr #119 card remains a valuable piece of sports history, cherished by collectors for representing a football legend and its rarity as Starr’s only recognized rookie card.

#12. 1957 Topps Bill Russell #77

The 1957-58 Topps Bill Russell #77 card is a marvel in the sports memorabilia world. This card marks the rookie year of one of NBA’s most legendary figures, Bill Russell. This particular card is the only recognized rookie card of the eleven-time NBA Champion. It’s the key to the 1957 Topps set, one of the most challenging and significant sets in basketball card collecting. The card features a young, determined Russell, immortalizing his early days in the sport before he became synonymous with victory.

What makes this card even more unique is its rarity and value. Prices for this card vary significantly based on condition and grading. For instance, a PSA 8 (Near Mint/Mint) version was listed on eBay for $14,663.251. Sports Card Prices list it as high as $1,015,291.662. In August 2023, a PSA 6 version sold for $14,000, proving that even lower-grade cards can fetch a premium price. In a testament to its value and desirability, a 1957 Topps Bill Russell rookie card even set an auction record when it sold for $660,000.

#13. 2003 Exquisite LeBron James #78

LeBron, the Michael Jordan of the 21st century! The 2003-04 Exquisite LeBron James #78 card is a highly sought-after piece of sports memorabilia. This iconic card has consistently broken records in sales, with one pair selling for a staggering $5.2 million recently source.

It’s not only the rarity of the card that drives up its value but also the condition. Cards graded as Mint or Gem Mint by Beckett Grading Services (BGS) or Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) can fetch high premiums.

The card’s value has appreciated significantly over the years. For instance, a Gold Edition of the card number #07/25 was recently bid at $9,505 source. The Exquisite Collection LeBron James rookie card is considered one of the most critical modern sports cards, underscoring its enduring appeal among collectors and fans alike.

#14. 1990 Leaf Sammy Sosa #220

The 1990 Leaf Sammy Sosa #220 card captures the early career of one of baseball’s most celebrated sluggers, Sammy Sosa. Born on November 12, 1968, Sosa became the fifth baseball player in the history of the Major League to reach 600 career home runs. He started his illustrious career with the Chicago White Sox, and this card depicts him during those early days.

As for the card itself, it has become a coveted item for sports memorabilia collectors. The card features a youthful Sosa in his White Sox uniform, a memento from his rookie season. It’s an authentic piece of baseball history, capturing a moment from a player who would later become a legend.

Based on recent search results, the price of this card varies depending on its condition and grading. A PSA MINT 9 card version is listed at $18.99 on eBay. Meanwhile, a PSA 10 (Gem Mint) version can fetch up to $74.99. Lower grades, like a Beckett BGS 8 NM-MT, have been sold for $8.10. These prices indicate the value that collectors place on this particular card and the player it represents.

#15. 1996 Topps Chrome Kobe Bryant #138

The “Black Mamba” left an indelible mark on basketball. His legacy lives on, and the 1996-97 Topps Chrome rookie card, #138, marks how it all started. This card captures a young, promising Bryant in his inaugural season with the Lakers.

This card is not just a piece of memorabilia but an investment. As of now, the prices for this card vary greatly depending on its condition. A mint condition card can reach up to six figures in auctions. In February 2021, one such card sold for $1.8 million. The value of such cards continues to be appreciated, reflecting Bryant’s lasting impact on the sport.

Owning this card means holding a piece of history, a tangible reminder of the prowess and skill that Bryant brought to the basketball game. Having this on your hand feels like holding a priceless possession that reminds you of who Bryant was.


2023 presents a thrilling lineup of rookie cards across basketball, baseball, and football. With promising talents and established elites, the collector’s landscape continues to evolve. These 15 gems could be the next big thing in your collection. So, whether you’re a seasoned enthusiast or a hobbyist, keep an eye on these potential diamonds in the rough. Happy collecting

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