One of the most beautiful aspects of this awesome hobby of ours is that baseball card collections come in all shapes and sizes, and no two are ever exactly the same.
No matter how modest or new — or old — a collection may be, it is unique, custom fit to the hobbyist who built it through blood, sweat, tears, dollar, and sheer cardboard love.
But the truth is that some collections are just more inspiring than others.
And if you’re looking for some inspiration for your own hobby endeavors, or if you just want to be blown away for a few minutes, this list of incredible baseball card collections will set your imagination on fire.
The Dmitri Young Collection
Dmitri Young lived out every Little Leaguer’s dream, logging 13 seasons in the Major Leagues. Twice, in 2003 and 2007, he played at a high enough level to make it to the All-Star Game.
And, in his first season in the bigs, Young tasted October baseball, appearing in four games for the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series.
But as sweet as realizing that dream of starring on the diamond is for any professional ballplayer, it must have been especially poignant for Young because, well, he is one of us.
That is, Dmitri Young is an inveterate baseball card collector.
And all during his big league career, Young set about meticulously piecing together one of the most blazing collections of “perfect” baseball cards the world has ever seen. Specializing in rookie cards that PSA graded as 10s, Young nailed down a run of RCs, the likes of which we may never see again.
Consider just a few of the 10s he accumulated:
- 1949 Bowman Roy Campanella
- 1954 Topps Ernie Banks
- 1955 Topps Roberto Clemente
- 1968 Topps Johnny Bench
All Hall of Fame rookie cards, all GEM-MT and slabbed.
Over the course of his career, news got out about Young’s hobby, and he became almost as famous for his cards as for his on-field exploits. It was a well-deserved reputation, too, and his collection eventually took on such a monster stature that PSA created a label just for Young — each of his cards is labeled as being part of the “DMITRI YOUNG COLLECTION.”
Not surprisingly, when Young put his monumental collection up for auction in the spring of 2012, the news rocked the hobby (in a good way). Also no surprise that the whole ball of wax hammered down at more than $2.4 million — a bunch, for sure, but likely a mere pittance compared to what the same cards would bring today.
The Jefferson R. Burdick Collection
If anyone ever tries to trivialize your card collection, telling you they’re “just” cardboard, you just remind them about good old Jefferson R. Burdick.
Burdick began collecting paper items of all types — postcards, programs, flyers, baseball cards (of course!) — at age 10 in 1910 and kept right on amassing his masterpiece until 1947.
By then, Burdick was an electrician and had more or less decided that his collection had finally outpaced his ability to properly display it in his home.
So, what’s a man to do?
Being the logician that he was, Burdick landed on the perfect solution to his “problem” — he’d donate the whole shebang to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. And so, The Met carved out a spot to house Burdick’s 300,000+ pieces of ephemera.
Then, when they weren’t quite doing justice to the cataloging of the massive collection, they brought the man himself in to do the work of creating a display worthy of the largesse, and Burdick labored pretty much up to his death in 1963 building out the perfect exhibition.
Today, the Burdick gift remains one of the most comprehensive baseball card collections in the world, fitting for the man who singlehandedly developed the original American Card Catalog (1939-1960).
The E. Powell Miller Collection
What’s the Holy Grail of baseball cards?
Well, with apologies to whatever chrome 1:1 auto patch refractor super rookie pre-prospect gadget just sold for some obscene amount in an online auction, the Holy Grail of baseball cards remains the T206 Honus Wagner tobacco card.
And, though other cards have proven to be more scarce than The Flying Dutchman over the years, nothing carries the mystique of “The Honus.”
I say all that to say this: the centerpiece of the E. Powell Miller baseball card collection is (or was) a beat-up Wagner that Miller paid $282,000 for.
But the thing is, that card is just the beginning.
Indeed, attorney Miller spent most of his adult life accumulating one of the most amazing collections of T206s in the world … along with blazing copies of monumental Detroit Tigers cards (Al Kaline rookie, for example), and bats used by Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth, and … so much more.
In the fall of 2020, Miller auctioned off his T206 set, deemed one of the greatest ever assembled, the news of which unsurprisingly rumbled through the hobby with all the subtlety of an elephant stampede.
The Joel Platt Collection
You want to know where there’s another Wagner card?
That would be at the Sports Immortals Museum and Memorabilia Mart in Boca Raton, Fla., which just so happens to have sprung from the personal collection of real estate developer Joel Platt.
In addition to the Wagner — complete with all four corners lopped off by scissor blades at some point in its life — the Platt collection includes autographed balls and cards of all sorts, an amazing assortment of tobacco cards, historic game-used balls (like the last one from the only “double no-hit games” in history), jerseys from the games greats, and on and on and on.
Like Burdick before him, Platt and his passion prove that sports memorabilia and cards are worthy of the title, “works of art.”
The Paul Jones Collection
“How many cards you got?”
It was the question that every card-collecting kid asked every other card-collecting kid in the 80s when we found out about our shared hobby.
And the answer was our badge of honor, our playground cred.
If you ever exchanged such numbers with Paul Jones, well … let’s just say chances are pretty good you’d lose the card-count bidding ward by an order of magnitude or more.
See, in 2008, the Guinness Book of World Records anointed Jones as the record holder among private collectors, citing his nearly 1 million cards. Since then, Jones has kept right on working to build his collection, with the number checking in at 2.8 million in February of 2020, according to an interview in SCD.
And, according to Paul’s father, Barry, that number jumps by at least 300,000 every year. And, while most of the collections on this list have already hit their peak and maybe even been disbanded, Jones vows to continue right on adding to that tally “until the day I die.”
The Uncle Jimmy Collection
It’s a dream every longtime collector has had at one time or another …
You’re excavating the deep recesses of some family dwelling, or rummaging through a trunk you bought at flea market and — BAM! — you stumble into a cache of old, stunning, valuable baseball cards.
Stuff like that doesn’t happen in real life, though … right?
James Micioni, a lifelong bachelor, always regaled his nieces and nephews with his tales of the baseball cards and memorabilia he collected during his life. Even told them he had Babe Ruth in the attic.
But they never saw any of it, weren’t sure they believed it.
When “Uncle Jimmy” passed away at age 97 in early 2020, though, the family finally made the trek to his attic, where they discovered … Babe Ruth!
Six Babe Ruth baseball cards in boxes and binders, to be exact.
That was just the beginning, too, as the “find” yielded a thousand or so vintage cards, among them plenty of Hall of Famers, many of which that would eventually grade out as 8s and 9s when PSA slabbed them.
Since the discovery, Wheatland Auction Services has brokered several of the cards, including an autographed 1933 Goudey Babe Ruth that sold for $761,100 in February of 2021.
So, the next time you hear some legend about buried cardboard treasure, don’t be too quick to laugh it off.
(Read all of our collector stories here. Want to share your own story? Let me know!)