Jackie Robinson Rookie Card Market Guide

Posted on 1/24/2023

Interested in collecting Jackie Robinson rookie cards? Find out about fair market values and learn how grading can enhance your card collection.

It’s almost impossible to sum up the historical importance of Jackie Robinson’s achievements in just a few short paragraphs. As the first African American of the modern era to play Major League Baseball, this legendary second baseman broke almost insurmountable barriers, revolutionized the game and remained one of the greatest players of his generation.

Breaking the Color Barrier

Jackie Robinson began his professional baseball career in 1945, playing shortstop in 47 games for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro American League. He earned a .387 batting average, hit 5 home runs and stole 13 bases, and played in the 1945 East-West All-Star Game. Robinson's performance attracted the attention of Branch Rickey, general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who was committed to breaking the color barrier in baseball. He signed Robinson on November 1, 1945, starting him off with the Montreal Royals, Brooklyn’s International League farm club.

The obstacles that Robinson faced are now well-known — including major resistance to his presence at spring training in then racially segregated Florida. But by the end of the 1946 season, Robinson was batting .349 (with a .985 fielding percentage), proving that he was ready for the majors.

MLB's First Rookie of the Year

On April 15, 1947, Robinson made his major league debut with the Dodgers, scoring a run (off a walk) in their victory against the New York Yankees. With the overwhelming support of many players and managers (and despite continued abuse from others), Robinson finished his first season with a .297 batting average, .383 on-base percentage and .427 slugging percentage. He tallied 175 hits and scored 125 runs, including 12 homers. He also led the league in sacrifice hits (28) and stolen bases (29). These numbers earned Robinson the MLB’s very first Rookie of the Year Award.

In 1948, other black players started entering the MLB, including Satchel Paige and Larry Doby (with the Cleveland Indians). This helped ease some pressure off Robinson. By 1949, he had raised his batting average to .342, had 124 RBIs, 122 runs scored and 37 stolen bases. The star infielder also helped lead the Dodgers to a National League pennant that year. Due to his stellar season, Robinson won the National League MVP Award and earned the first of six All-Star invitations.

In 1950 and 1951, Robinson made the most double plays (for a second baseman) in the National League, with 133 and 137, respectively. The Dodgers stayed in the 1951 pennant race until the very end, when they were beaten by the New York Giants, thanks to Bobby Thomson’s famous “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” home run. Robinson finished the year with a batting average of .338, with 106 runs scored and 25 stolen bases.

Robinson finally won his World Series ring in 1955, when the Dodgers beat the Yankees. In January 1957, after 10 seasons with the Dodgers, Robinson retired. He finished his career with a batting average of .313, 1,563 hits, 972 scoring runs and 200 stolen bases.

He was later inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1962. Further, in 1997, his number (42) was retired by every team in the MLB, making Robinson the only professional athlete ever to have a number retired across the league.

Are Jackie Robinson Rookie Cards Valuable?

Jackie Robinson played during a time when athletes typically had just one rookie card. In keeping with the times, Robinson only had one true “official” rookie card issued: the 1948 Leaf #79. This rare card, in top condition, trends for more than $900,000.

Fortunately for collectors, there’s also a few unofficial rookie cards of the legendary baseball player. Those include the 1947 Bond Bread card, a 1948 issue from Swell Sport Thrills and a couple of other so-called “oddball cards” from small distributors. Because of their relative scarcity, Robinson rookie cards trend for healthy prices, especially if they’re original and in good condition.

Investment Potential for Jackie Robinson Rookie Cards

As a legendary Hall of Famer whose greatness impacted the game arguably more than any other player in MLB history, Jackie Robinson is a baseball icon. Even people who don’t follow baseball revere Robinson for his history-making achievements. Because of this, investment potential for Robinson rookie cards should remain high, especially as future generations continue to rediscover his historic and record-breaking achievements.

Top Jackie Robinson Rookie Cards

Here’s a look at how these Jackie Robinson rookie cards are currently trending on auction tracking sites like PriceGuide.Cards and SportsCardsPro. These sites are updated daily, so prices can change at any time.

1948 Leaf #79 Jackie Robinson ($1,016,484)

Considered the holy grail of Jackie Robinson cards, this rarity was the first Robinson card to be distributed in baseball card packs. It features a portrait headshot of Robison smiling at the camera, set against a yellow background with white borders, with a banner showing his name on the bottom.

Sometimes you’ll find this card listed as a 1949 issue, because its actual distribution date is disputed. Nevertheless, it is Robinson’s one true “official” rookie card. Even though the print quality is often poor on these cards, values are astronomically high for cards in good condition.

SportsCardsPro shows Ungraded trending at $4,025, Grade 7 at $84,000, Grade 8 at $372,000 and Grade 9 at $409,200. Grade 9.5 trends at $450,120, and Gem Mint at $1,016,484.

At PriceGuide.Cards, Ungraded trends at an average price of $615 and a top price of $13,600. Graded trends at an average price of $6,964 and a top price of $78,900 (grades unspecified).

1949 Bowman #50 Jackie Robinson ($57,700)

Although it was issued in 1949, many collectors consider this a rookie card, especially considering that Robinson’s Leaf rookie card may have also been a 1949 release. Regardless, it’s still a collector favorite, although typically valued at lower prices than the Leaf card. It features a portrait photo of Robinson wearing a vivid blue Dodgers cap and smiling at the camera, set against a bright red background.

At PriceGuide.Cards, Ungraded trends at an average price of $999 and a top price of $10,000. Graded trends at an average price of $3,316 and a top price of $57,700 (grades unspecified).

1946 Parade Sportive Jackie Robinson ($11,700)

Considered to be the earliest Jackie Robinson baseball card in existence, this amazing French-Canadian issue features an early black-and-white photo of Robinson with the Montreal Royals, standing in the stadium with his bat raised high. It’s set against a plain white background with the “Parade Sportive” logo at the top, and advertising information for “Les Galeries” stores in French.

At Heritage Auctions, a Grade 4.5 example of this card sold in February 2022 for $11,700.

1947 Bond Bread Jackie Robinson ($8,700)

Historically important as one of the very first Jackie Robinson cards, this treasure features a black-and-white portrait shot of Robinson facing the camera, with a blurred image of the stands in the background. Interestingly, the sides are perforated, and the back is blank. These cards were distributed in packages of Bond Bread. Bond also made a promotional set of 13 Robinson cards that same year, each of which featured a different design (with one bearing a facsimile signature).

At Heritage Auctions, an example of this card, in Grade 5 condition, sold for $8,700 in July 2019, while another Grade 5 example sold for $7,500 in December 2020. Other Bond Bread cards from the 13-card set have sold at Heritage Auctions for prices ranging from several hundred to more than a thousand dollars.

1948 Swell Sports Thrills #3 Jackie Robinson ($2,400)

As another one of Robinson’s first cards, this issue from Swell Sports Thrills features a black-and-white portrait shot of Robinson. It's framed in illustrations of baseball equipment, with the words “Dramatic Debut” below and the “Sport Thrills” logo at the top. The back of the card mentions Robinson's rookie achievements and credits him with breaking the color barrier.

SportsCardsPro shows Ungraded trending at $2,400.

1947 Pleetwood Slacks Jackie Robinson ($600)

To our modern ears, the name may sound strangely similar to an iconic 1970s rock band. But in the 1940s, Pleetwood Slacks was a trouser company that had the historic foresight to issue an advertising card featuring an attractive black-and-white photo of the young rookie Robinson, dressed in a suit and tie.

At Robert Edward Auctions, in 2016, a Grade 1 example of this rare card, in worn condition, sold for $600.

Where Can I Find Jackie Robinson Rookie Cards?

You can find Jackie Robinson rookie cards at auctions, sports memorabilia shows and memorabilia retailers. Here are some of the most popular auction sites for sports cards:

Sports memorabilia shows are another great source for Robinson rookie cards. To find out if a show is coming to your city, you can check local newspaper listings, as well as social media sites and online collector forums.

How Are Jackie Robinson Rookie Cards Graded?

Professional graders use a long-established grading system that rates cards numerically from Ungraded to Pristine 10. Here’s what these different grades mean:

Pristine 10: Top condition, and as perfect as a card can be. This card is flawless across all four criteria: surface, corners, edges and centering. No production flaws or condition issues are visible, even at 10x magnification.

Gem Mint: Almost perfect, with 10 scores across the board except for one of the grading criteria, where there’s a minuscule flaw that’s barely perceptible.

Grade 9.5 Almost Gem Mint, except for a tiny flaw or condition issue.

Grade 9: Almost Mint, but with a minor flaw or very minor wear.

Grades 8 and below: Cards with these grades have condition wear or production flaws and are graded according to the number and severity of these issues. These lower-grade cards can still sell for high prices, especially if they’re rare cards that are sought after by collectors.

Raw: Newly removed from its original packaging.

Ungraded: Not graded.

Condition, rarity and customer demand are the three factors that fuel sports card values. And while condition and rarity can be easily determined according to grading criteria, anything goes when it comes to collector demand. Rare Gem Mint cards may stagnate if collectors aren’t interested, while a lesser-grade, more-common card may consistently sell for top prices.

Player popularity is a key factor in collector demand as well. If a player is a Hall of Famer, a well-known historical figure or simply a fan favorite, prices for that player’s memorabilia will remain high. Likewise, auction bidding wars and publicized record-high prices can cause a player’s cards to skyrocket across the board.

If you’re collecting for pleasure, the best thing you can do is buy what you love and concentrate on investing in the best condition you can afford.

Should I Get My Cards Graded?

Getting your cards graded is a great way to authenticate their originality. And with professional authentication, you can enhance the overall quality of your collection. The grading process starts with a certified appraiser, who examines each card and assigns it a recognized numeric grade. This grade is based on the card’s condition and identifies any wear or production flaws. Once the card is graded, the information is entered into an international database as a permanent record.

Dealers and collectors will often pay higher prices for graded cards, and graded cards can also be easier to trade or sell. And with grading, your cards will always be recognized as genuine. Regardless of the size of your collection, and whether you decide to trade, sell, or keep them, grading provides an excellent way to preserve your cards for posterity. For further information on CGC Cards’ 10-point Grading Scale and to find out more about our industry-leading services, visit CGCcards.com.

*Any mention of "investment potential" is for entertainment only and should not be construed as investment advice. The Certified Collectibles Group does not provide investment advice and is not liable for any buy, sell or trade decisions made by any parties.

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