In the following slideshow, we have put together a list of some of the greatest rarities in the trading card market. To make it clear, this list was not assembled with scarcity as the lone factor. Each card combines a level of scarcity with popularity, extreme importance and other factors. There are certainly extreme rarities in existence that are clearly harder to find than several of the entries on the list, but some of them are considered esoteric by hobby standards.
From the 1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth to the 1932 U.S. Presidents Caramel William McKinley to the 1948 Leaf Boxing Rocky Graziano, this list features a diverse group of cardboard treasures and is not for the faint of heart. The cards featured in this slideshow exhibit a degree of difficulty along with a measure of desirability that few cards possess within their particular genre.
The cards are listed in chronological order, starting nearly 150 years ago and each listing contains an approximate survival rate as of this date. You never know when the next great discovery will occur and the number of estimated examples known will change.
So, enjoy the visual tour and see how your list matches up with ours.
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This card has always been one of the true symbols of the hobby. But interestingly, it was not included in the original 1933 Goudey set. Instead, in 1934, collectors had to acquire the card direct from the manufacturer in order to complete their set. The missing card was sent through the mail to the collectors who contacted the Goudey Company.
Many of the examples were mailed with a paper clip affixed to it, leaving impressions on the surface of the card. As a result, you will encounter some examples that exhibit spider wrinkles along the front or back of the card. That said, and considering the overall rarity of the card, there are some high-grade examples in the marketplace. This is best explained by the fact that the card was never subject to insertion into packs, avoiding some of the traditional handling.
PSA CardFacts® Rarity Report: Less than 125 known
This U.S. Caramel "Presidents" set is considered by many to be complete at thirty cards. That is only true, however, if you omit a short-printed thirty-first card that was issued by the U.S. Caramel company.
Why the short-print? To boost sales of course! U.S. Caramel employed a promotional gimmick for the set that involved giving away a 1lb box of chocolate to those who completed the 31 card set. Scores of sweet-toothed youngsters fell for the ploy, only to be left one card short.
What was the short printed card that remains ever-so elusive to this day? This President William McKinley (#25) card, of course, which was intentionally short printed to limit supply.
PSA CardFacts® Rarity Report: Less than 5 known