NASCAR is where fast is never fast enough, and you need to execute a killer left turn. When you think about pro stock car racing, trading cards definitely don't come to mind, but they make up one of NASCAR's longest-lasting types of merch. From cards of absolute legends at the height of their success to rookie drivers burning rubber with the best of them, the most valuable NASCAR cards have as much personality as the drivers they represent.
Valuable NASCAR Trading Cards Coming in Hot
|Valuable NASCAR Trading Cards
|1988 Maxx Charlotte Dale Earnhardt Sr. Promo
|1987 World of Outlaws Jeff Gordon Rookie
|1992 Traks Autograph Series Earnhardt/Petty
|1994 Wheels High Gear Dale Earnhardt Jr. Rookie
|2018 Panini Silver Prizm Hailie Deegan Rookie
Now, it's important that you don't get any ideas of paying off your car or getting a down payment for a house from your dad's old collection of NASCAR cards. Even the likes of famous racers like Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Richard Petty, and the Earnhardts won't bring in more than a $1,000 in their best condition. But these household names tend to corner the market on demand, making their cards worth the most of the bunch.
1988 Maxx Charlotte Dale Earnhardt Sr. Promo
If you've only casually watched NASCAR, then chances are the only driver you can probably name is Dale Earnhardt Sr. Known as the Intimidator, Earnhardt is the biggest name in all of NASCAR history. Not only did he leave behind an incredible legacy, but much like many athletes, actors, and creatives before him, he left behind a plethora of merchandise. The most expensive of his collectibles contain his autograph.
Nothing beats his 1988 card, with his easy-going portrait and iconic full-handlebar mustache. Pristine copies of these cards will easily sell for about $100-$200 online, but the really special ones contain his signature; because of his tragic mid-race death, there's a finite number of his signatures, making these cards immeasurably valuable.
Depending on how well the card has been preserved over the years and the quality of Earnhardt's signature, these rookie cards can go for various amounts online. Yet, it's not uncommon for them to make tens of thousands of dollars. For instance, one almost-perfect card with a graded 10 perfect autograph is currently listed for $49,999.99 on eBay. And while that might sound absolutely outrageous, keep in mind the card is about as pristine and rare as it comes for an Earnhardt piece.
1987 World of Outlaws Jeff Gordon Rookie
For NASCAR fans growing up in the '90s and early '00s, Jeff Gordon was the big name splashed across all the headlines for winning race after race. While you may know him from his snazzy Chevrolet days racing for Hendrick Motorsports, you probably won't recognize the baby-face, feathered haircut staring back at you on his 16-year-old portrait rookie card. Although it won't bring in the same amount of money as an Earnhardt card, it's a super rare find because it was released many years prior to his real breakout in stock car racing. So, if you find this unusual card from the World of Outlaws set manufactured by James International Art, then you're looking about maybe getting $500-$1,000 richer.
1992 Traks Autograph Series Earnhardt/Petty
Anyone who knows anything about NASCAR knows the fans are a loud and rowdy bunch that aren't afraid to shout from the rooftops who their favorite drivers are. While Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. might have been fighting for the title during every race, they shared a group of devoted fans who paid good money to own things they touched - and good news is, they still will. The 1992 Traks Autograph Series is some of the rare NASCAR merch that combined autographs with fan-favorite drivers all in the same place. In particular, people love the duo Earnhardt and Petty card because their autographs are rubbing for dominance on the card candid photograph.
While all the Traks autographed cards are worth the value of their autographs, the Earnhardt & Petty card is something special thanks to how valuable the two legendary drivers' signatures are. PSA estimates that the card's worth about $500, like this ungraded card in fair condition that's listed on eBay for $549.
1994 Wheels High Gear Dale Earnhardt Jr. Rookie
A massively talented driver in his own right, Dale Earnhardt Jr. might be known by young'uns today for his podcast and managing his team, JR Motorsports, but he broke onto the circuit in 1996 with his very first race in Myrtle Beach. But the Wheels High Gear 1994 card series made room for a special card for Earnhardt Sr.'s expected successor, who was already making a name for himself as an up-and-coming driver.
Considered his rookie card despite being several years before he joined any professional cup series, nowadays this young portrait of a driver that'd become one of the most famous faces of the sport is worth about $100-$300 in mint condition. For example, you can find one rookie card in good condition with a PSA certified autograph listed for $149 on eBay.
2018 Panini Silver Prizm Hailie Deegan Rookie
We've still got a long way to go to pull stock car racing out of its 'good old boys' days, but women like Hailie Deegan are fighting to hold their own in a historically male-dominated sport. Making her debut in 2018 in NASCAR's K&N Pro Series West, the accompanying bright and shiny silver rookie card from Panini stands as testament to her early career successes.
According to PSA, these silver prizm cards are worth about $250 gem mint, and you can find them listed for anywhere from $75 to $500 online.
How to Find and Sell Winning NASCAR Trading Cards
The 1980s and 90s were a huge time for NASCAR merchandise; if you live anywhere near the American South, chances are at least one family member has a huge collection of NASCAR merch. Unlike baseball or football, NASCAR trading cards don't hold that much market value, but there are cards worth trying to sell. Here are a few tips for how to pick those out and get them sold before the checkered flag comes down.
- Look for the legends - Old NASCAR trading cards are really only worth the public opinion of the drivers they represent, so you've got to find the cards from famous drivers. Bonus points if you can get one of Dale Earnhardt Sr., as he's the biggest name of them all.
- Understand the audience - It's super important that you understand the people you're trying to sell any trading cards to. NASCAR is a huge draw for many, but they won't shell out thousands of dollars on a trading card - no matter how cool it is. So, you need to be realistic about how much you can actually make on your cards.
- Get your cards graded - Very few vintage and new NASCAR trading cards listed online are professionally graded, so you can get a leg up on the rest of the sellers by getting the best of your cards assessed by companies like PSA. Since they look over condition, their grades provide proof of how rare/pristine your cards are.
Connect With Other NASCAR Collectors Online
Part of the fun of going to races is getting to be a part of the crowd and shouting and cheering alongside thousands of fans as people maneuver cars through seemingly impossible speeds, and this goes for collecting as well. While it's pleasant to collect in a vacuum, it's much more fun to share with other fans about the things you've found or what you're selling. It also lets you buy, trade, and sell your trading cards (and other NASCAR merch) way quicker than just by dropping them off at a local thrift shop.
You want your stuff to stay in the community, so to speak, and there aren't too many places to do that with NASCAR collectibles. This is where social media really excels - unlike traditional auction houses where you're at the mercy of an audience that's mostly middle to upper-class individuals with expensive tastes. Meanwhile, social media has brought the broad swath of NASCAR collectors from around the world together in one place.
- NASCAR Memorabilia subreddit - Reddit might be known as one of the most bizarre places on the internet, but it can come in handy. You'd be surprised at just how many niche subreddits there are out there. For NASCAR fans with a penchant for collecting things, you'll find the NASCAR Memorabilia subreddit particularly cool. It's a modern chat room of sorts where people can share in all of the interesting and rare things they've collected, and chat about the latest NASCAR merch coming out.
- NASCAR Collectors Facebook group - This public Facebook group of 15K plus members is a great place to meet with actual collectors and get your merch seen by others and to look at other people's stuff. Since NASCAR trading card collecting isn't that big of a hobby, heading to groups like these will give you access to people you'd never get to meet in your everyday life.
Start Your Engines for These NASCAR Trading Cards
Thanks to Netflix's docuseries, Formula 1: Drive to Survive, there's been a huge renewed interest in motorsports. While that hasn't quite made it to NASCAR yet, it's bound to happen in the next few years as millennials' nostalgia for childhood comforts like NASCAR drives their pop culture consumption. So, now is the time to start sifting through that old small collection of NASCAR trading cards to see what type of payouts you could be working with.