May 22, 2024

Best 12 NASCAR Cards of All Times

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim
Shaiel Ben-Ephraim
Best 12 NASCAR Cards of All Times

NASCAR has been around for a long time. The first officially sanctioned points race took place at Daytona Beach on February 15, 1948. However, the relevant NASCAR cards have taken a long time to get off the ground, and even today, the offerings can be slim. Panini first started issuing cars for popular racing events in 2016. Before that, Press Pass was the company specializing in NASCAR card products. However, they went out of business back in 2015. Since then, Panini has produced its Prizm line for the sport, which has become the centerpiece for fans.

One of the main reasons there have not been many offerings is that getting rights for NASCAR images can be difficult. There is no drivers union, which I guess fits such a conservative sport. Therefore, card companies have to negotiate an individual deal with every athlete separately.

That relative lack of variety is generally a disadvantage to collectors, who will have less choice than fans of other sports like baseball or basketball. But the good news is that some of the cards for this sport will be particularly scarce and, therefore, valuable. Especially the best cards from the pre-Panini days can be valuable and challenging to obtain.

#12 1988 Maxx (Charlotte & Myrtle Beach) Cover Card #1

1988 Maxx (Charlotte & Myrtle Beach) Cover Card #11988 Maxx (Charlotte & Myrtle Beach) Cover Card #1

A PSA 8 sold for $250.

The 1988 Maxx Racing Cards release is probably the most iconic NASCAR Racing Cards release ever. And if the cache of racing cards continues to rise, the entire set will become more valuable. The 1988 Maxx (Charlotte & Myrtle Beach) Cover Card #1 is unique because they only released it in the complete factory set. That means that when you bought a 1988 Maxx pack, you couldn't pull it. So, it is rare and harder to obtain for completists than the other cards. It also has great action shots from the iconic racing tracks of Charlotte & Myrtle Beach and a classically gaudy junk wax design. So, while the card is not worth a ton yet, it's a substantial investment.

#11 1986 Sportstar Photographics Geoff Bodine

1986 Sportstar Photographics Geoff Bodine1986 Sportstar Photographics Geoff Bodine

A PSA 7 sold for $325.

Geoff was the 1982 Winston Cup Series Rookie of the Year. Though he never quite lived up to the incredible potential, Bodine memorably won the 1986 Daytona 500 competition. According to the legends, he was such a racing enthusiast that at age 15, Bodine dressed in drag to enter the female-only Powder Puff Derby. I have heard of drag racing before but come on.

There is no question Geoff is one of the most beloved drivers in NASCAR history, and the 1986 Sportstar Photographics Geoff Bodine card is his rookie. So, great potential here. However, the 1986 Sportstar Photographic series is not particularly well known, somewhat depressing the NASCAR card's value. Either way, if you can find a high-graded version of this low-population item, you will do very well.

#10 2019 Panini Prime Richard Petty Race Used Tires Holo-Gold Card #5

2019 Panini Prime Richard Petty Race Used Tires Holo-Gold Card #52019 Panini Prime Richard Petty Race Used Tires Holo-Gold Card #5

A BGS certified sold for $400.

You have to love this card. Petty is one of the greatest drivers, dominating the sport from 1970-79. In that stretch, Richard won a spectacular 89 of his 326 races. He also has no less than seven Daytona 500 wins, more than any other driver in history.

Of course, there were no RPAs back in the 1970s. There were hardly any NASCAR cards at all. So, the closest we get is the 2019 Panini Prime Richard Petty Race Used Tires Holo-Gold Card #5. It includes an excellent piece of wheels used by Petty back in the day, alongside his character-full signature and irrepressible smile. This will probably remain the most valuable of his post-retirement cards.

#9 1992 Traks Autograph Series Earnhardt/Petty

1992 Traks Autograph Series Earnhardt/Petty1992 Traks Autograph Series Earnhardt/Petty

A raw card went for $490.

We are lucky enough to have several dual-signed Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt cards. Of course, any card with these two legends sharing billing will be awesome. Some prefer the1998 Upper Deck SP Authentic Tradition Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Dual Autograph which enjoys a few advantages. First, it comes from a legit large card manufacturer. That is a real rarity for a pre-2016 NASCAR card. But NASCAR card collectors value the niche companies that produce racing cards and love the 1992 Traks Autograph Series Earnhardt/Petty dual autograph card. Either way, whoever bought this one raw for under $500 made a great deal.

#8 2018 Panini Prime Mark Martin Jumbo Associate Sponsor Patch 1/1

2018 Panini Prime Mark Martin Jumbo Associate Sponsor Patch 1/12018 Panini Prime Mark Martin Jumbo Associate Sponsor Patch 1/1

A BGS 9 sold for $558.

Mark Martin is like the Dan Marino of NASCAR. So often described as the best driver to never win a championship. Indeed, he finished second in the NASCAR Cup Series five times over a 31-year career. So, if you are into the romantic "what could have been" type of athlete, Mark is the guy for you.

The prices are in no way comparable yet. But the idea of an Associate Sponsor Patch card is similar to the NFL Shield or NBA Logoman. Now, it's true that having a patch for a company best known for producing Viagra might not be ideal. But it's still a unique 1/1 of a game-worn iconic item. Just remember to consult a physician if your excitement from buying this NASCAR card doesn't go away after four hours.

#7 1972 STP Bobby Allison

1972 STP Bobby Allison1972 STP Bobby Allison

A PSA 4 went for $708.

We will briefly discuss the better-known Richard Petty card from this set. But it's worth discussing the 1972 STP Bobby Allison card on its merits. The man was a legend and the founder of the notorious "Alabama Gang," a bunch of drivers working out of Hueytown, Alabama. Of course, the Hall of Famer won 3 Daytona 500 races over two decades. There is also something charmingly authentic and low-tech about the picture of Bobby with his hair flapping in the wind.

#6 1986 Sportstar Photo-Graphics Dale Earnhardt

1986 Sportstar Photo-Graphics Dale Earnhardt1986 Sportstar Photo-Graphics Dale Earnhardt

A GSC 8 sold for $800.

Dale Earnhardt is one of the most legendary NASCAR drivers of all. Renowned for his aggressive driving, fans called Dale "The Intimidator," he dominated the sport from 1986-1991. He died tragically on the race track in 2001 after crashing in the last lap of a race.

This is not the most famous early Earnhardt card. As we will see, the Maxx is better known and has a great story. Therefore, that card is most commonly considered THE rookie for Dale. However, the 1986 Sportstar Photo-Graphics Dale Earnhardt NNO is older. It also has a more unique look. It has Dale's iconic Chevrolet flying down the track on the left side and the impressive mustache of our boy on the right.

#5 1987 World of Outlaws NASCAR Jeff Gordon RC #52

1987 World of Outlaws NASCAR Jeff Gordon RC #521987 World of Outlaws NASCAR Jeff Gordon RC #52

A PSA 10 sold for $850.

Jeff Gordon was one of the best NASCAR drivers ever. But just as importantly, Jeff had the public profile to introduce the sport to new fans and helped make it one of the most popular in the country.

You can't beat the World of Outlaws for a badass manufacturer name. And as one of the few high-profile NASCAR card releases of the 1980s, it has carved out a special place in the hearts of racing collectors. But the 1987 World of Outlaws NASCAR Jeff Gordon RC #52 is easily the most desirable card in the release. The card depicts Gordon as a 16-year-old but already clearly confident and ready to rumble. Of course, many people prefer the higher profile 1991 Traks Jeff Gordon rookie card. However, there is no escaping it. The World of Outlaws release is the absolute rookie for this Hall of Famer.

#4 1972 STP Richard Petty

1972 STP Richard Petty1972 STP Richard Petty

A PSA 6 sold for $984.

There are hardly any actual NASCAR vintage cards in existence. So, we treasure all the early releases. Chief amongst those old-school NASCAR cards is the 1972 STP series. The automotive care products brand became the most important sponsor of the sport through its deal with Petty. Therefore, this limited card series also has historical significance.

Then STP president Andy Granatelli was highly interested in placing the company logo on Petty's world-famous No. 43 car. The deal almost didn't come through because Petty wanted the card to remain what he called "Petty Blue," while STP wanted him to use company red. After reaching a compromise, Petty signed a lifetime contract with STP. This series celebrates that fruitful (and lucrative partnership) initially. It is also the only recognized Petty rookie card. So, even though the 1972 STP Richard Petty features a pretty alarming smile from the star driver, it is a card well worth having.

#3 2021 National Treasures Dale Earnhardt Jr. Firesuit Booklet 1/1

2021 National Treasures Dale Earnhardt Jr. Firesuit Booklet 1/12021 National Treasures Dale Earnhardt Jr. Firesuit Booklet 1/1

A raw version sold for $2,125.

Dale is NASCAR royalty. The son of the great Dale Sr. and a two-time Daytona 500 winner in his own right and is now also a Hall of Famer. This card includes the Mountain Dew sponsorship patch. As the sponsors of the Chevy team the two Earnhardt’s represented, this could be the NASCAR equivalent of a logoman.

The price is already quite high, but we believe it will become higher. The first generation of NASCAR RPAs will probably have good value in the future, and this one may be the cream of the crop.

#2 2020 National Treasures Hailie Deegan Midnight-Green RPA #101

2020 National Treasures Hailie Deegan Midnight-Green RPA #1012020 National Treasures Hailie Deegan Midnight-Green RPA #101

A BGS 9.5 sold for $3,300.

Hailie Deegan is a 21-year-old driver from Temecula, California. NASCAR has a long history of female drivers, starting with Sara Christian, who raced from 1949-1951. Perhaps the most famous is trailblazer Danica Patrick. But happily, this is becoming a more commonplace part of the sport. And Deegan is an up-and-coming rookie and a fan favorite.

Therefore, it's unsurprising that the 2020 National Treasures Hailie Deegan Midnight-Green RPA #101 is the first genuinely high-profile NASCAR rookie patch auto. If she goes on to win high-profile races, Deegan will become a cross-cultural icon. Therefore, her RPAs are a good bet for the future. Yes, even at this price.

#1 1994 Maxx ‘88 1988 Maxx Dale Earnhardt #99 /999

1994 Maxx ‘88 1988 Maxx Dale Earnhardt #99 /9991994 Maxx ‘88 1988 Maxx Dale Earnhardt #99 /999

A PSA 10 goes for $10,000.

Since there were no widespread NASCAR releases back in the day, your best bet is often releases from smaller race specialist companies. And the 1988 Maxx set is one of the best, coming with a robust checklist of 100 drivers. The 1988 Maxx #99 Dale Earnhardt is the most scarce in this series. As the first card for Earnhardt, this is his legit rookie. It was included in the uncut sheets for the Maxx release, but for some reason, it was withheld, and the card was not included in the release. It was most likely a legal dispute about using Dale's image. So, they kept the card in the factory. In the 1989 Maxx release, they used the same image as the 1988 card, having settled the problem.

So, how did this card become available to the public? Funny story. In 1994, the 1988 Maxx Dale Earnhardt #99 card in their 1994 Maxx Medallion wax release. It came as a case hit redemption card. With 999 total cases sold, the population count is known and not exceptionally high. And, of course, since this is the actual rookie card for the legendary driver, it has taken on a mythical significance in the hobby. In addition, copies from the original pressing have leaked from the Maxx factory over the years.

Final Word On The 12 Best NASCAR Cards of All Times

NASCAR cards currently have lower values than their F-1 counterparts. But that may be a good thing. The sport is ingrained in the American consciousness and has a loyal fan base. The lower print runs, values, and interest could mean the cards will be more valuable. Bubbles tend to burst. But the slow, steady build of the NASCAR side of the hobby suggests something more sustainable.

Meanwhile, if you are into the ultra-modern NASCAR cards, there is plenty of opportunity. We are just entering the RPA period for these cards; some early ones could become iconic, especially if a driver can crossover to broader acclaim.

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