Eldrick Tont "Tiger" Woods isn't just one of the best golfers in history, though he certainly is that. Tiger is also one of the best-known athletes in the world. His talent was spotted particularly early. At age 2, he was hitting golf balls on TV with comedian Bob Hope. At age 5, he was already featured in Golf Digest. It appeared the man was born with perfect technique.
Child prodigies often burn out and disappoint. However, Woods managed to sustain a long and dominant streak of titles and achievements, placing him at the sport's apex. The golfer has 82 PGA Tour wins, tied for the most ever. Woods also won PGA Player of the Year ten times.
But it ain't all about golf. Woods also emerged at a time when the hopes of a post-racial America were crystallizing. The golfer comes from a multiracial home. As he rose to success, Tiger became a symbol of a new era of racial tolerance. The same surge that brought the Williams sisters and Barack Obama to prominence. As we know, those social hopes have since been dashed. But they are a crucial part of the Woods story. The combination of his racial significance and professional excellence created his iconic status. At age 21, he was not only the first Black winner of the US Masters. Tiger Woods was also the youngest and triumphed by hitting 18 under par. An unparalleled achievement.
This combination of cultural relevance and brilliance guarantees Tiger Woods's long-term collectability. Golf cards are generally not a particularly popular format. But Woods stands above the sport and the format.
2001 Upper Deck Golf Tiger Woods #1
A PSA 10 sold for $415
In retrospect, it's pretty amazing that it took the major card companies this long to issue a Tiger Woods card. Of course, by 2001, Tiger had long established himself as the world's best golfer, possibly in history. But golf just isn't a mainstay of the hobby. Indeed, the existence of Woods is probably the main reason Upper Deck ever got around to issuing a golf series. It had been almost a decade since the 1992 Pro Set, which was the last major for the sport. Because Tiger had never appeared in an extensive set before, Upper Deck claims this is his rookie card, but of course, we do have the 1996 Sports Illustrated for Kids card, which was issued five years earlier.
But rookie card or not, the 2001 Upper Deck Golf Tiger Woods #1 is the key card in any Tiger collection. The image of the golfer celebrating an accurate putt is perfect. A definitive study in sports iconography and a reminder of how good Upper Deck can be at this kind of thing. Luckily it is also an affordable card and an available cornerstone of a Woods collection.
2012 SP Authentic Sign of the Times Duals Tiger Woods / Michael Jordan #ST2TM Autograph
A PSA 10 sold for $3,450
Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods may just be the two most legendary athletes of the 1990s. And the 2012 SP Authentic Sign of the Times Duals Tiger Woods / Michael Jordan #ST2TM Autograph is a chance to get an auto from both. Considering that their separate autos tend to go for a lot more, the real question is, why does this item have such a low value by comparison? It certainly isn't because the card is easy to get. There is only one PSA 10 out there, and it has sold for a hair under $3,500. Well, the only sale took place in 2019, and that was before the COVID-era card boom. It would go for several times that price at this point. The one thing working against the card is the design. Tiger looks like he wants to go home and play some PS3. And Jordan has that "man, I am off my game" look. A wasted opportunity.
1997 Tiger Woods Sported! Magazine Shooting Stars
A PSA 10 sold for $8,000
As any golf cards collector knows, Tiger Woods didn't enjoy a card in a traditional large card manufacturer release until 2021. That was years into his legendary career. So, we have limited issue cards from magazines and special events for his earlier years. Sported! magazine appeared briefly in the mid-1990s before fading into utter oblivion. But we aren't gonna hate. The design for the 1997 Tiger Woods Sported! Magazine Shooting Stars card is as good or better than many card company designs from the 90s. Sure, all the images of Woods are a bit busy. But they combine into a cohesive whole and perfectly capture the zeitgeist of 1997.
2012 SP Game Used Golf Inked Drivers Silver Tiger Woods #IDTW Autograph
A PSA 10 sold for $8,520
By 2012, we already had a significant selection of Tiger Woods autos to choose from. But this card offers a unique design that makes it look like the face of a driver's head. So, if you thought otherwise, this is not an authentic game used memorabilia. After all, that would be logistically difficult but still a bit disappointing for a release called "Game Used Golf." Whatever happened to the truth in advertising, guys?
Either way, the 2012 SP Game Used Golf Inked Drivers Silver Tiger Woods #IDTW Autograph is reasonably priced. And you can also seek it out in two more limited parallels: Black (/25) and Red & White (/5).
2013 Goodwin Champions Sport Royalty Autographs Tiger Woods #SRATW
A PSA 10 sold for $11,000
The Goodwin Champions Series is an unlicensed knockoff of the classic 1933 Sports King release. Unfortunately, the rights to that design belong to a different company. But don't let that stop you from admiring the modern spin they put on those classic designs. And they certainly make this strong Tiger Woods item sing while keeping it within the confines of the traditional release. In my view, the silhouettes are what really sell the 2013 Goodwin Champions Sport Royalty Autographs Tiger Woods #SRATW. And, of course, the large white border at the bottom offsets that impressively graceful signature. An underappreciated Tiger auto.
2013 Upper Deck Tiger Woods Master Collection Exquisite Rookie Patch Autograph Tiger Woods #ERP-TW /25
A PSA 10 sold for $14,500
Calling a Tiger Woods card from 2013 a Rookie Patch Auto is an insult to everyone's intelligence. Especially since having a Tiger Patch Auto is pretty awesome, to begin with. But Upper Deck has produced so many great golf cards that we will forgive them. But I'm keeping my eyes on your Carlsbad headquarters.
The aesthetic qualities of the 2013 Upper Deck Tiger Woods Master Collection Exquisite Rookie Patch Autograph Tiger Woods #ERP-TW /25 vary wildly with the patch's content. Some of them are plain, and others offset the white better. But either way, the signature and wonderful image of the legend celebrating make this a quality card.
2013 Tiger Woods Precious Metal Gems (PMG) Purple /125 (Employee Exclusive) #E-TW
A PSA 10 sold for $24,600
The Metal Gems series was a bold statement in modern design and made cards that looked like nothing else on the market then. Today the look for these cards appears less innovative. We have seen many card companies try to produce something similar. But the cohesiveness and taste of these color schemes far outdoes any of its more recent imitators. All the Tiger Woods designs in the 2013 release are top-notch, but the 2013 Tiger Woods Precious Metal Gems (PMG) Purple /125 (Employee Exclusive) #E-TW is a particular favorite with collectors. This limited edition is particularly desirable because the company made it exclusively for their employees. So, it's a very cool item to have. Indeed, the limited number and unique design concept guarantee this item's long-term solid value.
2001 Tiger Woods Upper Deck Gallery Autograph #GG-TW
A PSA 10 sold for $25,000
There are no early Tiger Woods auto cards, but a couple popped up in 2001. So as one of his early auto cards, it's unsurprising that the 2001 Tiger Woods Upper Deck Gallery Autograph #GG-TW has substantial value. The card is also numbered to /50, making it one of the first low-numbered auto cards and a landmark in the hobby. With only three of these babies gemming, you will want to seek out any ungraded copies and send them into PSA or BGS. Tiger has a beautiful autograph, and the numbering written in his hand was innovative for the time and a great touch.
1996 Sports Illustrated for Kids Tiger Woods Rookie Card #536
A PSA 10 sold for $41,544
You may be wondering why such a basic-looking card for children is worth this much money. And on a philosophical level, that is an excellent question. But from a hobby perspective, the massive value of the 1996 Sports Illustrated for Kids Tiger Woods Rookie Card #536 makes perfect sense. First, this is the earliest card of the golfer. It is, indeed, his only genuine rookie. Unless you only consider the significant card company issues to be rookie cards.
Second, the Sports Illustrated for Kids cards is notoriously difficult to grade. They came in these sheets of nine, with perforated edges. So, separating them evenly without tearing the body of the cards was nearly impossible. And it was little kids doing the tearing, so the problem is even more severe. But those who were smart enough to keep the sheet complete have been rewarded with a valuable card.
1998 Tiger Woods Champions of Golf Masters Collection
A PSA 10 sold for $64,316
A PSA 9 of the gold foil sold for $2,390
The 1998 Tiger Woods Champions of Golf Masters Collection has a thin, sleek aesthetic that isn't for everyone. Most collectors likely prefer standard cards to this design. But still, this card fetches excellent value. It marks a historic occasion, the unforgettable 1997 US Masters. That victory was a shock that reshaped the entire sport. After missing the cut the previous year, the 21-year-old absolutely dominated and won the event by 12 strokes. And, of course, it marked the first time a nonwhite golfer won this event, which upholds the traditional values of the sport.
But the scarcity of the top grades is what put this card over the top. This item has two varieties: the standard and the gold foil. The pop count for both is remarkably low, with only two gems for the regular and none for the gold.
2001 SP Authentic Tiger Woods RC #45 Autograph #/900
A PSA 10 of the gold version sold for $116,400
A PSA 10 of the regular version sold for $49,200.
Several factors can explain the popularity of this card. First, it is a relatively early autograph of the golf icon. Autos had just started to become standard in the hobby in the late 1990s. And unsurprisingly, the card companies did not start with golf. So, it took a while before the first Woods autos rolled along.
Meanwhile, the 2001 SP Authentic Tiger Woods RC #45 Autograph #/900 is also numbered. Not all that low, but that still increases value. And, of course, you can go for extra scarcity by springing for the gold version, which is limited to 100 copies. With only 16 PSA 10s of the gold variety, you can see why they have that incredibly high price point.
The card design is nothing special. But SP was a great quality card made from the best materials. The photo is certainly well taken and captures the intensity Tiger brought to the green. And, of course, the clincher here is the gorgeous on-card signature.
Final Word On The Best And Most Expensive Tiger Woods Cards
Tiger Woods is the father of the modern golf card. After years of neglect, he brought the sport back into the spotlight. Upper Deck led the way and, starting in 2001, created a wide variety of gorgeous cards for the golfer. And today, we have several annual releases, all building on the popularity Woods brought to this often-neglected hobby sector.