In his prime, Satchel Paige was a Negro League superstar. His short stint in the majors means there are few Satchel Paige baseball cards issued during his playing days.
It was said that in his prime, Paige had his infielders sit behind him while he struck out the side during tours across America. Often dominating white teams composed of Major League All-Stars, Paige unfortunately was not allowed to play in the big leagues until late in his career.
Making his big league debut in 1948 at the ripe old age of 42, Paige never got to unleash his best stuff as a big leaguer and as a result, he is one of the few players in the Hall of Fame who actually has a lifetime losing record (Relief aces Bruce Sutter and Rollie Fingers are the others). Sixteen years after his final big league appearance, Satch was nominated for the Hall of Fame on February 9, 1971. His formal election would happen in June of that year by a new special committee formed to give Negro League stars their due in Cooperstown.
1949 Leaf Satchel Paige Rookie Card
Not long after his big league debut, Paige was featured on his first official MLB card, the 1949 Leaf (#8) card that features a portrait style photo of him. Using his actual first name of Leroy, the card is among the most sought after and valuable baseball cards from the post-War era. A single print, Paige’s rookie card is a tough find in high-grade.
The highest grade available on PSA’s population report is NM/MT 8 and only five of those exist. One of them sold in 2007 for $89,087. Today? Likely a six-figure card. In 2013, an SGC 84 (NM 7) example sold for $20,315. Cards in mid-grade sell for $6,000-$8,000 and lower grade examples are much less.
1948 Satchel Paige Exhibit
Paige was also in a lesser-known set. The late 1940s and early 50s Exhibit cards measure 3-3/8” by 5-3/8” and are not as well-known or highly collected as the major gum card sets. They’re also much cheaper.
Paige has an individual card in the set that was distributed largely through penny arcade machines and at fairs and carnivals around the country. Paige is also featured on a 1948 Indians team card. Both are inexpensive and a few examples are on eBay now.
1949 Bowman Satchel Paige Rookie Card
In 1949, Paige found himself on another card—a 1949 Bowman (#224). A portrait style photo which had his nickname in quotes (spelled with two Ls), the card represents a major discount for Paige collectors from the Leaf issue.
While a PSA 5 can command about $600 and a PSA 7 around $1800, a PSA 9 is hard to come by. Only eight are on the Population Report. One sold for more than $20,000 in 2013 while a PSA 8.5 represented a relative bargain when it sold for $6,518 in 2014.
Mid-grade examples are several hundred dollars on eBay and represent a pretty solid buy for what is essentially a rookie card for one of the greatest pitchers in history.
1953 Topps Satchel Paige (only Topps card)
Paige disappears from cards in 1950, 1951 and 1952 as he drifted in and out of the majors, but in the last full year he would enjoy in the big leagues, he was signed by Bill Veeck’s St. Louis Browns and is featured on 1953 Topps #220.
While he did make a one-game cameo in 1955, the beautiful illustration that is the '53 Topps represents the last card depicting him as an active player, making it a popular one among collectors. This card also spelled Satchel with two Ls .
Just seven PSA 9 1953 Topps Paige cards are out there, which it should come as no surprise that one sold for $11,643 in 2014. However, NM/MT graded examples can be found for $2,000-$3,000 and mid-range cards are available for $200-400. There are often a few dozen available on eBay at any given time.