Goooooaaal! Top 10 Pelé Cards
The greatest soccer player in history was born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, but the world knows him as Pelé. Despite not appearing on the pitch in nearly 40 years, Pelé enjoys a near-mythical reputation as the best player in the most popular global sport. A recent deal with Topps has brought his cards and autographs to the forefront of the hobby and Pelé cards are trending upwards.
The Brazilian-born Pelé spent nearly his entire career making headlines for the Brazilian National Team and the Brazilian professional team, Santos FC. Similar to more modern elite soccer talents, like David Beckham and Thierry Henry, Pelé came to the United States at the end of his career. He joined the now-defunct New York Cosmos in 1975, and was responsible for a brief stateside surge of interest in soccer.
Outside of the past few years, there are not a ton of mainstream cards available for Pelé. The following list details ten of the best options for Pelé card collectors.
Top 10 Pelé Cards
While it is hard to definitively name one Pelé card as his true rookie card, the 1958 Alifabolaget is the among the top options. Several regional cards with low print runs lay claim to this title, so it really just boils down to personal preference, budget and card availability. With a full-color image and appealing look, the Italian-made Alifabolaget is a great card, if you can find one. In September of 2013, a PSA 8.5 sold for $1,588.88.
This early Pelé card remains popular despite oddball origins. The dual "card" is actually cut from a Swedish magazine and normally includes Manoel Francisco Santos, although some are cut further to present the Pelé card solo. Due to its thin magazine stock and the fact that it is literally cut from a magazine, this is generally considered the least preferred of the options vying for rookie card status. One interesting note is that this card appears to feature Pelé's full name. However, upon closer examination, the card is attributed to "Edvaldo Alves Santarosa." Edvaldo Alves de Santa Rosa is actually the official name for the original Dida, a former Brazilian soccer star, who passed away in 2002.
Another early card for the soccer superstar, the Quigol Pelé was made in Brazil, which does boost its appeal to many collectors. Several other cards printed in Brazil have emerged from around the same time, so again, it is hard to designate one as the true rookie. This undersized card is very rare and an ungraded copy sold for $1,200 in August of 2013.
Despite some debate about when this card was actually printed and released, the Heinerle card remains a popular options among Pelé cards. This German-made card was either released in late-1958 or early-1959. The deep-colored image shows a young Pelé going up for a header. The card back showcases a soccer figure design in the background.
The first option from a manufacturer that is familiar to most collectors, Panini released this Pelé card in 1964. With the full colors of Brazil on display, this is one of the more affordable early cards for Pelé. Panini released several other Pelé cards in the 1960s and 1970s.
It was not until 2008 that collectors were treated to certified pack-pulled Pelé autographs. The former soccer great appeared in Sportkings Series B and C. Although the overall design is okay, the nondescript feel and small image of Pelé leaves much to be desired. The large on-card signature is a nice positive. There are six different base silver autographed versions. The first three, from Series B, are numbered to 25 and the last three, from Series C, are numbered to 20. There are also gold parallels of each card, which are all numbered to 10.
Found in 2013 Topps Allen & Ginter Baseball, many have questioned why a soccer star is being pushed in baseball products. Superstar athletes tend to transcend their individual sports, and a strong design, on-card signature, and Topps brand power, make for a great Pelé collectible. Prices fall in a large range, but they have generally been selling for $275 to $400.
Also from 2013 Topps Allen & Ginter Baseball, the distinct A&G design is paired with a small jersey piece from Pelé. This is the best and most affordable current mainstream option for collectors to obtain a piece of a jersey, however small, that was worn by the greatest soccer player in the world.
Another terrific autographed option, 2013 Topps Tier One brings a refined design and layout to Pelé collectors. With a print run of only 50, sale prices are consistently $200+.
2014 Panini Prizm World Cup Signatures Pelé #S-PEL
Showcasing the former great in his familiar Brazilian jersey, this 2014 Panini Prizm World Cup Pelé card is appealing for many reasons and has added significance since Brazil was the home country for the 2014 Word Cup.
Yes, it is a sticker autograph, which keeps it from being one of the greatest soccer cards of all-time, but man, what a pairing. Combining the signature of the greatest of all-time with the signature of the one of the top players in modern soccer, this rare card is very special. A Prizm parallel, also numbered to 10, doubles the print run to 20 total copies.