Yadier Molina is one of the greatest defensive catchers to grace Major League Baseball, taking home multiple Gold Glove Awards and erasing countless runners from the base paths. His nearly two-decade career is very likely to result in the strong-armed catcher earning a place in the Hall of Fame. "Yadi" has long had a strong presence in the baseball card hobby that has only grown as his case for induction in Cooperstown has gained traction. This list revisits some of the best Yadier Molina cards.
Yadier Molina reached the majors in 2004. At the time, he was mainly known as the younger brother of Angels catchers Jose and Bengie Molina. During his long and storied career in St. Louis, Molina teamed up with players such as Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen to help the Cardinals reach the World Series four times, taking home the pennant in 2006 and 2011. While Yadi has surpassed several Hall of Fame catchers in offensive production, his ability to throw out runners on the bases and manage pitchers are his hallmarks as a player and the reason he will be joining the game's elite in Cooperstown.
In retrospect, it is a little surprising that Yadier Molina cards did not make an appearance in a major release until the year of his MLB debut given the growing popularity of prospect cards in the early 2000s. The majority of Yadier Molina rookie cards appeared in late-calendar products with several being produced due to a one-time exemption the MLBPA made with Playoff, Upper Deck and Fleer. Over the years, Molina's popularity in the baseball card hobby propelled him to be a regular on checklists for the vast majority of products. The list below considers the thousands of Yadier Molina cards produced over the years and narrows it down to the most important pre-rookies, rookies, hard-to-find inserts and parallels, relics, and autographed cards.
Top 10 Yadier Molina Baseball Cards
Bolded links go directly to detailed product profiles or player guides when available.
10T. 2001 Grandstand Appalachian League Top Prospects Yadier Molina
Yadier Molina made his professional debut with the Johnson City Redbirds in 2001. The future Cardinals catcher had an immediate impact in the short-season Rookie League and was included in the Grandstand Appalachian League Top Prospects set in 2001. Yadi only played two full seasons in the Minor Leagues, so the quantity of his pre-rookie cards is somewhat limited. This card was available in sets sold at the team stores of Appalachian League teams. The limited marketplace obviously meant that the production was likely low, as Grandstand explicitly limited quantities on some of their releases around this time.
Furthermore, this Top Prospects set was already popular in the hobby world before the emergence of Yadier Molina as a Hall of Fame candidate. The initial wave of popularity was driven by the cards of the Twins' first overall draft pick in 2001, Joe Mauer. There is also an updated version of this set that includes a great pre-rookie card of long-time Mets third baseman David Wright.
10T. 2001 Grandstand Johnson City Cardinals Yadier Molina
Beyond Molina's appearance in 2001 Grandstand Appalachian League Top Prospects, he also appeared in the limited Johnson City Redbirds team set. The cards were available in the team store, but with limited production of just 1,000 sets. There were several players on the checklist who reached the majors, but the initial popularity of this Grandstand set was driven by talented prospect Rick Ankiel. The pitcher took the game and baseball card hobby by storm in 2000, but his career was derailed by a case of the yips. By the time Yadier Molina reached the show in 2004, many of these sets had already found a home. Over time, as Yadi has cemented his case for the Hall of Fame, very few copies of this card have become available on the secondary market. Whether it is available within the team set or as a single card, this can be one of Molina's toughest baseball cards to locate.
9. 2004 Topps Cracker Jack Yadier Molina RC #204
Topps briefly relaunched the Cracker Jack brand in 2004 and 2005 as part of a wave of vintage reboots. The 2004 Cracker Jack product was largely modeled after 1914 Cracker Jack, but with modern sizing. Topps included all sorts of frills that gave the product a vintage feel, including the inclusion of miniature cards, short prints, variations, and players from the original product, like Nap Lajoie. There were more than a dozen rookie cards included on the checklist of the 2004 Cracker Jack set, but none panned out beyond Molina.
Yadi's base Cracker Jack card is relatively inexpensive, but the mini and its parallels are highly sought-after collectibles. The Red base miniature cards came one per pack, so they are not overly difficult to find, but are still more expensive than the regular base. The miniature set also featured a Blue edition and a Sticker parallel. If you are just starting a collection of Yadier Molina cards, 2004 Topps Cracker Jack is a great place to begin.
8T. 2004 Bowman Chrome Yadier Molina #301
Bowman Chrome has etched its place in the hobby world as the top product for first-year player autographs. Those autograph checklists have expanded greatly over the years as Bowman Chrome's popularity has grown. However, during the brand's infancy in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the autograph checklists were usually limited in quantity. Collectors looking at players from these early years may not always find accompanying autographed versions. Yadier Molina is one of those players who only appeared in the 2004 Bowman Chrome base set.
While this fact may slightly diminish the luster of this card for some collectors, the parallels have more than made up for a lack of an autograph from the Cardinals backstop. Those parallels include Refractors, shown below, and Gold Refractors (#/50), along with Blue Refractors (#/290) and X-Fractors (#/172). The latter two parallel sets were distributed as box toppers.
8T. 2004 Bowman Chrome Yadier Molina RC #301
Collectors can also track down copies of Yadier Molina's base Bowman card. While it lacks the frills and fancy parallels of the Bowman Chrome card, it is one of Yadi's more affordable rookie cards. And the Bowman base card still holds challenges within its parallel ranks. The non-serial-numbered Gold is a per-pack parallel that has a slight markup from the base card. Bowman also had topper parallels with Uncirculated Silver (#/245) and Uncirculated Gold.
Another option is Bowman First Edition. The First Edition cards were inserted into boxes that Topps included in cases of Bowman. Each case contained two boxes of First Edition, with 20 packs in each box and 10 cards in each pack. The cards have a small "1st Edition" logo in the upper-right corner. This Molina issue has a shorter print run than both the Bowman Chrome and Bowman cards. As such, collectors have a more limited selection when searching for Yadi's First Edition card, which also comes with a larger price tag.
7T. 2007 Topps 2016 World Champions Relics Yadier Molina #WCR
During his illustrious career, Yadier Molina helped the Cardinals win two World Series Championships. The first came in 2006 when the Redbirds upset both the New York Mets and Detroit Tigers in the MLB Postseason. These playoffs were important for Molina, as his NLCS series-clinching home run against the Mets put him on the map for many baseball card collectors. Topps naturally included Molina on the checklist of their World Championship relics set for 2007 Topps Series 1. While the Postseason relic cards have become more common in recent years, the first few renditions of this insert set, which began in 2005, had extraordinarily long odds. This hard-to-find Molina relic card is quite rare on the secondary market, but it reflects one of the best moments of his career.
7T. 2012 Topps 2011 World Champions Relics Yadier Molina #CR-YM
Yadier Molina appeared in the 2012 Topps World Champions Relics set after helping the Cardinals to defeat the Texas Rangers in the 2011 World Series. The relic set again featured tough odds and Topps added serial numbering (#/100). While there are also autographs for some players, Molina did not sign any cards. This is one of Molina's most popular cards, but another one that has very limited availability.
6. 2004 Topps Heritage Chrome Yadier Molina #THC99 #/1,955
The 2004 Topps Heritage set was one of the few early-calendar releases with Yadier Molina rookie cards. The popular, annual Topps release featured the design of the classic 1955 Topps set. The Cardinals catcher did appear in the base set, but the real prize for collectors is his Heritage Chrome card. The Chrome parallel set is roughly a quarter of the size of the base set with only three cards per Hobby box. Although the odds for this Molina rookie card do not seem overly steep, supply has dwindled and the cost has greatly increased.
There are three versions of the card: the base Chrome numbered to 1,955 copies, the Refractor numbered to 555 copies, and the Black Refractor numbered to just 55 copies.
5. 2004 Ultimate Collection Ultimate Rookies Yadier Molina RC #215 Autograph #/75
One of Yadier Molina's scarcest rookie cards appeared in 2004 Ultimate Collection Baseball from Upper Deck. The high-end release focused on serial numbered autographs and memorabilia cards for mostly current players or all-time greats, like Stan Musial, Ken Griffey Jr and Bob Gibson.
This certified autograph is one of his most highly sought-after cards, but it is limited to just 75 copies with a few rare parallels. Many collectors view it as the quintessential Yadier Molina rookie card, but over the years its availability has become very limited. Copies rarely become available on the secondary market, and when they do, the cost is amongst the most expensive cards of the Cardinals catcher.
4. 2004 Leaf Certified Cuts Yadier Molina RC #300 Autograph #/499
Playoff produced Leaf Certified Cuts for several years in the early 2000s, with the biggest cards being a pair of Cardinals rookies. Albert Pujols was included on the checklist of the 2001 product, while Yadier Molina was included in 2004. Similar to other Molina autographed rookies, this Certified Cuts autograph is a sticker, so there can be condition issues such as fading. Yadier Molina has also changed his signature over the years, giving these a different look compared to more recent certified Yadi autographs.
The 300-card Leaf Certified Cuts product included Molina in the 50-card Rookie Autographs subset. The Rookie Autographs can have varying print runs up to 599 copies, which makes this Molina rookie card a slight short-print, but there are still plenty of copies out there to add to your collection. There are several colored parallels of this autograph that are a little tougher to find with additional cost. The more plentiful parallels include Marble Red (#/100), Marble Blue (#/50) and Marble Gold (#/25).
Another, more-limited choice from the cardmaker is his Leaf Limited rookie autograph with just 99 copies.
3. 2004 Topps Chrome Yadier Molina RC #219
Topps Chrome has become a go-to product for collectors looking for on-card rookie autographs. However, the first few Chrome releases featured a smaller group of autographs. The 2004 Topps Chrome product was split into two series with a dozen players signing cards for each release. Yadier Molina was issued in Topps Chrome Series 1, but no autograph of the Cardinals catcher was included in the set. This is one of Molina's most popular rookie cards and easily the best non-autographed rookie card of the future Hall of Fame backstop.
There are several parallels of this Yadier Molina rookie card, with the majority being non-serial numbered cards. Topps included five Refractors, four Gold Refractors, and two Black Refractor cards in each box, but none of these parallels are serial numbered. The quantity and price of these parallels are still fairly steep even without the serial number. The Red X-Fractor parallel was limited to just 63 copies and represents one of the toughest first-year Molina cards to find.
Of course, his standard flagship rookie (#324) is also popular.
2. 2004 Bowman's Best Autograph Yadier Molina #BB-YM
Topps included its lone rookie autograph of Yadier Molina in their end-of-year Bowman's Best product. Yadi was found in several other Topps products throughout the 2004 calendar year, but all of the cards were attached to the base set. While Molina has been a regular in autograph checklists in recent years, this Bowman's Best autograph was his only certified signature with the card manufacturer from the time of his Major League debut in 2004, until 2014, when he appeared in Topps Tribute and Museum Collection.
2004 Bowman's Best was a per-pack autograph product split almost evenly between veteran player cards and first-year player autographs. Yadier Molina was joined on the autograph checklist by long-time Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez. There may be more popular and in-demand rookie autographs of Yadier Molina on the secondary market, but for many of his most ardent collectors, the fact that this card is Yadi's lone on-card Topps signature from 2004 makes this card a must-own.
There are two parallels to the Molina autograph, but they are limited in quantity, can be tough to find, and are often high in price. The Green parallel is numbered to 50 copies and the Red has only 10 copies.
1. 2004 Donruss Elite Extra Edition Yadier Molina RC #273 Autograph #/1,000
The MLBPA gave Playoff, Upper Deck, and Fleer a one-time exemption to manufacture cards of players who were not on 40-man MLB rosters during the 2004 calendar year. All three card manufacturers jumped at the chance to include newly-drafted players and top Minor League prospects in their baseball card lineups. Playoff used their exemption with the late-year Donruss Elite Extra Edition release. There is little design difference between these cards and the Donruss Elite set outside of the word "Extra Edition" at the top of the card. Collectors were guaranteed two rookie autographs per box, but there were more than 100 recent draftees and prospects included on the checklist.
While there were long odds of pulling a Yadier Molina autograph from a pack in 2004, the Cardinals catcher did sign a full run of 1,000 copies. The Elite Extra Edition autograph can still be found on the secondary market with relative ease, but its price and popularity have increased greatly over the past few years as he has solidified his Hall of Fame case.
There are several parallels of this Yadier Molina rookie autograph, but they have very short print runs and several are condition sensitive due to the fact that they are die-cut. Autographs parallels include Turn of the Century Die-Cut (#/100), Aspirations Die-Cut (#/50), Aspirations Die-Cut Gold (#/20), Status Die-Cut (#/25), and Status Die-Cut Gold (#/10). There are also a few unsigned versions.