For many, Pelé is the best soccer player in history; Early in his career, he became a teenage superstar, after being one of the key players in Brazil’s 1958 World Cup win.
He went on to win two more World Cup titles, and for a time he held the record for the most goals in professional soccer, before Cristiano Ronaldo broke that.
He spent almost his entire domestic career with Santos, before a brief spell with the New York Cosmos.
The 1958 Alifabolaget Pelé rookie card is by far his most sought-after and valuable card, having been the first soccer card to break the $1million barrier. His various rookie cards are extremely valuable, partly because of their rarity.
He also has numerous modern cards, which feature his signature – The following list is a full guide to the best and most valuable Pelé cards.
Table of Contents
The 3 Most Expensive Pelé Cards Ranked
The Top Pelé Soccer Cards
1957 A Americana Ltda. Balas Futebol Pelé #11
The 1957 Balas Futebol Pelé card is his earliest release, and his second most expensive soccer card ever sold, after an SGC 2 graded copy sold for $486k in February 2022.
The 1957 Balas Futebol release was a sticker album set, with small stamp-sized player stickers from teams in the Brazilian soccer league, to complete team sets in the album that they were intended for.
The concept is like what we see with Panini’s World Cup sticker albums that we see in the hobby today, but for domestic Brazilian soccer, where collectors would collect stickers and put them into the album as they go.
At the time, Pelé was playing for Santos, and he was 1 of 12 Santos stickers – Santos were on the first page of the whole album, and Pelé’s rookie sticker was number 11.
Being a sticker, which was intended to be stuck into an album, and one that’s so small in size, it’s incredibly hard to find this one loose; That is certainly a contributing factor to SGC’s only graded copy on record selling for so much in 2022.
1957 Oliveira & Benassi Balas Equipe Pelé #54
This one is another card released in Pelé’s rookie season, and it offers another rare and valuable Pelé rookie card option.
The album featured players and teams that participated in the 1957 Campeonato Paulista, which is a professional Brazilian soccer league in the state of São Paulo.
It features the same image of Pelé in his Santos jersey as we see on his Balas Futebol sticker from the same year, again on a yellow background, but it’s slightly bigger and features a different name box design – In this album, his sticker is number 54.
Very few graded copies of this exist, and PSA’s only 1.5 graded version sold for $187k via Goldin Auctions in December 2020.
1958 Alifabolaget Pelé #635
The 1958 Alifabolaget Pelé card is the holy grail of all soccer cards; It holds the record as the most expensive soccer card ever sold, after a PSA 9 graded copy sold for $1.33 million in February 2022.
While there is some debate about which Pelé card is his true rookie card, the majority of hobbyists agree that this one is the most desirable.
Alifabolaget were a Swedish based trading card manufacturer who had been around for almost a decade before they released this iconic 1958 Pelé rookie.
Sweden hosted the 1958 FIFA World Cup, which a teenage Pelé starred in, and won with Brazil, to claim the first of his three World Cup titles.
The 36-card Alifabolaget 1958 international soccer set for that World Cup included this simple but appealing Pelé rookie card, which shows a colored image of him looking serious in his blue Brazil jersey.
The card itself is rare, which contributes to its high value – PSA, for example, have recorded very few graded copies of it, particularly in the higher grades.
1958 Ave Ltda. Colecao Titulares Pelé #50, #86
The 1958 Titulares set was another album featuring Brazilian soccer’s best teams and players, at a time when Brazilian soccer was entering a golden era with names like Pelé and Garrincha, among others.
Pelé is actually featured on two different cards from the set – The horizontal #50 card, and the vertical #86 card.
The #86 card is not only more appealing visually of the two, it’s also the rarer and more valuable option; It was a shorter-print back in 1958 when the set was released, considered to be one of the tougher finds in the whole set, so naturally it’s even harder to come across today.
There are three known variations of the #86 card: one has just an overprint signature (the most common), one has the signature and a star (pictured above) and one version doesn’t have either, which in my experience is the rarest.
These cards are prone to counterfeiting, so be wary of buying fake raw versions.
A PSA 4 graded version of the #50 card sold for $12,300 is 2021, and a PSA 2 graded version of the #86 card (with overprint signature and star) sold for $15,600 in 2022.
1958 Americana Ltda. Album Futebol Pelé
The 1958 Album Futebol Pelé card is one of my personal favorites, as it features a happy-looking teenage Pelé wearing the iconic yellow and green colors of the Brazil national team.
My opinion is shared by many others, as it’s one of the most valuable and desired Pelé cards of all time; The $204k sale of a PSA 6 copy in 2022 makes it Pelé’s third most expensive ever.
The Album Futebol set featured players and teams from the Brazilian soccer league, as well as players who would play in the 1958 World Cup for the national team, which were on the first page of the album; Pelé was included on the national team page, which is why he’s wearing his Brazil jersey on his card.
1958 Swedish Rekord Journal Pelé
The 1958 Swedish Rekord Journal Pelé rookie card offers something a bit different, it’s actually a cut-out from a magazine, which means it’s on very thin magazine stock.
It’s a dual ‘card’ featuring Pelé alongside the fellow great Manuel Francisco dos Santos, who is better known as Garrincha.
It’s not as sought-after as some of the other Pelé rookies, which is perhaps because of its oddball status, but it’s still scarce and very valuable in the top grades.
Despite it being cut from a magazine, there are copies that exist in the highest grade, like a PSA 10, for example – In November 2021, a PSA 10 version sold for just over $60k.
1958-59 Tupinamba Ltda. Colecao Quigol Pelé #109
The Colecao Quigol card, issued by Tupinamba Ltda. in Brazil, is one of the most desirable and valuable Pelé rookie cards.
The cards were issued on a thin and fragile stock, and they were intended to be stuck into the album for the set, so it’s almost impossible to find one loose.
Quigol cards were a big hit when they were first released, not just because of the popular designs and star names, but because Tupinamba Ltda. offered prizes for completing certain groups of cards – Numbers 100-110, which were the Santos players that included Pelé, could win collectors an alarm clock.
Pelé’s iconic Quigol card is one of his most expensive ever; A PSA 8 graded copy of the card sold for $180k in 2021 – It’s a vintage soccer gem.
1959 Heinerle Pelé
The Heinerle set was published in West Germany, and there has been some debate about whether it was released in 1958 or 1959.
Cards from the set feature an image, with a description on the back, in German; On the back of this Pelé card, it talks about the 1958 World Cup final, where Brazil beat Sweden 5-2, and the “boy wonder” Pelé grabbed the attention of fans. It also mentions the image showing Sweden’s goalkeeper Kalle Svensson being unable to stop the jumping Pelé.
A different card from the same set features an image and description of an English FA Cup final game between Nottingham Forest and Luton Town, which took place in May 1959, so that confirms this Heinerle Pelé card as a 1959 release, and not 1958 as some collectors have claimed; It’s therefore not a Pelé rookie.
1964 Panini Calciatori Coppe Pelé
For collectors who want a Pelé card from a brand they’re probably more familiar with, will have to look to the 1964 Panini Calciatori Coppe card for the first option.
By the time Panini released this card, Pelé had won two of his three World Cup titles with Brazil, and was comfortably the best player in the world.
It features an image of him in the iconic yellow and green Brazil jersey – I think, visually, this is one of the best Pelé cards.
Again, like many of the early Pelé cards, this one was part of a set that was intended for an album collection.
It’s a lot cheaper to buy than his earliest cards, but the manufacturer perhaps gives it a little added appeal for collectors in the hobby today; A PSA 9 graded version of this one sold for $6,510 in 2020 via PWCC auctions.
2013 Topps Five Star Legends Autographs Pelé #FSA-P
Jumping forward to a modern Pelé card release now, this 2013 Topps Five Star Legends autographed card is, in my opinion, one of the nicest options.
Collectors had to wait until 2008 for certified pack-pulled Pelé autographs, so there are options that precede this one, but the classy card design, which features the green and yellow Brazil colors that he’s so closely associated with, and an image of him in action with the ball, is capped off with the appealing green ink on-card signature.
It’s limited to just 75 numbered copies, so it’s not easy to find; It doesn’t hold the sort of values that his rookie cards do, but it still isn’t cheap to buy, and it’s a solid option for Pelé collectors.
2014 Panini Prizm World Cup Signatures Pelé #SPEL & Combo Signatures Pelé / Cristiano Ronaldo #CSPC
Panini’s Prizm World Cup Signatures cards are some of the most popular modern soccer cards out there – Pelé’s first from the brand came in the 2014 Prizm World Cup set.
If there’s one player who is the king of soccer World Cups, it’s probably Pelé, who won it three times as a star for Brazil.
The autograph is a sticker, instead of an on-card, which is a slight negative, but it’s still a nice-looking and desirable card, which you can expect to pay multiple thousands for in high grades.
There are also 3 parallels, which are more expensive, and rare; The Prizm (/25), Black Prizm (1-of-1) and El Samba (1-of-1).
He does also have Prizm World Cup Signatures cards from the 2018 and 2022 Panini sets, which are cheaper to buy than their 2014 counterpart, so they offer good alternatives to collectors with a smaller budget.
2014 Prizm World Cup also includes the Pelé / Cristiano Ronaldo Combo Signatures card, which is numbered to just 10 copies, with Prizm (/10) and El Samba (1-of-1) parallels
The Combo Signatures card features Pelé’s sticker autograph alongside fellow great Cristiano Ronaldo’s sticker autograph, to make one of the coolest and unique soccer cards ever, in my opinion.
2016 Leaf Pelé Immortal Collection Multi-Signed Autographs Blue Spectrum Pelé / Cristiano Ronaldo / Neymar Jr / Lionel Messi
Leaf’s 2016 Pelé Immortal Collection offers many different Pelé autographed cards, as you’d expect, but arguably the best is this quad auto card featuring the soccer legend alongside fellow legends of the game, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, plus his compatriot and top player Neymar Jr.
I think having Diego Maradona in place of Neymar would make this the perfect quartet of signatures on a soccer card, with the four greatest players of all time, but having Neymar gives the cool concept of having two of Brazil’s stars from different eras alongside each other.
There are only 3 copies of this one, plus the Red Spectrum (/2), Gold Spectrum (1-of-1) and Printing Plates (1-of-1) parallels, so it’s extremely hard to find.
2018 Panini National Treasures Triple Signatures Pelé / Rivaldo / Neymar Jr #BRA
Panini National Treasures is a brand associated with super-premium sports cards, and the 2018 set doesn’t disappoint with this Triple Signatures Pelé/ Rivaldo / Neymar Jr card, showcasing Brazilian soccer stars across different eras.
He has 8 different signed cards from the set, but this one is the stand-out option.
The high-end card is limited to just 20 copies, with a handful of numbered parallel options.
Other Modern Pelé Autographs
I’ve mentioned some of the key auto Pelé cards already, but he has many good options across modern soccer card releases, starting with 2008 Sportkings Series B and C.
There are various different brands that include his autographs; Some of the most notable sets include 2013 Topps Allen & Ginter, 2016 Panini Flawless, 2017 Panini Immaculate and 2017 Panini Nobility, among others.
It’s hard to go wrong collecting cards with the signature of arguably the greatest player ever.
When Was Pelé’s Rookie Season?
Pele’s rookie year was the 1957 Brazilian soccer season – He played for Santos FC.
What Is The Most Valuable Pelé Card?
The 1958 Alifabolaget (#635) rookie card is by far the most valuable Pele card; It’s also the most expensive soccer card ever, after a record sale of $1,330,000 in February 2022 (PSA 9).
Why Are Pelé’s Soccer Cards So Valuable?
Pele’s rookie cards and other early releases hold huge value because they’re extremely rare and hard to find. He’s also a huge name in soccer, and sport in general, as one of the best and most successful players to ever play the game.
His 1958 Alifabolaget rookie card has sold for over a million dollars, and numerous other Pele rookies fetch multiple hundreds of thousands on the market today. Even some of Pele’s modern premium autographed cards hold big values, despite being more available; The appeal of his signature is obviously a big reason for that.
His early cards were released in the 1950s, and most of them were released with the intention of collectors sticking them into an album book. Many were also produced on thin and fragile card stock; Those reasons contribute to the extreme rarity of the cards today – There are very few graded copies of Pele’s early cards.