In late May MLB announced the recognition of some Negro Leagues as Major Leagues. Since then, there has been a noticeable uptick in interest in Negro League collecting. My little Negro League Buy / Sell / Trade Facebook group is growing like never before. “Want to buy” posts are cropping up in non-Negro League groups as well.

If you are interested in exploring Negro League collecting, here are some quick tips on how you can do so on any budget, from $1 to $100k!

Collecting Negro League Greats Can Be Expensive . . . . 

Image from the Great Toleteros Find courtesy of Ryan Christoff

Collecting the Negro Leagues can be very, very expensive. Oscar Charleston can beat out a 52 Topps Mantle at auction. And the few examples of Josh Gibson’s only real card, which isn’t even a true playing days card, start at around $50,000. So if you want to grab the iconic cards of the biggest names, you’ll need . . . cash, and lots of it.

 . . . But It Doesn’t Need to Be!

A personal collection favorite

If the entry point into the upper echelons seems a bit daunting, I have some good news. I’m often surprised by the affordability of vintage Negro Leaguer cards of Hall of Famers and many who should be. Martin Dihigo is a GOAT candidate, and his 1945-46 Caramelo Deportivo card can be had for $1,000 in cruddy condition.

That’s a great affordable set by the way–my favorite–and you can learn all about it here. It features many prominent Negro Leaguers, and most can be had for under $100, despite tiny populations.

If you are a vintage collector not interested in more modern reprint sets, bear in mind that no real Negro League cards were ever issued in the United States. So those of us who collect cards of Negro Leaguers seek out these players’ cards that do exist. Mostly, these are winter league cards issued in Cuba, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and more.

Black players thrived in the “off season” in integrated leagues that featured some of the best talent in the world. If you want to dive in and explore the options, Ryan Christoff’s web site features most knows sets and checklists. His auction site is a great point of entry into this side of the hobby.

Many Other Budget-Friendly Options

Topps and other mainstream vintage cards

Even if you are a true vintage aficionado, there are other inexpensive ways to collect cards of Negro Leaguers. The most obvious strategy is to collect Topps and other mainstream cards of players who did play in MLB. Jackie is the most obvious candidate, but his cards are all fairy pricey. But honestly, every other former Negro Leaguer who played MLB has very affordable cards.

Oddball Vintage

Even among guys who did not have the opportunity to play MLB, there are several really affordable oddball issues out there. Google Artie Wilson and then ask yourself, “is there a cooler $50 card than this?”

1949 Remar Baking Company


Vintage photos often strike me as “underpriced”–or, at least, as a good value. Just like with cards, make sure you understand what you are buying (original, later print, etc.) before parting with your cash.

1952 homemade stereograph image, Formental, Dominican league


Many Negro League legends like Double Duty Radcliffe and Buck Leonard lived long enough to sign countless autographs. As a result, these can often be had for $30 or less.

Postcard and Reprint Sets

There’s no shortage of inexpensive and attractive postcard sets. They make great display pieces and can often be had for $20.

Modern Cards

Negro Leaguers have been featured for years in various Topps subsets and insert sets. The best of these cards feature game-used relics or autos of all-time greats. But again, there are many low-budget items to be found.

In summary, there are dozens of viable options for exploring Negro League collecting. Literally any budget can get you started! If you have any questions or comments drop them below.