12 Most Valuable 2006 Topps Baseball Cards
When collectors look back on the 2006 Topps baseball card set checklist, they'll usually think of a card that lasted only briefly in production.
Because of a new MLBPA rule that changed restrictions on rookie cards, Topps had to pull Alex Gordon, card #297, early in production.
But not before a very limited number made their way into hobby hands...
More on that later.
Aside from that quirky slip-up in production, Topps still delivered a fantastic baseball card product with their 2006 base set.
Multiple big-name stars made their rookie card debuts.
And hobby legend and baseball icon Mickey Mantle played a significant role in the set's 659-card checklist.
Whether you're a serious set builder or a casual collector, this set has something for everyone.
And in this guide, we'll take a look at the 12 most valuable.
Let's jump right in!
Let's be clear: most of the cards from this set do not have any value these days.
Like the 2006 Donruss, Fleer and Upper Deck sets, large print runs saturated the market with these cards, driving down their values.
So, for the cards on this list to be worth much, they'll have to be graded by PSA to be in perfect, gem mint condition.
That means the card needs to be flawless.
Now that we got that out of the way, let's take a look at the list:
2006 Topps #297 Alex Gordon
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $2,500
Considered one of the most infamous cards of the 2000s, the 2006 Topps #297 Alex Gordon barely saw the light of day.
And its scarcity, much more than Gordon's talent and popularity, makes it extremely valuable in top condition.
When the Kansas City Royals drafted Gordon with the second overall pick in the 2005 MLB Draft, the club had high hopes for the young stud out of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
But that didn't mean he was quite ready for the Big Leagues.
Instead, Gordon spent the remaining days in 2005 playing for the Suprise Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League before spending all of 2006 with the Double-A Wichita Wranglers.
And that's where things became very interesting...
Given Gordon's phenomenal talents and the hype surrounding him, Topps began printing this card, fully expecting him to be on the Kansas City Royals roster for the 2006 season.
However, early in production, the MLBPA released a new ruling requiring that players must have already made their Major League debuts before appearing in a base set.
Still, some early print runs made their way into packs and hobby circulation before Topps could pull the plug.
There are also variations where Topps cut out the image of Gordon or printed the card with nothing but silver/gold foil, which you can see below.
The whole situation was bizarre.
And Gordon's initial experience with Topps continued to be odd when they printed his actual rookie card in their 2007 base set only to include a facsimile signature on the front that wasn't even his.
2006 Topps #641 Justin Verlander Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $125
The first starting pitcher to win the American League Rookie of the Year award since 1981 (Dave Righetti), Justin Verlander was the final puzzle piece of the Detroit Tigers' lengthy rebuilding process.
Verlander made two starts for the Tigers in 2005 with uneven results.
In 2006, however, things were different.
The former #2 overall pick (2004) dazzled in Spring Training, earning a rotation spot.
From there, the 23-year-old phenom proved himself as a cornerstone ace for the AL's newest contender, finishing at 17-9 with a 3.63 ERA, good for the 7th-best ERA in the AL.
And while his true strikeout touch had yet to develop, Verlander's high-octane fastball and wipeout slider/curveball combo kept the entire league off-balance.
It was a breakthrough year for Verlander on a breakthrough Tigers squad that ended at 97-65, securing the franchise's first division title and playoff appearance since 1987.
The young righty ended the year seventh in the league's Cy Young race and fifteenth on the AL MVP ballot.
In the postseason, though, Verlander ran out of gas. He went 1-2 with a 5.86 ERA, yielding 14 earned runs in 21.2 innings pitched.
The Tigers still ran through the New York Yankees (3-1) and Oakland A's (4-0) but appeared overmatched in a five-game World Series loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.
2006 Topps #200 Albert Pujols
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $60
After winning the 2005 NL MVP award, Albert Pujols finished second in 2006, just 39 votes behind Philadelphia’s Ryan Howard.
From 2001-06, the generation’s best two-way player placed 1st in the league’s MVP race once, 2nd three times, 3rd once, and 4th once.
In short, Pujols’ place in Cooperstown was already waiting on him, and his raw numbers in 2006 didn’t contradict that.
The 26-year-old slugger finished third in the NL batting race, hitting .331 with 49 home runs and 137 RBIs in 634 plate appearances (535 at-bats).
He led all of baseball in slugging percentage (.671) and OPS (1.102) and drew a new career-high 28 intentional walks after pacing the Majors with 27 the year before.
He also received his first of two Gold Gloves in 2006.
With Pujols in the heart of the lineup, the Cardinals staved off a late-season swoon and won a mediocre NL Central at 83-78 by a game and a half.
Pujols slashed .288/.439/.519 with three home runs and six RBIs in 52 postseason at-bats for a Cardinals team that got hot at the right time.
The Cards beat the odds, outlasting the San Diego Padres (3-1), New York Mets (4-3), and Tigers (4-1) to win the franchise’s first World Series title since 1982.
2006 Topps #639 Prince Fielder Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $50
In 2005, there was no room for former 7th overall pick (2002) Prince Fielder in the Milwaukee Brewers' starting lineup.
With Lyle Overbay entrenched at first base and no universal designated hitter in play, Fielder was relegated to spot starts and pinch-hitting in two stints with the team.
Come 2006, Fielder's moment had arrived.
Overbay was shipped to the Toronto Blue Jays in an offseason trade, opening the door for Fielder to secure the team's starting first baseman job in Spring Training.
Fielder's promotion came with a trade-off.
His explosiveness as a power hitter and ability to hit for average were essential assets for a Brewers franchise that hadn't made the playoffs since 1982.
However, Fielder's lack of size and defensive instincts at first often made him a liability in his rookie season.
All in all, it was a successful debut campaign for Fielder.
While the 75-win Brewers were still two years away from ending their postseason drought, the son of former Tigers star Cecil Fielder provided tantalizing glimpses of things to come.
When the dust settled, Fielder slashed .271/.347/.483 with 28 home runs (a franchise rookie record), 35 doubles, and 81 RBIs to finish 7th in the NL's Rookie-of-the-Year voting.
2006 Topps #225 Ichiro
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $45
As the Mariners meandered to a third straight losing season in 2006, Ichiro continued to be Ichiro without fail.
Leading the Majors in total hits (224) and the American League in both plate appearances (752) and at-bats (695), Ichiro was anything but mediocre.
He ended the '06 campaign with the sixth-best batting average in the AL (.322) and his sixth straight 100-run season to start his MLB career (110).
And when Ichiro reached base, he wreaked havoc on opposing pitchers.
On April 19th, 2006, Suzuki began his AL record streak of 45 straight stolen bases without being caught.
He stole 45 of 47 bases in 2006, with his only two unsuccessful attempts coming in the first two weeks of the season.
The Mariners were lost at sea in the mid-2000s, caught between eras and slogging through what currently stands as a 21-year-long playoff drought.
Yet when things looked dim during this time for Seattle baseball, Ichiro's infectious energy and smile kept fans believing and coming to the ballpark.
2006 Topps #617 Ryan Zimmerman Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $45
The love affair between the Washington Nationals fan base and the longtime face of the franchise, Ryan Zimmerman, began in earnest during the 2006 MLB campaign.
The fourth overall pick in the 2005 MLB Amateur Draft, Zimmerman spent only a brief amount of time in the Nationals' minor league system, receiving a call-up in the final month of the 2005 regular season.
In 2006, Zimmerman took over the starting third baseman job after an offseason trade that shipped Vinny Castilla to the San Diego Padres.
Almost immediately, the 21-year-old North Carolina native became a cult hero in D.C., especially after clubbing a game-tying home run off of New York Mets Billy Wagner in the ninth inning of a see-saw affair on April 5th, sparking a comeback for the team's first win of the season.
The storybook didn't end there.
Zimmerman added two more walk-off hits in three days in July and tied Brad Wilkerson's franchise record for most homers by a rookie with his 20th round-tripper on September 27th.
The Nationals finished just 71-91, missing the playoffs for the 25th straight year.
Yet, Zimmerman's mere presence made the losses easier to swallow.
He finished second in the NL's Rookie-of-the-Year voting (to Florida's Hanley Ramirez) but first in the hearts of Nationals/Expos fans everywhere.
2006 Topps #7 Mickey Mantle
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $40
Even though his playing days are long gone, and he passed away in 1995, Mickey Mantle continues to be a popular figure in this hobby.
And from 1997 to 2005, Topps had retired the #7 in their checklist to honor him.
But, they decided to bring back the #7 card just for him with their 2006 set.
Not only did he appear on card #7, but Topps also dedicated multiple inserts to The Mick.
The "Mantle Collection," "Mantle Home Run History," "Mantle Home Run History Cut Signature," and "Mantle Home Run History Bat Relics" inserts gave collectors plenty more Mantle cards to chase.
Each of the cards features fantastic imagery and great color schemes.
But his base card is also one to love, as Topps put the greatest switch-hitter of all-time, batting lefty, front and center for a great action shot.
2006 Topps #263 Albert Pujols MVP
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $40
After finishing in the top four of the MVP vote during his first four MLB seasons, Albert Pujols finally earned his first of three career MVPs for his phenomenal work during the 2005 season.
Slashing .330,.430,.609 with a 1.039 OPS, Pujols belted 41 home runs with 117 RBIs while also pacing the Majors with 129 runs scored.
Pujols was a generational talent.
And even though he still put up incredible numbers in multiple seasons with the Angels, his production during his first eleven seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals made his time in Los Angeles feel like a letdown at times.
Pujols returned to St. Louis for his 22nd season and, after belting 24 home runs, officially joined Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Barry Bonds in the "700 Home Run Club" with 703 on his career.
There is no question that Pujols will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
2006 Topps #387 Ken Griffey Jr.
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $40
For the first five months of 2005, Ken Griffey Jr. enjoyed a reprieve from an injury-plagued half-decade.
While Griffey wasn't at the level of his peak in Seattle, he earned NL Comeback Player of the Year honors by hitting .301 with a .946 OPS, 35 home runs, 30 doubles, and 92 RBIs.
However, things came to a screeching halt in early September when an ankle injury sidelined him for the last few weeks of the season.
In 2006, Griffey's injury problems again took center stage.
Junior missed the first month of the season with right knee inflammation and most of the final month with a dislocated toe.
Between those two injuries, Griffey's trademark swing appeared hampered by his accumulated aches and pains.
He hit just .252 with a .802 OPS, massive drops from his return to form in 2005.
And while he hit 27 home runs and drove in 72 runs, Griffey left more questions than answers for a ho-hum 80-82 Reds squad.
In Junior's first seven years with Cincinnati, the Reds were 0 for 7 in terms of playoff appearances.
Griffey's health problems were just one of the issues for a rudderless Cincinnati franchise, but they still loomed large going forward.
2006 Topps #410 Miguel Cabrera
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $40
Three years removed from an improbable World Series title, the 2006 season was underwhelming for the 78-win Florida Marlins.
At least star third baseman Miguel Cabrera ensured it wasn't a total bore.
In his penultimate season in South Florida, Cabrera was elite, slashing .339/.430/.568 with 26 home runs, a career-best 112 runs scored, 50 doubles, and 114 RBIs.
Cabrera had the NL batting title in his sights during the second half, yet fell behind Pittsburgh's Freddy Sanchez on the season's final day to finish as the league's runner-up.
Cabrera was so locked in that, on June 22nd, he laced a go-ahead single on the first pitch of an intentional walk attempt by Baltimore's Todd Williams, plating the eventual winning run in the tenth inning.
The fireworks weren't confined to the batter's box, though.
The 23-year-old slugger was also involved in a dugout altercation with teammate Scott Olsen, which ended with Cabrera attempting to kick Olsen, and the two forcibly separated.
It was a frustrating time for Cabrera and everyone involved with the Florida Marlins.
By the end of 2007, things reached their tipping point with a foundation-altering trade that sent Cabrera packing to Detroit.
2006 Topps #500 Derek Jeter
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $35
By Derek Jeter and the New York Yankees' lofty standards, the 2006 MLB season was a bust.
Yes, the Yankees ran away with the AL East by ten games over the Toronto Blue Jays, capturing a ninth straight division crown.
Yes, they finished with 95 wins and looked like a legit championship contender all season long.
However, the Yankees flamed out in the ALDS for the second straight year, falling to the eventual AL champion Tigers in four games.
For Derek Jeter, though, the 2006 regular season was one of his very best from a purely statistical perspective.
Finishing just 14 votes behind AL MVP Justin Morneau as the league's runner-up, Jeter posted the second-best batting average of his 20-year career at .343, four points shy of AL batting crown winner Joe Mauer.
Jeter also placed first in the AL in offensive WAR (7.1) and in the league's top five in OBP (.417, 4th), runs scored (118, 2nd), hits (214, T-3rd), plate appearances (715, 5th), and runs created (133, 4th).
To top it all off, Jeter received his third-straight Gold Glove at shortstop and the first of four-straight Silver Slugger awards.
The Yankees failed to reach their expected mountaintop in 2006 but Jeter turned in one of the best prime seasons by a shortstop in the modern era.
2006 Topps #355 Jonathan Papelbon Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $30
Donning a brand-new mohawk in honor of Major League's Ricky Vaughn after a bet with Red Sox teammate Kevin Youkilis, Jonathan Papelbon entered his rookie season seemingly ticketed for the starting rotation.
However, he moved into the bullpen to take over the team's closer role after Keith Foulke struggled to return to form after an injury-riddled 2005 campaign.
Papelbon's fiery personality and theatrical presence were perfect for the job.
He embraced the ninth inning with gusto, posting a microscopic 0.92 and 35 saves to keep the 86-win Red Sox in the playoff conversation for most of the season.
Nearly unhittable from April through September, Papelbon yielded just 40 hits and struck out 75 batters in 68.1 innings pitched.
His 0.776 WHIP and .167 batting average against are both proofs positive of how dominant he was from bell to bell in 2006.
The baseball world noticed.
Papelbon received his first of six career All-Star nods and finished as the runner-up in the AL Rookie of the Year race to Justin Verlander.
With Papelbon dealing fire with glee at the back of the bullpen, everything seemed to align for another Red Sox championship run in 2007.
2006 Topps Baseball Cards In Review
Whenever collectors think back on the 2006 Topps baseball set, they'll most often think of the elusive Alex Gordon card that wasn't meant to be.
Or, they might think of Mantle's return as the #7 card in the base set.
But if either of those two things slips the mind, they'll surely look back on this set as being when Justin Verlander, Prince Fielder, Ryan Zimmerman and Jonathan Papelbon made their cardboard debuts.
Each turned out to be a phenomenal baseball player, but only Verlander remains going strong ahead of the 2023 season.
Multiple big-name stars and Hall of Famers like Derek Jeter, David Ortiz, Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, Ken Griffey Jr. and Ichiro gave hobbyists some nice base cards to enjoy.
There were also several subsets to keep things interesting, including Award Winners, Manager and Team cards, Rookies of the Year, League Leaders, MVPs and Combo cards.
Overall, the 659-card checklist may have been smaller than in years past, but it still packed plenty of excitement.