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There is now a lot more to collect on basketball cards than just pictures of your favorite players. They have become highly sought after by collectors and may command exorbitant prices nowadays. In the past several years, both the popularity and value of collecting sports cards—and, more specifically, basketball cards—have skyrocketed. This fad has not only been fascinating for collectors, but it has also created a massive market in which famous and/or rarest basketball card often go for exorbitant prices.

In this article, we’ll dive into the world of basketball card collecting, delving into the background of some of the most eye-popping card sales in history and the impact they had on sports and collectors alike. The modern basketball card price industry has made its impact on basketball lore and the realm of sports memorabilia, from the famous Michael Jordan to the emerging superstars of the present.

Best-selling sports cards

The popularity of basketball trading cards or best selling sports cards may be traced back to the early 20th century when they were used as promotional items by cigarette firms. But it wasn’t until the mid-1980s and early 1990s that basketball card collecting really took off, thanks to the arrival of superstars like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson. At that time, card sets featuring famous basketball players were highly sought after by collectors.

Basketball trading cards’ popularity increased with the NBA’s rise to prominence. Prices skyrocketed to unfathomable heights due to the scarcity of certain cards and the intense connection that fans had with their players. There is now a massive international market for basketball trading cards frequented by players, collectors, and fans. We’ll check over some legendary trading cards that have stood the test of time. Moreover, do check out our website for sports cards for sale online.

1.  Michael Jordan’s Rookie Card from the 1986–1987 Fleer Season

The Michael Jordan 1986–1987 rookie card is a hot commodity among collectors of basketball cards. The ultimate prize is a fleer set. Many believe Jordan to be one of the best basketball players of all time, and his rookie card has come to symbolize his greatness. The youthful Jordan is seen in his iconic Chicago Bulls outfit as he dunks the ball.

A pristine condition Michael Jordan rookie card (graded 10 by the Professional Sports Authenticator, the gold standard in card grading) will sell at auction for a record-breaking $3.9 million in the year 2020. The transaction sent shockwaves across the collecting community and cemented the card’s status as one of the most significant sports cards in history.

2.  Rookie Card, Exquisite Collection, 2003-04, LeBron James

After an impressive run in the NBA, LeBron James is one of the most sought-after athletes in the hobby of collecting basketball trading cards. One of the most valuable basketball cards is his 2003-04 Exquisite Collection rookie card, which has a signed photograph and a piece of his game-worn jersey.

A single LeBron James Exquisite Collection card graded a perfect 10 by PSA fetched a whopping $5.2 million in 2020. The amount paid at auction was a new high for NBA trading cards. It also highlighted the growing demand for memorabilia featuring NBA superstar LeBron James.

3.  Kobe Bryant’s rookie card from the 1996-97 Topps Chrome Refractor set

The legacy of NBA great Kobe Bryant will live on long after he has passed away. His rookie card from 1996 or 1997, Topps Chrome Refractor, is very rare and beautiful. Featuring a refractor-like finish, the card depicts a youthful Kobe in his Los Angeles Lakers outfit.

A PSA 10 Kobe Bryant Topps Chrome Refractor rookie card sold for a record-breaking $1.795 million in January of 2021. The transaction demonstrated Kobe Bryant’s enduring popularity and the card’s value to collectors.

4.  Zion Williamson’s National Treasures Rookie Card

The collectors’ market for basketball cards isn’t limited to simply the legends of the game’s past; it also features today’s up-and-comers. Many people are looking forward to seeing Zion Williamson, the top choice in the 2019 NBA Draft, play in the NBA. The 2019-20 National Treasures rookie card with an autograph and a patch from his game-worn jersey was an instant success with fans.

A rare Zion Williamson National Treasures rookie card sold for an unbelievable $5.4 million in the year 2020. The sum matched the previous high-water mark established by LeBron James’ Exquisite Collection card. This auction proved that, especially for highly recognized young players, current basketball card prices are high.

5.  The 2018-19 NBA Rookie Patch Autograph Card of Luka Doncic

The young Slovenian sensation Luka Doncic has dominated the NBA spotlight with his extraordinary skills and basketball savvy. There has been a recent surge in the popularity of the 2018-19 National Treasures rookie patch signature card. Doncic has signed the card, and a piece of his game-used Mavericks jersey is included.

The Luka Doncic National Treasures rookie card set a new record for basketball card price of $4.6 million when it was auctioned in March of 2021. It proved once again how well-liked basketball trading cards have become. Because of his international popularity and on-court skill, Luka Doncic has quickly become a favorite among collectors and speculators.

6.  A 1969 Topps rookie card for one Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar).

During his time as a student at UCLA, he was known as Lew Alcindor until he was transformed into Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Vintage sports card collectors want the 1969 Topps rookie card of Alcindor, depicting the youthful player in a Milwaukee Bucks outfit. The legendary career and significant impact that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had on basketball have made this card more valuable over time.

A Lew Alcindor rookie jersey rated PSA gem-mint sold for $2.8 million in 2021. This verified the card’s authenticity as one of the most sought-after genuine basketball cards in the collecting community. Abdul-Jabbar was just getting started on his tremendous path to becoming an all-time star when this card was made.

7.  Rookie cards of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson from the 1980-81 Topps set

Some of the most well-known NBA athletes ever are Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Their fights in the 1980s helped catapult the game’s popularity to new heights. The two legends of the game are memorialized on the 1981–82 Topps rookie card that features both players.

Larry Bird and Magic Johnson’s 2021 rookie card, rated PSA diamond, sold for $720,000. We can call it one of the most expensive basketball cards. This is a tribute to the two basketball greats and the impact they had on the NBA’s heyday.

8.  Bill Russell’s rookie card from the 1957–58 season of Topps

Bill Russell, who played with the Boston Celtics for a total of eleven seasons, is largely considered one of the best defenders and most successful players in NBA history. The unnamed Russell rookie card from the 1957–58 Topps set, which also includes a young defense, is a priceless artifact.

The desire for vintage cards honoring the game’s illustrious history was shown by the $720,000 basketball card price tag placed on a PSA gem-mint Bill Russell rookie card in the year 2020.

9.  Wilt Chamberlain’s rookie card from 1961–1962

Wilt Chamberlain, nicknamed “Wilt the Stilt,” was an NBA superstar of the 1960s. Rookie cards from the 1961–62 season featuring a young Wilt Chamberlain and his squad are highly sought after by collectors.

A Wilt Chamberlain rookie card graded PSA 10 in the year 2020 for $780,000. Both the legendary status of Chamberlain as a player and the allure of vintage cards were underscored by this.

10.  Shaquille O’Neal’s 1992 Classic Four Sport Autograph Card

The impact of Shaquille O’Neal’s presence in the NBA was felt not only on the court but also in the world of sports trading cards. In 1992, he created a groundbreaking set of trading cards — the Classic Four Sport autograph set, which featured a young Shaq and his signature. It is considered to be one of the first autographed basketball cards ever produced by a future NBA superstar.

A Shaquille O’Neal signed card from the 1992 Classic Four Sport set that was rated PSA gem mint sold for $1.79 million in 2021. The price reflected the demand for vintage signed cards of famous actors and actresses.

11. The Hakeem Olajuwon Season of 1986–1987 The Fleer Rookie Card

Hakeem Olajuwon, nicknamed “The Dream,” is widely regarded as one of the game’s all-time great centers. Untested Olajuwon in a Houston Rockets outfit appears on his 1986–87 Fleer rookie card, which is now highly sought after by collectors.

Prices for PSA 10-mint Hakeem Olajuwon rookie cards have recently risen to the $4,000-$7,700 range. These basketball card prices reflect one of the game’s most famous big men’s enduring popularity.

12. Tim Duncan’s rookie card from the 1997-98 Topps Chrome Refractor set

Tough on the outside and skilled on the inside, Tim Duncan had a stellar career with the San Antonio Spurs. Duncan’s rookie card from 1997–1998, Topps Chrome Refractor, is one of the most recognizable contemporary trading cards due to its striking refractor design and photo of the young player.

One PSA 10 2021 rookie card of Tim Duncan brought $350,000. This reflects both Duncan’s place in basketball lore and the market value of such items among collectors.

13. Rookie Card: Dirk Nowitzki, Topps Chrome, 1998-99

The famous Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks reimagined the role of power forward with his exceptional shooting and scoring abilities. His 1998 and 1999 Topps Chrome Refractor rookie card is very valuable because of its scarcity and design.

A PSA 10 Dirk Nowitzki rookie card from 2021 sold for $1.29 million. This shows how much respect people throughout the globe have for the player.

14. The Kevin Durant Rookie Patch Autograph Card

Kevin Durant has risen to prominence in the NBA because of his prolific goal-scoring and adaptability. Contemporary collectors prize the 2007-08 Exquisite Collection rookie patch signed card with a patch that looks like Durant’s worn-out Seattle SuperSonics jersey and his signature.

Kevin Durant’s rookie card from 2021, rated PSA diamond, for $2.25 million. Collectors clearly place a high value on one of the NBA’s all-time greats, as seen by the NBA basketball card prices.



What years of basketball cards are worth money?

Although basketball card values fluctuate, some seasons are more highly regarded by collectors than others. Images of legends like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson from the 1990s and especially the early 1980s are sometimes referred to as “vintage.” The Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan trading cards from the late ’90s are also highly sought after. In addition, the 2003-04 season included the highly sought-after rookie cards of LeBron James. Young stars like Luka Doncic and Zion Williamson have been featured on trading cards in recent years, including the 2019-20 season and the 2018-19 season.

What is the first Basketball card ever made?

The 1949 Bowman George Mikan card is widely regarded as the first basketball trading card ever made. In the early days of the NBA, George Mikan was a powerful center for the Minneapolis Lakers. Collectors value the card for both its historical significance and its scarcity. A major turning point in basketball card history occurred in 1948 with the release of the Bowman set. It ushered in a period that continues to this day.

How do you find the value of old basketball cards?

Here are some rules to follow when estimating the basketball card values of your vintage basketball card collection:

  • Recognize the Card: Your identity as a player, the card’s maker, and the year it was produced are all necessary pieces of information to determine which card you really have. Keep an eye out for the little touches, like signatures and patches on shirts.
  • Authenticity: Consider sending your cards to a reputable grading service, such as PSA (expert Sports Authenticator) or BGS (Beckett Grading Service), for an expert evaluation of their condition. Grading is an objective assessment of the card’s condition that may significantly affect its worth.
  • Figure out: To determine how much your car is worth in the current market, look it up online at auction sites or in price guides. Recent price and sales trends may be gleaned from websites like eBay, Beckett, and PSA’s Population Report.
  • Condition: Know that the condition of your credit card plays a key effect in determining its cost. Prices for cards that are mint or almost mint in condition tend to be higher.