Panini is the hottest brand of NBA basketball cards. But which players and packs are the best to invest in 2023?
Updated Aug 4, 2023
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You know what they say: money follows eyeballs. And basketball has plenty on it. It's one of the most popular sports in the world with around 2 billion fans, according to Sports Browser. Since many sports cards have low investment minimums and potential slam-dunk returns, they’ve become a preferred asset class among basketball enthusiasts.
For instance, a 1986-87 Michael Jordan Fleer rookie card sold for a whopping $840,000 in July 2021. It's not just vintage cards that attract dollars, either. In 2020, a 2003 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection LeBron James Rookie Patch sold for a staggering $900,000. Not to mention the cardboard rectangles that have cleared $1 million.
Every year, basketball card collectors worldwide seek out these rare gems. And the 2022-2023 NBA season is no exception. With promising young rookies like Paolo Banchero and Jaden Ivey entering the league, and stars like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Steph Curry still ruling the court, you can bet that some of the cards released today will be prized for years to come.
If you haven’t already started building your collection, there's no better time to buy the best basketball cards that 2023 has to offer. But with so many options, you may be left scratching your head at which cards might fetch the highest premiums. This guide covers the best basketball cards to buy in 2023 and why they’re expected to rise in value. We'll also give you the alley-oop with a list of popular sites where you can buy your top picks.
Before investing in any NBA basketball card, you should be confident in its brand. The quality and scarcity of a card greatly impact its value, and some brands are known for turning out collectibles in high demand. Panini, the largest and leading sports card manufacturer in the world, is the gold standard in sports cards.
While some of the most expensive sports cards were manufactured by Topps, they lost their license to produce NBA cards in 2016 and left a gap for Panini to fill. Founded in 1961, Panini has since grown to become a billion-dollar company. With their focus on quality, artistry, and prestige, most people agree that the best basketball cards to buy come from Panini.
The brand made its mainstream basketball card debut after signing agreements with the NFL, NBA, and MLB to become their exclusive trading card licensees. Those deals allowed Panini to buy up its competition and offer cards under multiple lines. Some of the most popular sets of NBA cards from Panini include National Treasures, Prizm, Donruss Optic, and Select. With all of those options, there's a Panini card for every collector.
If you're building a collection that will impress people in and out of the hobby, National Treasures cards are the way to go. This high-end brand offers limited edition cards that come with enhanced artwork and holographic foil. They also feature photorealistic player depictions on the front of the cards that will wow any viewer. The base cards in this line are already highly valued, and their memorabilia cards include extra large patches of game-worn jerseys.
Panini's Prizm is a favorite among NBA card collectors who want a good variety. Their base sets feature rookie cards as well as sought-after veterans. Their extensive rainbow of parallels makes them perfect for collectors who like to hunt down complete sets. One base card can have up to 22 parallels in a given set. The colorful and playful patterns on Prizm cards, plus the images of top players in action, are an instant draw. They also feature several creative inserts, like Fireworks, Fearless, and Prizmatic, with over-the-top designs. These short print inserts are often some of the most expensive basketball cards up for sale.
Many collectors love Donruss Optic as well because of its eye-catching use of color and design. Donruss Playoff was the second oldest trading card company in the US, but it was acquired by Panini in 2009. Under Panini, Donruss Optic is still a great choice for those looking for limited edition cards. They have rare, short print cards that are usually retired players or those known in the league for their outstanding performance on and off the court. Their price point is lower than Panini Prizm, but their quality, content, and shiny foil finish are similar, so they make a decent budget investment for collectors who are starting out.
Finally, Select is another great NBA trading card pack to buy. Panini Select features a lot of parallels and autos to give collectors a good shot at pulling their favorite player cards. Unlike the robust sets of Panini's other lines, Select sets consist of a more limited roster of 100 base cards. By comparison, Prizm sets have around 300 cards. Select is also more exclusive in its availability—the only way to get their newest releases is by purchasing a hobby box. This means Select cards are short prints of the league's most impressive players, which makes these boxes a great jumping off point for a valuable collection.
Basketball cards have become a hot collector's item in recent years, and they're not just for kids anymore. Collectors of all ages and interest levels enjoy chasing down basketball cards. You might be in it for the cool designs featuring your favorite players or the opportunity to monetize your passion for basketball. In either case, here are some of the best basketball card packs you can buy in 2023.
Panini Prizm cards are an affordable way to get into the world of NBA trading cards. These are official NBA cards that are known for their bright colors and sharp designs. You can easily fish out world-renowned NBA stars like Kobe Bryant and Zion Williamson with beautiful Prizm parallels. The 2021-22 hobby box pulls from a set that includes 22 parallels and 10 unique inserts. Just like previous boxes, this season gives you a shot at several prized autographs, including the Rookie Signatures line. Cade Cunningham, Scottie Barnes, and Evan Mobley are among the most anticipated rookies to join this already illustrious pack of NBA stars. Be sure to keep an eye out for these top rookies in your hobby boxes.
The Chronicles Draft set is the go-to for cards featuring the latest rookies in the league. You'll get a sampling of upcoming cards from the Prizm, Donruss, and Mosaic lines, among others, and you'll see the 2022-23 draft class in their pre-NBA glory. These flashback packs can hold valuable cards—the 2021 Panini Chronicles Draft Picks basketball best card was Scottie Barnes, which sold for up to $1,000 after the pack was released. For this season, keep your fingers crossed for a Paolo Banchero card in your pack.
Another great option is Panini Select. These cards come in sturdy, thick cardstock and the set contains an array of inserts and parallels to bring out the best of the NBA. Select provides a wide variety of valuable cards with favorite rookies and veterans. A 2021-22 Panini Select hanger pack comes with 15 cards and an average of four insert cards or Prizm parallels (not to be confused with the Panini Prizm line) per pack. Scoring one of those rare parallels or autographs can make this pack a worthy investment.
National Treasures are rare and highly-desired sports cards, and their NBA cards are no exception. Unfortunately, that quality is reflected in their price. But while your wallet may be wincing, your portfolio could be sitting pretty with the right NTs in your collection. These limited edition cards feature intricate designs and high-quality artistry that will make you the envy of basketball collectors all around the world. National Treasures hobby boxes come with four autograph cards and four memorabilia cards, giving you good odds of pulling some valuable collectibles.
When investing in basketball cards, you need to look for a few things. First, rookie cards are always desirable among collectors. But that doesn't mean you should only collect the latest rookies. There’s always a market for star players' rookie cards, and card packs regularly include throwbacks to the early days of the greats. This holds true for LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Garnett.
Second, be sure to check the condition of the cards, usually in the form of a PSA grading. A high grade can make or break your investment. Rookie cards in good condition will fetch higher prices than worn-out ones. Let’s explore the best basketball cards to buy in 2023:
The Michael Jordan Nike Promo card is one of the first-ever basketball cards to feature Michael Jordan. The iconic Jumpman pose captured here was used for advertising the original Air Jordan 1 sneaker. In June 2021, this card was bought for $203,000 from Collectable.
Jordan is a six-time NBA champion who won MVP at every Final. He also became the first billionaire player in NBA history after ending his career as a 14-time All-Star. His rookie cards and autographed memorabilia are still highly sought after—even his 1991 baseball card.
1985 Michael Jordan Nike Promo card.
His rookie cards are the most valuable among all sports cards, beating out even LeBron James and Steph Curry. Though you can't invest in Collectable's 1985 Michael Jordan Nike Promo card anymore, you can still access other Jordan basketball cards and memorabilia on their platform. All you have to do is sign up for an account and buy some shares, then sit and wait for them to rise in value. When an asset's price increases, so will the value of your shares.
The 1986 Michael Jordan Fleer RC #57 is arguably the most recognizable and sought-after basketball card ever produced. The card hit a $40,000 auction price by the end of 2019 and was recently sold for $200,000 on eBay in June 2021.
While condition greatly affects the value of this card, even low graded versions can fetch a couple thousand dollars. Due in part to The Last Dance, almost all Jordan cards are worth much, much more than they were a decade ago.
This makes the card an excellent investment, as practically every basketball card collector wants to jump on the bandwagon. You can purchase fractional ownership of the card from Rally—the value of your shares goes up alongside the value of the asset, and you can even earn dividends if the value increases enough. When you're ready to adjust your investment, you can buy and sell shares on Rally's marketplace.
PSA Price Guide for graded 1986 Michael Jordan Fleer #57.
The 1996 Kobe Bryant Topps Chrome RC #138 is one of the most valuable basketball cards ever produced. The card hit a staggering $1,795,800 through Goldin Auctions and is destined to rise in value.
The card is a tribute to Kobe Bryant's rookie year and his impressive performance during the playoffs. Kobe was an 18-time All-Star, 12-time member of the All-Defensive Team, and a 15-time member of the All-NBA Team, which makes his cards some of the most valuable in the NBA.
In addition to Kobe's stunning game records, his sudden death in 2020 shook the sports world. Collectors have come to value all the cards and memorabilia from Kobe's career even more since his passing, as each piece has become a tribute to the baller.
1996 Topps Chrome Kobe Bryant Refractors Rookie Card #138 PSA price guide.
The 2018 Luka Doncic Panini Prizm RC #280 could have the highest ROI over the next ten years. Doncic won the 2019 Rookie of the Year and made his first All-Star appearance in 2020. In August 2021, he signed the largest rookie extension in NBA history for a jaw-dropping $207 million.
Featuring a solid RC logo and a unique border design, this Panini Prizm card is expected to see long-term appreciation. Doncic's game and the buzz surrounding his rookie extension are playing their part, but so is Panini. This card is far from scarce, but with numerous rare parallels to entice collectors, even the base card is worth a pretty penny. It's actually had superior performance to the less common green parallel. Rather than going into debt to cop this grail, Public lets you fractionally invest in one by buying shares.
Chart tracking price of 2018 Luka Doncic Panini Prizm (14/25) shares on Public.
Investing in the 2003 LeBron James Topps Chrome RC #111 card is a surefire way to make a killing in the card-collecting market. With a Gem Mint supply of only 2,212, this card is sure to skyrocket in value as the years go by. Not only is it a great investment, but it’s also a great conversation starter. This 'Bron rookie card is an iconic piece of basketball history that any sports card collector would love to add to their collection. It features a youthful, drive-filled LeBron representing Ohio in his Cavaliers jersey and has experienced tremendous appreciation over the past few years—some copies have sold for astounding figures of up to $450,000.
While exclusive refractor parallels and short prints have inspired most of this card's six-figure sales so far, even the base card continues to increase in value as King James keeps reigning. The price history on PSA shows 10-rated base cards selling for $1,000 to $2,000 in 2019, but by 2022 you would be hard-pressed to find one for less than $5,000. This card could be the crown jewel of your card collection.
LeBron James is one of the greatest basketball players of all time, and this card is a great way to show your appreciation for his accomplishments. If you’re looking to make a smart investment, then the 2003 LeBron James Topps Chrome RC #111 card is the way to go. It promises to increase in value over time, and it’s a rare find that’s sure to be a hit with collectors.
This may be the perfect card for an exciting investment opportunity with potential growth—snap it up while you can.
Chart tracking auction history of LeBron James 2003 Topps Chrome RC #111 since 2014.
One of the most endearing blasts from the past in sports cards, the 2009 Stephen Curry Topps Chrome RC #101 also happens to be one of the most valuable basketball cards of all time. It features a baby-faced Stephen Curry in his Golden State Warriors jersey, smiling in school portrait mode rather than the action shots on most of his other rookie cards.
Stephen Curry's 2009 Topps Chrome #101 rookie card.
Like a fine bottle of wine—or Stephen Curry himself—his 2009 Topps Chrome #101 rookie card only gets better with time. With each passing year, its value increases, and it's now one of the most sought-after basketball cards among collectors. Of course, part of the reason for its value is the young Stephen Curry featured on it. The image gets more unbelievable as the years go by—it's hard to imagine that youthful player going on to become one of the greatest basketball players of all time. But it's also a rare find with only 61 Gem Mints in the hobby.
The card has seen a huge surge in value over the past few years, with its rare parallels selling for as much as a mind-blowing $480,000. The base card is valuable in its own right—it sold for $65,900 in 2021, up from a high of $31,600 in 2020. This card is a great investment for any basketball card collector, as it's sure to continue appreciating in value over time.
NOLA might not have a lot of love for Anthony "Street Clothes" Davis, but collectors don't seem to hold any grudges against him. His 2012 Panini Prizm RC #236 is a highly sought and valuable sports card. It features a young Anthony Davis in his New Orleans Hornets jersey, before they became the Pelicans. AD is rearing back for the bucket with his eyes on the prize, making this card an endearing memento of his early career.
The card has seen a huge surge in value over the past few years—an ultra-rare Gold Prizm parallel sold for $185,730 in 2021. The base Prizm cards are more affordable, even though they're scarce themselves. With only 33 Gem Mint cards in the supply, getting your hands on one of these for $2,000 to $6,000 seems like a steal. You might also want to look out for the Green Prizm parallel, which is rarer than the base card and less expensive for now. Considering that another one of Davis's rookie cards sold for over $1 million in 2021, the 2012 Panini Prizm #236 is a great investment for any basketball card collector, as it's sure to appreciate in value over time.
Chart tracking sales history of 2012 Anthony Davis Panini Prizm #236 rookie cards on StockX.
You can buy or bid on a 2012 Anthony Davis Panini Prizm #236 at StockX. Their open market for luxury goods and collectibles gives you access to historical data and market trends, so you can make a fully informed decision about what you bid on and how much you offer.
Making an investment is always easier when there's a history to consider, but there's nothing quite as exciting as getting in on the ground floor of a rocket launch. In this case, that rocket is named Paolo Banchero.
Banchero's 2022-23 Panini NBA Hoops Rookie Ink Auto is just one of his rookie cards that collectors are quietly snapping up. Can you blame them? Banchero was the number one overall draft pick of the 2022 class and his debut was hailed as the biggest since LeBron's. He's been putting the magic back in the Orlando Magic, and the hobby is under his spell.
A Paolo Banchero Rookie Ink Auto sold for $485 on eBay in 2023.
Recent sales on eBay have averaged around $1,200 for mint and near-mint versions of this card, but any Banchero rookie card holds promise. All of the greats on this list were rookies to watch at one point. When you think about LeBron and Steph Curry's rookie cards bringing in close to half a million, the idea of grabbing a future GOAT's card seems too good to pass up. While you can never completely predict what will happen, Banchero's performance already has him as the leading contender for Rookie of the Year, and he's even generating All-Star buzz.
A Banchero rookie card could be a slam-dunk addition to your portfolio. If you're looking to add some fresh blood to your collection, check out this rookie.
Basketball cards are one of your best options for investing in sports memorabilia. Many cards have accessible price points and great potential for ROI as basketball continues to grow in popularity. Cards featuring b-ball royalty keep increasing in value as the legacies of these players become more celebrated over time. While many collectors want to build a physical collection, it's relatively easy to own limited edition rookie cards thanks to platforms like Collectable and Public.
Now that you got a play-by-play overview of the best basketball cards to invest in, it's time to channel your inner Steph Curry and shoot your shot.
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