Looking for a slam-dunk ROI in 2023? Get the scoop on the ten most expensive basketball cards on the market and discover how to cash in on your hobby.
Updated Jul 24, 2023
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Basketball cards are hot commodities these days, and it’s no surprise. These coveted cards, which feature everyone from Michael Jordan to Lebron James, just keep increasing in value yearly.
Whether you're an experienced card collector or a first-time investor, if you want to make some money off basketball cards in 2023, you're in the right place. We've done our research and compiled a list of the ten most expensive basketball cards in the world.
From top brands like Panini to vintage and modern rookies, we'll show you what card collectors are investing in—these NBA basketball cards could give you a slam-dunk return on your investment.
From 2021 Scottie Barnes rookie autographed cards selling for upwards of $7,000 to a 2021 Cade Cunningham rookie card going for more than $10,000 in 2022, it’s safe to say that basketball cards are some of the most valuable trading cards currently available.
But what caused the basketball card market to boom in the first place?
Basketball became popular among fans, giving them a much-needed adrenaline fix after live games were paused during the pandemic. The ripple effect of that was an influx of investments in basketball cards.
Entrepreneurs who made a fortune flipping sneakers have now entered the equally lucrative basketball card market. Rare and one-off cards are becoming increasingly desirable, prompting collectors to pay higher prices to get their hands on the most coveted sets.
Basketball cards often derive value from player performance, with the best examples being Steph Curry, Lebron James, and Michael Jordan’s cards, which all sold for millions. Autographed basketball cards are extremely expensive because collectors take pride in owning something with exclusive provenance.
Basketball cards are a great investment if the player continues to perform well and demand for their cards keeps increasing. That’s why Stephen Curry’s Autographed National Treasures Logoman Rookie Card sold for $5.9 million.
So who says you can’t join the trend? Do some research and diversify your portfolio by investing in basketball cards wisely. Remember, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
Ready to dive into the exciting world of sports memorabilia? In this section, we'll explore the most coveted treasures in the realm of basketball cards—the ones that can make your wallet jump and your heart race.
Get ready to discover the big league of investments as we unveil the 10 most expensive basketball cards to date that have become the ultimate holy grail for collectors and money-makers alike.
But be warned, this journey into the most valuable basketball cards will leave you longing to own a piece of hoop history yourself. Let's get started.
The number 10 card on the list is the 2004 Upper Deck LeBron James Ultimate Signatures Logos Logoman #USLLJ. This card, from LeBron James' sophomore year with the Cleveland Cavaliers, features a vibrant Logoman jersey patch worn by LeBron during a game.
Sold in March 2021 by Goldin Auctions for a staggering price of $1.3 million, it's a unique and limited-edition piece that bears the serial number one-of-one and is graded as Authentic by PSA, with a PSA/DNA 10 for LeBron's autograph.
As one of the greatest basketball players of all time, LeBron's cards hold enduring appeal among collectors. During the auction at Goldin Auctions, the starting price for the card was $100,000, and it received a total of 22 bids. With its final selling price of $1.3 million, it prices significantly lower than his Upper Deck Ultimate Signatures card—the second most expensive card on this list.
This exceptional card is a visual reminder of LeBron James NBA Rookie of the Year Award, which he won the previous year. It’s just one of the many accolades and records accumulated by LeBron throughout his illustrious career.
The 2006 Upper Deck LeBron James / Michael Jordan / Kobe Bryant Exquisite All-NBA Access Triple Logoman card. This extraordinary card celebrates the greatness of three of the most influential and talented basketball athletes to ever grace the hardwood: Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James.
The card, encapsulated and evaluated as "Authentic" by PSA, fetched an impressive price of $1.6 million at auction in August 2022. It features three game-used "Logoman" patches, symbolizing the NBA logo, worn by the three players during their NBA game action. This trio of Logoman patches adds tremendous value and prestige to this exceptional collectible.
LeBron James' patch occupies the central position on the card, with Michael Jordan's patch positioned to the right and Kobe Bryant's patch to the left. This specific card represents the pinnacle of NBA superstardom, featuring three iconic players who have collectively accumulated a remarkable 10 NBA Most Valuable Player awards and 15 NBA Finals championships and have participated in a staggering 50 All-Star Games throughout their careers.
The combination of the unique Logoman patches showcases the greatness of three basketball legends and serves as a testament to their enduring influence on the sport.
The 1996-97 Topps Chrome Kobe Bryant Refractor Rookie Card #138 gained significant attention in the sports card market and set a new record for the most expensive Lakers legend card at the time, selling for $1.8 million in an auction held in March 2021.
The appeal of this card lies in its exceptional condition. It earned a BGS 10 Black Label, signifying a perfect grade. Out of over 300 submissions for this card, only two have received the prestigious BGS 10 Black Label designation. The buyer of the card remains anonymous.
Interestingly, the value of Kobe Bryant cards increased significantly after his untimely passing in January 2020, reportedly surging 600%. This same copy previously sold for $58,100 on eBay in March 2016, further highlighting the exponential rise in value over time.
In recent auctions, this card fetched notable prices. For example, on April 26, 2023, a gem mint copy sold for $102,000 through Goldin Auctions in their 2023 April Elite Sports Auction. And back in August 2022, another gem mint copy sold for $156,000 via Heritage Auctions.
The 1996-97 Topps Chrome Kobe Bryant Refractor Rookie Card remains a prized asset among collectors, especially due to its significance as one of Kobe Bryant's rookie cards and the outstanding condition in which it exists. Its value has continued to appreciate over the years, further solidifying its status as a prized and valuable basketball card.
The next card on the list is the one-of-one 2013 Panini National Treasures Giannis Antetokounmpo Logoman Autograph basketball card.
This rare and highly valuable card sold for $1.85 million through Goldin Auctions in September 2020, setting a new record for the most expensive basketball card at the time. It surpassed the $1.8 million sale of the 2003 Upper Deck Exquisite Rookie Patch Autograph LeBron James card in a previous Goldin Auction in July 2020.
The card features a full and rich blue ink signature of Giannis Antetokounmpo, accompanied by the one-of-one limited edition serial number, underscoring its unique nature. The card's condition was rated by Beckett Grading Services (BGS), with a Centering rating of 9.5, Corners 8.5, Edges 9.5, and Surface 9. On the back of the card, there's some text from Panini America, Inc., affirming the signature's authenticity and the patch component's genuineness.
Note that the record set by this card as the most expensive basketball card has been surpassed since then, and as of June 2023, it currently ranks seventh on the list of the most expensive basketball cards sold.
Although Giannis Antetokounmpo has other rookie cards, including one in the 2013 Immaculate Collection and four booklets where he is paired with other players, the Logoman Autograph card stands out as the most valuable and sought-after.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is recognized as one of the greatest European players in NBA history and one of the most accomplished power forwards ever. He won the NBA Championship and Finals MVP in 2021. Furthermore, he received consecutive NBA Most Valuable Player Awards in 2019 and 2020, joining the prestigious company of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and LeBron James as the only players to earn two MVPs before turning 26.
The 1997-98 Metal Universe Precious Metal Gems Kobe Bryant Emerald #81 recently made history by selling for an incredible $2 million through the PWCC marketplace in February 2022. This price surpasses the previous record for a Kobe Bryant card, solidifying its status as a highly sought-after collectible.
The card's design and limited production contribute to its rarity and appeal. Only ten copies of the Emerald variation and 90 in a red variations were printed. This scarcity, combined with the card's condition sensitivity, further increases its desirability because it's hard to find one in perfect condition.
A legendary player and 18-time NBA All-Star, Kobe Bryant won five championships during his illustrious 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers. Tragically, he passed away in a helicopter crash in January 2020, elevating the demand for his memorabilia and cards.
The 1997-98 Metal Emerald card received an 8.5 grade, highlighting its outstanding condition. The card's design revolutionized the approach to insert-style cards, offering alternatives to traditional base player cards found in packs. Many collectors and experts consider it one of Kobe Bryant's best and most desirable cards, surpassing even his rookie cards or autograph.
Precious Metal Gems variants are regarded as some of the most sought-after insert cards worldwide, setting the tone for future insert markets. Finding them in any condition is challenging, making finding one in excellent condition incredibly rare and valuable.
The unique 2020 Panini Flawless Triple Logoman #3LG-LBJ LeBron James Patch Card with a serial number of 1/1, features Logoman patches from three different game-used LeBron James jerseys representing each team he has played for—Cleveland, Miami, and Los Angeles.
The card has gained significant attention and intrigue among collectors and investors since the 2020 Panini Flawless Basketball release. It became the card people were searching for, with even notable figures like Drake participating in multiple case openings in hopes of finding it. Thanks to Backyard Breaks, the Flawless Triple Logoman LeBron James card finally surfaced during a group break in May 2022.
Out of the five Triple Logoman cards featured in the 2020 Flawless checklist, this LeBron James card is the only one to display three patches from the same player. The others showcase different combinations of players, making this card distinct in its exclusivity.
The significance of this card goes beyond its rarity and aesthetics. It holds a position of prestige and uniqueness within the hobby, often referred to as the "Golden Ticket." As the only Triple Logoman in the release to feature a single player, this LeBron James card sets a new benchmark for modern-day cards. The manufacturer guarantees the authenticity of the content, with a statement on the card itself serving as its Certificate of Authenticity (COA).
With its limited edition status as "1/1," the 2020 Panini Flawless Triple Logoman #3LG-LBJ LeBron James Patch Card garnered significant attention and fetched a hefty price of $2.4 million when it was sold through Goldin in June 2022. This card represents the pinnacle of exclusivity, making it a highly coveted piece among collectors and investors alike.
Belonging to the legendary player Michael Jordan, the 1997-98 Upper Deck Michael Jordan All-Star Game Used Jersey #GJ13S is part of the once-popular Upper Deck Game Jersey Autographs series, and it features a sample of the jersey that Jordan wore in the 1992 NBA All-Star Game.
This card's value gets a boost from its limited supply as only 23 cards were produced for this significant edition, making it one of the rarest high-value professional basketball cards available. Jordan's autograph is featured prominently on the card, which adds to its appeal.
Card #GJ13S sold for $2.7 million in an October 2021 private sale handled by Goldin Auctions, breaking Goldin's previous record of $2.1 million for a similar but differently-numbered card. The sale makes it the fourth most expensive basketball card ever sold. The card numbered 6/23 has a BGS 8 grade, with Jordan's autograph receiving a similar grade. It's worth noting that the identities of the seller and buyer are unknown, though credible entities like ESPN confirmed that the sale really did occur.
Despite Michael Jordan being dubbed the greatest basketball player of all time with a career spanning multiple decades and unparalleled accolades, his most expensive basketball card lags behind other players. However, for fans and investors alike, the 1997-98 Upper Deck Michael Jordan All-Star Game Used Jersey #GJ13S remains one of the most highly coveted basketball cards on the market.
The 2018 Panini National Treasures Luka Doncic Logoman Autograph Rookie Card #127 is undoubtedly one of the most expensive basketball cards of all time. This basketball card features the Slovenian star player Luka Doncic during his rookie season with the Dallas Mavericks. The card is part of the popular Panini National Treasures set known for its rarity and quality.
The one-of-one Doncic Logoman Autograph was sold privately in February 2021 for a staggering $4.6 million, making it the most expensive basketball card ever sold at the time. However, in November 2022 at another auction, it sold for $3.1 million. While still a hefty sum, it was a considerable drop from the previous sale. The card is unique and, with only one copy ever produced, it sure adds to its rarity and value.
One of the reasons for the card's high value is the fact that Luka Doncic is currently one of the NBA's brightest stars. Doncic was a young European phenom and carried his form to the NBA. He averaged 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 6.0 assists during his rookie season, earning him the 2018 NBA Rookie of the Year award.
Despite being a valuable sports card, it is not without controversy. Some handwriting experts have questioned the validity of Luka Doncic's signature on the card, suggesting that his mother might have signed it instead. This creates a somewhat murky area for investors looking to add this card to their collections.
An anonymous buyer purchased the 2003 Upper Deck Exquisite LeBron James rookie patch autograph for $5.2 million, making it one of the most expensive basketball cards ever.
The 2003 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection LeBron James Parallel Rookie Patch Autograph AU/23 #78, which is the third most expensive sports card on the market, broke records within a few days of its base version selling for $1.7 million.
In April 2021, PWCC announced a private sale for $5.2 million for a 2003 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection Rookie Parallel LeBron James, marking the second-highest price ever paid for a basketball card. The patch on the card from James' rookie season with the Cleveland Cavaliers is incredibly rare, with only 23 copies in existence. The card was number 7/23—graded BGS 9 with subgrades of 10 for centering and surface, 9.5 for edges, and 8.5 for corners.
Another copy sold for an astonishing $2.1 million more recently in June 2022. The card's BGS condition report rates it 9.5 for centering, 8 for corner, 9.5 for edges, and 9.5 for surface. This piece is serial-numbered 12/23, and it's signature received a Beckett 10, with an overall BGS grade of 8.5.
Previously in July 2020, another copy, number 14/23 graded BGS 9.5, sold for $1.8 million, the world record for a modern sports card at the time. Despite its steep price tag, this card will likely continue to rise in value, reflecting the growing interest of collectors and investors in the sport and the athlete.
As the face of the NBA for over a decade, LeBron James' NBA career achievements on and off the court have made him an icon in the sports world and a fan favorite. This Exquisite Collection rookie card offers a treasured and extremely rare opportunity to own a piece of history from his legendary rookie season.
2009 Playoff National Treasures Stephen Curry Autograph Jersey Logoman #206 is undoubtedly one of the most coveted basketball cards of all time. This one-of-a-kind rookie card was sold for an astonishing $5.9 million in July 2021, making it the most expensive basketball card ever sold—only the Honus Wagner baseball card exceeds its value in the sports cards sphere.
What sets this card apart from others is that it is an autographed Logoman one-of-one card, meaning it's the only one in existence. Additionally, it's a testament to Curry's excellence on the court and his status as one of the greatest basketball players of all time.
Despite being graded PSA 8, this card remains a highly sought-after investment piece, especially among basketball fans and collectors. The card purchaser, Alt Fund II, saw the tremendous upside of the investment and snapped it up quickly. Alt Fund II is an investment fund managed by Alt.
The 2009 Playoff National Treasures Basketball set is widely regarded as a game-changer in the basketball card market. Panini released the set during their first season with the exclusive NBA trading card, which quickly became the cornerstone for top-level basketball rookie cards. As a result, this Steph Curry rookie card has become the ultimate prize for collectors and investors alike.
Basketball cards, including NBA basketball cards and valuable sports cards, are currently making a splash in the market. Investors are noticing profitable returns on these specifically valuable basketball cards—some even deemed as the most expensive basketball cards out there, offering predictive promises of steady appreciation due to their limited edition status, patch autographs, and exclusive prizm and refractor features.
However, any basketball card collector should understand these cards, even the most valuable basketball cards, could lose their investment potential as quickly as they gained it. That's why research and knowledge of the basketball card market are indispensable assets when trying to secure valuable sports cards, from the rookie card to the well-established professional basketball player's card.
Basketball cards, from a Lebron James upper deck card to the Panini National Treasures, offer an inviting addition to any asset portfolio. With proper research and consideration of factors such as player performance, card condition, and demand in the sports cards sector, you could possibly see substantial returns on your investment. However, remember a smart and effective investing strategy happens when you balance your portfolio—this means maintaining a mix of alternative assets like basketball cards and traditional ones.
So whether you're interested in exclusively expensive basketball cards, such as those that have seen a price surge since Kobe Bryant's death, or you're fascinated by the mainstream basketball card debut, remember that like the NBA career of a player, these tangible assets can fluctuate. Approach with caution, buyer's awareness, and enjoy the experience of participating in a popular aspect of NBA history.
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