Do you have a bunch of old sports trading cards sitting in a box in your attic? Now might be a good time to dig them out! You might have some money waiting for you in your old basketball cards.
Read this guide to find out which basketball cards are the most expensive or valuable ones to date, and what you can do if you have one of these basketball cards with a high value.
TYPES OF BASKETBALL CARDS
There are different levels of basketball cards available in very different price ranges, and the most expensive trading cards will vary across different types. Standard basketball cards are available from the store in packs for a few dollars, but the chance of getting a rare card in one of those is slim. Some other cards are only available if purchased in special collection boxes, which are much more expensive.
At first, many brands had the license to print basketball cards, including Topps and Bowman Gum. Topps, Fleer, and Upper Deck were the most common basketball card manufacturers for many years, until, in 2008, Panini became the only company with the license to print and release basketball cards for the NBA.
One major subset of basketball cards for many of these brands is the Rookie Cards. These cards are printed in the first year of the player's career with the NBA.
Many of these cards are quite rare, since they had a limited printing, and they highlight lesser-known portions of a famous player's early career. A basketball card’s value can be heavily impacted by rarity. These cards are often more valuable because there were fewer of them printed, and so there is a limited supply.
Many times, as a rookie, we don't know how famous the players will get later in their career, so the rookie cards are often overlooked, maybe even discarded, until after the player gets famous. That is why the rookie cards are the ones that are usually the most expensive when you get them after the fact.
Panini has several lines of special cards in their modern sets, both for rookie cards and their regular players. National Treasures is a line of Panini basketball cards that has jersey pieces and autographs on some of the cards. These special cards do not come in regular card packs but come in box sets with the "National Treasures" label.
FACTORS THAT AFFECT THE COST OF BASKETBALL CARDS
The grading of the basketball card is going to be one of the most important factors that will determine a basketball card’s value. If you have an old Michael Jordan Rookie card from 1968, but it's in poor condition or hasn't been rated, you won't be able to sell it for as much as you could if it was in mint condition with perfect printing.
Some cards are also more rare than others for a few factors, including limited printing and special features. Certain cards that had a limited run, perhaps under a thousand or even under a hundred cards in total, are going to be much more valuable than more 'common' cards.
Newer collector cards have more special features and put them at the level of more than just standard basketball trading cards. These sets like the National Treasures and Game Gear sets offer jersey pieces, autographs, gold embossed lettering or backgrounds, and other luxurious features to put them above regular cards.
BASKETBALL CARDS VALUE: THE MOST EXPENSIVE TRADING CARDS
We're going to go through some of the most expensive trading cards ever sold for basketball players and look at what they're selling for now. Most of these are rookie cards, again because these are rare and usually have a higher value than cards made later in their career.
Some of these cards are expensive, because they're older, and others are more expensive, because they have special features such as autographs and jersey pieces. If you have any of these rare cards in your collection, you could stand to make quite a bit of money.
1986 FLEER #57 MICHAEL JORDAN ROOKIE CARD
In mint or perfect condition, this basketball card’s value is impressive, selling for up to $945,000 on eBay. Less than perfect cards still sell for anywhere from $40,000 to $700,000. This is probably the most expensive basketball card on the market.
While many of these cards still exist, the demand for them is so high, because they are the only official NBA-licensed rookie cards for Michael Jordan. Every basketball card collector wants one, and how could they not? The card features Michael Jordan in his red Chicago Bulls uniform number 23 about to make a slam dunk.
You may see a very similar card to this that has "Fleer: A Decade of Excellence" printed on the front. This is a much more common card that will not sell for nearly as much. It is still an expensive card, but many more of them were printed.
Michael Jordan has a few other rookie cards that also sell for astronomical prices, but these were made by different companies and are usually not as high in quality. Non-Rookie cards printed by Topps and Upper Deck are also available at average or somewhat above average market prices.
1986 FLEER CHARLES BARKLEY ROOKIE CARD
Looking for more basketball cards with a high value? An honorable mention goes to the Charles Barkley rookie card from the same set as the Michael Jordan card. This one is selling for around $18,000 on eBay, much less than the Michael Jordan card from the same set, but other cards feature both players which are selling for a lot more.
2019 PANINI PRIZM SIGNATURES GOLD SHIMMER JA MORANT ROOKIE CARD
Many of the newer rookie cards for upcoming players that have been printed sell for extremely high prices. That's certainly the case for this card, selling on eBay for $112,000 in one listing.
One card that has the NBA logo patches from both Ja Morant and Zion Williamson together on one card is selling for absurd prices on eBay right now.
2019 ZION WILLIAMSON ROOKIE CARDS
Several Zion Williamson Rookie basketball cards are highly valued and are making the rounds right now as some of the most expensive rookie cards ever sold. These cards are from 2019, the first one is the Panini Contenders Optic Gold Vinyl autographed card, selling on eBay for over $100,000 and it appears to be one-of-a-kind.
The other card selling in the hundreds of thousands is the National Treasures Rookie Patch number 68, also autographed. One listing on eBay has this card at almost $400,000. This one has a patch from Zion's Pelicans jersey.
LUKA DONCIC ROOKIE CARDS
One of the most expensive trading cards ever sold, the 2019 autographed Luka Doncic Panini National Treasures Rookie Card, featuring the NBA logoman from his Mavericks jersey recently sold for 4.6 million dollars.
That card was a one-of-a-kind, but you can get the 2018 Panini Opulence with other jersey patches for around $45,000 to $60,000 in mint condition on eBay. Luka Doncic is definitely one to watch for basketball cards' value, so if you have any of his rookie cards, you should get them graded now so you're ready for when they increase in value.
1957 TOPPS #77 BILL RUSSEL ROOKIE CARD
If you have this card, in any condition, you might want to consider selling it now. Even the poor conditions of this card are selling on eBay for nearly $20,000. If you have it in good condition with a good grading, it will sell for much higher. One autographed version of this card is currently selling for $250,000.
1948 BOWMAN #69 GEORGE MIKAN ROOKIE CARD
These cards are very rare and are one to look out for in terms of basketball card value, as they were only printed once by Bowman in 1948. Unfortunately, many of these cards were not kept in very good condition, and the best grading you are likely to see is a 7 out of ten.
You can see some of these cards selling on eBay for $35,000 to $58,000 depending on the condition. Poor condition cards are still selling for around $3,500, though, so if you're holding on to one of these, you might want to get it graded and sell it.
1961 FLEER WILT CHAMBERLAIN ROOKIE #8
Another older card, this Wilt Chamberlain rookie card is selling on eBay for around $575,000.
Many other Wilt Chamberlain cards are selling for high prices throughout his career, such as the 1969 Topps card, so definitely get your cards graded to make sure that they're in good shape to sell. Many of these cards in good condition are selling for around $25,000.
LEBRON JAMES ROOKIE CARDS
Recently on eBay, the 2003 LeBron James Topps Chrome Refractor Rookie Card #111 sold in gem mint condition for over $75,000. Other LeBron James rookie cards from that year are selling for around half that price, but these feature LeBron holding his Cavaliers jersey and smiling at the camera, rather than wearing it on the court during a game. Just this minor difference can impact a basketball card’s value.
2009 TOPPS CHROME STEPHEN CURRY #101
This Stephen Curry Rookie card is selling on eBay for around $25,000. An autographed Playoff Contenders Rookie Ticket from 2009 is selling for almost $20,000 as well. Other Stephen Curry rookie cards are selling for a few thousand dollars apiece.
KEVIN DURANT ROOKIE CARDS
The 2007 Kevin Durant Topps Chrome Refractor Rookie Card is selling on eBay for around $30,000. Another popular Durant rookie card is the 1996 Topps Chrome Kevin Durant Rookie Card #138, which is selling for anywhere between $10,000 to $16,000.
KOBE BRYANT ROOKIE CARDS
The 1996 Fleer Kobe Bryant Rookie card is selling in the thousands on eBay, as well. Looking for other Kobe basketball cards with value? Another high-price card is the 1996 Topps Finest Gold Refractor Kobe Bryant Rookie Card, with a price tag to buy outright of around $400,000. It’s not one of the most expensive trading cards, but it's most likely that this card will sell in the thousands as well.
HOW TO GET RARE BASKETBALL CARDS
For some of the more recent cards, such as the Zion Williamson and Ja Morant cards, the box sets in which these cards were available are still in circulation. You can buy Panini basketball box sets that are still sealed and unopened.
Your chances of getting these ultra-rare cards are pretty low, but there may be some other hidden gems waiting in the unopened sets. You can check out these and our other wholesale sports cards in the shop.
Your best bet is to buy new release card packs and boxes when they come out, and hope to get one of the great players for that year so that the basketball card’s value increases. Get the card graded, and take care of it. One day it might be worth a lot of money if the player turns out to be one of the greats.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE A RARE CARD
If you have one of these super rare cards, and you haven't had it graded yet, that should be the first step. Make sure you get the grading certified from an official grading organization, and that you place it in a protective case displaying the score.
If you're trying to sell it, make sure you have the grading and any other important information available for buyers to see. You can try to sell it on eBay or Amazon, or at a live auction in your area. Know that the rating and condition of the card will cause the price to differ widely from the most expensive version and that a basketball’s card value will vary from card to card.
If you want to keep it for your collection or hold on to it to see if it increases in value to become one of the most expensive trading cards, make sure you know how to take good care of it.
HOW TO PRESERVE A BASKETBALL CARD’S VALUE
For storage of your basketball cards and other sports memorabilia, you'll want to make sure that you keep it off the ground in an air-conditioned or climate-controlled space. You'll also want to keep it out of the sun. Heat and humidity can damage the cards, as well as UV rays, and pests.
You may want to invest in a Panini basketball case to store your basketball cards. You'll definitely need a lot of card sleeves and top loaders to keep your cards in the best condition for years to come.
Rare basketball cards can be a great investment for your future. The rookie cards that are somewhat rare now will be worth a lot more in the future once these players find fame on other teams.
Feeling lucky? Check out our shop today to find unopened box sets of collector sports cards, as well as new sports card releases!