SPORTS CARD INVESTING — 11 BASKETBALL CARDS SOLD FOR OVER $1 MILLION IN 2021
ALL-TIME HIGH SALES PRICE RECORDS CONTINUE TO BE SET AS COLLECTORS RUSH TO CASH IN ON WHITE HOT MARKET
If you think the sports card boom is just a fluke that’s going to be forgotten soon, you’re in for a rude awakening.
Yes, you read the article title correctly — 11 Different Sports Cards have sold for over $1 Million Dollars thus far in 2021. eCommerce giant eBay recently stated that sales of trading cards on its platform jumped up to 142% last year. In its State of Trading Cards report released last week, the company pointed out that there have been four million more cards sold in 2020 than in 2019.
The biggest gainers in this field are soccer and basketball cards, which grew by 1,586% and 373%, respectively. In addition to an exponential increase in sales volume, there have also been 11 basketball cards to sell for over 1 million dollars in 2021.
The biggest names to benefit from this card boom are all NBA players. These are Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and last year’s number one pick, Zion Williamson. The most famous athlete outside of the NBA on eBay last year was Mike Trout. Moreover, the country with the largest growth in terms of eBay sales in China, with a whopping 205% of sales there.
According to Verified Market Research the trading card industry was worth $13 billion in 2019, and could be upwards of $100 billion by 2027. Trading cards are not just a family affair — for many, in addition to the nostalgia and joy in collecting — it’s also viewed as an investment.
“It’s really gone from where it was just people who collect to now it’s way more of a stock market, speculative, type atmosphere, to where it’s all about buying and selling, and how to make a profit.”
From a 1953 Mickey Mantle, a 1986 Michael Jordan to a rare Mike Trout rookie card, to soccer, UFC, and even passionate Pokemon card collectors are feeding the resurgence in the hobby.
MULTI MILLION DOLLAR SPORTS CARDS
LUKA DONCIC ROOKIE CARD SELLS FOR 4.6 MILLION DOLLARS
A one-of-a-kind deal involving Dallas Mavericks Superstar Luka Doncic went down on the guard’s 22nd birthday.
A Doncic National Treasures Logoman 1/1 autographed rookie card sold for $4.6 million according to collector Bolillo Lajan San, and was reportedly the highest-priced NBA card ever sold.
While the selling price of the Doncic card was astronomic, it’s only the second highest purchase price of a sports trading card in history. In January, a rare Mickey Mantle card, called the “Mona Lisa of sports cards,” sold for a record-shattering $5.2 million, CBS reported.
SEVERAL MILLION DOLLAR CARD SALES IN WHITE HOT SPORTS CARD MARKET
As a result of all this cash flowing into the basketball card market, there have been at least ELEVEN basketball cards that have sold for over $1M in the past year.
Eleven Different Basketball Cards Have Sold for $1 Million + Over The Past 12 Months
HIGHEST SELLING BASKETBALL CARDS OF ALL-TIME
1. 2018–19 NATIONAL TREASURES LUKA DONCIC LOGOMAN RPA — SOLD FOR $4.6 MILLION
A Luka Doncic National Treasures Auto Logoman 1/1 autographed rookie card sold for $4.6 million according to collector Bolillo Lajan San. Multiple outlets, including The Dallas Morning News, said that it was reportedly the highest price paid for a basketball card.
This came just weeks after Doncic’s limited edition 2018 Panini Gold Prizm card sold in an auction for $799,500.
2. 2003–04 UPPER DECK EXQUISITE ROOKIE PATCH AUTO (RPA) /23–$1.8 MILLION
The basketball card story that captured everyone’s attention back in 2020 was the announcement of the Lebron James rookie that topped $1 million. The card sold on Saturday July 18th for $1.8M via a Goldin Auction.
The card itself was a 2003–04 Upper Deck Exquisite Rookie Patch Autograph (card #78) serial numbered 14 of 23 and a BGS Gem Mint 9.5 grade. Not only is the card a very limited print serial number.
In addition to the rarity of the card and the on-card autograph vs a sticker autograph, the patch featured in this LeBron James rookie is a 3-color patch. Most collectors place a premium value on multi-colored patches
3. 2013–14 NATIONAL TREASURES GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNPO SIGNED NBA LOGOMAN PATCH ROOKIE CARD
Back in September, 2020 a Giannis Antetokounmpo Logoman rookie card sold at a Goldin Auction for $1.812 million. The record-breaking sale of this card pushed the bar for the basketball card market even higher.
The Giannis rookie was a 2013–14 National Treasures Giannis Antetokounmpo Signed NBA Logoman Patch Rookie card (#130).
4. 1996–97 TOPPS CHROME KOBE BRYANT REFRACTOR #138 — SOLD FOR $1.8 MILLION
This Kobe Bryant rookie card sold for just shy of $1.8M. The card was sold through Goldin Auctions and you can check out the auction listing here.
The Topps Chrome brand is iconic and the brand responsible for some of the most valuable rookie cards throughout the 90’s and 2000’s. Refractor parallels are much harder to find and worth considerably more money than their base counterparts.
As long as the total population for this pristine Topps Chrome Kobe refractor rookie stays below 10 or so, the value of this card will continue to rise and continue to appreciate over time.
5. 1997 UPPER DECK MICHAEL JORDAN GAME JERSEY AUTOGRAPH /23 — SOLD FOR $1.44 MILLION
A Michael Jordan autographed patch card selling for $1.44M on February 5th through a Heritage Auction. The card that was sold was a 1997 Upper Deck Game Jersey Michael Jordan Autograph card (#GJ13S).
This card is an extremely rare short print (SSP) and one of only 23 created. As you can see from the image below, the card that sold was 8 of 23. No surprises here with an autographed Jordan selling for over $1M. The prior record for an autographed Jordan card was just shy of $1M so clearing the $1M mark was bound, the only question was when.
The market for the GOAT will always be high, and while $1.44M seems like a ridiculous price to pay for a piece of cardboard, as long as the market continues to fly high through 2021 and beyond, this Jordan card could be a very lucrative investment.
6. 2013–14 PANINI PRIZM GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNPO BLACK MOSAIC RC #290 — SOLD FOR $1.17 MILLION
2020 was a big year for the “Greek Freak” basketball card market, with two Giannis Antetokounmpo rookie cards topping the $1M mark.
The 2013–14 Panini Prizm Black Mosaic Giannis Antetokounmpo rookie card (#290) with a BGS Gem Mint 9.5 grade sold for $1.17M at the tail end of 2020 through Goldin Auction’s Holiday Auction.
Like the other Giannis rookie, this is a truly one of a kind card indicated by its one of one serial number.
7. 2012–13 NATIONAL TREASURES ANTHONY DAVIS NBA LOGOMAN ROOKIE PATCH AUTOGRAPH
The card that sold for $1.045M is the 2012–13 National Treasures one of one Anthony Davis Signed NBA Logoman Patch Rookie card (#151).
Another exclusive 1 of 1 to make the list.
HOW DO I FIND THE VALUE OF MY SPORTS CARD COLLECTION?
HOW TO TRACK YOUR SPORTS CARD COLLECTION
My new personal favorite, Card Ladder is a great tool in finding the most accurate Sports Card Data. Invest in trading cards with confidence, build your personal collection, and track what your cards are worth.
Browse for free, or take your game to the next level with Card Ladder Pro.
KNOW WHAT YOUR CARDS ARE WORTH
Take the guesswork out of pricing your cards and finding comps.
Card Ladder provides an objective price point for virtually any card based on real, vetted sales data.
MAKE BETTER BUYING DECISIONS
Access everything you need to buy cards with confidence. Card Ladder centralizes a card’s current value, historical sales data, population growth over time, comparison capabilities, and more.
CARD LADDER FEATURES
- Search card values and statistics
- Read daily hobby news, content, and headlines
- Browse daily sales recaps
- Monitor new cards added
- Follow the Card Ladder Index daily
- Buy cards ending soon at auction
Card Ladder Pro Features
- Add any card to your collection with value estimates
- Track the value of your whole collection
- View all-time sales history
- Advanced value estimation for all cards
- Track player market performances
- Configure price alerts
- Follow the population growth of all cards
- Customize your own dashboard
- Advanced searching, filtering and sorting
- In-depth comparisons of multiple cards
- Submit and vote on cards to be added
THE CARD LADDER APP
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SPORTS CARD INVESTOR’S MARKET MOVERS
Are you still tracking your sports card collection by hand with a spreadsheet? This tutorial covers My Collection, one of the most powerful tools within Market Movers. Available in the Pro Membership, My Collection is a portfolio management tool that is constantly growing, evolving and adding features.
With “My Collection” you can track your personal collection with profit and loss on every card. In some cases, cards will update dynamically as our data updates each morning. While we likely won’t have every card you own, we have added the ability for you to add your own cards that aren’t on our Popular Card Charts.
Watch our guide above for an in-depth look at My Collection and how to best use one of Market Movers’ best features.
HOW DO I SELL MY SPORTS CARDS?
SELLING SPORTS CARDS ON EBAY
The go-to marketplace for sports trading cards and collectible card games, eBay is committed to enhancing both the buyer and seller experiences, especially for those who are new to the platform. For that reason, Sports Card Investor has partnered with eBay for a series of articles and videos that address a number of topics that are integral to positive selling experiences.
Selling sports cards online can be a little tricky at first, but a few simple tips can easily turn you into a pro overnight. From things like proper listing titles to the right shipping supplies, small details can go a long way toward a positive transaction.
Create an eBay listing using these tips and tricks for an easy and effective selling experience.
Use Searchable Titles for Card Listings
This is a pretty basic item that many first-time sellers struggle with early on. Your listing title should include important info like the player’s name, the release year, and the product name. Key parallels (e.g., chrome, silver, purple etc.) or serial number information is important, if applicable, while other details like the player’s team are great if you have space.
Take Quality Photos of Your Cards
Using high-quality photos could be the single most important part of a great card listing. It’s your chance to highlight key features like parallels and refractor effects while also showing buyers the condition of your card.
This doesn’t have to be expensive — a smartphone camera, proper lighting and straight-on angles are more than enough to achieve a great photo.
Competitively Price Your Listings
Unless your card is ultra rare, you’ll likely be competing with many similar listings for potential buyers. Use eBay’s Price Guide or sort by sold listings to accurately determine where your cards should be priced.
Pricing near the bottom of the market can give your listings a better chance at selling quickly.
Use the Right Shipping Supplies
Properly packaging and shipping your cards after they sell is extremely important for your buyer and your own reputation. Consider shipping cards in penny sleeves and top loaders while using painters tape to ensure the card doesn’t shift during transit.
Bubble mailers or eBay’s low-cost Standard Envelope (if your shipment meets the requirements) are two of the best options for shipping. Manage everything directly in eBay Labels. Also consider picking up a label maker if you’re selling with volume.
Protecting Your Reputation
Using many of the tips already listed should result in a positive eBay experience, which then leads to positive feedback for your selling account. Maintaining an extremely high feedback rating will give buyers confidence to shop your store by letting them know you’re a professional seller.
Responding to buyer messages or questions in a timely manner and quickly shipping items (securely) are great ways to build up that positive feedback rating.
Consider Upgrading to a Basic or Premium Store Subscription
Selling cards in volume can be tough, and eBay’s store subscriptions can be a big help. Paying a monthly fee for the Basic or Premium subscriptions gives sellers added benefits like more free listings, lower selling fees, and detailed sales data.
It may seem like everyone on eBay is an expert, but that’s far from the case. Each seller started with their first auction. There was some trial. There were more than a few errors. If this is your first time selling something on the site, though, we’d like to keep any mishaps to a minimum. Here are a few things you should know about the marketplace that may not be obvious that will help your initial sale (and any future ones) go as smoothly as possible.
Create an eBay listing using these tips and tricks for an easy and effective selling experience.
LISTING SPORTS CARDS FOR SALE ON EBAY — 5 TIPS
Provide Free Shipping
Have you seen the meme of rapper Lil’ Wayne where the top picture is of him smiling as he’s making a $500 online purchase, but the bottom image is him grimacing at the thought of paying $5.99 for shipping? We might chuckle at the thought, but there’s definitely something to buyers being more open to purchasing something if there’s little or no shipping cost involved.
USPS first-class packages generally cost between $3–4 for domestic shipping. Now, if you’re selling a low-dollar baseball card (say, under $10), you could conceivably have a purchase where half of the total is going to shipping. Buyers won’t like that. If you don’t want the person to pass over your auction, offer free shipping on low-dollar cards or use eBay’s standard envelope. This service offers tracked shipping under a dollar for cards valued at $20 or less
Use Best Offer
Even if you have a specific price in your head for the card you’re selling, we advise you to turn on the “Best Offer” option, giving potential buyers the chance to negotiate a price with you. While going this route may not get you the top dollar you sought, this method could result in the card moving much faster than if you were unwilling to entertain other offers.
Promote Your Listing
Ever wondered how that PSA 10 1990 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. card showed up at the bottom of your screen when you were looking at a 1989 Donruss Randy Johnson a day earlier? The seller probably paid to promote the listing to increase the card’s visibility and their chances of finding the right buyer. If you promote this way and the card finds a buyer, the nominal fee charged at the end of the sale will prove more than worth it.
Adjust Photo Quality
The initial pictures that you take and upload of your card should be a clean, honest depiction of your item (see this earlier eBay story for specific photo-taking tips), but if your images need some additional help, you can find it in the photo-editing section of the auction-building page.
Many times just a few brightness and contrasting tweaks make a world of difference for your pictures. But whatever you do, don’t go overboard with the effects. Accentuate the card, but don’t be misleading.
The backbone of eBay is trust. The strongest way to build it is with feedback. After you make a purchase or sell a card, leave honest comments about your experience. Sellers with ratings below 99% are often cause for concern as multiple buyers have likely had issues with the person in the past.
If you have a not-so-good experience that isn’t resolved (or a great one that goes without a hitch), leave feedback because that’s the only way to make the marketplace safer and more trustworthy for everyone.
SHOULD I GRADE MY SPORTS CARDS?
This is a question which many collectors found themselves asking more and more as the trading card market reached new heights in 2020. Most collectors have their own preference for ungraded (“raw”) or graded cards when it comes to their own personal collection, but might be new to the process of sending cards off for grading themselves. Submitting your cards for grading will require research, money, and patience, but could ultimately result in profit and peace of mind for you.
Let’s examine some of the important pros and cons of getting your trading cards graded.
REASONS TO GET YOUR SPORTS CARDS GRADED
Protecting Your Investments
Graded cards hold up much better over time than a standard raw card. If you want to invest in a player that you believe in, grading their cards is an excellent way to protect your investment for the long haul. Raw or poorly-protected cards can get lost or damaged over time, but grading them can help preserve their condition and value.
It’s a great idea to get cards graded of some of your favorite rookies or prospects. If you think they’re going to become a superstar later in their career, getting their cards graded early on could prove to be very lucrative in the long run. By the time the players are in their prime, you’ll already have graded copies of their cards in hand and ready to sell with confidence.
To Maximize Value
Simply put: the higher the grade, the better it sells! If you pull a low numbered parallel of one of the game’s hottest players, that’s great. Getting it graded and having it come back as a 9.5 or 10 is even better. Many buyers are willing to pay steep premiums for high-grade copies of certain cards, creating opportunities for value creation if you have a good eye for gem mint raw cards.
Grading a card provides you with an expert valuation of its condition, which is extremely beneficial whether you intend to sell or hold the card. Buyers who are particularly selective about the condition of raw cards know exactly what they’re getting with a graded card, saving you the headaches of condition-related returns claims.
Even if you have no intentions of selling the card, having it graded will help you establish its value and authenticity for your own collection.
If you have after-market autographed cards from TTM or in-person signings, major grading companies can offer an extra sense of security that the autograph on the card is authentic. Authenticity can also be a concern for vintage cards, and getting them graded will establish that they are not counterfeit or altered.
To Join an Online Certification Database
When your card gets graded, it gets added to the grading company’s database and assigned its own certification number. This certification number could help identify your card if it were to ever be stolen, which can be especially valuable for vintage or otherwise unnumbered cards.
SPORTS CARD GRADING
THE TOP SPORTS CARD GRADING COMPANIES
WHERE DO I BUY BASKETBALL CARDS & HOBBY BOXES?
There are several online retailers that operate as licensed Panini Dealers. But trying to navigate the good from the bad as a beginner or someone that’s just returning to the hobby is a kin to being let loose in the Wild West accompanied with handle of whiskey and a shotgun.
You could end up in the right town with money to be made, or find yourself stumbling out of a whore house surrounded by a rival posse.
That being said there are some trustworthy online sports card dealers. The following is who we personally use when buying sports cards, hobby boxes or participating in the occasional “live break.”
BASKETBALL CARD HOBBY BOXES
HIGH-END BASKETBALL CARD SINGLES
THE JORDAN COLLECTION — HIGH-END BASKETBALL CARDS FOR SALE
Where High-End Collectors Find The Most Valuable Sports Cards