Noname Antiques » 21 Most Valuable Basketball Cards (Brand, Year & Value)

21 Most Valuable Basketball Cards (Brand, Year & Value)

Lots of people collect trading cards, both as a hobby and for profit. For cards featuring fictional themes, the value is in the card’s rarity and the character’s backstory. But if the card depicts a real person – particularly in sports – any success in their career shoots up the price.

It’s why rookie cards have such retrospective value. Once a player becomes a big star, their rookie cards appreciate. So let’s check out some of the most valuable basketball cards. These include the most promising draft picks we’re keeping our eyes on or icons from past decades.

Most Valuable Basketball Cards

1. Fleer Basketball PSA Lot (34) Cards🔥📈 Ewing, Bird, Dr. J, etc…

Fleer Basketball PSA Lot (34) Cards🔥📈 Ewing, Bird, Dr. J, etc…

As of 6th July 2021, the most valuable basketball card was a Steph Curry rookie card from 2009. It sold for $5.9 million. To date, only one card demanded a higher price – the Honus Wagner card (baseball) that earned a cool $6.6 million. You’ll notice these are verified sales.

  • Name: Mixed
  • Team: Mixed
  • Brand: Fleer
  • Year: 1986
  • Value: $1,200

It’s why the first rule of re-selling is to look up confirmed items that have been paid for and shipped. Yes, it’s fun to see an item listed in the thousands or millions, but until the buyer checks out, it’s still a fantasy. You can spot valid purchases via the ‘sold’ tab on any platform.

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2. Larry Bird Rare VTG (Lot of 6) NBA Legend MVP Hall of Fame Celtics

Larry Bird Rare VTG (Lot of 6) NBA Legend MVP Hall of Fame Celtics

Surprisingly, overseas markets can be lucrative. Remember, lots of top-tier (and even mid-tier) basketball players go abroad during the US off-season. It’s not a vacation – they play in the smaller leagues. Common destinations include China, Italy, France, Spain, and Australia.

  • Name: Larry Bird (6)
  • Team: Boston Celtics
  • Brand: Mixed (Hoop, Skybox)
  • Year: Mixed (Early 1990s)
  • Value: $227.50

Because these players become popular in these foreign leagues, their fans will pay a lot for their trading cards. So you might find a player considered average over here, but their card can still net you a pretty profit if you list it at the right time and place. Plan for shipping fees!

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3. Panini Chronicles Ja Morant Red Phoenix 2019 Rookie Grizzlies  139/149

Panini Chronicles Ja Morant Red Phoenix 2019 Rookie Grizzlies  139149

As you scour your folks’ attic for the most valuable basketball cards, it helps to check how many cards were printed. Yes, rarity matters, but while some players only have 2 or 3 rookie cards, it’s not the most important measure. After all, some of these stars faded fairly fast.

  • Name: Ja Morant
  • Team: Memphis Grizzlies
  • Brand: Chronicles Phoenix
  • Year: 2019
  • Value: $418.89

It’s not necessarily about their skill levels. In sports, random injuries can wipe you out and end your career in seconds. Or maybe you just played in the same era as a dunking legend so you have less visibility in comparison. Don’t fall for that ‘only three cards ever released!’ line.

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4. Wilt Chamberlain! Lakers NBA Hall of Fame, Top 10 All-Star

Wilt Chamberlain! Lakers NBA Hall of Fame, Top 10 All-Star

You might be in the basketball cards business because you’re a sports fan. You might have played the game in school so you can spot future ballers in their prime. Or maybe you’re just really good at predictive stats and market value. You might also know a bit about fan mania.

  • Name: Wilt Chamberlain
  • Team: LA Lakers
  • Brand: Topps Chrome
  • Year: 2006 (Reprint)
  • Value: $979.30

Where is this going? Well, some people start following a team once it gets famous. Others are loyal to teams that haven’t won a game in decades! So a buyer like that might be premium for cards by their favorite players, even if the rest of the world doesn’t rate them as valuable.

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5. 🐐🔥MICHAEL JORDAN🔥🐐 1993 + 1994 Topps Finest PSA 9 set 👌

🐐🔥MICHAEL JORDAN🔥🐐 1993 + 1994 Topps Finest PSA 9 set 👌

Along the same lines, players are sometimes traded for various reasons. These might be financial, political, or personal. So a particular player may have spent a season or so with another team. For the player’s fangirls and fanboys, the short stint can create valuable cards.

  • Name: Michael Jordan
  • Team: Chicago Bulls
  • Brand: Topps Finest
  • Year: 1993 to 1994
  • Value: $558.52

This is a tricky space to play in though because it relies on brevity and sentimentality. The price of the card might also be driven by how visible the player was that season. It’s possible to sell a ‘troll card’ for a player during one of their most devastating seasons. It’s a sad niche.

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6. Rare 1992 USA Olympic Team Complete Set 10 Players 4 Coaches Hoops

Rare 1992 USA Olympic Team Complete Set 10 Players 4 Coaches Hoops

As you assess the value of a basketball card, check out its condition too. Some players seem profitable no matter what kind of card you have. Players like Shaq, Michael Jordan, or Kobe. But a damaged card – or one with lots of copies in circulation – won’t be worth much.

  • Name: USA Olympic Team
  • Team: Mixed
  • Brand: Hoops
  • Year: 1992
  • Value: $1,100

Inspect the card or verify its grading status. You should also confirm the type you have. It might be a Mosaic, a Top Chrome, or even an SP. The card brand makes a difference, both in perceived value and durability. Look for its trademarked features and authenticating details.

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7. National Treasures Kevin Durant Patch Auto Prime Clutch Factor /5 BGS

National Treasures Kevin Durant Patch Auto Prime Clutch Factor 5 BGS

You should also confirm the year of the sale. It’s easy to get excited by lists like these. They show verified sales worth hundreds of thousands. But like all collectibles, the value of these cards is cyclic. You can get a better price around a player’s landmark birthday or anniversary.

  • Name: Kevin Durant
  • Team: Brooklyn Nets
  • Brand: National Treasures
  • Year: 2020/21
  • Value: $3,500

But even the market itself has ‘seasons’. In some years, sales skyrocket while in others, your card collection sits there gathering dust. So check exactly when that buyer paid, then look at purchases closer to your selling period. If you need to, wait for the next trading card boom.

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8. Topps Archives Gold Jazz Basketball Card Karl Malone

Topps Archives Gold Jazz Basketball Card Karl Malone

If you’re new to the trading card space, you might be using the wrong criteria to grade your goods. Maybe you want players who sound familiar, but that might be because they’re always in the tabloids news. Or maybe you’re attracted to the photo angle, style, or facial expression.

  • Name: Karl Malone
  • Team: Utah Jazz
  • Brand: Topps Archives
  • Year: 1992/93
  • Value: $199.99

But if you’re looking at trading cards as an investment opportunity, your mindset is different. In the past few years, the most popular sports for trading cards were – in order – soccer, basketball, (ice) hockey, (American) football, and in a surprising fifth for the US, baseball.

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9. Donruss Optic Giannis Antetokounmpo /20 Fast Break PSA 10 Gem Mint

Donruss Optic Giannis Antetokounmpo 20 Fast Break PSA 10 Gem Mint

We mentioned trading card brands earlier, focusing on their reputation and significance. But here’s an important note – as of 2022, Panini holds exclusive rights over basketball trading cards. So if you’re currently stocking up on draft pick cards for speculation, look for Paninis.

  • Name: Giannis Antetokounmpo
  • Team: Milwaukee Bucks
  • Brand: Optic
  • Year: 2020/21
  • Value: $999.00

Panini has more than twenty sub-brands including National Treasures, Select, and Prizm, so they’re the go-to for newer cards. Cards from unofficial brands (without formal licenses) are not as valuable. For vintage cards, the condition of the card trumps the logo on its margins.

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10. Shaquille O’Neal! Orlando Magic Lakers Heat 4X MVP Nba Champion

Shaquille O’Neal! Orlando Magic Lakers Heat 4X MVP Nba Champion

Panini earned its NBA trading card license in 2009, and it runs until 2026. Once it expires, Fanatics will take over. Fanatics is already confirmed as the official supplier of baseball cards, taking over from Topps in 2025. So it’s a good idea to keep an eye on these three.

  • Name: Shaquille O’Neal
  • Team: Orlando Magic
  • Brand: Fleer
  • Year: 1992/93
  • Value: $559.30

Final edition Topps MLB cards (Major League Baseball) and Panini NBA cards from these final 5 years of the contract could be worth a lot. You might also get niche buyers for pre-official Fanatics cards published between now and 2026. Make this part of your strategy.

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11. Limited Stephen Curry Rookie Patch Auto /299 BGS 9/10 RPA RC

Limited Stephen Curry Rookie Patch Auto 299 BGS 910 RPA RC

Here’s another interesting fact – Fanatics acquired Topps in 2007, and Topps is the current MLB licensee, so maybe Fanatics will seep into the other trading card slots that Topps owns. A lot is set to shake up in the next five years, so watch the space as you stock up your cards.

  • Name: Stephen Curry
  • Team: Golden State Warriors
  • Brand: Panini RPA
  • Year: 2009
  • Value: $8,999

In addition to being familiar with the brand or sub-brand that makes your target cards, learn about the features of each sub-type so you can spot a fake. And pay attention to the category. Hoops were licensed at the lower end. Immaculate and Impeccable are considered superior.

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12. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Lew Alcindor! 6X NBA MVP All Time NBA

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Lew Alcindor! 6X NBA MVP All Time NBA

Suppose you have a set of cards from the same player and in the same pose. Which one offers the best investment? It’s not just about picking your favorite shade. Certain sets are hot e.g. the comic-style Kaboom sets. With Prizm, pick refractors or silvers over colored metallics.

  • Name: Mixed (Abdul-Jabbar, Mitchell, Tyler)
  • Team: Mixed
  • Brand: Topps
  • Year: 1969
  • Value: $315

Refractors (as they’re called in baseball) or Silvers (the basketball term) are cards with a reflective grey border. Since people are drawn to colors, manufacturers print fewer silvers, and this rarity raises the card’s collectible value. You can also check for limited edition cards.

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13. Panini Excalibur Kaboom #5 Tim Duncan BGS 9.5 Gem Mint

Panini Excalibur Kaboom #5 Tim Duncan BGS 9.5 Gem Mint

With many collectibles, if you look on the back of the item, it will say ‘Limited Edition, Only 100 made.’ On basketball cards, these editions have serial numbers confirming how many were printed. So a trading card with an authenticated serial number can fetch a better price.

  • Name: Tim Duncan
  • Team: San Antonio Spurs
  • Brand: Kaboom
  • Year: 2014/15
  • Value: $150

You might hear someone in the trading card space describe a trading card as a parallel or a variation. These are different versions of the same card or image. The difference is in the color, style, or pattern. Prizm parallels include holo, wave, or animal prints e.g. tiger stripe.

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14. Fleer Metal Kobe Bryant 1996-1997 Rookie HGA 9.5

Fleer Metal Kobe Bryant 1996-1997 Rookie HGA 9.5

Let’s talk about personalization. In the past, the most valuable basketball cards might have a player’s signature. They might also have a piece of their uniform attached to the card. These were memorable uniforms, like a swatch from the jersey or shorts worn during a key game.

  • Name: Kobe Bryant
  • Team: LA Lakers
  • Brand: Fleer
  • Year: 1996/97
  • Value: $1,255

And the autograph would be something collected in the wild when you bumped into the player courtside or maybe at a local hangout. But these days, autographs are formally signed en masse and applied to the cards via clear stickers. These are worth less than organic ones.

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15. Panini Excalibur KABOOM #42 Anfernee Hardaway PSA 9 MINT

Panini Excalibur KABOOM #42 Anfernee Hardaway PSA 9 MINT

Something similar has happened with memorabilia. Before, that swatch from your favorite player’s jersey might have the player’s sweat or sebum on it. That’s DNA, and as Sheldon Cooper once squealed, “I can grow my own Spock!” But today’s swatches are mostly mint.

  • Name: Penny Hardaway
  • Team: Orlando Magic
  • Brand: Kaboom
  • Year: 2014/15
  • Value: $570.

They don’t come from clothing the player interacted with, though they’re pieces of official uniforms. So they don’t demand as much in the market. Be aware of that when someone tries to hike the price based on a patch of fabric from a jacket. It has to be something they wore.

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16. Kevin Garnett Rookie ’95-96′ Fleer Metal #167 Basketball Card

Kevin Garnett Rookie '95-96' Fleer Metal #167 Basketball Card

While the photo doesn’t necessarily raise the value of a trading card, it can help. A shot featuring multiple players of note can be especially profitable. Or one with several significant autographs. A card that’s in high demand is that famous 2008 one with Kobe and LeBron.

  • Name: Kevin Garnett
  • Team: Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Brand: Fleer
  • Year: 1995/96
  • Value: $1,249.99

Firsts are important. So once Fanatics confirms which of their subsidiaries will take over from Panini, initial cards from those sets will be worth something. You can get a lot from a top player’s first card on their new team, or wearing the rebranded kit of their current team.

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17. Lamelo Ball Psa 10 Panini Select #298 Rookie Courtside Silver Prizm Rc

Lamelo Ball Psa 10 Panini Select #298 Rookie Courtside Silver Prizm Rc

Here’s a quick tip for reselling newbies – look for premium card sets. These include Prizm by Panini and Topps Chrome by Topps. Both were designed as high-end series, and Prizm was created (in 2012) as a direct TC competitor. Unfortunately, fame can take a toll on value.

  • Name: Lamelo Ball
  • Team: Charlotte Hornets
  • Brand: Prizm
  • Year: 2020
  • Value: $2,000

The more popular trading cards become the more manufacturers cash in. So while the value of cards is in scarcity, printing companies are releasing more and more of these cards to meet demand. And this over-supply is lowering the price of individual basketball card sets.

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18. Star Rookie!! Magic Johnson! Graded 9. Rare Star Magic Johnson

Star Rookie!! Magic Johnson! Graded 9. Rare Star Magic Johnson

This may seem counter-intuitive, but manufacturers don’t make money in the collectible space. Their profits come from the initial sale. It’s resellers and collectors that seek those thousands in the secondary market. So if anybody can buy a card at Walmart, why pay more?

  • Name: Magic Johnson
  • Team: LA Lakers
  • Brand:
  • Year: 1983/84
  • Value: $2,450

If you’re building up your stockpile from hobby boxes, keep the golds and silvers. Gold cards are only done in batches of 10, and each one is numbered. The highest-end cards are RPAs (Rookie Patch Autos) by National Treasures, Flawless, and the pre-Panini Upper Deck.

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19. Rookie Panini Prizm Silver Jayson Tatum #16 PSA 10 Gem Mint Beauty

Rookie Panini Prizm Silver Jayson Tatum #16 PSA 10 Gem Mint Beauty

As we wind down, here’s a quick quiz. If you have five seconds to pick a trading card from a random table, what do you do? Choose a Prizm Silver or an Optic Holo. They both have refractive borders. You can also select a gold card or a classic player like Luka or Shaq.

  • Name: Jayson Tatum
  • Team: Boston Celtics
  • Brand: Prizm
  • Year: 2017
  • Value: $240.50

If the card has Rated Rookie on it, it’ll be worth a lot. You’ll see this on Optic cards and Donruss cards, which are the (cheaper) cardboard versions of Optic. Look out for animal print borders too. Select produces sought-after variants in tiger, zebra, and tie-dye patterns.

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20. Panini Downtown Complete 5-Card Set, Stephen Curry SSP, PSA 10 GEM

Panini Downtown Complete 5-Card Set, Stephen Curry SSP, PSA 10 GEM

Are cartoon trading cards worth anything? Well, Kaboom does pretty well. It’s a rare insert that you’ll find in some sets. And the paper is easily damaged, so you can get a good price if it’s in mint condition. Colour Blast cards have a childlike element too, collectors like them.

  • Name: Stephen Curry
  • Team: Golden State Warriors
  • Brand: Downtown
  • Year: 2016 to 2020
  • Value: $16,000

They have the player in the foreground with a splash of bright colored paint puffing up like a smoky cloud behind the model. Other cards with animated drawings include Downtown. These rare cards have a human player with an animated backdrop relevant to their team.

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21. Fleer Michael Jordan Rookie RC Sticker PSA 6 Razor Sharp Corners

Fleer Michael Jordan Rookie RC Sticker PSA 6 Razor Sharp Corners

Someone said we love sports because it has all the blood and gore of war but none of the personal harm. And for avid fans, your team is your deity and your rivals are demons to be vanquished. So it makes sense that MVPs end up as ‘saints’ on stained glass trading cards.

  • Name: Michael Jordan
  • Team: Chicago Bulls
  • Brand: Fleer
  • Year: 1986
  • Value: $950

These cards – like the cartoon ones – are included as low-volume special-edition inserts, so you’ll get one or two in a case that has dozens of boxes. And if you don’t know which card you should buy, look for players listed in the Hall of Fame or certified with All-Star credentials.

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Do you have any tips on identifying the most valuable basketball cards? Share them with us!

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