If you grew up before the 2000s then the hobby of collecting sports cards shouldn’t be foreign to you. Having the coolest cards from some of your favorite athletes was like a badge of honor in the streets. But as a kid, you don’t truly understand the concept of value. Things like basketball cards end up stuffed away in your parent’s garage with the rest of the junk you didn’t take to college. But what if there are millions stuffed away in that box? Not likely, but maybe…
The death of Kobe Bryant on January 26, 2020, was heart-breaking, traumatic, and still to this day hard to believe. But his death left a void that a lot of his fans tried to fill with memorabilia. According to eBay, just two weeks after Kobe Bryant’s death, his basketball cards increased in sales by 600%. If it had Kobe’s face on it, people wanted it, from t-shirts, jackets, posters, etc.
In March 2021, a Kobe Bryant card sold for a record $1.795 million in an online auction house called Goldin Auctions. The hefty price tag made the card one of the most expensive basketball cards ever sold. The “1996-97 Topps Chrome Refractors #138 Kobe Bryant Rookie Card, is just one of two in the entire world still in perfect condition. According to Goldin Auctions, the card qualified for “black label” recognition.
“Kobe Bryant was one of the fiercest competitors of all time and a truly larger-than-life figure. His rookie card is one of the rarest in existence and one of only two on earth in black label pristine condition, which is the highest possible obtainable grade,” said Ken Goldin, founder of Goldin Auctions. “The fact that it sold for the final auction price of $1.795 million, the record for any Kobe Bryant card, speaks to just how beloved he was around the world.”
Yes, this card is very rare, but it’s not the only Kobe Bryant rookie card that could be worth good money. Let’s take a look at some of Kobe Bryant’s most valuable, as well as most affordable rookie cards. If you don’t own one, here’s your opportunity to get in while you can.
1996-97 E-X2000 Kobe Bryant Rookie Card #30
This unique Kobe rookie card has foiled glossy borders. Kobe’s seen driving to the basket with clouds in his backdrop. Interesting choice for a backdrop of a rookie card, but it makes it stand out. This card comes with a steep price tag and on eBay will run you anywhere from $1000 -$6500, depending on the seller.
1996-97 Bowman’s Best Kobe Bryant Rookie Card #R23
This rare Kobe Rookie Card shows him baby-faced and smiling, ready to make a play. Bowman’s Best did not last long in the card-making industry thus making the care more valuable. On eBay, starting bid for this car is all over the place. Some reputable sellers have it listed for $1259, but there are significantly lower bids on some auctions at $180 starting.
1996-97 Topps Kobe Bryant Rookie Card #138
Topps is one of the most popular trading card brands in America. They have cards from players still in the NBA that are worth millions. This particular Kobe Bryant rookie card doesn’t have any of the premium elements as the card above, but it’s still one of the most popular cards on the market. This Kobe card will run you anywhere from $200-$2500, depending on the condition and the seller.
1996-97 Finest Kobe Bryant Rookie Card #74
When it came to Topps basketball cards, Finest was top of the line. Bryant appeared in two separate cards for the series and one is slightly more valuable than the other. Each card originally came with a protective film. On eBay, the cards are listed at $360-$900.
1996-97 Flair Showcase Row 2 Kobe Bryant Rookie Card #3
This is by far one of the coolest Kobe Bryant rookie cards ever made. The Flair Showcase card was a multi-image card with a side portrait blending with an action shot of the late star. They are one of the most coveted Kobe Bryant cards on the market. This card will run you anywhere from $150-$1,850.