Kobe Bryant is widely-regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, winning five NBA titles, playing in 18 All-Star games, was selected to the All-NBA Team 15 times, was named to the All-Defensive Team 12 times, was named the NBA's Most Valuable Player in 2008, and twice was named the NBA Finals MVP.
Bryant received a posthumous induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and in 2021, he was selected for the NBA 75th Anniversary Team.
Kobe's popularity has extended to the world of collecting, where his trading cards are among the most coveted in the hobby.
In this blog post we'll take a look at the most expensive Kobe Bryant cards on the NextGem app and why they are so valuable.
With a print run of just 499 any copy of this beautiful card is valuable, however only a small handful have achieved this lofty grade. There have been 292 copies evaluated by PSA and BGS to date - with only 4 of 86 receiving a PSA 10 and this being one of just 9 to garner a BGS 9.5. That extreme condition sensitivity can be attributed to the finicky card material and hand-manufacturing process. The last sale was $273,000 in October of 2021 but this specific copy is serial numbered 023 / 499, a call to the Black Mamba’s hero and mentor Michael Jordan, and would surely command a healthy premium.
In recent years Precious Metal Gems have come to be known as the ultimate representation of excellence in late-1990’s sports cards, with it’s distinct and eye-catching red (or green) foil. Since the vast majority of cards from this exceedingly rare and condition-sensitive set have varying degrees of chipping along the edges, the actual grade tends to be of little concern to most. The Kobe Bryant trails only Michael Jordan in value and desirability in the set and will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars if you can even manage to find one available. The last time one came to market was in February of 2022 and it sold for $229,200.
Arguably the most iconic Kobe Bryant rookie card, while not serial numbered only 714 copies have been graded by PSA and BGS combined. This is one of just 63 PSA 10’s out of the 416 that PSA has slabbed, for a 15% gem rate. What really makes this particular specimen special though is the vivid colors. More often than not the front images on this set turn a greenish hue over time, but that is not the case here. It’s not an exaggeration to say this is one of the absolute finest examples of this card in existence, with discerning collectors appreciating its vibrance and eye-appeal. A PSA 10 sold for $156,000 in August of 2022.
Not only is this card rare in its own right, with a print run of only 150 and long odds to pull from a pack, but there are just single-digit copies carrying this lofty of a grade. 114 have been graded by PSA and Beckett combined, which is 76% of the population that was manufactured. Just 7 of those have garnered a PSA or BGS 10 for a minuscule .06% gem rate. This is a historically significant set as well as it’s regarded as the first serial numbered NBA cards. A PSA 10 sold for $97,200 in April of 2022.
While not as popular as its Red or Green counterpart’s from the same year, the Championship PMG’s have a lot of fans in the high-end 1990’s basketball card community. After all it has a lower print run (/50 vs. /90 with the Red) and many admire the unique, city-themed background images. In total PSA and BGS have graded 20 copies of this card, with only 6 receiving a higher grade than this BGS 8.5. One of these sold for $59,000 in June of 2022, which is about 25% of what a lower grade Red PMG would cost. Which would you rather have?
These were reportedly inserted at a rate of 1-in-30 packs with three different row variations. So it would theoretically require opening 2,700 packs or 112.5 boxes to pull a specific card. So far 118 of the print run of /150 have been graded by PSA and Beckett and while there are 9 PSA 10’s this is the lone BGS 10. In other words this is arguably the best copy of the card in the world. The last time this for all intents and purposes 1-of-1 came to market in May of 2001 it sold for $97,200.
This is one of two Kobe Bryant rookies in the Finest set and was released in Series II, with the other from Series I featuring a bronze border design. Both can be found with and without the original protective coating. Gold Refractors were a case hit and inserted at a rate of 1:288 Packs (1:12 Boxes), so the odds of pulling a specific players card much less a copy in gem mint condition were exceedingly long. PSA has graded 242 copies of this card with just 45 receiving the vaunted PSA 10 designation. The last couple of sales were $54,000 (with coating) in June of 2022 and $70,000 (without coating) in May of 2021.
Featuring a combination of condition-sensitive acetate and foil, this highly-collectible insert set comes in two variations with a combined print run of just 81. This is the pink / purple “Future” which is serial numbered /73 while the impossibly rare “Now” has a green color scheme and is /8. To date a total of 46 have been graded by PSA and Beckett, with only 18 receiving a higher mark than this BGS 8.5. The top specimens are 3 BGS 9.5’s and 2 PSA 9’s. A copy in this condition sold for $52,000 in August of 2022.
The 125-card Atomic Refractor set was inserted at a rate of 1-Per-Box, so pulling a specific player like this Kobe Bryant rookie could require opening as many as 3,000 packs. And who knows what type of condition it would be in. PSA has graded 267 copies and 36 have received a PSA 10 (13.5%), with one selling for just under $19,000 in May of 2022. Meanwhile 232 copies have been graded by Beckett, with just 3 earning a BGS 10 (.013%) like this one, selling most recently for $55,000 in May of 2021.
In a vacuum this card has a lot going for it, most notably that it’s an early-career Kobe Bryant from the late-1990’s and is serial numbered /100. The Platinum Medallion’s were inserted at a reported rate of 1-Per-180 Packs / 1-Per-5 Boxes. With 150 cards in the set one would have to open as many as 27,000 PACKS or 750 BOXES to pull a specific player. 48 copies have been graded by PSA and BGS, with just 4 receiving a higher mark than this BGS 9. Another BGS 9 sold for $20,700 in January 2022. This isn’t just any copy though, it’s 008 / 100 - Kobe’s jersey number - which makes it truly special.
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