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The Market for NBA Collectibles is Bigger Than Ever

Apr 11, 2018; Orlando, FL, USA; Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) signs a trading card prior to the game against the Orlando Magic at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we have seen a massive resurgence in the collectible market. NBA collectibles are no exception to this. From rookie cards worth hundreds of thousands to digital highlights. The demand for NBA collectibles has grown to unprecedented levels.

We indeed have never seen this enormous demand for NBA–and sports–collectibles. Today we’ll look at some of the most popular NBA collectibles and some of the eye-opening records they’ve set.

NBA Trading Cards

Apr 9, 2019; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) signs a trading card after the game against the Denver Nuggets at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Utah Jazz won 118-108. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports
Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

The pandemic caused millions of Americans to be stuck at home with nothing to do. Because of this, the trading card hobby has experienced a considerable resurgence. Prices have hit all-time highs, and collectors are buying more than ever before. NBA cards are certainly no exception, with some of the rarest cards selling for even millions of dollars this past year.

Basketball cards have seen some unprecedented sales recently. A Luka Doncic National Treasures card graded a 9.5 sold for $627,300 at auction. Also, a rare LeBron James Gold Prizm card graded a 9.5 sold for $585,400 at auction. We also saw a Steph Curry Panini Prizm graded a ten sell for $271,830. To make things even more absurd, all of these sales happened in a single night! The basketball card market is alive and well, and there is a market for even the most expensive cards.

More trading cards are being sold and listed than ever before. Collectors listed a whopping 119 trading cards per minute on eBay, and they sold more than 45 million in 2020.

In general, NBA trading card prices see lots of movement. Usually, the price will go up more the better the player performs. James Harden’s rookie card graded a PSA 10 sold for $2,000 in January of this year. However, just a month later, the very same card sold for $9,000. The Nets dominate the East this year, and James Harden is a candidate for the MVP award. The price of his rookie card reflects this.

NBA Top Shot

Mar 18, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) dunks for a basket against the Charlotte Hornets during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

In late 2020, the NBA announced it was partnering with Dapper Labs, a blockchain company, and releasing Top Shot. This platform allows fans to collect highlights of their favorite players digitally. NBA Top Shot exploded in popularity in early 2021. Through February and March, Top Shot have generated over $400M worth of sales.

NBA Top Shot are a kind of NFTs or non-fungible tokens. NFTs are one-of-a-kind digital art that cannot be counterfeited. In this case, digital art is a unique NBA highlight that can be bought, sold, or traded.

High-profile celebrities such as Elon Musk and Mark Cuban envision a very bright future for NFTs. This is what Cuban had to say in an interview about them:

“If this was 1995 again, coming up with these types of applications, I’d be going nuts. That’s exactly what I’d be doing right now – anything I could make digital.”

Mark Cuban – “The Quest” podcast

With NBA Top Shot, the average NBA fan can turn a viral highlight into thousands of dollars. For instance, take Daniel Hurtado, who turned $2,000 into $130,000 by buying, selling, and trading his favorite NBA moments. The industry is already growing extremely fast. An example of this is a LeBron James highlight selling for a staggering $213,000.

Collectors, billionaires, and fans alike agree that the future of collecting is very bright. With NBA Top Shot, fans have a new way to appreciate their favorite NBA players and highlights. The industry is pretty unique and unprecedented. The future is somewhat uncertain, but the analytics don’t lie. NBA Top Shot and digital collecting alike are a fast-growing industry.

The Future of NBA Collectibles

Mar 21, 2021; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets power forward Kevin Durant (7) walks onto the court during a time out during the fourth quarter against the Washington Wizards at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The future of this industry seems to be limitless. Business is booming, with no signs of slowing down. Members of the NBA community have noticed this, with players funding both trading card auction companies and NBA Top Shot. Among others, Brooklyn star Kevin Durant and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban were part of a $40M investment in Goldin Auctions, a high-end sports card auction site.

Many NBA players have also taken an interest in Top Shot. Kevin Durant, Michael Jordan, Klay Thompson, and many other players were recently a part of a $305M investment in NBA Top Shot. The industry’s future seems to be very bright, and many NBA players notice this.

To summarize, the NBA collectible industry’s future is very bright, and the market will only continue to grow. Whether they are digital or physical, NBA collectibles are just getting started.

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