Are Basketball Cards a Good Investment?

With so many different types of investments available in the world today, you might be wondering if it is worth your money to trade in basketball cards. Since they are not a metal or other currency-based commodity, many people question the value of such an investment. Therefore, it is always important to consider the answer to this question carefully before making a decision. 

Basketball cards do make a good investment. However, like any investment, the value of certain cards can increase or decrease over time. As such, it is always advisable to make sure you maintain a balanced portfolio that contains other investments as well. Your net worth can increase as a result. 

While not every basketball card is worth the paper it is printed on; there are many that have increased substantially over time. This is why many people are drawn to this form of investing. Continue reading to learn more about basketball cards and why they can be a great addition to your investment portfolio. 

Why Are Some Basketball Cards Worth So Much Money?

When sports cards first entered the marketplace, trading in them was largely seen as a hobby that boys engaged in while young and quickly forgot about. In fact, many people still have boxes of basketball cards sitting in shoe boxes that they may not even remember they had. Thus, for generations, the value of these cards never moved very much. 

That all began to change back in the 1980s. It was at this point that investors started to see the value in such cards. Only a limited number of such cards are ever made. While you might not realize the value of a particular player at the time, he might make it big on the world stage over the course of his career. This can turn a seemingly minor card into one that is extremely valuable. 

It Is All About Supply and Demand

With basketball cards, the economic concept of supply and demand it definitely at work. This has become such a good investment because you just never know what the value of a certain card will be a few decades from now. If you are fortunate enough to have a limited edition card that has become in high demand, the value will sky rocket. 

Basketball players only get one rookie year. As a consequence, rookie basketball cards only get printed one time. While many rookies never amount to much on a global scale, some become real athletic phenoms. That is the perfect example of why investing in basketball cards has become so exciting and lucrative. The cost to enter the market is low while the potential profits are big. 

It did not always use to be this way. In the early days, card makers would simply print more of a particular card when there was an apparent demand for it. Because of this, the value never really differed that much. There were simply too many cards on the market to warrant serious trading. This was because sports cards were not always seen as an investment. 

This all changed a few decades ago. Cardmakers implemented a shift in their methodology. Today, basketball cards have serial numbers printed directly on them. This means that only so many of a certain lot is ever printed. The byproduct of this is that cards are now seen as rare, and the right one can become extremely valuable. 

Are Basketball Cards Easy to Sell?

Another reason why basketball cards make for a great investment is that they are incredibly easy to sell. There is now a global marketplace for basketball cards that makes it easy for beginners and advanced investors to trade merchandise almost at will. While it used to be difficult to find a buyer for a certain card due to limited access, this is no longer an issue. 

If you trade in basketball cards, you will find that there are willing buyers located across the United States and the world. In addition, there are numerous online marketplaces set up simply to connect buyers and sellers. Beyond this, numerous auctions take place throughout the year. This makes for a great way to sell off your portfolio when you are ready, or add to it. 

One of the main reasons why basketball cards have become so easy to sell, is that the supply never meets demand. As mentioned, cards are now printed in limited amounts. You may well be holding a basketball card that someone in another country simply has no access to. The value will go up as you find multiple buyers all looking to purchase what you have. 

Here are some of the outlets by which you can sell your basketball cards today:

  • Your own website – Many traders create their own website that others can access to browse their inventory. Putting you in direct contact with a buyer also means that you do not have to pay any commission to speak of. 
  • Online marketplaces – There are plenty of sites set up online to list the cards you have for sale. Keep in mind that such sites will typically take a commission off each sale, so you will want to consider that when you price your cards. 
  • Online auction sites – This is a great way to sell the more valuable basketball cards in your collection. Instead of having a fixed priced, you might find that an auction fetches an even higher dollar amount depending on how many interested buyers actually bid on it. 
  • Sports card trading shows – There are a number of trading shows held throughout the year. This is a great way to both buy and sell basketball cards, further demonstrating why this is such a good investment opportunity. 
  • Memorabilia shops – Depending on where you happen to live in the country, you might be able to sell your cards in a memorabilia shop. Interested buyers will come there and have a look. You will just need to be ready to pay the shop owner a commission if the card sells for your target price. 

These are just a few of the many outlets that are available to you as an investor in basketball cards. As easy as it is to sell cards in your collection, it is just as simple to find cards that you can add to your portfolio. This is a form of investing that can be great fun for the entire family as well. 

How Can You Get Involved Investing in Basketball Cards?

If you have not yet become an investor in basketball cards, now is a great time to get started. Doing so is rather easy. The previous section of this post has already clued you in on some of the many places that you can buy your first few cards. That is the key. You have to get started somewhere, so you might as well start with just one or two cards at the beginning. 

Do your research from the outset. You do not simply want to buy a card because you think it looks good. Check online and see what its value might be. Keep in mind that you might have to pay over the current value in order to get a card, but the goal is for that one card to make you money over time. You might buy something for $500 today, but it becomes worth $1,500 in two years. 

You will find that some people divert as much as 20 percent of their investment portfolio to their basketball collection. When you are first getting started, this might sound a bit steep to you. That is fine. You will want to determine how much of your investment dollars you want to devote to this endeavor and then seek out the cards that provide you with the best potential. 

Once you start to buy a few cards, you will want to keep an eye on their value. When you are ready to try to make some money, test the waters and see what you can sell them for. Remember that you do not have to sell any card until you find a buyer willing to pay your price. Once you start to earn a profit, you will probably be ready to buy even more cards to keep the investment going. 

Where is the Basketball Card Market Headed?

One of the primary reasons why many people hesitate to invest in basketball cards is the uncertainty of the market. Unlike gold that always contains value, the feeling is that basketball cards could eventually lose their appeal in the global marketplace. To be fair, this is a risk with virtually any investment today. 

If recent trends are any indication, there really is nothing to be concerned about in regard to basketball cards as an investment at this time. For example, this past year has seen an explosion in interest around the world when it comes to buying and selling basketball cards.

The record for the biggest basketball card sale in history was broken twice in 2021. First, it was a Luka Doncic rookie card that went for $4.6 million. That was followed by a LeBron James rookie card that someone bought for $5.2 million. Both were records in the basketball card market, following a trend where 23 of 24 most valuable sales of all time were recorded in just the past year. 

The Difference Between Collecting and Investing in Basketball Cards

You may have heard the old adage that everything is for sale for a price, but that does not always apply to basketball cards. Many collectors are in the hobby purely for the enjoyment of it all. They have no intention of selling their collection. These are collectors in the purest sense of the term. The only time their cards will ever be sold is when they become a part of the estate after death. 

Many other individuals start off collecting basketball cards as a hobby but quickly see that potential value in doing so. This is where the investment side of the equation takes hold. It is also why so many people have entered into the market in recent years. However, keep in mind that you will want first to understand the industry if you hope to make any serious money. 

What Brands Are the Best from an Investment Perspective?

If you are going to get serious about investing in basketball cards, you will want to know that there are various brands involved in the industry. Some retain their value better than others. The number of entrants in this field have expanded greatly in that last decade. Prior to that, only Topps, Fleer, and Upper Deck were well known. 

Today, dozens of different brands are involved in making basketball cards, so it can be quite a task to determine which ones you want to invest in. Some brands offer incredibly inexpensive cards that beginning investors can get involved with and hope to see the value increase substantially in the coming generations. 

The cheapest basketball card brands are:

  • NBA Hoops
  • Contruss

At the middle end of the spectrum, you have the following brands:

  • Prizm
  • Mosaic
  • Optic
  • Select
  • Revolution

If you are looking to get the top brands included in your basketball card collection, you will want to consider adding the following brands:

  • National Treasures
  • Immaculate
  • Flawless
  • Opulence

You will find that each brand releases annual basketball card sets. The lower end brands tend to put theirs out first, followed at the end by the upper-tier. Those brands that tend to charge more for their cards are also the ones that are better quality and hold their value longer. 

5 Main Types of Basketball Card Sets

Not all basketball cards are created the same. There are different types of products to be concerned about, some of which will add much more value than others. When you find a box of basketball cards, they will typically be one of the following five product types. 

  • Base Set – This is where you will get a generic set of player cards. They can range from individuals you may have never heard of to global superstars. Rookie cards can be included in a base set. Each card is signified by a number that is unique to them. 
  • Parallel Card Set – These are just slightly different than base sets. Some of them can be quite rare. You will find those by looking at the serial number. If you get one that says 1/1, then you have found a one of a kind card that you should probably hold onto. 
  • Insert Card Set – Inserts are cards that follow a specific theme. You will also find many of these in a serial numbered parallel set. 
  • Autographed Basketball Card Sets – As its name implies, these card sets will contain an autograph from the actual player. They contain serial numbers to indicate how many are contained in the set, reflecting their potential value. 
  • Memorabilia Basketball Card Sets – If you get a memorabilia basketball card set then something from the player will be included along with the card. It could be a part of a game jersey, shoelace, or something else worn by the player. Needless to say, these can be quite valuable depending on the value and the significance of the item that is attached. 

You will find that each type of basketball card is sold in a different place. It all depends on the types of cards that are included in the box. Investors often like to buy hobby boxes of cards because they never know what they are going to find. It is an exciting way to add to their collection while having the potential to increase their wealth at the same time. 

How Card Boxes are Broken Down

Understanding the five main types of basketball card sets is just the beginning. If you are going to be an investor, you will also want to be aware of how retail card set boxes are further broken down. You can find the following types of boxes depending on where you look. 

  • Gravity Packs – These are extremely small packs of basketball cards, with each one containing between four and eight of them. 
  • Fat Packs – These are a bit larger, with most packs containing about 30 basketball cards. You will find a variety of brands included, from exclusive all the way down to the low end. 
  • Cello Packs – This will contain several different gravity packs, the combined lot of which will be wrapped in a cellophane package. 
  • Hanger Boxes – This one is signified by a small box that will include either a large pack of cards or several different gravity packs. 
  • Blaster Boxes – This will be a medium sized box that has multiple gravity packs included inside. 
  • Mega Boxes – Finally, a mega box will include quite a few different gravity packs. 

If you are serious about investing in basketball cards, you will want to start different types of card and product sets. Many of these will be quite inexpensive right now, setting you up for a potential windfall at some point in the future. That is one of the main keys to building up your portfolio. 

How is the Value of a Basketball Card Determined?

By now, you have probably figured out why we believe basketball cards can be a good investment. However, making money with this means that you need to know how the value of basketball cards are determined in the first place. The following sections detail how basketball cards become valuable over time. 

The Rookie Card

Similar to baseball, a rookie card in basketball tends to hold the most value. Of course, it depends on how well the player ends up performing over the course of his career. 

There are always some exceptions to this role based upon higher end brands doing a special card to signify certain milestones in a player’s career, such as Panini’s Kobe Bryant card during the 2012-2013 season. 

Rare Cards

If a basketball card becomes almost obsolete, certain collectors will find it more valuable. Because it will be so difficult to find, the value will shoot up exponentially. Rare cards are signified by serial numbers or the simple fact that not that many seem to be in circulation any longer. 

Basketball Cards with Patches or Autographs

There are some cards that come with an authentic patch from the player’s jersey. Some may come with a hand signed autograph. Either one is going to add extreme value to the card depending on who the player is.

One of the most highly sought after types of basketball card is a rookie patch with an autograph. If you can get your hands on one of these, then the value of your investment portfolio should increase quite substantially. For example, the Luka Doncic rookie card that recently sold for $4.6 million was a patch autograph that was made by the National Treasures brand. 

The Condition and Grade of the Card

Basketball cards can be given grades. This is the primary way that a collector or investor knows the quality and condition of the card that they are looking at. Since different collectors may have differing opinions about the actual condition of any given card, professional grading companies are now sought to render the final verdict. 

If you become a serious investor, you will likely have the valuable cards in your basketball condition graded. The higher the grade, the more you can sell the card for. For example, a 1986 Michael Jordan with a grade of one is worth approximately $1,309, while one that is grade 10 can fetch over $73,000. 

An interesting note is that grading cards also publish what is referred to as a population report. The report will signify how many of a particular card and brand have received a certain grade and are still in circulation. Those with a lower number in circulation, will retain a higher number because they will be considered to be rare. 

How the Player Performed

Of course, you can have a basketball card in perfect condition and it be relatively worthless if nobody even remembers who the player is. On the other hand, a player who consistently performs at the highest levels throughout his career, will fetch a considerably high price. 

There is a lot to digest here. Some players start out their career at the pinnacle of success, only to suffer from health problems or performance issues after a few short years. While those cards might be worth a lot initially, they will start to decline in value as soon as the performance issue starts to set in. 

On the other hand, a player who can sustain success throughout his career is going to be the benefactor of a series of basketball cards that can quite possibly continue to increase in value, far after retirement. Examples include Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson. 

This is why it helps to be a fan of basketball if you are going to be an investor. If you do not follow the players themselves, then you will want to do your research. The highest performing players will tend to result in basketball cards that are the most valuable. 

A Player’s Legacy

There is also something to be said for public perception and how it relates to the value of a basketball card. Players who contribute to American and global culture are going to be recognized for their attributes both on and off the court. These are the players that continue to make a name for themselves even after their playing days are over. 

When you are adding to your basketball card portfolio, you will want to consider players who have built a lasting legacy for themselves. This is the true value of the card. It is also what is going to keep the card being highly sought after for decades to come. You do not want to be left with a card that simply no longer has any demand because the player has been forgotten. 

Knowing When to Buy and Sell

The final point to make about investing in basketball cards is knowing when it is best to buy and sell. This is a cyclical type of collection. You will find that prices are generally lower in the offseason. This is when you want to look for great buys and add to your collection. If you are ready to sell, the playoffs are the time to do it, particularly for active players. 

Keep in mind that college basketball card sets can be quite valuable as well. However, those can begin to decline in value once the player hits the NBA and rookie cards are debuted. You would probably make some money prior to that rookie card coming out, so look for values and get ready to sell rather quickly. 


While it might not be the most talked about investment in the world, trading in basketball cards has become quite lucrative in recent years. If you can get your hand on the right card and hold onto it, the demand for it might just net you a tidy sum of money. The key is to maintain a balanced portfolio and monitor it constantly for market adjustments. 


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