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I grew up with Kobe as the main man in the NBA. Him and KG were the two that were at their peak when I was first getting into the game at an age where I was old enough to know what was going on.
Hell, I still yell “Kobe” when I’m throwing paper in a trash can.
Kobe was a part of a stacked rookie class to with Ray Allen and Allen Iverson also drafted the same year. As much as I also love AI, you’d have to say Kobe was the star of that draft class. In fact, Kobe became “one name” famous like Ophrah or Cher… You only need to say his first name to know who you’re talking about.
As you’d probably imagine, some of Kobe’s rookie cards are high-ticket items and the apple of almost every collector’s eye (maybe not Celtics fans).
With that in mind, in this article, we’ll look at the top Kobe Bryant rookie cards by price – as well as a few under the radar cards you might want to invest in.
The Top 5 Kobe Bryant Rookie Card Value List
Also, it’s important to know that these prices are rough estimates and based off prior sales data. Card prices have been rising steadily, so these prices may be somewhat off by the time you read this – but they’ll be in the ballpark.
1996 Topps Chrome Refractor Kobe Bryant Rookie Card #138
The top of the line when it comes to Kobe rookie cards is the Topps Chrome Refractor.
Even if you found a base version of this card, it still wouldn’t be cheap. However, the Refractor was easily the top-of-the-line parallel. The price has been going up and up in recent years. In 2020, there have been sales between the $60,000 to $80,000 price range – with a sale even collecting $81,000.
Obviously, with a card like this there isn’t many sales per year, so there isn’t really enough data to get an accurate idea for an average price or anything like that.
Still, the card is obviously incredibly high end and could even still rise up in price. I wouldn’t be shocked it if clicks over to $100,000 in the future!
Search the card on eBay here to see it for yourself.
1996 Finest Gold Atomic Refractor #269
The Finest Heir cards are pretty awesome and always a collectors item. This one takes out second place with a BGS 10 selling for nearly $25,000 in 2020.
Obviosuly, a PSA 10 would sell for less than that – but the card is quite rare so it’s hard to find a lot of recent sales data.
The Finest cards are always attractive to collectors too, and this card is no different, so I’d think that the next PSA 10 that went up for sale would go for a very good price too.
1996 Skybox E-X2000 Credentials #30 Kobe Bryant
Coming in next here is this awesome card from Skybox. I don’t know what it is about Skybox, but I absolutely love their cards (you’ll probably notice me mention Skybox whenever I’m using an example on this blog).
Anyway, this parallel was limited to 499 and, sold on auction for over $20,000 in 2020 and the price will probably keep going up from here.
There aren’t too many of these cards in circulation with only four of them graded PSA 10, and another 20 rated PSA 9. So if you can get your hands on a PSA 10, odds are it’ll increase in value. Look for it on eBay and see if you can find any online.
1996 Score Board Silver Kobe Bryant RC
This might be my personal favorite card on this list. To me – this is cool. The pose. The dunk. And that auto is incredible.
(for those of you playing at home, an auto is an autograph)
There were only 325 of these cards made and I could only find four of those graded at a PSA 10. So, to me, that explains the price.
With the on-card auto, there’s an extra step with grading. I’ve seen a few BGS 9.5s with a 10 auto, which also went at around the 10k mark. However, there was a PSA 10 sold in 2020 for $17,000.
Find the card on eBay.
1996 Flair Showcase Legacy Row 0 #31
I did a little homework on this card becuse – surprisingly, Flair’s 1996 offering isn’t in my wheelhouse.
They offered three stages of scarcity.
- Row 2, which was the easiest to find
- Row 1, which is a moderate level of scarcity
- Row 0, which was the hardest to find
Or, as I’m going to call it- the Goldilocks approach to scarcity
Although, I guess the middle one isn’t “just right”.
Either way, if you can wrap your head around the tiered scarcity, there was still about 150 of these showcase cards in total. These were obviosly outside the base card.
The card looks very 90s but still offers a design that’s different to many others that’ll feature today.
Other Kobe Bryant Rookie Cards
Obviously, those cards are always going to be a pretty sound investment over time. However, we all can’t afford 60k for a basketball card (no matter how cool it is).
So, I’ve done some homework for you, and I’ve found some other rookie cards that could be a good investment.
To make sure we’re getting the best bang for our buck, we’re only looking at cards that are graded on this list.
Sure, if you’re great at assessing a card’s value over the internet, you can buy ungraded cards and then grade them and make an even bigger profit. However, I’d much rather go with the certainty of buying graded cards.
If you’re new to this, you can read our beginners guide to card grading.
With that in mind, you can probably find these cards from anywhere between $1,000 and $2,000. And, as the price for the top Kobe Bryant rookie cards rise, these cards should be taken along for the ride.
1996 Skybox E-X2000
This is the base version to the Skybox card that we mentioned earilier in the post. As you can see, there isn’t a whole lot different about this card. There’s a different color around the edges (green instead of white) and that’s about it.
One thing about these cards though, there seems to be an issue with them losing some of the shine and wearing on the edges – that means that there aren’t many that rate at a PSA 9 or 10. However, on the plus side, it does mean the the PSA 8s are a reasonable price and may actually hold some value – which doesn’t happen all the time.
If you do find a PSA 10 though, it’ll be north of the $2,000 mark.
Topps Base Rookie Card Kobe Bryant
Another base card of one we mentioned earlier. The Topps rookie card is probably the card that people think of when they imaging a Kobe rookiw card.
If you don’t have a spare $80,000 under your bed for the Refractor, you can buy the base at a much more reasonable price.
You can pick these up for around the $1,500 mark (PSA 10), and obviosly less for PSA 9s. I’ve even seen some PSA 7s and 8s for sale from time to time, but I don’t know if I’d be interested in that.
Either way, this rookie card at a PSA 9 or 10 should continue to rise.
1996 Bowmans Kobe Bryant Rookie #R23
The Bowmans Best card is a classic-looking basketball card which means it should get some carry-over value going forward.
One thing about the mid-90s card… some look a little too 90s. I don’t know if that’ll have an impact on re-sale going forward or not. It shouldn’t, but if it deters some buyers that will impact price.
This card on the other hand, should stand the test of time.
We’re only looking at the base card here, but you should be able to buy one for $1,000 – $1,500, which should rise in prices over the next few years.
Best Non- Rookie Kobe Bryant Cards
So we’ve covered all of the Kobe rookie cards you can get, but perhaps you don’t want a rookie card because you can’t afford it, or you want something else from Kobe’s career.
There’s no doubt that Kobe’s career was full of milestones, and because of that, there’s an abundance of fantastic non-rookie cards that you can go for, too. These are some of the best ones you can find.
1997-98 E-X2001 Jambalaya Kobe Bryant #12
This might just be one of the flashiest cards you can get from the 1990s. Jambalaya is known as one of the biggest and most successful inserts into any of the sets in history. The success of this brand was further extended by the fact that it managed to cover both Kobe and Michael Jordan.
Along with the juicy colors, I like the action shot of Bryant on the card, which is just unique and different from anything else.
Of course, as you would expect from a Kobe Bryant card, this one can be expensive as hell. A big reason for that is because these Jambalaya cards pop up on a marketplace every full moon, so there’ll be many watchers and competitors and you’re going to have to spend big.
1997-98 Finest Gold Refractor Kobe Bryant #323
Did you know that Kobe is now the only NBA player in history to have two of his numbers retired? That’s right, #8 and #24 are off the plate for any new Lakers player that might want to grab them.
Here on this 1997/98 Finest Gold Refractor card, you can find a Kobe still wearing his #8 jersey, which typified the first part of Black Mamba’s career.
There were only 289 of these Gold Refractors ever made, so that’s why I think this card is so expensive.
One thing you have to know when it comes to this Gold Refractor is that it will sell fast – and it will have watchers immediately. So even if you can afford it, you’re likely to face stiff competition from other bidders.
1997/98 Precious Metal Gems Kobe Bryant #100/#81
Red or green?
I just want to let you know that there were 100 of these made in both colors, while the first 10 were made with the green foil, while the other 90 were made with the red foil.
Naturally, this means that the green one will be a bit more expensive and hard to find, but red foil can also command a relatively high price.
No matter which one you choose, you’ll have to keep a close eye on these because they don’t tend to age particularly well. Their single-colored foils can get scratched easily, and there might be a lot of counterfeit cards like this sold, so be careful with that.
Metal Universe were always one of the more popular card brands from the 1990s, and they have only increased their popularity over the years thanks to their scarcity. You might have a tough time finding one of these in an auction – but if you do, don’t expect them to come cheap!
1998/99 Upper Deck Game Jerseys Kobe Bryant
Today, game jersey cards are as common as rain, but back in the 90s, they were a completely new breed of cards.
Pulling one of these back in the day was like the ultimate prize… You would feel a big satisfaction knowing you have something that almost nobody else has. And if you could get a Bryant card with his jersey on, even better.
Look, this is one of the most legendary Kobe Bryant cards in history. It’s not his rookie card, but it’s still from an early part of his career and it’s fairly unique and progressive for its own time.
These are rare as hell today…
So much so that you’ll need some luck even finding a listing for one of these, let alone buying it. For example, as soon as I saw a listing for one of these cards, it already had more than 50 watchers and the listing was relatively new.
This card is for the $15.000+ club only.
1999/2000 Upper Deck Game Jersey Kobe Bryant #GJ21
Upper Deck saw a tremendous opportunity to establish a market with game jerseys on their cards. And they succeeded first with the 1998/99 card, and then continued the success with this 1999/2000 game jersey card.
These were notorious back in the day because they were hard to get. You would get one of these every 7000 packs or so, which means only the lucky few got one of these.
Finding a listing will already prove to be a challenge on its own, but finding a GOOD listing even more so…
Because there are many un-graded cards that are going to cost you an arm and a leg, but you can’t really know what you’re buying so take caution with those listings.
2000 UD Authentics Auto Kobe Bryant
Autographed Kobe cards are still some of his most popular cards. It adds a personal touch that makes your card feel special and different from the rest.
This Upper Deck Authentics card has a lot going for it. I quite like the wooden floor design going on in the background, as it just reminds me of a basketball court.
Then there’s the autograph, obviously. This is by far the most appealing factor for getting this card, and it’s getting a lot of love, even by today’s standards. Despite the fact that it’s a hard find, you’ll find dozens of watchers looking to steal this card from under your nose.
You just can’t go wrong with an autographed Kobe Bryant card.
2008-2009 Topps Chrome Xfractor #24 Kobe Bryant with Lebron James
Two basketball legends square off against each other on this card. There’s absolutely no doubt that this is Kobe’s most popular card from recent years by FAR.
It’s still selling like hot cakes, though. If you come across this card, there are two problems that you’ll have to come up against:
There are almost 200 watchers for this card (at least when I looked at one listing I found on eBay)
The card will cost more than $30.000, and in some cases, even more than that (I’m talking about gem-mint cards; lower graded cards might be a bit more friendly to your wallet)
So there will be challenges that you’ll have to go through to get this card.
If you’re willing to accept a lower graded card, then you’ll not need to pay as much. But if you’re something of a perfectionist, then you need to open up your purse widely or else you can just forget about this card.
2009/2010 National Treasures Notable Nicknames Kobe Bryant Auto
Again, it’s one of the most popular Kobe cards because it has an autograph, but it’s also the National Treasures brand which only increases its price.
In fact, almost any card by National Treasures of the Black Mamba will command a big price, and a big following, too. What’s more, these cards are limited to 99, so there will be a struggle for you to get your hands on one of these.
If you want to go even further, you can opt for the MVP variety of this card. However, that version was limited to only 35 copies and will be even more expensive than the already expensive base card.
But even if the card is not in everyone’s price range, you just can’t deny it looks superb.
It’s just so elegant and classy, which is a distinct feature of the National Treasures brand, of course. These cards are also notorious for being pricey as hell, and pair that with the fact that it has Kobe on it, and you’ll see this card sell for dizzying amounts.
2019/20 Impeccable Illustrious Ink Kobe Bryant Auto
The 2019/20 Impeccable card is super rare, as there were only 5 copies of the Illustrious Ink variation.
This variety is famous for its autograph and for the fact that it’s one of the last Kobe cards ever made.
If you don’t have at least $15.000 lying around somewhere, you can just forget about it.
There are almost 200 watchers at the time of writing, although these cards will only pop up every few months or even years. This card is perhaps his most famous card from recent years.
Other Cards to Consider
There are loads of other Kobe Bryant cards from various parts of his career that you can consider.
In general, these are some of the most sought-after cards that you can also go after:
- Any National Treasures card. These tend to sell well but they’re on the high end of prices.
- Flawless or Immaculate cards of Kobe are also hugely popular, but then again, they’re super rare and ultimately might be too expensive for most collectors.
- Any autographed cards
- Metal Universe cards if you want a Kobe Bryant card from the 90s. This was the most popular card company back in those days (or one of the most popular, anyway)
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Kobe Bryant Cards Good Investments?
Kobe Bryant cards a good investment. Kobe is one of those guys who should grow in stature over time. He was one of the biggest stars of his generation, and all the people who grew up watching him are now entering adulthood and can will be interested in his cards.
He’s also a Lakers legend, which certainly helps. A big name player who was the face of the biggest team in the NBA is always a solid investment choice.
Which Kobe Bryant Cards Are Worth Money?
Kobe rookie cards are probably the best bet for cards that are worth money. Like any player, rookie cards will be the best investment. No matter how many years someone plays in the league, they only have one rookie year. So that means they’re easily the hardest to find.
With that, limited print rookie cards are worth even more – these are cards that were only printed a few hundred times and over the years those cards were destroyed, were lost etc… Now, those cards are the ones that get top dollar.
Kobe Bryant rookie cards are a pricey, but great investment going forward. You may not be able to afford the 80k for the most expensive Kobe Bryant rookie card, but owning any Kobe rookie card is an awesome addition to any basketball collection.