Kobe Bryant: A Guide to His Most Rare and Valuable Cards

Posted on 2/7/2023

Looking to start a Kobe Bryant card collection? Here's a guide to his most valuable and rare cards, where to find them and what you can expect to pay.

Kobe Bryant is one of the most iconic basketball players in NBA history, has won five NBA championships and is a two-time Olympic gold medalist. As a result, Bryant's cards are top-rated among collectors. This comprehensive guide will look at some of the most valuable and rare Bryant cards available to collectors. We'll also discuss their value, where to find them and how to make sure you get the best deal on them.

Who Is Kobe Bryant, and Why Are His Cards So Valuable?

Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He was drafted in 1996 by the Charlotte Hornets but was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, where he played the entirety of his 20-season pro career. Bryant was a dominant force on the court, often scoring at will and leading the Lakers to victory. He was a five-time NBA champion, and he holds numerous other records as well.

What makes Kobe Bryant's cards so valuable is his combination of skill, longevity and winning. Few players in NBA history have the accolades to match that of Bryant's NBA resume. His consistently high level of play for two decades, along with his popularity on and off the court, make Bryant a highly sought-after player by collectors.

The laser-focused guard was always known for his killer instinct on the court. After he retired, he became even more popular due to his "Mamba Mentality" philosophy, which motivated people to pursue their dreams with a single-minded focus.

In early 2020, Kobe Bryant died tragically in a helicopter accident. He was only 41 years old, and his death sent shockwaves throughout the world. As one of the only players to truly transcend the game of basketball, his loss was felt by people of all ages and backgrounds, whether they were fans of the Lakers or not.

Kobe Bryant's cards have become even more popular in the wake of his passing. His legacy will continue to live on through his cards, which are now some of the most valuable in the world.

The Different Types of Kobe Bryant Cards

A few different types of Kobe Bryant cards are available to collectors. The most popular type is the base card, which features Bryant in his Lakers uniform. These base cards are typically common with plenty in circulation, with many worth in the two- to three-digit range depending on their condition and rarity.

Limited edition cards, usually produced in small quantities below 200, can be pretty rare. These cards can be worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars, depending on their scarcity.

Another type of Kobe Bryant card is the memorabilia cards, which feature a piece of game-worn clothing or equipment. These cards are highly coveted by collectors and can be worth considerable money.

Finally, there are autographed cards out there as well. These cards feature a signature from Bryant himself and can be worth thousands of dollars. The most valuable autographed cards are those that were signed during his playing days, but post-retirement autographs are also highly sought-after.

The Most Expensive Kobe Bryant Cards Ever Sold

As you might expect from a player of Bryant's stature, his cards can sell for extremely high prices. Here are a few of the most expensive Kobe Bryant cards that have ever been sold:

2000-01 Upper Deck e-Card 2 Autographs #EC1S Kobe Bryant #'d/200 ($3,570,050)

The 2000-01 Upper Deck Basketball e-Card #EC1S features two images of Kobe. The first image is of Kobe in mid-air, ready to dunk the ball, and the second is a closeup of Kobe's face looking upward, possibly while at the free throw line about to take a shot. With only 200 of this card made, it's extremely rare to find one in such good condition, which could explain the high price tag. At just over $3.5 million, this is the most expensive Kobe Bryant card ever sold.

1996-97 Topps #138 Kobe Bryant ($2,125,000)

The 1996-97 Topps Basketball #138 card is one of the most iconic cards on this list. The image features a young Kobe in his yellow Lakers uniform as he drives to the basket. The card has a simple design with a white border and "Kobe Bryant" in gold font. An example of this card sold for $2,125,000, making it one of the most valuable cards in the hobby.

1996-97 Topps Chrome Refractors #138 Kobe Bryant ($500,000)

The 1996-97 Topps Chrome Refractor features the same image of a young Kobe as the base Topps card from his rookie season, which we just covered. This Chrome card has the usual refractor background with a chrome blue border and "Kobe Bryant" in gold font at the bottom. The back of the card has a smaller image of Kobe and some praise from scouts as to why he could make it big in the league. Years later, those predictions would come true as he became one of the greatest players in the history of the NBA, with a brand so strong that this card sold for a whopping $500,000.

2000-01 Upper Deck Game Jerseys 2 Autographs #AKB Kobe Bryant ($255,000)

The 2000-01 Upper Deck Basketball Game Jerseys 2 Autographs #AKB card features one of the rarest angled shots of Kobe in the trading card market. The POV image looks down on Kobe as he's just about to dunk the ball, giving the sense that the viewer is above the backboard. In addition to the autograph, the card also features a piece of a game-worn jersey within a cutout of the Larry O'Brien Trophy. Given that this card features a signature and a bit of a game-worn jersey, it was no surprise that it sold for over $255,000.

1996-97 Fleer Metal #181 Kobe Bryant ($249,008)

While the Fleer Metal may seem simple at first glance, it's one of the most visually exciting cards on this list. The graphic features Kobe dribbling a basketball wearing his iconic No. 8 Lakers jersey. What makes this card special is the chrome metal background that gives the image one of the most uniquely textured backgrounds of any card. The chrome metal background is mainly silver, making the image of Kobe pop. This card is so well regarded that it has sold for just over $249,000.

1996-97 Topps Chrome #138 Kobe Bryant ($124,650)

This 1996-97 Topps Chrome #138 is the third card on the list to show the same image of Bryant driving past defenders on his way to the hoop. This Topps Chrome base card isn't as rare as the Refractor version and doesn't sell for as much as it or the regular Topps base card. However, the card's simple design and unique background make it a special one on this list and is perhaps why it sold for over $124,000.

2002-03 Upper Deck 'Signs of Success' Autographed Dual Jersey #KBAAA Kobe Bryant #'d/25 ($113,544)

Perhaps the only thing that could make a Kobe Bryant card more valuable is if it shared the card with another NBA legend. That's precisely what this Upper Deck card does: it features dual images of Kobe Bryant and the man many consider the greatest player of all time, Michael Jordan. The card has autographs from both players, which are considered some of the most valuable in the hobby. As you can imagine, this card is highly coveted by collectors and has sold for over $113,000.

2003-04 Upper Deck Honor Roll #35 Kobe Bryant #'d/100 ($101,000)

This 2003-04 Upper Deck Honor Roll card's symmetrical design makes it one of the most aesthetically pleasing cards on this list. The card features a large image of Kobe in mid-air with a basketball in hand as he goes up for a dunk. The background is split in the middle, with the gold and purple of the Lakers on either side. Kobe is wearing his number eight jersey, which he famously wore during his early years in the league. With such an iconic image and a pleasing design, it's no wonder this card sold for $101,000.

1996-97 Topps Finest Refractors #269 Kobe Bryant ($99,995)

The 1996-97 Topps Finest Refractors #269 is possibly the most visually stunning card on this list. It features a shot of Bryant mid-air with his back to the camera as he attempts a reverse dunk or lay-up. The card background has a silver holographic effect that makes the image pop and is bordered with gold trim. Though this card doesn't feature any autographs or game-worn jerseys, its beauty and visual appeal have made it one of the most expensive Kobe Bryant cards ever sold, coming in at just under $100,000.

1999-2000 Upper Deck Encore Game Jersey F/X Autograph #KB-A Kobe Bryant #'d/8 ($99,100)

In 1999, Upper Deck released the Encore set, which included game-worn jerseys and signatures of Kobe Bryant. This particular card features both a jersey swatch and Bryant's autograph. Kobe is pictured on the left of the card wearing his purple and gold Lakers jersey and dribbling a basketball. Near the bottom of the card, an inscribed "#/8" is written in blue ink by Bryant, signifying that the card is one of only eight made. With the limited rarity and high demand, it's no surprise that this card is valued at $99,100.

1997-98 Skybox E-X2001 Jambalaya #12 Kobe Bryant ($95,000)

The 1997 SkyBox E-X2001 Jambalaya set is one of the most unique sets on this list. It features a who's who of NBA legends, including Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal and, of course, Kobe Bryant. The card features Bryant aggressively driving towards the basket as he contorts his body at the rim. Complete with a unique red and green background, this card's design is one of a kind. The card is so popular that it has sold for as much as $95,000, rightfully earning its spot on this list.

Where To Find Kobe Bryant Cards

Depending on your price range and the type of card you're looking for, there are a few different places to find Kobe Bryant cards. For lower-priced cards, your best bet is to look on online auction sites like eBay. You can also find Kobe Bryant cards at local card shops or sports memorabilia stores.

You'll likely need to turn to specialty dealers or private collectors for higher-priced cards. These sources typically have a more comprehensive selection of rare and valuable cards, but they come at a price.

You'll need to head to an auction house if you're looking for the most expensive Kobe Bryant cards. Here, you'll find some of the most sought-after cards in the world, with prices reaching millions of dollars. Below is a list of online auction and sale sites, including:

You can also find collectible cards at some of the many sports memorabilia shows held nationwide. Additionally, you'll find updated show schedules and information on sports card forums, social media sites and collectors' sites.

How Are Kobe Bryant Cards Graded?

Kobe Bryant cards are certified on a 10-point scale by professional graders. The 10-point scale is based on the card's condition, with 10 being Gem Mint condition and 1 being Poor condition.

To determine the grade of a Kobe Bryant card, professional graders will look at the following four factors:

  • Corners: the integrity of the card's four corners. Factors that affect the corners include wear, fraying and creasing.
  • Edges: the integrity of the card's edges. Factors that affect the edges include nicks, scratches and scuffing.
  • Surface: the overall condition of the card's surface. Factors that affect the surface include stains, soiling and fading.
  • Centering: the card's alignment, both front and back. A perfectly centered card will have equal margins on all four sides.

Professional graders will assign a grade to the Kobe Bryant card based on their evaluation of these factors. The higher the grade, the higher the value of the card.

Final Thoughts

Kobe Bryant is one of history's most iconic and celebrated basketball players. His passion for the game and his natural talent made him a force to be reckoned with on the court. Not only was Bryant a fantastic player, but he was also a shrewd businessman. He built an empire off his name that extends beyond just basketball.

For a reason, Bryant's cards are some of the most sought-after in the world. They combine rarity, value and collectability into a package that is hard to resist. If you want to become a serious collector, then Kobe Bryant cards should be on your radar. And you'll want to consider getting your cards graded to maximize their value.

Even if you're not planning to sell your cards, you'll benefit from having them graded, especially if you display them. By getting your cards professionally graded by a certified expert, you'll have a fully authenticated collection that you can pass down for generations. For further information on CSG's 10-point Grading Scale and to find out more about our industry-leading services, visit CSGcards.com.

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