Shawn Kemp Rookie Card Market Guide

Posted on 11/2/2022

Want to invest in Shawn Kemp rookie cards? Read our market guide to learn what cards are available and how valuable they are for investors.

Shawn Kemp was one of the most explosive players to grace the NBA in the 1990s. However, weight issues and failed comeback attempts late in his career marred his early success in Seattle. So, how will his up and down NBA career impact the value of his rookie cards? Our market guide will give you information about the different cards available and their values.

Who Is Shawn Kemp?

Shawn Kemp is remembered as one of the best forwards in the league throughout most of the ‘90s. He earned the nickname 'Reign Man' because he dominated the court and was especially well-known for his powerful and showstopping dunks.

As one of the first few players to ever make the jump from high school to the NBA, Kemp was a raw but gifted athlete as a teenager coming out of Indiana. The Seattle Supersonics took a chance on the young phenom when they selected him with the 17th overall pick in the 1989 NBA Draft. At the time, he was the youngest player in the league and had some growing pains his rookie season.

By his second season, Kemp found his footing and was soon turning heads. He became a perennial All-Star, as he was selected for the prestigious team six years in a row from 1993 to 1998. Alongside guard Gary Payton, the pair helped lead Seattle to prominence, as they often contended for a title in the playoffs. In fact, the duo led the Sonics to a franchise record of 64 wins in the ‘95-’96 season.

In 1997, he left the Supersonics for the Cleveland Cavaliers, where he stayed until 2000. Although he had some issues with his weight during this time, he still managed career records for points per game. Yet, Kemp’s pro career took a downward turn when he was traded to the Portland Trailblazers. His performance on the court waned, and he was plagued with personal problems. His first season with the Trailblazers ended early when he went into rehab. He played another season, but in 2002, he was waived. The rest of his career was characterized by failed comeback attempts and an eventual arrest for drug possession.

This tragic end to his career somewhat overshadowed the success of his early seasons. Yet, fans still remember him as a force on the court who was entertaining to watch. He was well-received when he was honored as part of the Supersonics’ 40th anniversary team, so fans have stood by one of the organization’s all-time greats.

What Factors Influence the Value of Shawn Kemp Rookie Cards?

Memorable players often have valuable cards. People tend to collect cards from players that made an impression on them, and Shawn Kemp did exactly that. His time in the NBA ended on a sour note because of personal problems, but that doesn't cancel out his stellar performances throughout a large portion of his career. Fans still remember the days when he was known as 'Reign Man,' and they loved watching his highlight reel dunks.

When it comes to his rookie cards, the options are limited. There are only three mainstream rookies to collect. Though they are not rare, the limited offering could increase the price. That said, his rookie cards were produced during the “Junk Wax” era when every set had a massive print run. So, more cards are floating around, which could also impact values in the long run.

Investment Potential

Shawn Kemp rookie cards are affordable and could be a safe bet for investors. The sales data shows that their values have climbed over the years. Though they are not the most valuable cards, and you may not see a huge return, they should hold their value well. However, the condition is the crucial factor here. Once the grade drops below Mint condition, the price plummets, and they're worth next to nothing.

Collecting all his rookie cards in excellent condition may be worth something in years to come. The price increases are low, so you will have to sit on this investment for a while before you sell. If you only invest in a single card, his rookie Fleer card perhaps has the most potential out of the main rookie cards. The Skybox is the least valuable, even if it is the most striking. The Panini sticker is also worth buying because the average value is slightly higher than the cards. Stickers usually get used up by kids, so they're a bit harder to come by, which could make them more valuable. But collectors are probably still more interested in his regular trading cards.

The Top Shawn Kemp Rookie Cards

1990 Fleer #178 Shawn Kemp ($8,500)

The 1990 Fleer Shawn Kemp rookie card is probably the best and most popular of the bunch. Fleer was a massive set at the time, even if it didn't last. They established themselves as the top brand for basketball cards in the 1980s, and Kemp’s was a favorite in the 1990 set. This card had a huge print run, making it easier to buy as a result, but it also potentially damages the value of this Fleer card. The card itself has an excellent design with a shot of Kemp dunking. He was known for his dunks, so this is a great iconic shot that captures him soaring through the air.

At SportsCardsPro, even in perfect condition, the Fleer #178 is trending for around $40. At Grade 9.5, it’s going for around $33. Anything less than that, and it's only worth $10 or less. However, the card has sold for more in the past, so if you sell at the right time, it does have potential. For example, PriceGuide.Cards show a staggering sale of $8,500 in 2021. Although this is an anomaly, the Fleer Shawn Kemp rookie has sold for well over the average price in the past. It's worthwhile for investors to pick this card up, considering the low price.

1990 Skybox #268 Shawn Kemp ($500)

Skybox sets have fallen out of fashion a little, but in the ‘90s, they were a big name in the hobby. They are known for their unique designs that set them apart from the big sets like Fleer and Topps. The background design is a stereotypical ‘90s backdrop with bold colors, instead of a crowd like the other cards. The image is different, too, because it also features L.A. Lakers legend James Worthy playing defense on Kemp.

True to form, this Skybox card is a nice departure from the other rookie cards. But that is not reflected in the price. It's valued at $26 by SportsCardsPro in perfect condition. You can buy it for $5 or less in lesser condition.

The highest recorded sale on PriceGuide.Cards is for $500 in 2022. But many cards sell for less than $5, so this is not one for investors hoping for high-value cards. Although there are a few outliers, this card is usually low value. It's a fun card that gives you some variety in your Shawn Kemp rookie card set, so it's more attractive for personal collections.

1990 Hoops #279 Shawn Kemp ($235)

NBA Hoops has been around for a long time and is still sought-after by collectors. Cards from earlier iterations may have more value, and the Shawn Kemp rookie card from the 1990 set is an excellent addition to any basketball collection. The design isn't flashy but has a striking rookie logo with a star, and a curved grey border that stands out from the competition. It's also the only rookie card that doesn't have an image of him dunking.

Pricewise, it is very similar to the Fleer card in raw form. In less-than-perfect condition, it is valued at roughly $10 or less. But if you can find a perfect example without flaws, it's valued higher than the Fleer card in many cases. Mint-condition cards have an average value of $60, according to SportsCardsPro.

However, when you look at the specific sales data, it tells a different story. Although there are some high sales (one sold for $235 in 2022, according to PriceGuide.Cards), they are few and far between. The Fleer, on the other hand, often sells for above-average prices. The sales data suggests you have to be lucky to get a high price. But if you are building a personal collection and want an affordable Hoops rookie card, it's perfect.

1990 Panini Sticker #20 Shawn Kemp ($31)

There were three official Shawn Kemp rookie cards, but you can also search for the Panini sticker from his rookie year. It may not be an official card, but it may still have value. Stickers are collectible items, just like cards, though not always as popular. It's also harder to find stickers in good condition because many of them are peeled and used by kids as soon as they buy them.

The Kemp sticker has an excellent action shot of him dunking with a simple border and logo. If you can find one in perfect condition, which is tough, it could be worth almost $100. Normally though, in perfect condition, it's worth around $31. However, it's infrequent for it to sell for more than $20-25, aside from the occasional outlier. So, for investors, the cards have more potential.

Where Can I Purchase Shawn Kemp Rookie Cards?

The best place to buy Shawn Kemp rookie cards is online auction sites. These are better than specialist hobby stores or conventions because you can search for the specific cards you want. There are not many Kemp rookies; some are hard to track down, so online auctions are your best bet. The best sites are:

  • eBay
  • PWCC Marketplace
  • Goldin Auctions
  • Lelands

You can monitor the price on sites like SportsCardsPro and PriceGuide.Cards to see when they dip below average. If you can get a better price, you maximize the potential return on your investment. It also stops you from buying an overpriced card.

How Are Shawn Kemp Rookie Cards Graded?

Grading is a crucial part of buying and selling Shawn Kemp rookie cards. When a professional body like Certified Sports Guaranty (CSG) grades a card, it is given a score out of 10, depending on the condition. This acts as a guarantee to the buyer, so they know that the card is as the seller described it. Often, the value of a card is tied to the grade, and they sell for more when they are in pristine condition. Each card is assessed on four main criteria:

  • Centering of the image
  • The sharpness of the corners
  • Damage to the edges
  • Clarity of the surface

The highest grade is a Perfect 10 if a card scores the full 10 in every area. This is reserved for cards that are perfect without any visible defects. If a card scores slightly lower in certain areas, it can still average a 10 overall, even with minor flaws. Once noticeable defects like damaged corners or off-centered images appear, the grade decreases.

Once the card has been graded, it is placed in a protective plastic sleeve. This maintains the condition and acts as a display case with materials highlighting the card's features. You also receive a certificate to prove that the card has been graded.


If you are looking for a big investment card that will skyrocket in price over the next decade, look elsewhere. Shawn Kemp rookie cards have not increased in value that much in recent years, and they are not particularly valuable to begin with. But they do hold their value well, and Kemp remains a popular player, despite his troubles. If you invest in his rookie cards, they may grow in value over a long period and eventually pay off if you are patient enough. The key to getting a return is monitoring the market and selling when prices are generally high. Plus, Kemp’s rookie cards have sold for significant amounts in the past, but it is not a guarantee they will do the same in the future.

The great thing is that they're very affordable at the moment. Track the prices, and you may be able to get all of them for less than $50. So, the risk is minimal. With prices so low, it makes sense to buy all of the cards. But if you only want to invest in one card, the Fleer and Hoops cards will probably sell best. The Skybox card and the Panini sticker are better for personal collections rather than investment purposes. And as always, grading your cards will help increase and lock in their values. For further information on CSG's 10-point Grading Scale and to find out more about our industry-leading services, visit

*Any mention of "investment potential" is for entertainment only and should not be construed as investment advice. The Certified Collectibles Group does not provide investment advice and is not liable for any buy, sell or trade decisions made by any parties.

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