The Top 10 Most Expensive Basketball Cards Ever Sold

Posted on 6/12/2023

Interested in investing in basketball cards? Here's a look at the 10 most expensive basketball cards ever sold in the history of the hobby, and why they're so valuable.

There’s no question about it, this is the era of million-dollar sports cards. Fortunes are being made over these cardboard beauties, with sellers and buyers clamoring over holy grail cards that they’re willing to pay any amount to own. And thanks to the proliferation of online auction sites, high-dollar sales of basketball and other sports cards are getting lots of media attention, with the most expensive graded basketball cards getting publicized across the internet as soon as the gavel comes down.

Are Basketball Cards Valuable?

Basketball cards are among some of the highest-priced sports cards in the industry, with sales increasingly surpassing the million-dollar mark. And depending on the card, the player and the fan base's loyalty, these prices may continue to increase at the same rate, or even more rapidly, over time.

Investment Potential for Basketball Cards

Basketball cards have become something of an investment phenomenon, with business and investor sites publishing tips for newbies on how to break into this potentially lucrative market. With Wall Street investors getting in on the act, it’s a good sign that investment potential for top basketball cards should continue to be healthy. Here are some interesting financial stats about sports card investing:

  • Among the top 200 most expensive basketball cards and sports cards, 72 percent are rookie cards.
  • Two primary factors that fuel card prices are the number of championships an athlete has won and whether the athlete has won an MVP title.
  • Basketball cards can be some of the highest-priced cards in the market.
  • Essentially, the more popular a sport and the more successful an athlete is, the higher their sports cards will trend for, depending upon the condition and rarity of the card.

Top 10 Most Expensive Basketball Cards

Here’s a look at the 10 most expensive basketball cards sold in private sales and at auction.

1. 2009-10 Panini National Treasures Rookie Logoman Autograph #206 Stephen Curry

Selling price: $5.9 million

Grade: Card, 8; Autograph, Gem Mint 10

Serial number: 1/1

Sale date: July 6, 2021

Seller: Private sale

Stephen Curry is universally recognized as the greatest shooter in the history of the NBA. Drafted to play point guard for the Golden State Warriors in 2009, Curry is a four-time NBA champ, two-time NBA MVP and nine-time All-Star.

Always a popular pick, Panini’s National Treasures 2009-10 boxed set is especially sought-after, with Curry’s card recognized as the star of the pack. It shows a studio-style image of Curry in his Warriors jersey, flanked by an NBA patch and an on-card signature below from his rookie season.

This one-of-a-kind autograph gem is the most expensive basketball card in history, and it is also one of the most expensive sports cards ever sold.

2. 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection Rookie Patch Autograph #78 LeBron James

Selling price: $5.2 million

Grade: 9

Serial number: 7/23

Sale date: April 26, 2021

Seller: PWCC Marketplace

Considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time, LeBron James was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003 and named NBA Rookie of the Year in 2004. Since then, James has won four NBA championships, four NBA MVP Awards, two Olympic gold medals and he's an 18-time All-Star.

James’ Upper Deck Exquisite rookie patch autograph card is an ultra-rare parallel limited to just 23 cards, in honor of the team number he wore for a large portion of his career. It features an in-game photo of James holding the ball and a game-used patch embedded below, with a signature at the bottom of the card.

3. 2018-19 Panini National Treasures Rookie Logoman Autograph #127 Luka Dončić

Selling price: $4.6 million

Grade: Ungraded

Serial number: 1/1

Sale date: February 28, 2021

Seller: Private sale

The Atlanta Hawks drafted Slovenian-born Luka Dončić in 2018 but immediately traded him to the Dallas Mavericks. During his debut year, he averaged 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists and was named the 2018-2019 NBA Rookie of the Year. By the following season, Dončić had already made his first All-Star team. Only five seasons into his young NBA career, he holds the Mavs franchise record for career triple-doubles (22).

This one-of-a-kind card was discovered when the team at Layton Sports Cards opened a Panini National Treasures box during a livestream. It features an action shot of Dončić with the ball, flanked by a game-used patch from his jersey and an on-card signature below.

4. 2018-19 Panini National Treasures Rookie Logoman Autograph #127 Luka Dončić

Selling price: $3.12 million

Grade: Ungraded

Serial number: 1/1

Sale date: November 17, 2022

Seller: PWCC Marketplace

The same card that ranked #3 on our list sold again in November 2022 for a lower but still multi-million-dollar price.

5. 1997-98 Upper Deck All-Star Game Jerseys Autograph #GJ13S Michael Jordan

Selling price: $2.7 million

Grade: Card, 8; Autograph, 8

Serial number: 6/23

Sale date: October 11, 2021

Seller: Private sale

Michael Jordan is widely recognized as arguably the greatest basketball player in NBA history. Drafted by the Chicago Bulls in 1984, he won six NBA championships and five NBA MVPs. In addition, he was selected to 14 All-Star teams and was a two-time Olympic gold medalist.

This spectacular card features an action shot of Jordan with the ball, accompanied by an embedded game-used patch from a jersey he wore commemorating the NBA’s 50th anniversary at the All-Star game that season. There’s also an on-card signature above Jordan’s photo.

6. 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection Rookie Patch Autograph #78 LeBron James

Selling price: $2.46 million

Grade: 8.5

Serial number: 23/99

Sale date: October 24, 2021

Seller: Goldin Auctions

This excellent example broke an auction record price for this particular card. It features the exact same graphics as the other record-breaking Exquisite Collection LeBron James card listed above, with a game-used patch and signature below James’ photo.

7. 2020-21 Panini Flawless Triple Logoman Patch LeBron James

Selling price: $2.4 million

Grade: Ungraded

Serial number: 1/1

Sale date: June 26, 2022

Seller: Goldin Auctions

Collectors are so eager to get one of these 2020-21 Flawless sets that the 10-card Hobby boxes can sell for around $15,000. As part of that iconic set, this eye-catching card is embedded with three NBA logo patches from game-used jerseys, each taken from one of James’ teams from throughout his career: the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers. Below each patch, there is a photo of James wearing that team’s jersey.

8. 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection Rookie Patch Autograph #78 LeBron James

Selling price: $2.1 million

Grade: 8.5

Serial number: 12/23

Sale date: June 26, 2022

Seller: Goldin Auctions

Another example of the Upper Deck Exquisite LeBron James issue, this card sold at the same Goldin auction as the James Triple Logoman card.

9. 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection Rookie Patch Autograph #78 LeBron James

Selling price: $2,029,500

Grade: 9

Serial number: 57/99

Sale date: August 29, 2021

Seller: Goldin Auctions

This card's third appearance on our list shows how incredibly popular it is with high-roller collectors. This particular example is in better condition and was sold by the same auction site, yet it sold for around $70,000 less than the Grade 8.5 example sold in June of 2022.

10. 1997 Metal Universe Precious Metal Gems Kobe Bryant

Selling price: $2 million

Grade: 8.5

Serial number: 4/100

Sale date: February 22, 2022

Seller: Private sale (through PWCC)

Considered one of the greatest basketball players and highest scorers in NBA history, Kobe Bryant was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in 1996. He was a five-time NBA champion, an NBA MVP and a two-time Olympic gold medalist. In addition, he was an 18-time member of the NBA All-Star Team.

This gorgeous insert card shows a striking action shot of Bryant passing the ball, set against a vibrant emerald green background. When this card was sold at auction in early 2022, only 10 examples were known to exist.

If you’re interested in tracking fair market values for any of your sports cards, check out SportsCardsPro, PriceGuide.Cards and Sports Card Investor. These sites track auction sales and update prices daily whenever there’s another sale.

Where Can I Find Basketball Cards?

You can find basketball cards at sports memorabilia stores, collector shows and auction sites. Here are some of the top online auction sites for basketball cards and other types of sports cards:

Sports collector shows are held year-round across the U.S. To find out when a show is coming to your city, you can check collector forums, social media sites, and your local paper.

How Are Basketball Cards Graded?

Expert appraisers grade sports cards according to a universal numeric grading system ranging from Ungraded to Pristine 10. Here’s how it works:

Pristine 10: This is the absolute top grade and signifies that a card is so flawless, it’s perfect even under 10x magnification. Pristine 10 cards have Gem Mint scores across all four grading criteria: centering, edges, surface and corners.

Gem Mint 10: This card is graded 10 overall but has a tiny, nearly imperceptible flaw or condition issue in one of the criteria.

Grade 9.5: Nearly Gem Mint condition, with an unimportant minor manufacturing flaw or condition issue.

Grade 9: Excellent condition, with only very minor wear or a single small condition issue.

Grades 8 and below: These cards have various levels of wear and manufacturing flaws and are graded and priced according to the number and severity of these issues.

Raw: Just removed from its original packaging.

Ungraded: Not graded.

Sports card values are determined by three main factors: condition, rarity and collector interest. However, while rarity and condition can be easily identified according to established criteria, collector demand is a wild card, an unknown quantity that can fluctuate for seemingly no apparent reason.

What Impacts Values the Most?

Collector demand, or the lack of it, can cause higher-grade, rare cards to be virtually unsellable, while commoner, lower-grade cards may continue to sell for healthy prices. Essentially, it depends on how popular an athlete is with the public, and how much collectors are willing to pay for their cards.

Athletic performance can play a part in this popularity. If a highly touted football player becomes a draft bust, their cards could plummet the following season. Likewise, if a basketball player continues to live up to their rookie potential and even surpasses it, their cards may continue to climb, especially if they’ve managed to take hold of the public’s imagination.

As you may have deduced from the values listed above, auction prices and bidding wars can impact values as well. If a card performs well in a highly publicized auction, chances are the same card could potentially skyrocket in price — and this may have a domino effect on other cards from that athlete as well.

Because so many factors can impact values, it is always advisable to do your homework and track recorded prices carefully if you plan on investing in sports cards. And if you’re a collector, ultimately the best thing you can do is concentrate on obtaining the cards you truly want to own and buy the best condition you can afford. No matter how popular a card might be, in the end, the condition is key when it comes to getting the highest prices if you decide to sell.

Should I Get My Sports Cards Graded?

Professional grading can take your sports card collection to a whole new level, giving it an established quality rating that is recognized everywhere in the industry. And by getting your cards graded, you’re also getting them professionally authenticated, so they’ll always be acknowledged as genuine. Whether you're a collector of basketball cards or are into baseball, football, hockey or any other sport.

When cards are graded, an expert appraiser assesses each one according to the four grading criteria, then assigns a corresponding grade to the card. This information is entered into an international database as a permanent record of that card and kept for posterity.

If you ever plan to sell to other collectors or dealers, cards that are graded are often easier to sell, and depending on the circumstances, can even bring higher prices. If you’re not planning to sell your cards, you can enjoy the satisfaction of owning a collection that’s certified genuine. And if you want to donate your cards or pass them on to a friend or family member, you can rest assured that their quality will be recognized for generations to come. For further information on CGC Cards’ 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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