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Kobe Bryant basketball cards are among the most valuable trading cards in the world. They were popular for years, but his death caused their value to increase even further.
Collecting sports trading cards is something that comes naturally to most sports fans. When we are young it is fun to open packs to try to find cards of our favorite players. As we get older the magic might fade a bit, but it’s still a lot of fun. Kobe Bryant is one of the most legendary basketball players of all time, and his cards follow suit.
Kobe Bryant is widely considered one of the top 10 NBA players of all time. Spending his entire career with the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe was always in the spotlight. However, the bright lights never caused him any problems as he quickly established himself as a dominant force.
Bryant won five NBA championships in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, and 2010. He was the Finals MVP in the last two championships. He was the NBA MVP in 2009, was named to 18 all-star games, and made 11 All-NBA First Teams. Additionally, he was no slouch on the defensive side of the ball, making 11 All-Defensive First Teams.
After retiring in 2016, both of his numbers, 8 and 24, were retired by the Lakers. He was named to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2020 but unfortunately was unable to attend the ceremony because of his tragic death in early 2020.
Here we will look at 20 of the most valuable Kobe Bryant Basketball cards. The cards we will look at range from his rookie season in 1996 to after his playing career in 2019.
1. 1997 Green Metal Universe Precious Metal Gems Kobe Bryant #81
There are plenty of Kobe Bryant basketball cards that have sold for significant prices. Several have reached six figures in price, but only two have reached seven. This card was the most expensive card ever sold. It was sold for $2 million at auction.
This card came from a set in 1997 that consisted of 123 cards, featuring many star basketball players. In the set, most of them had a red background, but the first 10 had a green foil. As a result, the green copies of this Kobe Bryant card are extremely rare. Only 10 of these cards are known to exist.
The card that sold for $2 million in February of 2022 had a PSA 8.5 rating. Its high rating along with its rarity made it a valuable commodity at auction. However, the rarity of these cards alone would make it an appealing option if one ever went up for auction again, regardless of quality.
The card itself does not stand out more than most other high-end cards. It features an image of Kobe passing the ball to his left as he contorts his body in an odd position. There are a few logos on the front, but other than that, it is a fairly standard card.
2. 1996 Topps Chrome Kobe Bryant Rookie Card Refractor #138
This is the other card that has sold for over $1 million. Although it only has the second-highest price tag of all time attached to it, most collectors consider it the holy grail of Kobe Bryant card collecting. Additionally, while there have been a few examples of this card selling for upwards of $150,000, it more commonly sells for $30,000 to $50,000.
There are a few things that contribute to the high value of this card. Firstly, it is the most sought-after Kobe Bryant rookie card. Rookie cards are usually more valuable than other cards, and that is the case here. Other contributing factors include the Topps brand and clear image on the card.
The highest-selling copy of this card sold for $1.752 million at a Goldin auction. What made this card so valuable is it was a black label 10. Only one other copy of this card is known to exist at this level of quality.
3. 1997 Finest Gold Embossed Refractor Kobe Bryant #323
There is a big jump down in price after the top two selling cards. However, the highest-selling copy of this card still sold for an impressive $206,400. The copy that sold for that price tag at a Goldin auction was graded a 10 in all facets by BGS except one. The surface was graded at a 9.5. Fewer than 250 copies of this card are known to exist; meaning that you can expect to get one every 5000 packs.
While the gold embossed version of this card is the most valuable version, there are other, less valuable versions for average people to purchase. The bronze refractor version is not as rare and is far more attainable. So, if you like the design, that is what you should go for.
4. 1997 E-X2000 Credentials Kobe Bryant Rookie Card #30
The next most valuable Kobe Bryant card is a limited edition card. The 1997 E-X2000 Credentials Kobe Bryant Rookie Card #30 came in a set of 499, meaning that there are only 499 copies of this card. Of the nearly 500 copies, the most valuable copy sold for $170,400. It received a rating of 9 from BGS, and it was the 442nd card in the set.
This set was made by Panini, arguably the biggest competitor to Topps in the basketball trading card industry. These cards came out in a set that was released for the 96-97 season, along with every other Kobe Bryant rookie card.
5. 1996 Finest Refractor Kobe Bryant #269
Numbered 269, this rookie card was released in a set for the 96-97 season. The most expensive copy sold for $162,360 at auction and received a rare 10 grade from PSA.
126 copies of this card are known to exist, but it is unlikely another one is in gem mint condition as is specified for PSA. The thing that made this card stand out and allowed PSA to give it such a high rating was the fact that its entire original coating was intact.
To receive a gem mint grading from PSA a card must have a sharp focus, sharp corners, full original gloss, and it needs to be perfectly centered. Only a small amount of imperfection in printing quality is acceptable to receive a 10 grade.
6. 2016 Prizm Kobe Bryant Gold #182
The Prizm set of basketball cards released annually by Panini is one of the most anticipated sets every year. In 2016, it included a Gold Prizm Kobe Bryant card for his final season in the NBA. Most high-value trading cards are rookie cards, so this is one of the rare cards at the end of a player’s career.
There are a few things contributing to the high value of this card. Firstly, it commemorates Kobe Bryant’s final season in the NBA. While this is important, the most significant factor is the fact that there were only 10 copies printed.
The Gold Prizm design is rare, and as a result, very popular among collectors. One copy sold for $145,200 at auction, and its uniqueness was a driving factor. The card in question received a true gem+ rating from BGS, or a 9.5.
7. 1996 Flair Showcase Legacy Collection Kobe Bryant Rookie Card #31
Another card that sold for over $100,000 was the Flair Showcase Legacy Collection Kobe Bryant Rookie Card. A copy of this card sold for $136,530 at a Goldin auction.
As with all Kobe Bryant rookie cards, this card is for the 97-97 season. This was also the year that Flair really took off a trading card company. They had produced cards before this year, but their Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan cards from this season really put them on the map.
The set this card came from had 90 cards in the base set. The cards were separated into rows, with row 2 referring to the base set. Row 1 and 0 had much rarer cards. Row 1 is known as the Grace set, and that is where this card comes from.
8. 1996 Skybox E-X2000 Credentials Kobe Bryant Rookie Card #30
The design of this card stands out compared to other options. It has a beautiful white border surrounding an image of blue sky and clouds behind Kobe Bryant as he drives with the ball. After the 1996 Topps card, this card is among the most popular Kobe Bryant cards. Although it has not sold for as much as other copies, it is incredibly popular.
Currently, there is a PSA 8 copy of this card on sale for $100,000 on eBay. The authenticity of this card is verified, and if it sells, it will be one of the most expensive Kobe Bryant cards ever sold.
Regular copies of this card come with a green border which stands out compared to the blue sky and white clouds. However, the more valuable version o this card has a beautiful white border.
Unfortunately, the high-end copies of this card are extremely rare. There are only four PSA 10 copies known to exist out of the 499 printed copies. As a result, it should not be a surprise that a PSA 8 copy is on sale for a six-figure price.
9. Exquisite Collection Limited Logo Kobe Bryant #KB2
The next card on our list takes another step back in price. At its peak, this card sold for $36,000 at auction. That is still a tremendous number, but it is significantly lower than the cards listed above. It sold for $36,000 at a Goldin Auction, and the card in question received a rating of 9 from BGS.
However, it is not the card itself that made it valuable, it is the signature. The card was autographed by Kobe Bryant himself, and the signature received a 10 grade from BGS.
This card was released by Upper Deck and is one of the most sought-after cards from that company of all time. All cards from that collection come with a jersey patch in the center. The patch is game-worn, and they all have an autograph. Most cards in this collection only had 50 copies printed, so that is another contributing factor to its price.
10. 2006 Exquisite Collection Limited Logos Kobe Bryant Patch Autograph #LLKB
Here is a card from the exquisite collection, but a few years later. The most interesting part about this card is it comes with a game-worn jersey patch in the center. As a result, every card looks slightly different because the patch is never the same.
Only 50 copies of this card were printed. Copies with prominent yellow and purple colors are usually more popular. However, the rarity of the card itself makes people interested in purchasing any copy that goes up for auction.
Unfortunately, the design of the cards from Upper Deck are prone to flaking on the corners and edges. As a result, it is difficult to find a copy that stays in mint condition. However, the value is from the card rather than the grade on the patch or autograph, and as a result, they can still sell for an expensive price. There are not currently any copies for sale on eBay.
11. 2003 UD Exquisite Kobe Bryant Autograph Patch #AP-KB
The set this card came from is famous among long-time card collections. When it was released in 2003, packs sold for $500 each. However, it quickly became clear why the packs were so expensive. Each pack had 10 cards with autographs and jersey patches worn by legendary basketball players including Kobe Bryant.
Although most middle of the career cards for professional basketball players do not sell for a lot, this card is an exception. There is a copy of this card on sale for $20,000 on eBay at the moment. If it sold, it would cement itself as one of the most valuable Kobe Bryant trading cards of all time.
12. 1998 Molten Metal Fusion Titanium Kobe Bryant Rookie Card #33F
Here is another one of the most unique Kobe Bryant cards. Although it was released in 1998, it is still a rookie card. It is for Bryant’s rookie season, and as a result, it can still be classified as a rookie card. However, the fact that it was not released in his rookie year has lowered its value compared to some of the other more valuable Kobe Bryant rookie cards that we discussed above.
A clear image of Kobe Bryant jumping with the ball is on the left side of the card, but it is the right side that is interesting. Next to the image of Kobe Bryant, small holes were cut using a laser to form another image of Kobe. The unique design alone is enough to make our list, but the fact that only 40 copies were sold solidifies it.
Since so many small holes were cut into the card, it is very hard to find copies in good condition. PSA has only graded six copies, and only four of them received mint condition gradings. BGS has reportedly graded 28 copies, but only eight have received BGS 9.5 grades. No 10’s have been given out by PSA or BGS.
Copies of this card in mint condition are very valuable. There is a BGS 9 copy on sale on eBay right now for a hair over $20,000.
13. 1997 E-X2001 Jambalaya Kobe Bryant #12
Another card on our list of the most valuable Kobe Bryant cards is from the 1997 Jambalaya collection. It was one of the biggest insert sets in the history of basketball cards, so it is not surprising for these cards to be valuable. There is currently a copy for sale on eBay for a shade under $19,000.
This die-cut card features a dynamic image of Kobe Bryant before he completes a dunk. It has bright colors, with orange on the left and green on the right. It was also an incredibly rare pull from these packs. Only one in every 720 packs featured this Kobe Bryant card. As a result, there are not many available for collectors to purchase. Its rarity has driven the price up significantly over the years.
14. 2019 National Treasures Kobe Bryant #AP-KB
National Treasures puts out an annual collection that is very popular in the basketball trading card community. These cards are unique, well-designed, and very valuable. They might not sell for six figures like some other cards, but the most valuable cards have impressive price tags. A few copies of this card have sold for North of $8000.
National Treasures cards are valuable because they come with personalized autographs and jersey patches. Each pack has 10 cards, each with an autograph. Additionally, the cards are very rare because it takes a long time to produce them.
This card was one of the last ones released before the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant in early 2020. For his autograph, Kobe wrote 18x All-Star below his signature. The card displays Kobe in his red all-star game uniform. The uniform is from his final all-star game in 2016. Famously, Bryant had a spectacular performance in the all-star game that year.
15. 2012 National Treasures Notable Nicknames Kobe Bryant #6
As we mentioned above, the annual National Treasures set is one that collectors look forward to every year. PSA 10 copies of this card are extremely valuable at auction because of the autograph that comes with it. PSA 10 copies are perfectly centered, blemish-free, and have four untouched corners. All autographs are written in blue ink.
The most interesting aspect of this card is the fact that it has a Vino inscription beneath the autograph. It is a nickname given to Kobe Bryant, but it is not one that is used often. As a result, it is surprising to see it written as part of his autograph. However, it is this strange choice by Kobe that makes this card an appealing option for investors.
Another thing to consider is the fact that there are only 49 copies of this card in existence. As a result, it is hard to come across them. Unfortunately, there are not any on sale on eBay at the moment.
16. 1996 Ultra Platinum Medallion Kobe Bryant Rookie Card #P52
Here is another card that is held in high regard among collections. From the 1996 Platinum Medallion collection, this card is extremely valuable in mint condition. Unfortunately, high-grade copies are almost impossible to find. Despite not having a limited run, only eight PSA 10 copies are known to exist. As a result, a copy will sell for a significant amount if it goes up for auction.
There are two Kobe Bryant cards in this collection, #P52, and #P266, but the #P52 copy is much more valuable. A little over 40 have been graded from each copy, but P52 copies have sold for more. There is currently a PSA 8.5 copy on sale on eBay for a little under $8000.
17. 1997 Skybox Premium Star Rubies Kobe Bryant Rookie Card #23
The next card on our list of the most valuable Kobe Bryant rookie cards is from the 1997 SkyBox Premium Star Rubies collection. Its design will bring you back to the 90s as it has a design that is clearly from that era.
New collectors might wonder why this card has sold for as much as $7000, but old collectors will not be surprised. Skybox Premium was a popular set back in the day, and the rare parallels like Star Rubies sold for even more. As a result, it is not surprising to see a high-rated copy of this card sell for $7000.
18. 2006 UD Exquisite Collection Kobe Bryant Patch #AP-KB
Here we have another Kobe Bryant card that had a limited run. Only 100 copies were printed, and as a result, the copies that go up for auction sell for a lot of money. A card sold for a little over $5000 in 2019.
This card comes with two things that make it extremely valuable. Firstly, it has an authenticated Kobe Bryant autograph across the bottom of the card. It is beautifully written in blue ink.
The other contributing factor is the jersey patch. Depending on which section of the jersey the patch is from, it can significantly increase the value of the cards. patches with clear yellow, purple, and silver sections are more valuable. The patch is featured to the right of the image of Kobe Bryant. It is important to note that this card has a horizontal orientation.
19. 1997 Metal Universe Championship Precious Metal Gems Kobe Bryant #86
If you were ever curious about where the scope design came from in modern Panini products and cards, you do not need to look any further than the background of this card from the 1997 Precious Metal collection. It is a very popular card and can be sold at auction for a tremendous price.
However, the design alone does not make the card valuable; there are other contributing factors. Notably, this card had a limited run, and as a result, only 50 copies were printed. As one of the rarest Kobe Bryant cards, it has sold for $3378.
Now, you might think that price sounds low, and you would be right. While 50 copies were printed, very few have been sold. Instead, most copies were kept by their original owners or lost. PSA has only seen four copies of this card, and only one of them received a mint condition grading. BGS has seen nine copies with four of them receiving mind condition gradings.
These cards are incredibly rare, and if a mint condition copy ever goes up for auction, it would not be surprising to see this card skyrocket on this list.
20. 2017 Panini Emminence Diamond Logo Kobe Bryant Rookie Card #1
The final card on our list of the most valuable Kobe Bryant cards is from 2017 and has the most unique look of any card on this list. It has a dark black background with the Diamond logo in the center. The image of Kobe Bryant is small and in the bottom right-hand corner of the card.
Several copies of this card were released, but only eight came with Kobe Bryant’s autograph. Additionally, the box came with a card with a Troy ounce of gold or platinum on the card. Collectors will also enjoy looking through the signed coffee table book that comes with the box.
This card is valuable because of how unique it is. Copies of it have sold for several thousands of dollars. The box itself is also quite expensive if collectors want to complete the set.
Kobe Bryant is a legendary figure in the world of basketball. His name comes with a reverence that is almost unheard of around the NBA. Very few players in history have reached his level of fame and notoriety. As a result, it should not be a surprise to hear that his trading cards are among the most valuable in the history of the NBA.
Two Kobe Bryant cards have sold for over $1 million. The Metal Universe Precious Metal Gems card sold for $2 million, whereas the Topps Chrom Refractor from 1996 sold for $1.752 million. However, these are not the only valuable card as several others have sold for $100,000 or more. Even more have sold for thousands of dollars.
Investing in basketball cards can be fun, and when you start, one of the first names that will come to mind is Kobe Bryant. Unfortunately, you probably will not be able to start with one of the cards listed above. They are very expensive, and as a result, they are out of the price range of most people.
Still, it never hurts to keep an eye out for great deals. If you can get your hands on one of the 20 cards we discussed above, you could be in for a big pay day.