‘Pristine’ Kobe rookie card sells for nearly $1.8M


A Kobe Bryant rookie card sold for $1.795 million late Saturday on Goldin Auctions, an online auction house and repository for sports memorabilia, making it one of the most expensive basketball cards ever sold.

The “1996-97 Topps Chrome Refractors #138 Kobe Bryant Rookie Card — BGS PRISTINE/Black Label 10” is just one of two in the world “at its level of perfection,” according to Goldin Auctions.

The card’s condition report had perfect 10s across the board, qualifying it for the prestigious “black label” recognition.

Final Sale Price: $1,795,800

An all-time record for any Kobe Bryant card. pic.twitter.com/dTStDwavHx

— Goldin Auctions (@GoldinAuctions) March 7, 2021

Goldin Auctions had not released the name of the buyer as of Sunday morning.

Bryant was one of the most revered athletes in the world before his death last year. The five-time NBA champion died with his daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash in California on Jan. 26, 2020, at the age of 41.

Within weeks after his death, Bryant cards were everywhere online, increasing in value by 600%, according to eBay sales data.

“Kobe Bryant was one of the fiercest competitors of all time and a truly larger-than-life figure. His rookie card is one of the rarest in existence and one of only two on earth in black label pristine condition, which is the highest possible obtainable grade. The fact that it sold for the final auction price of $1.795 million, the all-time record for any Kobe Bryant card, speaks to just how beloved he was around the world,” Ken Goldin, founder of Goldin Auctions, told ESPN on Sunday. “The enthusiasm for trading cards and memorabilia has never been higher and as even more people recognize the incredible investment opportunity these assets offer, we anticipate that interest will only continue to grow.”

On Thursday, a signed Tom Brady rookie card sold for a record $1.32 million on PWCC Marketplace. The $1.32 million price tag is believed to be the highest price paid for a football card, eclipsing the previous record by nearly $500,000.

Rookie cards are the most expensive cards as of late — but neither Bryant’s nor Brady’s are the priciest.

In July 2020, a 2003-04 LeBron James Upper Deck rookie Patch Parallel card sold at auction for $1.845 million at Goldin Auctions to Lob.com CEO Leore Avidar. The price tag set a record for modern-day (produced in 1980 or later) basketball cards and was the most any basketball card has ever sold for.

Outside of basketball, a Mike Trout autographed rookie card went for a whopping $3.9 million on Goldin Auctions in August 2020.

Leave it to Mickey Mantle to hold the record, though. In January, a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card sold for $5.2 million on PWCC Marketplace and still stands as the most expensive sports card ever sold.

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