10 Must-Have Kobe Bryant Rookie Card for 2022

The Kobe Brant Topps Chrome RC #138 is one of our picks for the top investment in all of the trading cards for the next ten years and maybe the best investment period (yes, including stocks, real estate, and bitcoin).

Kobe Bryant rookie cards ebay

If you don’t already own a couple of Kobe rookie cards, where have you been for the last 20 years?

Since 2018 they have been right up there with Michael Jordan basketball cards for the best in the hobby in terms of ROI. Not only did Kobe have the game, skills, and charisma, but he had that IT factor not unlike Michael Jordan.

SHOP KOBE BRYANT ROOKIE CARDS ON EBAY

Whatever IT makes them loved and adored by millions of strangers. In other words, Invest in Kobe “The Black Mamba” Bryant Now. A phenom in his early years, Kobe Bryant became an icon in the sport during the latter stages of his time in LA.

Kobe Bryant’s rookie cards would be worth owning even without legendary status. His accomplishments are awe-inspiring: 5 NBA Championships, 2 NBA Finals MVPs, 1 NBA MVP, 18 All-Star Games, and 11 All-NBA First-Team honors.

Best Cards

He was beloved by fans and may have been one of the most popular players in the NBA (if not all of sport), which also adds to the value of his cards.

best cards

Here is several Kobe Bryant Rookie Cards that are worth adding to your collection whether you are a Kobe fan, basketball fan, sports fan, sports card investing fan, or just a fan of making money.

 

1996 Kobe Bryant Topps Chrome Refractor RC #138

SHOP EBAY NOW

topps chrome

Despite not having a signature, limited print, or jersey patch, the 1996 Topps Chrome Refractor RC #138 remains one of the highest-priced Kobe RCs on the market.

In mint condition, this is a mid to high six-figure card. Or even a million-plus dollar card. In fact, this is the card that fetched $1.8 million at auction. The card shows Kobe in his golden Lakers uniform, mouth wide open as he holds the ball in both hands.

Kobe Rookie Year Stats: 71 games | 7.6 points per game | 1.9 total rebounds | 1.3 assists. His rookie season was pretty good but by no means did it predict the future of the BLACK MAMBA.

If you know Kobe’s reputation as a rookie, he is undoubtedly headed to the hoop—not passing. A tall, anonymous Timberwolves defender stands helplessly by, arms extended upward. The card’s chrome finish provides an eye-catching, reflective appearance. 

A simple golden “Kobe Bryant” nameplate adorns the bottom of the card next to a Spalding basketball logo. Silver trim completes the card’s simple design.

Sports fans will be asking “is Kobe really gone?” for the foreseeable future. His Cards are not only a sure-fire investment, they are a way to maintain a little piece of Kobe for yourself.

 

1996 Kobe Bryant Fleer Metal Precious RC #181

SHOP EBAY NOW

1996 Kobe Bryant Rookie Card Fleer

The name of this card says it all: precious. The 1996 Fleer Metal Precious Metal RC #181 generally requires between five and six figures to purchase, depending on its condition.

The card features Bryant in his purple 1996-era Lakers uni. He dribbles the ball at chest height with his eyes affixed upward. The design of the card is decidedly…Metal. Half of the card features metal grating, a nod to Bryant’s reputation as a grinder.

The other half contains softer, more stylized chromatic flourishes. “Kobe Bryant” is in block letters on the card’s right-side border. The back of the card is like another card in itself. It shows Kobe contorting in his gold Lakers uniform. It also contains a stat checklist with no stats. Instead, it reads “no NBA experience”.

 

1996 Kobe Bryant Skybox E-X2000 Credentials RC #30

SHOP EBAY NOW

1996 sky box

The 1996 Skybox E-X2000 card came with only one parallel, and it is called Credentials. This card’s value has proven robust, as it goes for mid to high six figures. It features a pearl border that reflects various colors based on how the light hits.

Kobe’s likeness centers the card. He holds the ball at chest height in his gold #8 Lakers uniform. It appears he is a mid-Euro step or preparing to dish the ball to a teammate.

Fun Fact: Kobe claims 5 NBA Championships, 2 NBA Finals MVPs, 1 NBA MVP, 18 All-Star Games, and 11 All-NBA First-Team honors.

Small “credentials” text in the top right corner lets you know this is a parallel card.  His name rests in the golden text at the bottom of the card, just above a black nameplate reading “Los Angeles Lakers”. With only 499 versions of this card printed, expect its rarity to drive its price upward in the coming months and years.

 

1996 Kobe Bryant Topps Finest Gold (Refractor) RC #269

SHOP EBAY NOW

Topps Finest Gold Refractor

Another iteration of Topps’ 1996 Finest the Gold Refractor Kobe RC #269 is a special one. Since his passing, this has become one of the most in-demand, not just among Kobe-focused collectors but also among the NBA card collectors more broadly.

It’s easy to see why. The design of the card is quintessentially mid-90s. The artistic vibe would be just as fitting for the cover of a hip-hop album as a basketball card.

From the gothic lettering that reads “Heirs” to the background archway and sunshine-like reflective effect, this is one of the more thoughtfully crafted cards.

The concept is even more impressive in retrospect. After all, Kobe would become an heir (and also contemporary) to legendary guards like West, Jordan, and Iverson. Premier versions of this card will cost you nearly half a million dollars. However, it could be worth significantly more in the not-so-distant future.

 

1996 Kobe Bryant Fleer Ultra Gold RC #G52

SHOP EBAY NOW

Kobe Bryant 1996 Fleer Ultra

As one of the more condition-sensitive of his cards, new versions of the 1996 Fleer Ultra #G52 is considerably rare. As market economics dictate, its rarity means substantial value for the person who possesses it. Mint-graded versions of this card can fetch low-to-mid six-figure purchase prices.

Those who appreciate a simple, player-focused card design will like this one. It shows a young Kobe, arm extended in the act of a layup. His mouth is fixed in an O shape as he displays the trademark Kobe focus.

“Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers” is scrawled at the bottom of the card in Hollywood-style font. The rear of the card features an additional two images of Bryant as a rookie.

 

1996 Flair Showcase Row RC #31

SHOP EBAY NOW

Few Kobe Bryant rookie cards capture the essence of Kobe as a rookie like the 1996 Flair Showcase #31.

What gives away his rookie-ness?  His baby-like face featured prominently on the bottom-right portion of this card. The headshot composes the card’s foreground. Another image of Kobe in action makes up the background.

A skinny, just-outta-highschool Kobe juggles the ball in his purple Lakers uniform as a Sixers defender looks on. The card’s design has a pixelated effect with only Kobe’s face fully focused.

A Flair Showcase logo and Kobe’s name in print and larger cursive font complete the front of the card. Gem mint versions of this card can sell for low six figures.

 

1996 Bowman’s Best RC #R23

SHOP EBAY NOW

1996 Kobe Bryant Bowman's Best

The 1996 Bowman’s Best Atomic Refractor RC is much like Kobe’s game: flashy. As the “refractor” part of the name indicates, this card has a shiny finish. The coloration shifts as the light hit the card differently.

Bryant stands confidently in his purple Lakers uni. He holds the ball palm-up in his left hand while motioning to a teammate with his right. A packed crowd serves as a backdrop to Bryant’s likeness. The embossed text, flashy design, rarity, and high grade will make this a likely six-figure investment.

The left and bottom edges of the card feature a silver reflective border. The bottom edge also features a golden border and “Kobe Bryant” in stylized text. The chosen image of Kobe is a classic.

 

1996 Kobe Bryant Bowman’s Best Atomic Refractor RC #BP10

SHOP EBAY NOW

1996 Kobe Bryant Bowman’s Best Atomic Refractor

You read that correctly, this is not a repeat.

Notice that this is #BP10 in the 1996 Bowman’s Best set, unlike the card just before it on this list. It features a distinct design and image of Kobe from #R23. This card is cut entirely from the other Atomic Refractor we have listed.

It features a unique die-cut in which the bottom-right edge of the card is absent with a rounded edge. True to the Atomic Refractor design scheme, this card has a foil finish.

“It contains a silver streak along the right side border, which also serves as the card’s nameplate. A faux Bryant signature parallels the left border and another refractive silver accent.”

An image of Bryant is the centerpiece of the card. He dribbles with his left hand as his tongue wags out the right side of his mouth. His black-and-white Adidas sneakers are unique to early-year Kobe cards, a time before he became a Nike athlete.

You can secure this card for five figures, making it one of the more accessible Kobe Bryant RCs worth owning.

 

1996 Press Pass Auto RC #2

SHOP EBAY NOW

1996 Kobe Bryant Press Pass Auto

The 1996 Press Pass Auto Kobe Bryant RC #2 is more of a prospect card but your investment portfolio won’t mind.

As a card priced in the low-mid six-figure range, it’s a rare find that any collector should leap at. Central is an image of Kobe in his black Lower Marion High School uniform.

Everything about the card feels unique if unpolished. The signature is what makes it special. Kobe signed the card in black ink just above the nameplate. The combination of Kobe’s youth and the authentic signature make this a big-ticket worth a boat-load of cash.

Elated fans serve as the backdrop while a faceless fan (or teammate) grasps the collar of Bryant’s jersey. A nondescript gold nameplate includes “Kobe Bryant”, “13th Pick, Charlotte,” and the black-and-white Press Pass logo.

The text also indicates that Bryant is a “1996 Draft Pick”, a “Guard”, and that he was “Traded to Los Angeles”.

 

1996 Upper Deck RC #19

SHOP EBAY NOW

1996 kobe bryant upper deck

There are several Kobe Bryant “Upper Deck” RC, but the 1996-97 Upper Deck UD3 RC #19 is by far the best and should have the best ROI moving forward. How can it not with Kobe getting his lean on looking like a stud?

Lakers is described at the bottom of the card, while his name is highlighted at the top. A unique wood backdrop rounds out this solid Kobe RC.

 

1996 Score Board Auto RC #15

SHOP EBAY NOW

1996 Score Board Auto Kobe Bryant

Like the Press Pass Auto RC, this is a Kobe prospect card containing an autograph. This alone makes it valuable. This one has more flair than the Press Pass Autor RC counterpart. The Score Board card features Kobe in what is a superstar in the making photoshoot.

We know this because he stares directly at the camera, tongue fully extended as he completes a one-handed jam. An American flag is a backdrop for the right side of the card.

To the left of Kobe’s arm is a beige backdrop, on top of which a blue-inked signature is scrawled from top to bottom. Also in blue ink is “24/390”, indicating that this was a limited release.

You may be able to get this card for less than the Press Pass Auto #2, but it will still cost you in the low six-figure range.

 

1996 23kt Gold with Signature RC (Purple)

SHOP EBAY NOW

1996 kobe bryant 23kt gold with signature

The 23kt Gold with Purple signature is one of the most underrated of all of the Kobe RCs and by a wide margin, in our opinion. Good luck finding one with the coveted PSA 10 grade.

Got a lead on one? Email info@goldcardauctions.com, and we will pay a $50 finders fee.

 

1996 Hologram UD Premium Collection Holoview RC #PC18

SHOP EBAY NOW

1996 kobe bryant hologram

When collectors refer to the “Kobe Bryant Hologram”, they describe the 1996-97 Upper Deck SP #PC18 Premium Collection Holoview.

A pretty cool and rare card with a small photo of Kobe in a hologram in the bottom right. The hologram was fairly technologically advanced for its day.

 

1996 Upper Deck Collector’s Choice RC #267

SHOP EBAY NOW

The 1996 Upper Deck Collector’s Choice RC is ideal for the younger Kobe fan as the card comes fairly cheap but also has a decent Upper Deck market. The photo is solid; to be honest, there isn’t much to dislike about the card visually.


The below Kobe cards are not worth the purchase as the ROI is not worth it compared to the previous Kobe cards we spoke on.

 

1996 NBA Hoops #281

Above is the not-so-popular1996 NBA Hoops. This is probably one of the lowest ROI and should not be added to your investments under any circumstances.

 

1996 Topps Stadium Club #32

Just when we thought these Kobe RCs couldn’t get much worse, we get hit upside down with the 1996 Topps Stadium Club RC numbered #32. Ugly as sin. Stay away. Stay far, far away.

 

1996 Skybox Premium #203

Would you buy a card that looks like that? Sorry, we wouldn’t either. Not ever the great Kobe could get us to invest in such a pitiful-looking excuse for a basketball card. Too harsh? We think we’re going easy.


Values

His card values after his death have soared. When you combine his death with the general sports card boom, you have one of the hobbies’ best investment returns.

The most valuable of his RC is the 1996-97 Topps Chrome Refractor Kobe Bryan #138. This bad boy sold for 1.7 million dollars in March 2021.

Email value@goldcardauctions.com if you want an estimated worth of Kobe or any of your sports cards. Are you looking to purchase a three, four, or five-figure sports card? Also, Consider the Gold Card Auctions Consulting Service if you want to purchase a high-end Kobe RC and need some assistance.

As one might expect, the value of Kobe’s cards soared after his passing. They quickly came back down in price. Within a week, they dropped down 25% to 50% depending on the card but were still well above what they were before Kobe’s death.

Here we will cover some of the significant price moves we have seen within the Kobe RC market.

As of May 2022, all is pretty quiet in Kobe land. The Lakers not making the playoffs didn’t help much, combined with fears of higher inflation continuing into the summer of 2022 (gas price predictions are being placed at $6 per gallon).

All these factors keep Kobe’s Basketball card prices down and the card market in general. We forecast another 6 to 12 months of this before we see an uptick. Now would be a good time to buy one or two.

 

Checklist

Checklist

His true RCs all hail from the 1996-97 season, and there’s a mix between the various brands. Many cards have parallels or refractors, which are rarer and tend to cost far more on average.

  • 1996 Topps Chrome Kobe Bryant RC #138
  • Topps Stadium Club RC
  • Collector’s Choice  RC #267

Second Tier

  • 1996 E-X2000 RC #30
  • 1996 Finest RC #74
  • Flair Showcase Row 2 RC #31

Third Tier

  • 1996 Hoops RC #281
  • Fleer  RC #203
  • Metal RC #137

Third Tier

  • 1996 SkyBox Premium RC #55
  • Topps Draft Redemption RC #DP13
  • Hoops RC #281

 

Outlook

Will there ever be another Kobe?

Considering his outsize impact on spreading basketball globally, his polarizing personality, and his continued success in retirement, it’s hard to see another player rivaling Bryant’s overall impact. His tragic passing only adds to his legend.

Like Len Bias, Roberto Clemente, Jose Fernandez, and other athletes taken too soon, their fans remember them even more indelibly than their living rivals. 

Bottom Line: There may not be a better long-term investment with such little risk in the entire sports card market. Kobe’s cards are assets that you want in your sports card investing portfolio as they come with little to no risk due to the fact he is a legend, arguably is one of the most popular NBA players of all time, and his cards should have a steady ROI in good times and bad. A screaming BUY if there ever was one.

Adding a minimum of two would be prudent, adding three or four would be sharp.

Kobe Bryant infographic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Comment