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Kobe Bryant’s tragic death in 2020 saw a notable upsurge in his card prices, especially for Topps releases from the 1996-97 season.
Here’s everything you need to know about Black Mamba’s best Topps RCs, as well as taking a look at their current values and their prospects as a long-term investment option.
Kobe Bryant Topps Rookie Card: Checklist
Kobe Bryant rookie cards are found in every primary product from the 1996-97 season, with several unlicensed high school options.
We’ve listed all of his official Topps rookie cards below.
1996 Kobe Bryant Topps Finest Gold Refractor #269
The 1996-97 Topps Finest Basketball release comes with bronze, silver, and gold cards, increasing in rarity with each tier.
Then there are Refractor versions for all three, with the Gold Refractors considered a hit at 1:288 packs.
That makes for six different Kobe rookie cards in the Topps Finest set, but we’d stick with the Gold Refractor if you’re solely interested in future profit.
Many still have the original layer of coating attached to the front, which was put in place to protect the condition-sensitive surface.
As such, gem mint options will sell for exceptional amounts.
1996 Kobe Bryant Topps Finest Refractor #74
The #74 is essentially the bronze version found in the settings discussed above.
Rather than the normal parallels that are available today, the Finest set had different images and designs for the bronze, silver, and gold cards.
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For example, this card has a bronze border, with an image of Kobe in his Lakers gear, bursting through the background with a large ‘Apprentices’ logo on the side.
The Refractor also comes with a layer of coating on some copies, protecting the surface.
1996 Kobe Bryant Topps Base Rookie Card #138
The base Kobe card from the ‘96 Topps set is highly affordable and still offers great aesthetic appeal as it bears a strong resemblance to the popular Chrome Refractor version.
It also has a further parallel in the form of the foil NBA at 50, which is also a popular choice for many collectors.
Either way, it’s a great entry-level RC featuring one of the greatest ever.
1996 Kobe Bryant Topps Chrome Rookie Card #138
The 1996 Kobe Bryant Topps Chrome rookie card is stunning to say the least and is a clear step up from the base version in terms of value.
It features the same action shot of Bryant in his Lakers gear, but it shimmers in comparison to the normal rookie.
The majority of chrome cards from the era are prone to smudging, and the ‘96 Topps is no exception.
This is the most popular Kobe RC by some margin, and there are 832 gem mint graded copies at the current time of writing.
1996 Kobe Bryant Topps Chrome Refractor #138
The coveted refractor parallel for the base Topps Chrome card seen above, this is where the real money is.
Since it’s release, the card has been seen as the best Topps Kobe RC on the market, and it’s certainly one of the rarest.
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There are just 63 gem mint graded copies of the refractor version on the PSA registry, while the Kobe Bryant 1996-97 Topps Chrome RC is also the most expensive card of his ever sold.
A gem mint copy sold for $461,250 at the January 2021 Goldin Elite auction.
1996 Kobe Bryant Topps Draft Redemption #DP13
Bryant’s Draft Redemption RC is another which shows the Hall of Famer in a classic image from his first season as an NBA player.
It has a great image of Bryant as he soars towards the net, with a golden hue surrounding his body.
The chrome background is decidedly 1990’s, but it’s still a great RC that features the Black Mamba at his finest.
1996 Kobe Bryant Topps Chrome Youthquake #YQ15
The Youthquake insert is next up, always popular with the majority of Bryant collectors.
ProFiles, Season’s Best, and YouthQuake were the main inserts from the 1996 Topps Basketball set, with Kobe found in the latter.
The checklist also includes Allen Iverson, with all of the cards given the chrome treatment.
Kobe’s card has a silver background, with a gold and red trim. As with the other chrome options, it’s difficult to find pristine copies in the present.
1996 Kobe Bryant Topps Stadium Club Rookie Showcase #RS11
Another Bryant RC is found in the 1996 Topps Stadium Club collection.
From the Stadium Club Rookie Showcase subset, it’s a horizontal card with two images of the player in separate segments, along with a ‘Rookie Showcase’ logo on the right-hand side.
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It’s one of the more affordable Kobe Topps rookies, even when looking at graded versions. However, there are fewer than 50 gem mint copies on the PSA registry.
1996 Kobe Bryant Topps Stadium Club Rookie Card #R12
The second Topps Stadium Club card to make the list is from the ‘Rookies’ subset, with a great full-bleed image that highlighted the improved photography used to capture Kobe.
He’s dribbling in the action shot, with the Lakers 8 on full display. His name and the Stadium Club logo are wrapped in gold foil, while you’ll also find a different image located on the reverse.
The Topps Stadium Club cards do tend to be the most affordable overall, even if they’re in perfect condition.
Kobe Bryant Topps Rookie Card: Best 3 Investments
Here are three of the best Topps Kobe RCs if you’re purely interested in potential ROI.
3. 1996 Kobe Bryant Topps Draft Redemption #DP13
The Draft Redemption is one of the more popular cards overall, and blew up in terms of value in the last year or so.
Gem mint copies went from $4,000 to over $20,000, although they have started to dip back to a more affordable level in recent weeks.
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It’s also an attractive card featuring Kobe in a purple Lakers jersey, rather than the yellow that dominates most of his early options.
Now could be the ideal time to jump in, unless you want to wait and see what the true level is.
2. 1996 Kobe Bryant Topps Finest Gold Refractor #269
A close second, the Kobe Bryant Finest rookie card (Gold Refractor) is another popular card with good scope to increase in value sometime in the near future whenever the market settles back down.
It’s one of the rarer options when looking at gem mint copies, while there’s still lots of interest in lower grades.
We’d stick with the Gold Refractor, although even the Bronze version (#74) is beginning to pick up steam when looking at graded versions.
You could do far worse from an investment perspective.
1. 1996 Kobe Bryant Topps Chrome Refractor #138
The proven choice has to be the 1996 Topps Chrome Refractor.
This is the case when looking at recent sales, as well as historical data. It’s the king of Kobe Topps RCs, and it has the largest scope in terms of potential future value.
Of course, the Chrome Refractor is out of reach for many collectors, which is where the base cards come into play.
There are lots of options, including the foil NBA at 50 parallel, or even the base Chrome RC.
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In any case, if one card is likely to break the record again, it’s probably going to be the current holder.
Kobe Bryant Topps Rookie Card Buyers Guide
Best Long-Term ROI: 1996 Topps Chrome RC
Best Budget: 1996 Topps Draft Redemption #DP13
Kobe Bryant Topps Rookie Card
Kobe cards have started to cool off ever so slightly, making it a buyer’s market if you’ve been looking at graded versions over the last couple of months.
They were always going to fluctuate wildly following his untimely passing in 2020, but it’s no exaggeration to say that he’ll be remembered as fondly as Jordan as time goes by.
18 months on, his rookie cards still look like a great investment option, and he’ll always be seen as a legendary Hall of Famer who died before his time.
Prices are down following a number of record-breaking sales. However, it’s worth remembering that Hall of Famers are some of the best long-term investments anyway, and values only tend to swing one way over time.
Topps is favored by many collectors due to the longevity and recognition of the brand, and Kobe cards are clearly no exception.
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How much is a Topps Chrome Kobe Bryant worth?
A 1996 Topps Chrome Kobe Bryant rookie card at a PSA 10 grade is worth around $11,000 on average over the last few sales on eBay.
How much is a Kobe Bryant Topps rookie card?
The Kobe Bryant Topps rookie card base with a PSA 10 grade is worth around $2,300 based on the last few sales.
What is the Kobe Bryant Topps Chrome rookie card value?
The value of a Kobe Bryant Topps Crome rookie card will depend on the grade of the card. Please email us a photo of your card to firstname.lastname@example.org to receive an estimate.