The 2018 NBA MVP and a 10-time consecutive All-Star, James Harden recorded a whopping 36.1 points per game in 2018-19 and 34.3 in 2019-20.
Known for his luxurious beard as well as his abilities on the court, Harden is certain to be a Hall of Famer, despite failing to win an NBA Finals so far.
Here’s a rundown with 10 of the best James Harden rookie cards, along with lots of info about how and why they made the list.
The Best James Harden Rookie Cards
The No. 3 pick in the 2009 NBA draft, there are over 25 James Harden rookie cards. We’ve narrowed that down to a top 10, with plenty of signed, serial numbered options to choose from.
Panini secured the licenses to print cards in basketball, football and hockey this year, producing a number of high quality sets focusing on the NBA.
10. 2009-10 Panini Timeless Treasures James Harden RC #103 Autograph #/299 (eBay)
2009-10 Panini Timeless Treasures is the first set to make the list. It features one of the more unique James Harden rookie cards you’ll find, with a distinct on-card autograph found on a piece of white basketball material. It’s also numbered to 299.
One issue is, it’s not the best material to sign, and the auto can be blurry, or even faded. (Ironically, many haven’t stood the test of time.)
It’s still a decent option if you’d like a cheaper numbered RC.
9. 2009-10 Panini Limited James Harden RC #153 Autographed Jersey #/299 (eBay)
Next up is 2009-10 Panini Limited.
As the name suggests, you’ll be able to find a Harden RC limited to 299 copies, this time with a stickered signature. The addition of a small event-worn swatch is a bonus, although it can feel a bit lost amidst a hectic design.
A trio of parallels up the rarity and value significantly.
- Parallels: Silver (#/25), Gold (#/10), Platinum (1/1)
8. 2007 McDonald’s All American James Harden RC #7 (eBay)
The 2007 Topps McDonald’s All American is another rare James Harden XRC. It’s true whether you’re looking at the cheaper base card, or the signed copy seen above.
Released two years before Harden declared for the NBA draft, the set was produced to coincide with McDonald’s All-American High School Basketball Games.
It’s strange to see Harden in a McDonald’s kit, but it’s a fun piece of basketball history.
7. 2009-10 Panini Absolute James Harden RC #146 Autograph Jersey #/499 (eBay)
An exclusive Kobe Bryant on-card signature was the main focus of 2009-10 Panini Absolute, but you’ll also be able to find a signed Harden jersey patch.
With 499 base copies, it’s not especially difficult to track down. Once again, a sticker auto holds it back to an extent, but it does have a memorable design, along with a few rarer parallels to chase.
6. 2009-10 Panini Classics James Harden RC #163 Autograph #/499 (eBay)
Another card with a higher print run of 499, Harden’s 2009-10 Panini Classics RC features an understated design and a crisp on-card signature. (You’ll also be able to find unsigned base versions, which may also be serial numbered.)
Unlike many of the cards seen above, it uses a great action shot of the rookie with a ball in his grasp.
5. 2009-10 Panini Crown Royale James Harden RC #104 Autograph #/599 (eBay)
A die-cut release from 2009-10 Panini Crown Royale, this is a tough card to locate if you’re looking for pristine copies. It follows a design often seen with the set, with a golden crown laid behind an image of the player.
It’s a great option if you’re looking for the best signed Harden rookie cards, especially if you’re not too bothered about paying extra for a player patch.
4. 2009-10 Topps Chrome James Harden RC #99 #/999 (eBay)
Topps Chrome is always one of the more popular sets when looking at the best rookie cards, and Harden is no exception. Rather than the base version that comes in with just under 1,000 copies, we’d stick with the Refractor versions, numbered to a round 500.
Most of the value is derived from the flagship Topps Chrome brand, although the card has become iconic over the last decade or so. Along with the rarer Refractor parallels, there’s also a Gold version limited to just 50 copies.
Despite the lack of an auto or patch, they’ve held value especially well over the past decade.
- Parallels: Refractors (#/500), Gold Refractors (#/50), SuperFractor (1/1)
3. 2009-10 Playoff Contenders James Harden RC #103 Autograph SSP (eBay)
Harden’s 2009-10 Playoff Contenders RC is another popular option, offered in the form of a signed Rookie Ticket. Noted to be an SSP, this equates to a reported print run of less than 499.
As you’d expect, it has a large on-card auto, and uses a landscape design to great effect. If not for the top two, this would definitely be the Harden card to collect.
2. 2009-10 Exquisite Collection James Harden RC #45, #74 Autograph #/225 (eBay)
The 2009-10 Upper Deck Exquisite Collection contains some of the most valuable James Harden RC autographs on the market. As with the National Treasures issue above, it also has an on-card signature which helps to drive significant interest.
A print run of 225 makes it rarer than most, and the serial number is found on the front in an understated design. There’s also a Gold jersey-number parallel (#/13), and two versions to choose from.
This premium set was already expensive when it was originally released, and it has only continued to increase in price over the last decade.
1. 2009-10 National Treasures James Harden RC #203 Autograph Patch #/99 (eBay)
What could possibly beat the 2009-10 Exquisite Collection James Harden RC?
This 2009-10 National Treasures release features a print run of just 99 copies, with an on-card auto accompanied by a massive swatch that takes up over half of the surface.
When compared to the higher serial numbers seen above, it’s easy to see why this is the most valuable Harden rookie card overall.
Top James Harden Rookie Cards: Buyers Guide
What do we think of the current state of the market for the best James Harden rookie cards?
You’ll find cheaper options the further up the list you go, and that includes signed cards and base copies. It’s not impossible to start a Harden rookie collection with a limited budget.
Overall, it’s hard to look past either the 2009-10 National Treasures RC, or the 2009-10 Exquisite Collection James Harden rookie card for the best premium options on the market. They tick most of the boxes, and they’re a clear step above the others.
James Harden Rookie Cards: Buying/Selling Advice
Harden is one of the more contentious players, accused of stat sheet stuffing in expired games during the early years. There’s no denying that his numbers have also declined drastically within the last two seasons.
According to recent reports, both Harden and the Sixers believe keeping Harden in Philadelphia is both of their best chances to win a championship in the near future.
We expect to see a bump in prices when he retires, as a surefire bet for the Hall of Fame.