Kobe Bryant was one of the best loved players in the history of basketball before his untimely death in 2020.
A shooting guard, he spent his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, where he was a five-time NBA champion and two-time Finals MVP.
Bryant was also an 18-time All-Star, which ranks second behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 19 overall.
A truly special talent and an icon of world sport, Kobe’s collectible cards are some of the most valuable within the hobby.
Here’s a list with five of the very best options, along with buying/selling advice for collectors and investors.
The Best Kobe Bryant Cards
Kobe Bryant cards were already a big deal before he passed away, as he had retired in 2016.
There are thousands of expensive options to choose from, but which are the very best from an investment perspective?
5. 2008 Topps Chrome Orange Refractor Kobe Bryant w/ LeBron James #24 (eBay)
Kobe’s card from the 2008 Topps Chrome set shows the Lakers superstar squaring off against LeBron James.
The combined star power is enough to make it an interesting prospect for any serious card collector. Then there are numbered parallels, such as the Orange Refractor seen in the image above which is limited to only 499 copies.
It might not be an RC, but that hasn’t stopped this card from becoming one of the better options from later years, especially at high grades.
2008 Topps Chrome Base Set Parallels: Refractor, Orange #/499, X-Fractor #/288, Gold #/50, Red #/5, SuperFractor 1/1, Printing Plates 1/1
4. 1996 Flair Showcase Legacy Collection Row 0 Kobe Bryant RC /150 #31 (eBay)
Who better to look upon Kobe’s greatness than the man himself?
Of the various parallels found in the 1996 Flair Showcase Legacy Collection, the Row 0 card is the most popular by a wide margin.
It has an interesting design. The image is full-bleed along the front, and shows Bryant in both a yellow and purple Lakers jersey.
Released in 1996, it’s a true rookie card, and infinitely more affordable than the likes of his Topps Chrome.
If you’re looking for the serial number, it’s found in large font on the reverse alongside a third image of Kobe.
3. 2015 Immaculate Collection Milestones Kobe Bryant #1 (eBay)
The 2015 Immaculate Collection set has a key Kobe card limited to a print run of 25.
The Milestones subset focuses on his impending retirement. It features the poem entitled ‘Dear Basketball’, which was penned by the player.
Kobe is pictured during a press conference at the time, in which he confirmed that “this season is all I have left to give.”
The addition of a massive auto at the base of the card should be some small consolation for owners. Graded copies are going to cost as much as an organ transplant.
2. 2001 SP Authentic Dual Michael Jordan & Kobe Bryant /50 #MJKB (eBay)
It’s difficult to mention Kobe and his career without thinking of Michael Jordan. Luckily, they’ve been paired together for the purposes of this rare 2001 SP Authentic card.
A must-have for any ultra high-end collector, it’s a dual autograph which only has space for a tiny image of both players.
Instead, the majority of the card is devoted to massive sections for some of the largest on-card autos that I’ve ever seen.
As with the Kobe/LeBron card, this Jordan/Kobe auto benefits from the star power of both players. It’s also limited to just 50 copies, so demand vastly exceeds supply.
1. 1996 Topps Chrome Kobe Bryant RC #138 (eBay)
Was it ever going to be anything other than Kobe Bryant’s 1996 Topps Chrome RC?
A special card from a supremely important set, it’s by far the most valuable Kobe card, while the chrome finish makes it difficult to locate in pristine condition.
The Refractor parallel is where the true money lies, but both copies tend to suffer from centering issues. There’s also a major dropoff when looking at anything below a PSA/BGS 10 grade.
For the base version, there are over 4,000 PSA 9 copies, and 832 PSA 10s. The Refractor lowers that down to 287 with a 9, and only 63 PSA 10 grade copies.
It’s likely to be the most popular Kobe card in the foreseeable future, and gem mint copies are rare.
Kobe Bryant Cards: Buyers Guide
The market for Kobe cards has started to pick up again following a corrective period over the past few months that affected the entire market.
Of the cards we’ve mentioned above, any have great potential to provide a decent ROI over the next few years.
If we had to pick one, we’d stick with the Topps Chrome RC because of the prestige within the hobby.
Prices are only likely to go one way over a longer period of time. His cards are comparable only to the likes of Michael Jordan within the sport.
The Best Cheap Kobe Bryant Cards
For cheaper investments, look at lower grades for any of the rookie cards mentioned above as they have a proven value.
You can take a chance with ungraded versions, but you’ll have to be wary of any fake cards littering the market.
The Best Kobe Bryant Investment Card
The ‘best’ Kobe investment card depends on both your budget and the amount of time you’re willing to wait to see a return.
His rookie cards have to be the safest long-term option, no matter which grade you’re looking at.
Kobe Bryant Cards: Buying/Selling Advice
When it comes to the best time to buy, the recent lull could make now the ideal moment to add a Bryant RC or two to your personal collection.
Likewise, it could be a good time to hold onto your graded Kobe cards, at least until the market settles down following extreme fluctuations due to his tragic death.
Kobe was beloved, and talented enough to establish himself as one of the game’s all-time greats.
His RCs and signed cards are also some of the most valuable in the hobby today. Kobe was posthumously inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in May 2021.