LeBron James is a name that is synonymous with the card collecting hobby.
Even the biggest “King James” hater has to acknowledge that he’s a GOAT contender, drawing parallels with the likes of Michael Jordan after winning four NBA championships, four NBA MVP awards, four NBA Finals MVP awards, three All-Star MVP awards, and two Olympic gold medals.
And that’s without getting into his endless list of individual records.
Here’s a roundup with a trio of the best LeBron James rookie cards, with each offering something a little different for collectors and investors alike.
The Best LeBron James Rookie Cards
James has nearly 50 base rookie cards, and that’s without accounting for the many parallels that bump up that number considerably. We’ve narrowed it down to just three of the best LeBron James rookie cards, starting with an underrated signed patch.
3. 2003-04 SPx LeBron James RC #151 (eBay)
There’s no shortage of signed LeBron RCs, but there aren’t many patches from his 2003-04 season. This Upper Deck SPx card is limited to just 750 copies, and comes with an ‘authentic piece of a jersey worn by LJ at a photoshoot’.
It stands out from the crowd, and it can be tough to locate despite a print run in the high hundreds.
We think that it’s an underrated option compared to the cards seen below, with great potential to increase in value over the next decade.
2. 2003-04 Topps Chrome LeBron James RC #111 (eBay)
It’s impossible to ignore the flagship 2003-04 Topps Chrome set, with LeBron being the key to one of the more popular collections in recent decades. As the name suggests, each card has been given a chrome finish, and James is shown in a simple action shot as he leaps up to shoot.
Don’t let the lack of an auto or a player patch put you off. Even base Refractors will sell for major money if they’re in pristine condition, and then there are the numbered versions. Gold Refractors offer one of the most popular and valuable parallel cards, limited to just 50 copies.
- Parallels: Refractors, Black Refractors #/500, X-Fractors #/220, Gold Refractors #/50, Printing Plates 1/1
1. 2003-04 Upper Deck LeBron James RC #A1 (eBay)
The 2003-04 Upper Deck signed Rookie Exclusives card is where we finish, featuring a great shot of LeBron as he soars through the air. (There’s also an unsigned version found within the set.)
As there’s an on-card auto it can be tough to locate, especially if you’re looking for pristine copies. There are just three 10 grades according to the PSA registry at the current time of writing.
(It’s worth mentioning that a PSA 10 copy sold for $3,700 in July 2018. Four years later, the same grade sold for $42,950.)
LeBron James Rookie Cards: Buyers Guide
Here’s what we think of the LeBron James rookie card market, and his best RCs.
The Best Cheap LeBron James Rookie Cards
There are a number of more affordable LeBron rookie cards if you stay away from the rarest and most popular options.
For example, the unsigned Rookie Exclusives card is still attainable, even if it’s a PSA 10 copy. (It currently retails for just under $500.)
The Best LeBron James Investment Rookie Card
In terms of the best card, it’s a matter of personal preferences if budget is no issue. Do you think that the rarer patch has greater potential to blow up when LeBron retires, or would you prefer to stick to the tried and tested Topps Chrome Refractor?
LeBron James Rookie Cards: Buying/Selling Advice
LeBron is one of the most popular athletes in the world, and he’s currently second for points scored in the NBA, behind the legendary Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
That’s one of the reasons behind the high prices seen for his rarest rookie cards, along with a legacy which leaves him as a GOAT contender at the very least.
The only potential stumbling block is the asking price, and many have gone up by a factor of 10 over the past five years.
His cards aren’t particularly risky from an investment perspective, and retirement probably isn’t too far away.
James’ current contract ends in 2023, although he looks unlikely to end his career with the Lakers, as he still has one eye on a return to the Cavs when he enters free agency next year.