1997-98 Skybox Metal Universe Basketball is arguably most famous for the collection of rare Precious Metal Gems (PMG) cards contained within. (The first 10 PMG cards are emerald green and the final 90 cards are ruby red.)
With a base set packed full of great inserts and legends like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, we’ve taken the time to put together a list featuring 10 of the best 1997-98 Skybox Metal Universe Basketball cards of all-time.
The Best 1997-98 Skybox Metal Universe Basketball Cards
If you like Jordan cards, there’s a variety of options to choose from, including a couple of high end hits.
1997-98 Skybox Metal Universe Championship Basketball is an entirely different set under the Metal brand. It also includes PMG parallels, but the designs and card numbering are vastly different. (Make sure to check the card number and the design.)
10. 1997-98 Metal Universe Michael Jordan #23 (eBay)
The only base set release to make the list, of course we’re starting off with the iconic Michael Jordan. This layered card borrows from the outer space theme, as MJ leaps among planets with a basketball in hand.
Released only a year after the original Space Jam, the card also shares his shirt number.
A more affordable option compared to others mentioned below, the lower price tag hasn’t stopped graded copies from attracting lots of bids at auction. It certainly makes for a great entry-level piece.
9. 1997-98 Metal Universe Precious Metal Gems Karl Malone #97 (eBay)
In 1996, Karl Malone, known as the “Mailman” because he always “delivered,” was named as one of the NBA’s 50 all-time greatest players.
A year later, he was included in the PMG subset. It was given a luxurious foil finish which flakes away easily.
Remember, 10 PMG cards are emerald green while the final 90 cards are ruby red, making for a total print run of 100. (It might seem high in the present, but it was hyper-rare when they were originally released.)
You’ll find the respective serial number on the reverse.
8. 1997-98 Metal Universe PMG Chris Webber #92 (eBay)
Chris Webber is a 5-time NBA All-Star, a 5-time All-NBA Team member, a former NBA Rookie of the Year, and a former number one overall NBA draftee for the Golden State Warriors. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2021.
Another PMG limited to 100 copies, Webber’s newfound HoF status should provide a boost to his card prices in the long-term.
It’s also one of the few cards to feature more than one player in the action shot, as he holds off a challenge.
7. 1997-98 Metal Universe PMG Dennis Rodman #107 (eBay)
Next up is Dennis Rodman. He was one of the most skilled rebounders and best defenders of his era, playing a major role in two championship winning teams with the Detroit Pistons (1989–90) and three with the Chicago Bulls (1996–98).
Once again, we’re sticking with the rare PMG version, featuring a simple shot of the player holding a basketball in both hands.
It’s worth mentioning that the ruby red version looks great when set against Rodman’s Bulls jersey.
6. 1997-98 Metal Universe Platinum Portraits Shaquille O’Neal #4 (eBay)
The Platinum Portraits insert uses a series of holes to form an image of the player on a silver card. They have proven to be popular with collectors.
The first PP card to make the list focuses on Shaquille O’Neal.
Of course, the many holes are especially prone to flaws and issues. The card needs to have been sleeved or slabbed for the past 20 years to retain any serious value.
Regardless, it’s a unique set that has a timeless look, and that bodes well for the future.
5. 1997-98 Metal Universe Planet Metal Michael Jordan #1 (eBay)
Planet Metal is another insert from the set which includes a shiny swirl feature, reminiscent of a quasar, along with a black-and-white basketball and a large “M” logo.
Jordan is depicted as he dribbles along the court, in the famous 23 of the Chicago Bulls.
Once again, it’s more affordable than the majority of the PMG cards from the set, as well as the Platinum Portraits.
That doesn’t mean that it should be disregarded, just that it should be seen as more of a mid-level investment option.
4. 1997-98 Metal Universe Platinum Portraits Kobe Bryant #3 (eBay)
This time, the Platinum Portraits card we’re looking at features Kobe Bryant.
The many holes along the left are a danger area, but they make up an impressive image of a player who retired from basketball in 2016 as the NBA’s third all-time leading scorer and won 5 NBA titles during his 20-year career.
You’ll also find his name in silver chrome along the right side.
Bryant passed away unexpectedly in January 2020 following a helicopter crash.
3. 1997-98 Metal Universe Platinum Portraits Michael Jordan #1 (eBay)
MJ’s Platinum Portraits card was always going to be on this list, especially if you’re looking at graded copies from the likes of PSA or BGS.
Jordan cards have seen a downward trend in recent months, as the market corrects itself following an unsustainable surge of interest during 2020 lockdowns that saw multiple records broken.
Now could be a great time to buy a Jordan Platinum Portrait at a lower entry point.
2. 1997-98 Metal Universe PMG Kobe Bryant #81 (eBay)
Kobe Bryant has a rare PMG card which narrowly misses out on the top spot. The action shot catches the eye immediately, as Bryant flings an unorthodox pass with the ball still in shot.
The 1997-98 Metal Universe issue offered the very first Precious Metal Gems cards, issued in conjunction with the set’s base cards.
Given the rarity and the popularity, this is arguably the best card of the Hall of Famer’s celebrated career.
Don’t expect to see this Kobe PMG coming up at auction often.
1. 1997-98 Metal Universe PMG Michael Jordan #23 (eBay)
We finish with another elusive PMG card featuring the most popular player of all-time.
The 1997-98 Jordan Precious Metal Gems card hardly ever comes up at auction, which is fair considering the meagre print run.
You’ll be able to see that it shares the same basic design as the base version listed above, minus the planets in the background.
Expect to pay big bucks to land a copy. (For example, a graded PMG Green ended with a final bid of $350,100 in February 2020.)
1997-98 Skybox Metal Universe Basketball Cards: Buyers Guide
We’ve put together a quick guide if you’re interested in the market for 1997-98 Skybox Metal Universe Basketball cards.
A variety of more affordable cards are contained in the collection. You could look at some of the base options for players like Jordan or Bryant, even if they’re not wrapped in shiny red or green chrome. In any case, we think the popularity of the set will endure the test of time.
Any of the rarer PMG cards are always popular, especially if you’re holding onto a copy that hasn’t flaked away. If we had to pick one option, it has to be the Jordan PMG. (However, there’s no guarantee that it’ll be available on the likes of eBay, as it’s rare and extremely popular.)
1997-98 Skybox Metal Universe Basketball Cards: Buying/Selling Advice
One of the most important basketball sets from the late 1990’s, it’s hard to do better than 1997-98 Skybox Metal Universe Basketball in terms of pure values.
A full set of PMG cards will be almost impossible to collect unless you have a blank chequebook. It’s a testament to the innovation of the designers that they look so good almost 30 years on.
(Remember, this is an era of loud cards and cluttered backgrounds. It’s great to see a collection of understated options that still feel unique.)