By Larry Canale
We admit we have to look up his name to spell it right, but there’s no doubt that Giannis Antetokounmpo deserves a mention here. The Milwaukee Bucks’ prime-time swingman has been improving every year in the NBA, as his year-by-year scoring average shows us. He went from 6.8 points per game as a rookie in 2013-14 season to 12.7 in his second year, and then to 16.9, 22.9 and, last season, to 26.9. This year, he’s scoring 28.0 ppg as we file this.
And Antetokounmpo is hardly one-dimensional. He averaged 10 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game last season. This year, at press time, he’s at 12.5 rpg and 5.9 apg.
Thanks to auto-fill at eBay and other sites, you don’t need to know how to spell “Antetokounmpo.” By the time you punch in “g-i-a,” his name comes up and some 6,500 listings are at your fingertips.
You’ll find plenty of deals, but when you get into rare, Mint-condition Antetokounmpo rookie cards with autographs and swatches of his uniform, you’ll need to open your wallet. For evidence, see the first two items on our Top 10 list: a 2013-14 Panini Immaculate Acetate autographed patch card (BGS 10) that fetched $94,990—as verified by seller Probstein123—and a 2013-14 National Treasures Gold auto patch rookie card that sold for $89,999 (same seller).
While those prices may seem extreme, keep in mind that the two cards are from limited runs of 34 and 25. Plus, there are indeed other Antetokounmpo items that reached five figures in recent weeks. Take a look:
• $22,100: 2013-14 Panini Gold Prizm autographed card graded PSA 10.
• $15,000: 2013-14 Panini Preferred Crown Royale Platinum card—an autographed 1-of-1 card graded PSA 9.
• $12,500: 2013-14 Panini Gold Standard Platinum signed patch card graded 9.5, one of only 10 made.
If you’re late to the Antetokounmpo bandwagon, rest assured that you can find signed manufacturer-distributed cards for far less. To give you just a few examples, we saw autographed 2013-14 Fleer Ultra, Pinnacle, and NBA Hoops cards sell for prices just under $400 in recent weeks, along with a 2016-17 Panini Immaculate patch card, among others.
Note the presence of a 1966-67 Bobby Orr Topps test issue on our Top 10 chart. Offered by PWCC, it sold for $57,583 on 42 bids.
How do you tell a 1966-67 Topps hockey test issue card from the more widely distributed standard release? For one thing, there’s a “tell-tale white stripe” on the front, as PWCC’s listing notes. For another, the wood-grain effect of the card’s border is lighter in color. Plus, the text on the reverse is in English only (the standard issue gives us both English and French). Topps made only 66 cards for its test issue—half of what the standard issue encompassed.
Orr’s test issue is tough to find, and it’s even tougher to find (and more expensive) in top condition. While this PSA 8.5-graded version brought nearly $60,000, a PSA 9 specimen exceeded $200,000 at a live auction earlier in 2019.
We often see Michael Jordan's omnipresent 1986-87 Fleer rookie card sell at prices between $20,000 and $30,000 (see above) and sometimes higher (see our Top 10 chart). Don’t forget that Fleer’s 1986-87 set also featured a Jordan sticker.
While not in the same value range (in recent months, we’ve seen PSA 10 examples of the sticker sell for prices between $5,500 and $9,000), it can be harder to find in Mint condition. So when a seller offered a PSA 10 specimen of both Jordan rookie card and sticker in one lot, he got the price he asked: $33,990.
Notable for his absence from our Top 10 chart is baseball’s Mr. Everything, Mike Trout. In fact, Trout doesn’t even show up in our “On the Outside Looking In” list. It’s strange, because his 2009 rookie cards—particularly Bowman Chrome Refractor cards—have taken up residence in our Top 10 for months.
Fear not—we’ve got a little bit of Trout here for you anyway. And it’s not a rookie card. Rather, check out his 2011 Topps Finest Gold Refractor—a bold-looking card with a white-background area that makes his sig stand out. In mid-April, a PSA 10 specimen of the card sold for $14,200 on 55 bids. It was numbered 29 in a limited run of 75.
Last month, an eBay bidder spent $16,500 for a sealed vending case of 1980 Topps baseball cards. Good deal? Well, the case includes 24 boxes of 500 cards each, giving the buyer 12,000 cards. So that’s about $1.38 per card (with shipping).
On the plus side, it’s an attractive set, and it’s nearly 40 years old, so it’s getting more “vintage.” On the negative side, the set isn’t exactly loaded with star rookies. Out of the huge checklist (this set had 726 cards), there’s only one game in town when it comes to cardboard debuts: Rickey Henderson. After Henderson, the rookie crop drops off to Rick Sutcliffe and Dave Stieb.
Back to the positive side: Henderson’s rook has had some big moments in the hobby lately. Last time out, for example, our Top 10 chart included a PSA 10 Gem Mint Henderson rookie that sold for $25,655 on 35 bids. So the buyer of the 1980 Topps case needs to pull just one Gem Mint Henderson rookie to recoup his investment.