You can spend thousands on one rare card but part of the fun of being a collector is to spot bargains and build a nice variety of items without spending a fortune. From brand new Hoops to all the way back to 1996-97 Skybox Autographics, collectors can acquire some very nice, very cheap autographed basketball cards, some costing only a few bucks.
It’s the one benefit of a market brimming with signed cards in virtually every new box. Some will be popular, some will be limited but others are fairly plentiful, softening the market enough to allow fans and collectors to acquire some nice pieces without a huge budget.
Big Names, Low Prices
Even certified autographed cards of Hall of Famers and future Hall of Famers can sometimes be purchased on the cheap if you’re paying attention. A look at recent eBay auctions shows that $25 would have bought you one of these Panini autographed cards: David Robinson, Mitch Richmond, Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Dan Issel, Jason Kidd, George Gervin, Rick Barry, Dave Cowens and Bob Lanier (for starters). Focusing on mid or lower end brands with solid autograph checklists can pay off.
With even $5 to spend, a collector could purchase autographed cards of Connie Hawkins, Sam Perkins, David Thompson, Mark Aguirre, Derek Fisher, Ty Lawson, Vlade Divac and Sean Elliott. Cheap autographs are not just for the players who played a couple of minutes and then disappeared.
Finding Hall of Fame names from the distant past can also be fun. Early NBA stars such as Harry “The Horse” Gallatin and Dolph Schayes are among those you can find from products issued in the last couple of years.
Follow the Game
There are many more certified autograph cards featuring today’s players that can be bought with pocket change. It might be the quality versus quantity idea, but it still looks impressive if a team collector opens a storage box or binder and there are many pages of signed cards.
Not only are there cheap autographs of retired players and current players but there are bargain buys that could result in a handy profit. Keep an eye on young players who have talent and suddenly see themselves thrust into starting roles and perform well like Miami’s Hassan Whiteside. There was a time not long ago when a few people grabbed signed cards of an unknown bench player from the Warriors and when Jeremy Lin got playing time with the Knicks and ‘Linsanity’ came into vogue, they sold those cards for huge profits.
In the NBA, every year dozens of new players appear and are supposed to be future superstars but only a few from the draft class get close to that. Some are solid starters, some are journeymen and many find themselves playing in China or Slovenia. Being patient means you can often find cheaper cards of the same players the next season. Following the game closely can help identify players who might be ready to break out the next year or re coming off an injury and ready to pick up where they left off. A perfect example of patience is Steph Curry, who gradually became a star. Another tip: Sometimes cards released in mid-season are available cheaper than products released in the fall when rookie hype is at its peak.
Does it look good?
Some collectors will avoid player signed stickers and only purchase on-card autographs. While some lower priced autographs can be found on card, it’s not always possible. One thing to consider when buying an autographed card with a sticker is if the signature fits completely on the sticker or if some of it has been cut off. It isn’t a great look when some of the big loops in the autograph are missing when the sticker is placed on the card.
If the card design of a sticker autograph is done well it is sometimes hard to tell that it wasn’t signed on the card. There are also a few times when it is obvious, and that is when someone put the sticker on the card on an angle or even upside down. Some players only have sticker autographs so collectors don’t have a choice with them.
Card collectors can be harsh judges, and often just an autograph is not enough. It has to be a large and clear signature. Sometimes cards were signed with a pen that was running out of ink and they don’t go for the same prices that the same card with a better signature from the same autographed card insert set does. Players also have variations that collectors prefer, and a complete name is often wanted ahead of a card autographed by the same player with just their initials signed. A bonus for some collectors is an inscription with the autograph on the card and they are willing to pay more for that. Players might add their nickname, a championship year or some other noteworthy achievement.Look carefully and make sure the card passes the eye test.
College uniforms=cheaper prices
An autograph collector can go for an even cheaper alternative by considering college cards instead of NBA cards. College card manufacturers actually had lots of autographs in their products before the NBA card companies did, and most are very low in price. Classic, Sage, Press Pass, Collector’s Edge, Courtside, Score Board, Star Pics, just some of the card sets of the past with autographs from NBA players on college cards. New cards signed by Michael Jordan featuring photos from his college days can be found in Upper Deck products and they are usually cheaper than his cards signed when he was in the NBA. If you just want an MJ signature, you can now own one for $300-400 on a very nice card.
Alternatives to pack pulls
There is also the DIY method for autographed cards. It is a way to acquire a cheap autographed card, but it is best to keep them in a collection and not offer them for sale as buyers won’t be sure they are authentic. At NBA games there are fans who arrive early, find their way to the lower level and get autographs from the players as they leave the court after their pregame shootaround. Some even line up outside the team hotel to catch players coming and going to practice.
Through the mail is another option, although one that may work better with retired players who are now coaches or assistants at NBA teams but collectors do have success with current players too. A card and a stamped, self-addressed envelope are mailed to the team’s address, and sometimes the card will be sent back with an autograph (it’s also possible you’ll never see it again).
Cheap autographed basketball cards are easy to find. Lots of new products have at least a couple of signed cards in every box and more expensive products guarantee autographs in every pack. Plenty of collectors only want signed cards with low print runs, often with a patch of game-used memorabilia, and of the superstar players from premium products. That leaves a lot of cheaper signed cards of good, and sometimes great, NBA players from the more affordable card releases.
You can see autographed cards currently selling for $25 or less on eBay by clicking here.