While it may be true that some highlight-worthy dunks can push a player to stardom, not every slam artist becomes Hall of Fame worthy. It takes a well-rounded skill set, the ability to stand out when the game is on the line and a deep playoff run or two. A power forward for the Los Angeles Clippers has never been a collecting force before but the best Blake Griffin cards have been hot since the start of his injury-delayed career and at age 25, there’s good reason to believe this may be only the beginning.
Griffin took over in the final minutes of Saturday night’s seventh and deciding game of the Clippers’ Western Conference playoff series with Golden State, punctuating his presence with a ‘how did he do that?’ twisting flip of a layup that pushed them into round two. The Clippers, in light of recent events, have a huge spotlight on them in the post-season and Griffin's already strong profile could be the beneficiary.
An All-Star every season, averaging an impressive four assists per game which few power forwards can do and even improving his free throw percentage, Griffin is going from a star dunker to a multi-skilled superstar. Panini America landed Griffin to an NBA exclusive trading card contract as soon as he turned pro and it turned out to be a wise move.
It's a complicated time to be a card collector. According to a Beckett checklist, over 1,600 different Blake Griffin cards have been issued...so far.
The best of the best when it comes to Griffin's rookie cards are from the high-end 2009-10 Playoff National Treasures. National Treasures was as close as Panini got to a set like Exquisite Collection at that time so it is where collectors look for high-end Griffin rookie cards. In all, however, there are 39 National Treasures Griffin cards from his first season on cardboard, with print runs varied from 1 to 99.
‘Game worn’ Griffin relics from his rookie season won’t be flooding the market anytime soon because he sat out what should have been his debut year with a knee injury. He came back strong in what turned out to be his official NBA rookie season of 2010-11, winning the Rookie of the Year award. He also pleased the many who invested in his cards based on only his potential, college career and draft position.
Griffin fans also liked his 2009-10 Crown Royale and Playoff Contenders issues. Even better was the Griffin card in Absolute Memorabilia, with autograph, jersey piece and a slice of a basketball. Rookie Premiere Materials cards are popular with collectors. To find inexpensive Griffin rookie cards look for 2009-10 Panini and Prestige.
Griffin’s NBA arrival came a season before the end of Topps and Upper Deck as NBA card suppliers. Fans of the old brands can get Griffin's Topps rookie card, #316 and Upper Deck rookie card #226. The Topps Chrome Refractors Griffin sells for over $100, while his regular Topps rookie can be found for under $10.
If there is something that Griffin is known for it is his high-flying, gravity-defying slam dunks. There are many cards, in all price ranges, that showcase these highlights. Younger collectors will have more fun accumulating cards with Griffin dunking than with more expensive cards of him holding the ball prior to shooting a free throw.
For less than $1, his 2013-14 NBA Hoops #44 card captures how he sometimes defies gravity. 2013-14 NBA Hoops Above the Rim #22 shows Griffin soaring in traffic through the paint. 2013-14 Pinnacle's JamFest inserts are all about dunks and Griffin has a card in that. 2012-13 Past & Present Shattered #24, 2012-13 Panini Threads High Flyers #7, 2012-13 Panini Prestige Starting 5 #2, 2011-12 Limited Silver Spotlight #17 and 2011-12 NBA Hoops Action Photos #21 also feature Griffin above the rim. Griffin is holding his Slam Dunk Contest trophy on his 2010-11 Panini Season Update #191 card.
Griffin has played with and against many stars and been compared to past legends of the game, and he shares cards with many of these players. The cards that Clippers fans will want are those that have Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. A Game Gear card from 2013-14 Titanium with jersey pieces from Paul and Griffin sold recently on eBay for $40.99. Grant Hill was briefly a Clipper too, and he shares cards with Paul and Griffin. Clippers collectors can also find Griffin, Paul and DeAndre Jordan combo cards. Preferred Booklets show Griffin with many other superstars, and a collector snapped up a Slam Dunk Booklet that featured jersey pieces from Griffin and seven other stars, like LeBron and Durant, for only $39 on eBay.
Autographed Griffin cards are plentiful and many won’t cost as much as you might expect. Prices start around $35 for Griffin-signed cards from sets like Elite, Crusade and Limited. Cards showing him in his University of Oklahoma uniform generally don’t bring the same type of money as rookie cards issued after the first photo shoot of his NBA career.
Panini put a charge in the basketball card market last season with their Flawless and Immaculate lines and Griffin cards from those issues have been popular. Everyone wants 1/1 cards, so when a rare Griffin card with a print run of only one example is up for sale the prices can jump as high as he does when catching a lob from Chris Paul. A 1 of 1 from Flawless included a Griffin autograph on the front and sold recently for $267. Prizm 1 of 1 parallels have many fans, due to collectors trying to get one of each type of parallel, and a Griffin Prizm Post Season Black Mosaic sold for $215.
Flawless and National Treasures Griffin autographs can be found for under $100, but add a nice looking patch and a low print run and you’re looking at a much higher price tag. Graded examples, numbered to 25 or less with attractive uniform swatches and a strong grade from BGS, are usually offered at $5,000 and up, especially those from his rookie season. Most, however, run less than $250, which isn’t bad for a potential long-term superstar.
Be warned, though. Griffin autographs aren’t exactly as elegant as Michael Jordan’s. The best bet, if you’re shopping for Blake Griffin basketball cards, is to judge the card and the autograph on its own merit. Pick the one that looks best to you—with the strongest grade and best design—and you’ll be happy.
The Clippers have the right players around Griffin for him to lead them to a title in the future, or even this season. Still young, he may play for another ten years or more and his cards should remain popular. With a wide variety of Griffin cards a fan can accumulate a huge collection, or opt to concentrate on something more specific like numbered parallels or game-used memorabilia. There used to be the "Curse of the Clippers", but Griffin has put an end to that and now Lob City is the new Showtime for NBA card fans.
Click here to see his cards on eBay, from the highest levels on down.