For basketball card collectors and investors it is a case of what they know now and if only they knew it back then. A decade ago Upper Deck thought they had a concept of short printed cards with a high price point that would change the industry. Plenty of people baulked at paying $500 for five NBA cards. Today, there are many who would gladly pay $5,000 for that pack of 2013-14 Exquisite Collection.
What basketball card collectors got for their big investment in 2003-04 was a stylish wooden box that housed a pack of five cards. Even that empty box can sell for $40 today. It was one pack per box, and three boxes in a case. The five cards in the super, high-end premium product were all numbered, very thick and the autographed cards were numbered on the front.
Was that $1500 for a 3-box case a good investment? Well, consider that two cases are being offered now on eBay for $24,000 and $26,000 respectively
Part of what makes 2003-04 Exquisite so valuable today was just good timing. A few years prior to 2003 and the expensive packs would have been filled with rookie cards of Stromile Swift, Mateen Cleaves, Marcus Fizer and Jerome Moiso. Upper Deck hit the jackpot in 2003-04 with the biggest rookie class since Jordan, Stockton, Barkley and Olajuwon. LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh are big reasons why Exquisite has maintained and increased its value over the years. There are also other players with rookie cards from that year that collectors want, as David West is a star player, Kyle Korver is a record-setter for outside
There are 20 cards in the debut Exquisite set that feature James and none are numbered beyond 100. It’s the rookie patch card numbered to 99 and autographed that owns the spotlight. If a LeBron rookie card appears on the market, the price is likely to be over $20,000. The card that’s numbered 23/99 (his jersey number) is listed on eBay for $150,000
All of the 78 cards that make up the main set, the veteran players and rookies, also have a Gold parallel card that is numbered to 25. There are several jersey parallel insert sets for most of the veterans, while the Exquisite Collection Rookie Patch Parallel is numbered to the player’s jersey number. That means 23 LeBron James cards were produced, only 3 Wades, draft bust Ndudi Ebi has 44 cards and Steve Blake only has a couple of examples of his card.
While the LeBron rookie card in Exquisite is more valuable than any Michael Jordan card in the set, when both players have the
While so much of what makes Exquisite valuable is the on-card autographs, the Extra Exquisite cards don’t have an
Once again, the Exquisite cards can show if collectors want Jordan or LeBron. The answer right now is they are close to equal in value. A Jordan Extra Exquisite card sold for $326.11 on eBay and a LeBron card sold for $325. Exquisite also had a parallel card for Extra Exquisite which was numbered to 25. A Jordan card sold for $421.70 recently and it was numbered 21 of 25.
There haven’t been a huge number of Wilt Chamberlain game-used cards produced but he has a card in this Exquisite insert set. An example of his Extra Exquisite card sold for $152.50. That was an impressive price as a Dirk Nowitzki sold for $71, Shaquille O’Neal went for $66 and a Carmelo Anthony Extra Exquisite jersey card from 2003-04 Exquisite was sold for $66.
For some collectors, especially those who collect only one team or collect an obscure player that few others do, they can find some inexpensive cards from 2003-04 Exquisite. One sale on eBay of a very cheap Exquisite card was the $5.50 paid for the rookie card, with autograph and memorabilia piece, of Zarko Cabarkapa. He was one of the many prospects called “The Next Dirk Nowitzki”, but the first round pick by the Suns didn’t quite make it to that level of play.
2003-04 Exquisite Collection has also provided many lessons for card companies as well as for collectors and investors. Upper Deck has shown that there is a market for very expensive cards. They’ve also proven that exclusive access to some of the biggest players in the card hobby (Jordan and James) is very important when selling an expensive box.
For investors who speculate on how much a card box will be worth in the future, 2003-04 Exquisite Basketball Collection not only reached any expectations they had but certainly exceeded them. That is why some will be investing in new expensive products, like Panini Flawless. Collectors learned that there are times when cards have to bought when they are first put up for sale because sometimes prices rise astronomically instead of slowly decreasing. They also learned that the hype for a rookie like LeBron can be true, and that Darko was never a good investment.