The field has been cut to four in the NBA Playoffs and the ebbs and flows of what’s happened in Orlando have been playing out in the online market for basketball cards.
The hobby now has more participants and more places to buy and sell—sometimes without ever holding a card in your hand.
StockX, which offers a stock market-style bid/ask platform for trading cards, has been tracking numbers for basketball cards since the NBA restarted its season in late July. Their data shows what happens in the playoffs has had a big impact on both card values and volume.
“Our biggest week of 2020 was the week of August 10th,” Data Content Director Jesse Einhorn told SC Daily. “After the NBA restart, we began to see a number of huge performances from Luka Doncic, Ja Morant, Devin Booker, Damian Lillard, LeBron James, and others. With so many stars making headlines, before the number of teams narrowed for the playoffs, interest in NBA cards surged.”
In fact, Einhorn says basketball cards have been the biggest moving category of trading cards on the platform. Single cards have outsold baseball by more than 3:1.
The company’s list of top sellers is a familiar one to those who’ve been buying and selling basketball over the last couple of years: Luka Doncic, Ja Morant, Zion Williamson, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant, with Jayson Tatum and Trae Young cards also seeing an uptick.
Here are five players who’ve seen major fluctuations in the price and sales of their most popular trading cards during the restart.
The Denver Nuggets won a dramatic first round series against the Utah Jazz, then upset the LA Clippers in the second round, thanks to a standout performance from Jamal MurrayJamal Murray, who is leading the league in total playoff points (as of 9/16).
Before the restart, a PSA 10 Panini Prizm Rookie last sold on the platform for $209. After his first playoff game, Murray’s card had soared to $749. Then on September 1, when the Nuggets won a dramatic Game 7 to advance to the second round, Murray’s card rose to $2500 – a 12x increase in less than one month.
The Miami Heat, led by Butler, has been the hottest team in the playoffs: they went 8-1 in the first two playoff rounds, and easily knocked out the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks. As a result, the value of Butler’s 2012 Panini Prizm Rookie Card has skyrocketed.
Prior to the playoffs, PSA 10 copies were selling for just $85. After the Heat swept the Pacers in the first round, prices rose to $760; after they won their first game against the Bucks (on August 30), the value rose to $990 – an increase of more than 11x compared to the pre-playoff average. Today, the lowest Ask is $1100 and rising.
Alongside Butler, the Heat have benefited from a strong playoff performance from the 20-year-old Herro. The rookie from Kentucky averaged 15 points per game through his first eight games, and helped the Heat dominate in the first two playoff rounds.
The value of PSA 10 Herro Panini Prizm Rookie Cards rose from $125 before the playoffs to a high of $325 – a nearly three-fold increase. Sales volume has increased as well. StockX says it has sold more Herro rookie cards in the last six weeks than the previous six months combined.
“And over the last two weeks, as the Heat dominated the Bucks, Herro’s rookie card was among the top five best-selling basketball cards on StockX,” Einhorn revealed. “We expect this pattern to continue as the Heat get closer to a Finals berth.”
While Herro has emerged as a popular pick in the Eastern Conference, a familiar name still dominates the West.
“We expect LeBron James to continue seeing strong sales, with the possibility of a fourth championship ever more likely,” Einhorn says. “There are huge fans of LeBron James cards on StockX – more than 40 different LeBron James cards have seen sales activity since the restart – and as the biggest name in basketball, we expect demand to continue to be strong.”
The Milwaukee Bucks appeared to be a championship contender when the league shut down and dispatched the Orlando Magic in the first round of the playoffs. PSA 10 copies of Antetokounmpo’s Panini Prizm Rookie Card were selling for $4000 before the post-season began. It peaked at $6800 after the Bucks went up 3-0 against the Magic.
But the Bucks faltered in the second round, losing the first three games to the Miami Heat, after which their franchise player was sidelined with an ankle injury. Consequently, the value of his rookie card started falling, and on September 8, it reached a low of $3700 – less than what it was selling for before the playoffs began.
Dončić had one of the strongest performances during the regular season “Bubble” games in early August, averaging close to a triple double. As a result, his top-selling PSA 10 Panini Prizm Rookie Card doubled in value, rising to a high of $2000 on August 11. Meanwhile, his ultra-rare Panini Prizm Rookie Silver #280 gained over $4000 in resale value, rising to a high of $9000.
However, after the Mavs were knocked out of the playoffs by the LA Clippers, Dončić card values fell precipitously. His non-Silver Panini card lost $800 in value, falling to $1200, while his Silver card fell from $9000 to $7300. These values are far higher than they were in May and June. However, exiting the playoffs clearly took a toll.