Boom or Bust : Analyzing The Modern NBA Card Market

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Jason Koeppel // ONE37pm

The sports card hobby started to gain serious momentum in 2019 and exploded leading up to many record (and peak) prices in early 2021. Sports cards and collectors have been around for over 100 years, but a crash of the industry in the 1990s due to the overproduction of cards has many cautiously optimistic about the modern boom. 

In this article, I’m going to analyze 5 of the most popular NBA players from 2018, 2019, and 2020 rookie classes to look at the production runs of their cards, prices, and comparisons to key cards from the junk wax era.

Keep in mind, a boom or bust designation is an opinion formulated by data relative to all-time growth for a player’s cards, not the player’s ability. No one can predict the future of the market, and it’s always important to buy cards you like. 

1. Luka Doncic — Boom!


Luka Doncic is a 22-year-old guard for the Dallas Mavericks and was one of, if not the most, popular rookie of the 2018–19 class in the hobby. Entering his fourth season in the NBA, he’s averaged 25.7 points, 8 rebounds, and 8.5 assists per game. He’s the youngest player to be named to the All-NBA First team, has led the Mavericks to the playoffs the past two seasons, and already has 38 triple-doubles so far in his career. 

At one point, his 1 of 1 National Treasures logo-man set the record for the most expensive basketball card ever sold with a $4.6 million price tag. 

However, as the sports card market expanded, so did the print run, sets, and parallels of his rookie cards, as well as collectors willing to spend the time and money to grade them. 

There are currently 18,092 copies of the 2018 Prizm Base Luka Doncic in a PSA 10 grade, and the last sold price was $520.33. Back in April, there were 16,678 copies of this card, meaning 176 new PSA 10 copies have been graded each month since. 

It’s the 10th-highest graded card (according to Cardladder) but still holds value over cards from the junk wax era with significant populations:


The card reached a record high price of $2,146 in August 2020, which means it has lost 75% of its value since that time. In early 2019 the card sold for under $100 and has grown 427% even at today’s current prices. 

Doncic’s Silver Prizm last sold for $3,500 and has a supply of 2,097 up from 2,035 in April of 2021. The card reached a high price of $9,701 but once sold as low as $355 in April of 2019.  

Cardladder values Luka’s population 4 Gold Prizm PSA 10 at $693,767 with the last sale on April 7th for $645,750. 

Luka’s National Treasures Rookie Patch Autograph (in a BGS 9 grade) sold for as low as $8,000 in July of 2019 but is currently valued at $162,892. 

The NBA card market is down overall and it is risky to spend a lot of money collecting a young player who may not pan out (in spite of his success so far). 

However, zooming out shows tremendous growth for Luka’s cards since 2019, including his rapidly growing PSA 10 base Prizm rookie card, which puts him in the boom category for analysis of his cards. 

2. Trae Young — Boom!


Trae Young was the second most popular hobby player for the 2018–19 draft class. Young is a shooting guard for the Atlanta Hawks who’s averaged 24.2 points, 8.9 assists, and 3.9 rebounds so far in his career. Young’s been selected as an All-Star one time and he helped lead the Hawks to the 2020–21 Eastern Conference finals. 

Young’s Prizm Base PSA 10 has a significantly lower population than Doncic’s at 10,761 copies but is also valued noticeably less with the most recent sale at $176.75. 

In April of this year, there were 9,112 copies of the card, meaning 206 of his cards were graded a PSA 10 every month since. In January of 2021, this card hit a high price of $814.66, a 78% loss in value. 

Young’s Prizm Silver PSA 10 has 2,141 copies and last sold for $1,096 and once sold as high as $3,800, a 71% loss in value. 

However, Young’s Prizm Silver sold as low as $144.25 in 2019 and has grown 659% in value even with today’s prices. 

Young’s National Treasures Rookie Patch Autograph /99 has also held its value, with an August sale for $57,600, up from its last low in April when it sold for $36,100. For reference, this card (in a BGS 9.5 grade) sold for $5,700 in May of 2019 and has grown 909% in value. 

Despite rising populations for the two stars of the 2018–19 hobby class, their cards are still valued significantly higher than they were in 2019, even with a retraction in the overall market. 

3. Zion Williamson — Bust!


Zion Williamson was one of the most anticipated players to enter the hobby, which is largely why his cards started off with high prices and have put them into a bust category. 

There are 20,163 copies of his Prizm Base card in a PSA 10, up from 16,782 in April, meaning 422 of these cards were graded a PSA 10 in each of the months since April.

Williamson’s Prizm Base PSA 10 has the 6th highest population tracked by Cardladder and is quickly catching up to junk era cards from the late 1980s. 

Despite this, a copy of the card last sold for $252 but has lost 54.99% of its value all-time. When the first of his Prizm base PSA 10s hit the market, they were selling for over $500 and peaked at over $1,000. 

Zion’s Prizm Silver PSA 10 has a population of 1,386 and has held its value a little better with a last sold price of $2,300 and a 2.14% decline in value since his cards hit the market. 

The card peaked at $6,525, representing a 64% loss since that peak. 

Like Luka and Trae, Zion’s rarer cards are still worth significant money, with a BGS 9 copy of his National Treasures Rookie Patch Autograph card last selling for $169,200 on October 25th. The same exact card sold for $68,880 a year earlier, but it’s not enough to take his cards out of the bust category given that the average collector is more likely to own a Prizm Silver or Parallel than a six-figure RPA. 

Williamson has had some injury concerns and while the potential is there, it’s a gamble given how early it is in his career. 

The best part about the hobby is that you can collect players and cards you like while ignoring their values (as long as you can afford it) but Zion’s common cards are growing rapidly in population and are down in value since they started hitting the market. 

4. Ja Morant — Boom!


Ja Morant was the second overall pick behind Zion Williamson and is currently a 22-year-old point guard for the Memphis Grizzlies. Morant won Rookie of the year and has averaged 19.2 points, 7.3 assists, and 4.1 rebounds so far in his career. While he hasn’t yet received an All-Star nod, his game has been consistently improving

Morant’s Base Prizm PSA 10 is currently valued at $208.75 even with a population of 19,051, which is up 3,866 copies since April. That’s 483 new PSA 10 grade copies each month. 

The first tracked sale of this card was $291.85, meaning the card has lost 28% of its value since then. 

Morant’s Silver Prizm PSA 10 has a population of 1,233, up from 1,040 copies in April. The card last sold for $1,476 but peaked at $4,950. The card has grown in value by 37% given that the card’s starting price was $1,072.50. 

Morant’s National Treasures Rookie Patch Auto /99 (Raw) has lost 29% of its value with the latest sale of $17,000 in August, but a BGS 8.5 copy sold for $40,100 on November 22nd. In August of 2020, Goldin Auctions sold a BGS 8 Morant RPA /99 for $14,400. 

It’s important to note: not all of a player’s cards have moved in the same direction. Morant could be considered a boom or a bust in different scenarios. For example, his Blue Prizm PSA 10 /199 last sold for $9,250 in late October, up significantly from its previous sale of $5,200, and has had a 236% rate of growth since the card first hit the market, when it sold for $2,750. 

5. Anthony Edwards — Bust!


Anthony Edwards was the first overall pick in the 2020 draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves and has averaged 19.9 points, 5 rebounds, and 3.1 assists so far throughout this career. The Timberwolves are off to an 11–15 start and Edwards is showing potential

Edwards Base Prizm PSA 10 has just 113 copies, which is likely due to PSA price increases and slow turnarounds, but last sold for $365, 29.81% less than when the graded cards first started hitting the market. 

The card peaked at $810 in September of this year, but the market is relatively young, as there were only 32 copies of this card in a PSA 10 in October. As the population grows, it’s likely to put downward pressure on the value of the card. 

Edward’s Prizm Silver has a population of 288, and recently sold for $1,475 on 12/10, representing a 6.35% decline in value since the cards first hit the market. The card peaked at $2,250. 

Goldin Auctions sold a PSA 9 copy of Edward’s National Treasures Rookie Patch Autograph card for $54,000, which is a significant sum for a player so early in his career. 

Edwards has seen his population 73 Prizm Draft Picks Downtown Parallel PSA 10 grow 742% in value since the card hit the market, indicating again that certain parallels and cards of a player can see notable growth in value despite the general contraction of his market. 

Since 2018, the sports card market has grown significantly. Edwards may be considered a bust relative to his initial prices, but his cards still command significantly more value than the top rookies of their class just 3 years ago. The hobby has expanded from that point, even with print runs and sets rivaling the junk wax era.

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