LeBron James Rookie Card Sells for Well Over Anticipated $200,000

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The popularity of Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James is even stronger than first believed after his 2003 rookie card sold for $312,000 early Sunday morning. That marks the third-highest price ever paid for a basketball player’s card.

Earlier reports had indicated that the card could sell for as much as $200,000. According to Darren Rovell of ESPN.com, the person selling it indicated that he had only purchased it a few months ago, in the wake of James leading the Cavaliers to their first-ever title.

Though the identity of the bidder wasn’t provided, the price that person paid has only been topped by the 1969 Topps rookie card of Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and the 1948 rookie card of the legendary George Mikan. The Alcindor card sold for $501,900, while the Mikan card went for $403,664.

The James card did make history, however, as it obliterated the previous top price for a single signed card. The old record belonged to a 1933 Goudey baseball card of Babe Ruth, which had sold for a mere $50,787.

The reason the Upper Deck card is so valuable is not only due to the card itself. It is also because it includes James’ actual signature and the NBA logo that had been stitched onto his game uniform during his first season in the NBA.

The card was one of four cards in a pack from the company’s Ultimate Collection, which sold for a pricey $125 per pack in 2003-04. Prior to this sale, the only James memorabilia that had sold for a higher price was a 2003 card from the Upper Deck Exquisite Collection. That went for $95,000 after the original was part of a pack of cards that sold for $500 apiece.

In the wake of the sale, the man who ran the auction, Ken Goldin, anticipates that those that have been holding on to their own James memorabilia could be motivated to sell.

“This shows the worldwide appeal of basketball, of basketball cards, and of LeBron James,” Goldin said. “My office is going to be buried in emails and phone calls for the next two weeks with people wanting me to sell their LeBron card.”

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Brad Sullivan is a lead writer for Cavaliers Nation. He has spent much of life in the Cleveland, Ohio area, and has remained a Cavalier fan from their 1970 beginnings through the return of LeBron James. While that fandom was sorely tested during the Reign of Error known simply by one word, Stepien, that overall historical perspective will be part of his writing for Cavaliers Nation in the months ahead.