For the love of Basketball: The comeback of NBA cards

by Matthew Escosia
SEA Wave - NBA Cards Collection
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By: Miguel Enrico Rañoco


Basketball has widely influenced our lifestyle. From streetwear and sneakers, to pop culture and movies, to matters of school spirit or national pride. The Philippines is known as one of the countries with the largest basketball fanbase, topping the global viewership of the 2021 NBA All-Star games and the NBA Christmas games last year. This shows just how basketball and the NBA have influenced life outside its country of origin.

Aside from the games themselves, basketball has also attracted thousands of people from all around the world through something unexpected – trading cards. In recent news, a 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Rookie Patch Autograph LeBron James card was sold privately for 5.2 million dollars. Considering that the card depicts LeBron James in his rookie year with a cut of his Cleveland Cavaliers jersey and signed by “The King” himself, some might call this find the holy grail of NBA cards.

Another is the rare Kobe Bryant rookie card that was sold to an anonymous buyer for $1.795 million. Some might wonder if these rare finds are truly worth their price, but for basketball superfans with millions to spare, there’s no question about it – the answer is a resounding yes!

The world of NBA collectibles is a big and diverse one. From magazines to action figures to sneakers – there’s a collector for just about any piece of NBA merchandise and paraphernalia. This article will take a dive into some of the more interesting (and expensive) NBA card collections that have recently made waves online.

SEA Wave - NBA Cards Collection

Photo from Got Cards PH

Bigboy Cheng, a DJ, businessman, toy and art collector, and named as the biggest sneaker collector in the Philippines, was trending in social media recently as he shared a photo of an autographed card of the 2020 Rookie of the Year, Ja Morant Panini. The one of one card is extremely rare and reportedly costs PHP 12 million or USD 238,000.

Another NBA card collector is the thrift shop sneaker content creator and Hype Therapy podcast host Paolo Tomenes. In a video on his Facebook page, he shares how he collects his NBA cards jersey patches collection featuring his favorite player Devonte’ Graham from the Charlotte Hornets.

But what exactly goes into collecting NBA cards? SEA Wave asked Robelle Anne Good, owner of Got Cards PH and an avid basketball fan from Manila, Philippines about her passion in collecting NBA Cards.

What are NBA cards?

NBA cards are collectible cards of NBA players that are collected from boxes. A card’s value depends on the player’s performance, the rarity of the card, its condition, is the card autographed or with a jersey patch, is it a player’s rookie card. Its value is also affected if a player is injured. One can collect cards through opening boxes, which are expensive; this is where box breaks come in, where the cost of the box will be split among the participants so that it will be cheaper. Cards can also be collected by buying from other collectors, joining biddings, or trading.

SEA Wave - NBA Cards Collection

Some of Robelle Anne Good’s signature cards

When did you start collecting NBA cards?

I started collecting NBA cards last year when it boomed. I’ve always been aware of the hobby, but I didn’t have the time to start a collection. So, when it boomed during lockdown last year, I initially saw it as a good investment opportunity but I got to watch box breaks and saw how fun the community is, it really made me want to start collecting as well.

How many cards have you collected?

I think I have more or less 200 cards from box breaks and some I bought.

From your 200-card collection, what is your greatest pull or the most expensive card you got?

My friend and I own a business named Got Cards PH, where we sell NBA boxes and do box breaks. On one of our box breaks, we managed to pull a 2019 Giannis Antetokounmpo Gold Wave card, which was worth more or less PHP 15,000 at that time. And on a personal break that we did, we pulled a 2020 Lebron James Orange Cracked Ice Prizm, which was worth around P20,000 when we pulled it.

SEA Wave - NBA Cards Collection LeBron James

Robelle’s holy grail card: Lebron James Orange Cracked Ice Prizm

Is box breaking always worth what you spent?

When joining a box break, it’s always a gamble because you never know what cards you will get. Sometimes you will get hits and sometimes the worth of the cards you will get will not even be a fraction of what you spent. But I think when you’re a collector, the price of the cards you will get will not matter, especially if the cards you will get are players that are your personal collection or PC as the community calls it. And just joining box breaks itself is already a joy as there is always a thrill on what cards you will get.

What should people keep in mind if they want to start collecting NBA cards?

First thing that I would say is that always research. Especially when buying cards, you should know how much a card is worth and make sure you’re not paying for an overpriced card. The second is to set your budget. This is to ensure that you don’t go over what you can spend and compromise your responsibilities just because a card that you want is available. Remember, a card’s value changes constantly, so you may not get it today but you’ll get the chance to buy it later and maybe even for a cheaper price. And there are always cheaper options to get the cards that you want, which are through box breaks or auctions where you can buy cards lower than market value. Lastly is enjoy collecting. There are a lot of Facebook groups where they have built communities, where you can ask questions and make friends while you collect.

For you, what makes NBA cards or box breaking so appealing?

Collecting NBA cards is a fun experience especially if you’re a huge NBA fan. You can own cards autographed by your favorite players or cards with patches of the jersey of the players. Owning NBA cards, especially autographed or patched cards gives you kind of a personal connection to the player knowing that they signed that card or have worn that jersey in a game, and you own that piece of memorabilia. It is also always an exciting experience when joining a box break which makes it so appealing. Collecting NBA cards is also a good investment because you never know the rookie card that you have now may be a future hall of famer or even an NBA legend, and when that time comes the card’s value will surely skyrocket.

SEA Wave - NBA Cards Collection

Robelle’s collection of Base cards from different eras

Which card in your collection do you see yourself selling in the future?

I think the best card in my collection right now is the 2020 Lebron James Orange Cracked Ice Prizm. I believe its value will still increase in the future as the card is Lebron’s first horizontal card and the image in the card is of Lebron doing the same dunk that Kobe Bryant did 20 years ago. I think the best time to sell it is when Lebron retires or gets inducted into the Hall of Fame, which is still a long time, but it will be worth it.

What should people do if they want to sell their cards?

NBA cards are usually sold on eBay through bidding, but in the Philippines, there are a lot of Facebook groups for NBA cards and you can just post the card you want to sell or trade.

Can you name some players that can potentially have rare cards in the future?

One of the players that I really have fun watching is Luka Doncic. His cards are already expensive given his performance and contribution to the Dallas Mavericks but he still hasn’t won a championship. I could just imagine how much his cards will be worth once he wins a ring.

SEA Wave - NBA Cards Collection

Robelle’s collection of the back-to-back MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and the 2021 NBA Champion and Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo from Milwaukee Bucks

If you are looking to collect NBA cards or are interested in the hobby, here are some basic terms that you need to know before you start looking for communities to join.

SEA Wave - NBA Cards Collection Terms

The enduring popularity of NBA cards show proves that the sport remains influential in various forms around the world, and wherever the culture of basketball brings us, the love, passion, and support will continue.

To find out more about NBA cards or if you want to collect, visit the Got Cards PH Facebook page to get you started.

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