LeBron James rookie card sells for $5.2M, ties record for most valuable sports card

It is the triple-double of basketball trading cards. The value of a LeBron James rookie card continues to skyrocket and has set one record and tied another.

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A 2003-04 Upper Deck Exquisite Rookie Patch card parallel, featuring James’ autograph and a swatch of his Cleveland Cavaliers jersey, sold for $5.2 million in a private sale, PWCC Marketplace announced Monday. The card, which has a 07/23 serial number -- a 23-card print run, which matches James’ uniform number -- is now the most valuable basketball card ever sold and ties it with a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card, graded 9 out of 10 by Professional Sports Authenticator, for the most expensive sports card ever sold, ESPN reported.

Move over, Mick. King James is in the house.

>> LeBron James rookie card sells for $1.72 million

The Mantle card was sold in January -- also by PWCC Marketplace -- to actor Rob Gough.

The sale of the James rookie comes days after a base version of the same card, which was numbered to 99, sold for $1.72 million in Goldin Auctions’ April Premium Card Auction.

Jesse Craig, PWCC’s director of Business Development, told Sports Collectors Daily that the card and seller were located in Europe. A PWCC representative flew to the United Kingdom to guide the transaction, the website reported. The name of the buyer has not been revealed.

“The reason for value increase is there are only 23 of these in the world and most aren’t willing to part ways with them,” Craig told Sports Collectors Daily. “So it’s a supply and demand issue. We had a buyer that really wanted one and a card that is very difficult to locate.”

>>Record price: 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle baseball card sells for $5.2M

The James card brokered by PWCC marketplace was rated 9 by Beckett Grading Services, with subgrades of 10 for centering and surface, 9.5 for edges and 8.5 for corners.

The $5.2 million payout breaks the basketball card record set in March when a 2018-19 Panini National Treasures Luka Doncic Logoman rookie patch card sold for $4.6 million, ESPN reported.

There are 21 of the James patch parallels listed in Beckett Grading Services’ population report, and only four graded 9 exist, Sports Collectors Daily reported. Two other cards are graded at 9.5.

“Rarity is winning the day,” Craig told Sports Collectors Daily. “These are basically fine art pieces and they are finally getting that recognition they have long deserved.”

According to Bleacher Report, a similar card, graded 8.5 by Beckett, sold for $1.537 million in March 2021. In July 2020, an Exquisite Rookie Patch autograph parallel card of James that was graded 9.5 by Beckett sold for more than $1.8 million by Goldin Auctions, Sports Collectors Daily reported.

“There are LeBron cards (still) out there, I would say, worth over $10 million,” Craig told ESPN. “And let’s be clear: There are three Mantle PSA 10s that, whenever they transact, will break every record there is. But as a market, there are so many desirable cards that haven’t sold yet publicly.”

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