By Adam Gray
When I was 7 years old, I opened my first pack of basketball cards. 1990-91 Hoops, series one. I don’t remember exactly who was in the pack, but I do remember the price tag. Twenty five cents. What did I get for that twenty-five cents? Fifteen flimsy pieces of card board and if I remember correctly that included a Delaney Rudd Utah Jazz rookie card! Hey oh!
Opening packs of cards was fun. Most of my friends also “broke” packs and some even boxes of cards. Kids enjoyed collecting and had fun. You could walk into a sports card store and actually get something with a buck or two.
Fast forward to October 2013 and we find a very different hobby. On October 23, Panini America, the exclusive NBA license holder for cards, is introducing the most expensive product ever made. The product, deemed Panini flawless, has garnered attention from Sports Illustrated and created a buzz even among non-collectors.
Although much surrounding this product remains a mystery, what we do know is that each box contains ten cards. At least seven cards will be hand signed, and at least two will contain a jumbo piece of game worn material in the card. The base set is 100 cards, and each card only has 20 copies in existence. Every base card contains a diamond…. yes, you read that correctly; A diamond. Unless you are one of the lucky ones who gets the emerald parallel of the base set, where each card is limited to five in existence, and has an emerald instead of a diamond.
What’s more, is that each $1,250 pack comes in a real metal briefcase. That’s right. Every one of the ten cards has jewels, autographs, or piece of game used jerseys and comes in a metal briefcase, and costs a little less than the average mortgage payment.
Confused? If you haven’t followed the hobby since the early 90’s during the card boom, you probably should be. The card market has obviously changed, but what might be most surprising is this–getting your hands on a sealed box of this stuff is basically impossible. The average hobby shop is being allocated less than two boxes, and most have been pre-ordered. The cheapest pre-orders you can find online right now are $1,450 which means you’ll probably have to pay $1,500 or more if you even see one at a hobby shop.
You should be asking a very simple question right now. Why? Why would any sane person pay that much for cardboard? The answer will surprise you. Because it’s a great investment.
In 2003, the first ever super product was released. Exquisite basketball contained 5-6 cards and cost $450 pack. Today, even though the key signer, Michael Jordan, was a redemption card, and the redemption has expired, an unopened pack of exquisite basketball will run you a minimum of $4,500. That’s right, a 1000% return in the last ten years. Sure beats the S&P and the housing market, don’t ya think?
What’s more, Exquisite produced a LeBron James rookie that currently sells in the $12,000-$15,000 range and a Jordan/LeBron Dual Logo man card that at auction today would conservatively bring $300,000-$500,000. Yes, there are really collectors with deep enough pockets to pay these amounts for single cards. This isn’t just a hobby anymore folks. It’s investing.
Panini Flawless raises the bar. The cards are more scarce and the price tag more unbelievable, and there are no redemption cards. Do not be surprised when someone pulls a $200,000 card out of one of these packs. If you’re into high stakes out of the box investing, then this one’s for you. Not for the faint of heart, and definitely not the same as that 1990-91 Hoops pack with a Delaney Rudd.
Adam Gray is a CPA and Hedge Fund Accountant in Salt Lake City. He is a lifelong Utah Jazz fanatic and avid sports memorabilia and card collector and trader of over twenty years.
- Genuine Diamonds, Emeralds Add Luster to 2012-13 Flawless Basketball Base Set (paniniamerica.wordpress.com)
- These Basketball Cards Come in a Metal Briefcase and Are Embedded with Real Jewels (extramustard.si.com)
- Flawless First Look: Panini America Sneaks a Peek at New High-End Basketball Set (paniniamerica.wordpress.com)