Hobby Musings: Discussing a crazy basketball card year – Part 1– The sports card world’s big 2020 has been fueled in large part by the NBA market and its impressive rookie class. With LeBron James and the Lakers winning the NBA Finals to end the season, the focus shifts to the upcoming draft and a new wave of prospects. Before that happens though, I had the chance to catch up with Beckett’s Steven Dalton via email to see what this past NBA season meant for the hobby.
KS: Steven, LeBron has won his fourth title and first with the Lakers. What has this done to his card market?
SD: LeBron card prices have been on the upswing for months. I think collectors were anticipating another championship, eliciting a heavy dose of buying and selling. Now that James’ fourth title is a reality, his market really hasn’t changed much. It was extremely healthy before and continues to be so. Perhaps there has been a slight uptick in overall sales activity, but I haven’t noticed an emphatic bump in card values that one might expect from his winning another championship. That being said, high grade rookie cards and cards depicting James in his Lakers uniform are selling particularly well at the moment.
KS: Where you would rank LeBron in the NBA card hierarchy among past and present players?
SD: His ranking in the NBA card hierarchy is hard to quantify. I suppose I would equate it where NBA pundits place him among all-time great players. Most rank him the top two, so I would have him up there with Michael Jordan at the peak of the basketball card hobby.
KS: Anthony Davis just wrapped up his first season with LeBron and the Lakers. What did his first season and a title in L.A. do for his card market?
SD: Anthony Davis’ market scenario has played out similarly to LeBron’s. His card values have been on a steady uptick for some time, and the already high prices haven’t changed too much after winning the title. Gem mint/pristine slabbed rookies are in demand, as are as his Lakers cards, particularly the 2019-20 Panini Chronicles Prizm Update (and parallels) and 2019-20 National Treasures offerings.
KS: Is there anyone on the Heat that saw a big boost in hobby value due to their Finals run?
SD: Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro. Butler probably received the biggest boost as his cards saw price increases pretty much across the board. Herro rookies experienced significant gains as well, and he joined Zion Williamson and Ja Morant in the top pricing tier of this year’s rookie class.
KS: This was a big year for rookies in the NBA, led by Zion Williamson. Looking back on his first season, what do you make of it from a card standpoint?
SD: Hobby anticipation was extremely high, and Williamson card prices were strong from the get-go. When he finally took the court, his play didn’t disappoint, solidifying values, fueling hobby momentum and increasing demand. However, the Pelicans were a disappointment in the Orlando bubble, and Zion, for whatever reason, played limited minutes. So, his RC prices have softened a bit, but collector demand remains strong.
KS: How did it compare/contrast to any other NBA rookie you’ve ever seen?
SD: In terms of collector interest, I’d rank this year up there with LeBron and the 2003-04 rookie class. More recently, Ben Simmons garnered some serious attention, and the hype for Lonzo Ball in 2017 was significant, but, in my estimation, the preseason excitement surrounding Zion exceeded them.
KS: We also saw continued impressive sales for second-year players Trae Young and Luka Doncic. Which one of them do you think has the brighter hobby future?
SD: Luka plays for the better team, he’s bigger, and he’s already a First Team All-NBA selection. I’ll side with the NBA experts and say Doncic has the brighter hobby future.
Stay Tuned for Part 2 of Kelsey Schroyer’s conversation with Steven Dalton!
Hobby Musings: Discussing a crazy basketball card year – Part 1
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