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LeBron James Cards are Expectedly Very Expensive

by Paul Angilly
April 27, 2004

Itís now official. As many collectors anticipated long before the season even started, LeBron James earned NBA Rookie of the Year honors right out of high school.

And if you want to build a comprehensive LeBron James card collection, you may have to consider a second mortgage on your home.

A search of the Beckett.com online price guide last week revealed that at least 476 different James cards have been issued already -- and that total is likely to top 500 by the end of the season.

Looking at just the top 10 most valuable cards for which Beckett lists a price (cards issued in extremely limited quantities are not priced due to their scarcity), their combined value is in the $7,500 to $11,400 range.

Those top 10 cards include: 2003-04 SP Game Used Rookie Exclusive Autographs, $1,500 to $2,000 (a PSA10 graded example recently sold on eBay for $2,152); 2003-04 SP Signature Edition Signatures Gold, $800 to $1,200; 2003-04 SP Signature Edition Rookie INKorporated, $800 to $1,200; 2003-04 Upper Deck Sweet Spot Signatures, $750 to $1,200; 2003-04 Bowman Chrome Refractors Gold, $500 to $1,000; 2003-04 Black Diamond 24 Karat Signatures, $700 to $1,000; 2003-04 Upper Deck SPx jersey/autograph rookie card, $600 to $1,000; 2003-04 UD Glass Auto Focus, $750 to $1,000; 2003-04 UD Glass Monumental Marks, $600 to $1,000; and 2003-04 Upper Deck Finite Signatures, $500 to $800.

Some cards were released too recently for Beckett to have pricing available last week. Among those cards is what may turn out to be Jamesí key rookie card: 2003-04 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection #127, an autographed card from the $100-per-pack set, numbered to 250 copies. Hereís the final winning bids from 14 recent eBay auctions for this card: $1,675, $1,670, $1,580, $1,525, $1,345, $1,325 (three times), $1,300, $1,276, $1,275, $1,200 (twice) and $1,025.

Among other cards recently topping the charts at eBay: a 2003-04 SP Signature Edition Signatures Triple, limited to 25 copies and signed by James, Michael Jordan and Tracy McGrady, graded BGS 9.5, sold for $7,900. A non-graded version of the same card sold for $2,150.

Also, a 2003-04 Fleer Flair 1-of-1 Masterpiece parallel card of James sold for $3,350; a 2003-04 Upper Deck SP Signature Series James SP Rookie Logo autographed card, numbered 01/25, sold for $3,000; and a 2003-04 Upper Deck Finite Gold Auto James card, limited to just 10 copies and graded PSA 10, sold for $3,606.

Hereís a look at the price range (Beckett low and high prices) for some other popular LeBron James cards: 2003-04 Upper Deck Finite #242, $200 to $400; 2003-04 UD Glass #100, $200 to $350; 2003-04 Skybox LE #118, $200 to $350; 2003-04 SP Game Used #107, $100 to $200; 2002-03 Topps Finest #178 (available through a redemption card from last yearís set), $100 to $200; 2003-04 Topps Chrome #111, $25 to $60; 2003-04 Topps #221, $8 to $20; 2003-04 Upper Deck #301, $15 to $40; 2003-04 Upper Deck MVP #201, $6 to $15; and 2003-04 Topps Bazooka #276, $5 to $12.

The cheapest James cards available are singles from the 2003 Upper Deck LeBron James Box Set, which are priced at 75 cents to $2 each.

The LeBron James Box Set is still available to collectors directly through Upper Deck (at www.upperdeckstore.com) for $19.99 plus shipping, and itís the first of three different boxed sets (so far) that the company has made for James. The 30-card box set features photos of James on and off the court and also includes two oversized cards, including one special triple-exposure card entitled "Development of the Dunk." As an added chase, James autographed 23 cards that were randomly inserted.

Also available through Upper Deckís online store is the LeBron James Phenomenal Beginning Box Set ($9.99 plus shipping). Composed of 20 cards plus one insert card, the box set features various highlights from Jamesí rookie year. Insert cards available are 20 gold parallel cards, 20 gold facsimile signature parallel cards (numbered to 100 copies) and a special autographed card (numbered to 23 copies).

Finally, being issued on an ongoing basis is the LeBron James Freshman Season Collection (available now for $49.99 plus shipping). The set details Jamesí entire season, with one card for each game (85 different cards). Collectors ordering now will get a binder with sheets, plus cards of Jamesí first 15 games, plus a special e-card. After registering online using the enclosed e-card, collectors will get the remaining cards in two shipments later this year.

Clarett Not in Draft, but on Cards: Last week, a federal appeals court blocked a lower court ruling that would have made some underclassmen (i.e. former Ohio State tailback Maurice Clarett and USCís Mike Williams) eligible for the NFL draft. Clarett appealed to the Supreme Court, but was denied in his bid to enter this past weekendís draft.

Despite that fact, both players have appeared in draft pick football card sets from Press Pass and SA-GE.

According to a report on Beckett.com, Williams signed the general licensing agreement with Players Inc. after the initial ruling was handed down allowing all underclassmen into the draft -- meaning that Williams has contractually allowed his image to be used on trading cards and other collectibles in 2004.

Both the Press Pass and Press Pass Signature Edition football card sets include regular cards, autographed cards and insert cards of Williams. The regular Press Pass set is already out, while Press Pass SE has a release date of May 5.

About the author
Paul Angilly is a sports reporter for The Bristol Press in Connecticut, and has been collecting sports cards and memorabilia for 30 years. He is not a dealer, nor does he make a profit from buying and selling cards. His weekly sports card and memorabilia collecting column appears each week in The Bristol Press and several other daily newspapers in Connecticut.

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