Rare Kobe Bryant rookie card sells for nearly $1.8 million

Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal celebrate a Lakers win.
Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal celebrate a Lakers’ 105-100 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on April 15, 2001, at Staples Center.
(Anacleto Rapping / Los Angeles Times)

A rare Kobe Bryant rookie card sold for $1.795 million Saturday on Goldin Auctions, an online auction house and repository for sports memorabilia. The sale is an all-time record for a Bryant card.

The card shows Bryant, donning No. 8, going up for a shot against a Minnesota Timberwolves defender.

According to Goldin Auctions, the “1996-97 Topps Chrome Refractors #138 Kobe Bryant Rookie Card – BGS PRISTNE/Black Label 10” is one of just “two examples in the world at its level of perfection.”


The card’s condition report scores all perfects 10s in centering, corners, edges, and surface, which qualifies it for prestigious “Black Label” recognition.

“Kobe Bryant was one of the fiercest competitors of all time and truly larger-than-life figure. His rookie card is one of the rarest in existence and one of only two on Earth in black label condition, which is the highest possible obtainable grade,” said Ken Goldin, founder of Goldin Auctions, to ESPN.

The name of the buyer has not been released.

Rookie cards have been hot sellers as of late. A rare Mike Trout rookie card sold for nearly $4 million in August on Goldin Auctions, which was an all-time record for any trading card sold at the time.

A Mickey Mantle rookie card was sold for $5.2 million in November, crushing Trout’s record.

Bryant, a former Laker and one of the most beloved athletes in the world, died in a helicopter crash with his daughter Gianna and seven others in Calabasas on Jan. 26, 2020, at the age of 41.

Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, continues to carry on her husband’s legacy through his multimedia company, Granity Studios, and has relaunched his charitable nonprofit organization as the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation.