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Rare Air: The Story of Blake Griffin and his $38,000 Panini America Basketball Card

January 19, 2012

During last year’s mesmerizing NBA All-Star Game Slam Dunk Contest in Los Angeles, Blake Griffin rocked the entire sports world — to say nothing of an awestruck Staples Center rim — by soaring over a Kia Optima SX sedan for one of the single greatest slams in hoops history.

It was one of the many “did that just happen?” highlights of Griffin’s inexplicably thunderous debut campaign that provided more-than-adequate support for the staggering prices his top Panini America Rookie Cards fetched during last season’s feeding frenzy. But nothing Griffin did last season could prepare us for what his best trading cards are doing this season. And before you go on, you may want to sit down.

Earlier this month, a rare Griffin trading card from Panini America’s 2009-10 National Treasures product sold for the staggering sum of $38,032. The aptly named national treasure includes Griffin’s autograph and the NBA Logoman patch from one of his worn jerseys. That final price tag represents one of the highest figures ever paid for a modern-era basketball card and reinforces the investment potential of sports cards — especially rare ones featuring Griffin.

“The number is definitely surprising, I don’t think there is any denying that,” said Rob Springs, a Senior Market Analyst for Dallas-based Beckett Media, the recognized leader in sports card valuations. “There’s no question that he is one of the most popular players in the NBA right now, and his face is all over both the nightly highlights and several different endorsements. That just helps to drive the persona to be larger than life. He is very much following the closest in the footsteps of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, where their face is everywhere.

“High-end basketball cards still have as much, or more, potential than any other sport, in my opinion.  There is just such a broad range of collecting bases and money from the NBA being a truly global game.  There are high-end basketball collectors in America, Australia, Japan, Europe, etc., and that really helps to drive the top-end of the basketball market.”

And right now, at the very top of that market, is the incomparable Griffin.

20 Comments leave one →
  1. January 19, 2012 1:45 pm


  2. Matt Gilman permalink
    January 19, 2012 2:10 pm

    Just incredible!

  3. Joe permalink
    January 19, 2012 2:15 pm

    Until he proves he can do more than slam dunk, that person bought themselves a pretty piece of expensive cardboard. Blake undoubtedly has all the talent in the world, he just needs to become a big man scoring threat, instead of a big man dunk machine. FYI the dunk over the hood of the KIA 14 year olds do that over here, if he wanted it to be impressive dont jump over the hood, jump over the roof

    • freethrowtommy permalink
      January 19, 2012 3:03 pm

      As long as his team is winning and he is putting points on the board, does it really matter how they come? Who cares if it is a jumper from 15 feet or a good move with a dunk? I mean, if the other team can’t stop him, why would he stop doing what he does best?

      That being said… this is an INSANE price to pay for this card, no matter the player.

  4. Notorious B.O.B. permalink
    January 19, 2012 2:47 pm

    Wow, just wow. Very impressive. When I got his auto courtesy of Panini at the National I knew he was good, but he has exploded since then. Blake will soon be The Face of the NBA. Keep up the good work, both of you – Blake and Panini.

  5. Jim permalink
    January 19, 2012 3:23 pm

    I’m a fan of the NBA and a collector of NBA cards. That said, I thinks its funny how the sale of this card “reinforces the investment potential of sports cards…especially rare ones featureing Blake Griffin”. This is it.. this is the pinnacle of Blake’s cards… there won’t be one that sells for more… this is the Logoman auto’d RC, #’d 1/1….. nothing else will match up. Any other rare card of his will fall way short of this.

    I have been collecting for many years now and the trend is that everything goes down over time. Sure there are a few exceptions but even Jordan stuff drops from time to time… it should be more about the fun of collecting, building sets, finding that cool card of your favorite player…. not about the investment. When is it a good “investment” to buy a $400+ pack of cards when some of the “hits” are valued at $6 in the price guide? That’s a crime, if you ask me.

  6. Bill Jochen permalink
    January 19, 2012 5:54 pm

    Why does any NBA player who shoots .560 from the foul line warrant this hype ???

  7. January 19, 2012 6:07 pm

    That is a crazy price. Who would of thought that card would go that much when he came out of college?

  8. Kwb permalink
    January 19, 2012 10:26 pm

    Don’t hate! Blake Griffin is only in his second year! Air Jordan was not hitting jumpers in his first two years like he was in year ten! I have watched every game this year, he can handle the ball & pass! If all you have seen are the highlights on ESPN & NBA TV, you probably need to watch more games before you voice your opinion!

  9. XstreamINsanity permalink
    January 20, 2012 11:34 am

    I have to agree with Jim. I hate the statement “reinforces the investment potential of sports cards…especially rare ones featureing Blake Griffin”. Cards were created for trading, hence why they’re referred to as trading cards. People who break product for the investment are killing the hobby. Yes, I would rather get my Pistons card for $20 rather than buying a $400 box of cards, but because someone is willing to pay that $400 the manufacturers don’t bring down the price and us who don’t have major funds have to wait for them to hit the second market and lose out on the satisfaction of breaking those nice boxes. I wish a company would have an open door policy and show us how much it really costs to make these cards and what math they’re using. I know profit is needed for employees and R&D, but $400 for a box of 5 cards, you have got to be kidding me. And there are people every day who bust a box hoping to find a Kobe, James or Jordan AU to sell it. Not for their collection, but because they can make money off of it. Sorry for the rant, but seeing the “investment” statement is really bothering.

  10. January 24, 2012 3:27 am

    That’s a pretty crazy price for that card but he is simply a very gifted athlete. He will very soon be 1 of the best in the league!

  11. January 28, 2012 11:25 am

    All i can say is i wish i was that lucky but if i hd they card, i would sell it fast because with my luck the price would drop like a rock. ha ha but its a great looking card but i do not collect Basketball cards.

  12. deloreanfan81 permalink
    February 7, 2012 12:30 am

    38 G’s?!?!?!? INSANE

  13. Matt E permalink
    March 4, 2012 11:46 am

    Who bought this card? Bill Gates?


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