When 2014-15 Gala Basketball recently arrived packing five cards per box, collectors were wowed by the holographic foilboard, wide array of autographs and deluxe memorabilia cards found in the the international-only release.
But, it turns out that the one base card per box — specifically the basic Rookie Cards — are what’s really driving some collectors into a buying frenzy.
Just 17 rookies got the nod to appear in the 100-card base set and they each are limited to only eight copies per card. Sales-wise, the rookie leading the charge in Gala is reigning NBA Rookie of the Year and Minnesota Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins. The final copy of his card made — serial-number 8/8 — sold for $4,000 in an eBay auction late last month. A second card — ironically the second one made, No. 2/8 — sold for $3,000 earlier this month.
Panini America caught up with the buyer of both Wiggins cards, who preferred to remain anonymous but did disclose why the cards were so appealing.
“Both were purchases at National Treasures Rookie Patch Auto levels, yet they have no autograph or game-used or patch element,” the buyer said. “What attracted me to them is the scarcity. These are some of the rarest Rookie Cards ever.”
Wiggins is not alone when it comes to demand for the Rookie Cards — which might be the most-expensive basic RCs of the modern era. Chicago Bulls rookie Nikola Mirotic sold for $335. Fellow Bull Doug McDermott went for $285. Denver Nuggets newcomer Gary Harris went for $200 as did teammate Jusuf Nurkic.
The scarcity of the cards, combined with their presence in a high-end brand, was another factor that the anonymous buyer just couldn’t pass up. And, right now, the buyer is focused on just two of the top rookies on the checklist.
“People do not realize how rare they are, and, in time, I believe if they catch on, demand for them will skyrocket,” the buyer said. “Wiggins and [Zach] LaVine are in focus [for me] currently.”
Asking prices in active online auctions reflect the demand for sales so far — in other words, some sellers have noticed. None of the other six Wiggins cards have surfaced on eBay, but a card of Los Angeles Lakers rookie Julius Randle can be yours for $1,299.99 or best offer (No. 7/8). Or if you want No. 8/8 it’s $999.99 or best offer. Harris and another card of Nurkic? A mere $399 or best offer.
Chris Olds is a Dallas-based freelance writer and former Beckett Baseball editor who has covered the sports card industry for more than 15 years. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisolds2009.