Modern Basketball Cards

Modern basketball cards represent the most exciting, speculative, and peculiar space in the basketball card hobby. When viewing the modern card market, there are three distinct areas where these cards set themselves apart from their older relatives:

  1. Modern Cards Have Parallels For The Same Card  

  2. Modern Cards Are Exclusively Licensed

  3. Some Modern Cards Are Designed with Autographs and Jersey Patches

One main difference that has transformed modern cards into a completely different product from the pre-1986 cards are the parallels of the same card that exist in todays sets. A parallel is a rookie card that resembles the base card from that set (for example, the 2018 Luka rookie), but instead has a different colored background or bordering. These parallels can come serial numbered or non-numbered, and can also vary greatly in color (Purple, Pink, Red, Gold). These parallels end up causing more overall cards to be produced for each set, but they can also create rarity for certain colors that are in high demand (Silver, Gold, Team Color). Below is an example of some parallels used in Zion's 2019 Prizm rookie card. 

 

 

Another area where basketball cards have changed is in the exclusive licensing space. Basketball cards used to be manufactured by Topps or Fleer depending on the given year with no exclusive license for any company. In 2009, this all changed. The card manufacturer Panini struck a multiyear deal for exclusive rights to NBA trading cards. This deal has since been extended upon and continues to this day. This exclusive license has created some staple sets to be produced over the last 10 years that collectors will recognize and search for, but this license has also created somewhat of a lack of innovation. Many of the products created near the beginning of Panini's deal with the NBA have undergone minimal changes in overall set design.

The last main evolution, and possibly the most glaring one, that has taken place in the basketball card hobby is the emergence of the jersey patch-autograph cards in the late 1990's and early 2000's. Prior to this point, the only way to get an autograph on a card was the old fashioned way: asking said person for it. These cards changed this issue and created an overall more collectible piece. The first patch auto cards created were focused around the marquee player in the league at the time, Michael Jordan. These cards have since transformed into some of the most coveted and unique rookie cards for any modern player in any sport.  The most coveted perhaps is the 2003 Upper DeckExuisite Lebron James  Rainbow Parallel Patch Autograph /23, which is pictured below.

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