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Kobe Bryant Rookie Card and Memorabilia Guide

Kobe Bryant

Date of Birth: 8/23/1978

Rookie Card Year: 1996-97

Investment Rating: 9.5


Few names in basketball collecting carry as much weight as Kobe Bryant. Although Michael Jordan made the hobby relevant when he retired, he passed the torch to the Black Mamba. Some will argue for LeBron James, but Bryant's championship success and an unparalleled desire to win relate most closely to Jordan. The value of Kobe Bryant cards is also the closest to Jordan's.

Like many players, Kobe Bryant rookie cards command the most attention. Since this was before the serial numbered and autograph craze that now dominates the hobby, the premium brands are the biggest draw. Pricey rookie parallels are out there for collectors looking for more of a challenge. 1996-97 E-X2000 Credentials, Topps Chrome Refractors, Finest Refractors and Flair Showcase Legacy are among the best Kobe Bryant card options from his rookie year.

See also: Real-Time Guide to the Hottest Kobe Bryant Cards

Like many star players, Kobe Bryant autographs have proven to be great investments. Exclusive deals and a limited willingness to sign in person make acquiring Bryant's signature both difficult and lucrative. However, now that he has signed an exclusive deal with Panini, collectors have more signed Kobe Bryant card options, pushing the average price down slightly.

In addition to the top RC options and a full rookie card checklist below, check out the full rundown of Kobe Bryant rookie cards.

Top Kobe Bryant Rookie Cards

1996-97 Topps Chrome Kobe Bryant RC #138

For collectors, the choice is clear when it comes to the best Kobe Bryant rookie card and it's 1996-97 Topps Chrome. The card has a nice design with a metallic chromium finish. The Chrome rookie's popularity has led to some counterfeit problems. The card also has condition issues, including a green tint that plagues many examples. Stick with graded versions to be sure the card is legitimate.

Kobe Bryant Rookie Card and Memorabilia Guide 1

1996-97 Finest Kobe Bryant RC #74

Bryant's Finest rookie card is another collector favorite. The slightly cartoonish design shows Bryant breaking through a metal barrier, ready to dunk. 1996-97 Finest came with a protective coating that could be peeled off. Values remain the same with or without the peel, however, collectors may want to be cautious removing them today as it's easy to nick corners trying to get them off.

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1996-97 E-X2000 Kobe Bryant RC #30

Some years, it seems like all the cards are the same. The E-X2000 design stands alone and this Kobe Bryant card is definitely one of his nicest rookies. The vivid green border shows a cutout of Bryant set against a somewhat transparent background of clouds.

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Kobe Bryant Rookie Card Checklist

Budget Rookie Cards

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  • 1996-97 Collector's Choice #267
  • 1996-97 Flair Showcase Row 2 #31
  • 1996-97 Fleer #203
  • 1996-97 Hoops #281
  • 1996-97 Metal #137
  • 1996-97 Topps #138
  • 1996-97 UD3 #19
  • 1996-97 Ultra #52
  • 1996-97 Upper Deck #58
  • 1996-97 Z-Force #142

Mid-Range Rookie Cards

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  • 1996-97 Bowman's Best #R23
  • 1996-97 E-X2000 #30
  • 1996-97 Finest #74
  • 1996-97 SkyBox Premium #55
  • 1996-97 SP #134

Premium Rookie Cards

  • 1996-97 Topps Chrome #138


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Autograph Guide

Kobe Bryant Autographed Memorabilia Buying Guide

In this section, you will find examples of what an authentic Kobe Bryant autograph looks like. This can be used as a first point of reference for determining the legitimacy of autograph memorabilia, but is not a substitute for having your items authenticated by a well-respected professional autograph authentication company. For several years, Kobe Bryant autographs were an exclusive part of the Upper Deck Authenticated (UDA) collection. While many of those items are still available, newer items will be found as part of the Panini Authentic collection.  Other reputable authentication companies include JSA and PSA. 

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Kobe Bryant Key Signature Attributes: An authentic Kobe Bryant autograph/signature will exhibit several distinguishing characteristics, depending on when in his career the item was signed. Other characteristics that play into his signature style are the particular item and venue. Look for the following signature features:

  1. The whole signature is written at an up-sloping 45-degree+ angle
  2. The letter "K" is over-sized and pronounced with no loops to it
  3. The pen lifts to start the letter "o" which is in the form of a small, closed circle
  4. The letters "b" and "e" are done in a cursive-like script and are very legible
  5. The name "Bryant" is nothing more than a very unique and individualized script with two discernible closed, elongated loops

Signed Basketball Pricing

Active Listings for Kobe Bryant Signed Basketballs

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Signed Jersey Pricing

Active Listings for Kobe Bryant Signed Jerseys

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Signed Shoe Pricing

Active Listings for Kobe Bryant Signed Shoes

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Signed Photograph Pricing

Active Listings for Kobe Bryant Signed Photographs

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Fan Shop

Kobe Bryant Fan Shop Apparel and Souvenir Guide

Kobe Bryant's jerseys and shoes are highly coveted by fans the world over. Game-used versions can sell for several thousand dollars. A lifelong member of the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe has jerseys that date back to his entry into the league in 1996-97 In addition, Kobe's collectibles include a wide range of fan shop items and other memorabilia like figures, artwork, posters photographs and more.

Jerseys and Shoes

Manufacturer: Nike, Addidas, Champion

Adidas is currently the licensed provider of NBA jerseys. However, the league has also had licenses with Nike and Champion. In addition to Bryant's Lakers jersey, fans and collectors can also find All-Star and Olympic jerseys to round out their wardrobe or collection.

Adidas's officially licensed NBA jerseys are available in three different styles. The Replica jersey is a lightweight polyester mesh fabric with screen-printed lettering and numbers and is perfect for casual everyday wear. The Swingman jersey is a step up in quality and features a similar style fabric but features twill lettering and numbers. The Authentic jersey is made of a heavier-weight polyester and is designed with patented ClimaCool technology for outstanding performance. It also features an embroidered NBA patch and twill letters and numbers and is as close as you will get to the real deal.

Much like Michael Jordan and Lebron James, Kobe Bryant also has a full line of shoes made by Nike.

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Figures and Toys

Like many other superstar NBA players, Kobe Bryant has had a wide selection of figures, toys, bobbleheads and collectible statues created. Numerous companies have been involved with the production of these fan items. While some are merely toys, others are truly collectible. Regardless of your budget, you're sure to find the perfect piece for the Kobe fan in your life.

Manufacturers: McFarlane, Upper Deck, EnterBay, Mattel, Starting Line-up, Funko, Salino, Lego

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Photographs, Prints and Posters

When you pattern your game after Michael Jordan and lead your team to five NBA Championships, sports photographers tend to take notice. As such, Kobe has a wide variety of photographs, prints, lithographs, posters and even original artwork available to decorate any man cave, office or bedroom. Notable rights holders are listed below.

Rights-Holders: Upper Deck, PhotoFile, Panini, Fathead

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Don't miss our other Kobe Bryant card and memorabilia guides:


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Trey is a lifelong sports fanatic. He is a huge fan of the NBA and NFL, as well as soccer, college basketball and college football. As a kid, he collected football and basketball cards. In more recent years, he started collecting basketball cards again on a whim and has since expanded to other sports and entertainment options.

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