When Upper Deck Exquisite Collection Basketball first arrived in 2003-04, many collectors gasped at the $500 per box price tag. However, the set also opened up a whole new market that has thrived. The UD Exquisite Collection rookie cards are among the most popular in the hobby. The best combine on-card autographs, patch swatches and low serial numbers. The brand recognition adds another layer of prestige as well. Before Upper Deck lost their NBA license, Exquisite was the benchmark against which all other basketball sets were compared. In fact, its influence reaches to all other major sports.
The massive price tags keep many of the top Exquisite Collection Basketball cards out of the reach of many collectors. But it's not like there's a massive supply to begin with. None are numbered to more than 225. However, most of the top players are limited to 99 copies.
Another way to get an idea of the most popular cards is with our real-time Exquisite Collection hot list.
So which Upper Deck Exquisite Basketball rookie cards are the best of the best? Here's our list of the key options.
Top Exquisite Collection Basketball Rookie Cards
Shop for singles on eBay or check completed sales prices using the linked card listings below. Bolded text in the body goes to detailed profiles.
When Derrick Rose was named the NBA's MVP in 2011, he became the youngest player to do so. At his peak, he was unstoppable. While injuries ultimately robbed him of his prime years, his 2008-09 Exquisite Collection rookie is still a top choice.
Chris Bosh is often viewed as the third wheel on those powerhouse Miami Heat teams behind LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, but that still hasn't stopped his 2003-04 Exquisite Collection rookie from being one of the best cards. His rookie is also benefited greatly by being in the iconic first edition.
Dropping the patch and switching to a college theme is admittedly jarring, but collectors have warmed up to the James Harden rookie card in 2009-10 Exquisite Collection. As seen below, there are two different image options with the same print run.
Like Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony is one of the game's most popular and recognized players still searching for an NBA title. And while his 2003-04 Exquisite Collection rookie will always command huge amounts, the lack of postseason glory keeps him from a higher ranking.
It might not have a jersey patch or NBA images, but this Stephen Curry rookie card from 2009-10 Exquisite Collection is one of the best and still very popular with collectors. Curry has a pair of cards, each numbered to 225.
With multiple NBA championships to his name, Dwyane Wade's place in history is already cemented. His best rookie hails from the landmark 2003-04 Exquisite Collection release and it rarely shows up on the open market.
Kevin Durant isn't only one of basketball's best players, he's also one of the most popular. Collectors have propelled his 2007-08 Exquisite rookie into the hobby's highest heights and made it one of the most valuable NBA cards in the modern era.