Hi, my name is Matt and a couple years ago I got back into collecting/investing in basketball cards. These articles will be an intro to sports cards, primarily basketball as that is mostly what I collect and am most knowledgeable about.

Like many of us I collected sport cards and trading cards as a kid. I would get them in my stocking at Christmas. Fast forward from childhood to a couple years ago, I transitioned from sneaker collecting to basketball cards because the market was absolutely saturated and it was impossible to get shoes. It appears sports and trading cards may be trending that way now but let’s try and talk about some of the first things I learned so it might help you.



Short and simple. Rookies are the main cards to go after value wise but in your personal collection (PC) it is all up to you. I collect a mixture of mostly rookie cards but also some veterans like LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and some more. RC vs Vet. Rookies are the player’s first professional NBA card. It’s easy to tell for basketball because it will have RC or rookie on it almost always. Vet just means a players second year and on cards.


All cards aren’t created equal

Currently Panini is the one company that has the rights to put NBA logos on cards because of their contract with the NBA. They make so many different types of product but the main ones I was introduced to are Prizm, Optic, Select, Mosaic, Donruss and NBA Hoops to start off with. In addition, there are different variations of the cards like base, silver/holo, colors, numbered, etc…




Prizm is king. Mostly agreed upon based on the demand and want for it by collectors. It was introduced in 2012 and has a very clean, sharp look to it. Almost as if it is not a piece of cardboard.

2019 Zion Base Prizm Rookie Card (RC)




Optic, Select and Mosaic are pretty close to interchangeable depending on preference. Select would probably be a notch up because I believe it is the older of the three re-introduced in 2012-13. I should add here that I got back into cards during the year Luka and Trae were drafted and have been learning from my friend Joey, that has been collecting for 8-plus years, so my knowledge is coming from right before this boom of the sports cards world (luckily).

   Optic Base Ja Morant            Zion Base Select           Mosaic Base Ja Morant





Donruss is like the lower end Optic. They look very similar depending on the player so be careful. They’re also called Donruss Optic so you can see how it can be confusing when searching for them. I’ll talk in one of my next articles how to accurately look up comps for cards to know current values and prices of cards.

Donruss Ja Morant Base Rated Rookie (RC)



NBA Hoops

NBA Hoops is a lower end product but still one of the cores in my opinion. You can find these in stores on premium stock right now (just a slightly higher end cardboard. When it comes to the six different products I’ve mentioned in this article, you can tell the quality and print difference of them when you see them in hand. This also contributes to the value and demand difference for each product.


 NBA Hoops Zion Base RC          NBA Hoops Premium Stock Zion Base RC





To be continued…

I’ll stop here as an introduction and before it gets any longer. Product is hard to get your hands on in stores for retail like Target or Walmart but some basketball is out right now like I mentioned the NBA Hoops Premium Stock. There is also the option to pay and resell for product on eBay or other ways just be careful when buying. Make sure you check recently sold items to know the value so you aren’t over paying.

I hope this is informational and helpful for anyone interested in getting into sports cards. Some of the things I talked about translates over to other sports and, hopefully, I’ll learn more about that or some of you will know/learn it and can teach me. Also, this is from my perspective and a lot about things I’ve learned or my opinion. Many people may have different thoughts, which is good.

If you have questions, feel free to message me on Twitter @m_kitty3 or Instagram @gato.malo__

And stay tuned for more. Thanks!



Matt Kitagawa is a Contributor for Unwrapped Sports Network. Follow him on on Twitter @m_kitty3