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Basketball card

My Best Break

If you follow any card people on Twitter or any of the other social media platforms out there, you may have seen people talking about incredible cards they just found going through their old stuff. I’m not a total cynic, and I’m sure at least a few honest collectors do once in a while stumble upon some great stuff that they didn’t know they had, but knowing humans I’m pretty sure at least 90% of these “finds” are bullshit.

But it did get me to reflect on my best break, which came back in 2005 when I purchased a box of 2005 Topps Finest basketball cards on eBay for absolutely no more than $100. I know this because $100 was my upper limit for a box back in the day. Fifteen years have passed since then, but sadly I’m probably only willing to up my limit to $150 (maybe $200 if I can sneak it past the wife) because I have a real life adult expenses now… I’m sure some of you other collectors know what I’m talking about.

The 2005 NBA Draft was pretty weak for the most part so it wasn’t a big box year for rookies. Yes, Chris Paul was drafted that year with the #4 pick and there was some solid talent that slipped to the second round, most notably Monta Ellis, who was grabbed by Golden State with the 40th pick, and the Philadelphia 76ers snatched up Lou Williams with the 45th pick. Both excellent late round pick-ups.

However, in this 2005 Finest box I didn’t get any of those rookies. In fact, I don’t have any rookies from the set still in my collection so I probably ended up with someone like Yaroslav Korolev or Wayne Simien, both of whom only lasted in the league for two seasons and were quickly forgotten. If I had a rookie card that didn’t instantly look like they’d be a legit starter in a season or two, they were quickly purged from my collection.

Even though I didn’t pull a good rookie from this box, I did manage to pull a fantastic refractor, perhaps one of the five best possible cards to come from this set. The card I pulled was card #85, the 3rd year Lebron James card. But my card was a GOLD REFRACTOR, number 5 of 39!

2004-05 Topps Finest Lebron James GOLD refractor (mine is #5 out of 39)
2004-05 Topps Finest Lebron James Gold Refractor (5/39)

This isn’t my rarest card, I have one or two that are numbered to 20 or fewer, but this was easily my best pull from a pack, and the sad thing is I don’t remember being all that excited at the time I pulled it. However, it now sits in my safe with my 25 or so best cards.

The image on this card is fantastic and shows Lebron up in the air about to deliver a powerful one handed dunk against the team he now plays for, the LA Lakers. I can’t be sure, but it looks like Pau Gasol is in the background with his right hand making a sort of shruggie (¯\_(ツ)_/¯) type pose. Of course it’s just bad camera timing, but I like to think at the time he was just thinking something like, “Well, WTF”.

I also just noticed that you can see the scoreboard clearly on this card. Lebron is about to put the Cavs up 14-11 against the Lakers. That is a pretty cool little detail.

Its difficult for me to come up with a reasonable price for this card. I’d guess a fair price would probably be in the $4,000 – $6,000 range. How did I come to this figure?

Well, I basically took the price of one PSA 10 green refractor (serial numbered to 89) currently selling on eBay for a Buy It Now asking price of $2,750. Since my card is more than twice as rare as the green refractor, but not graded, I think a fair price would be close to double the PSA 10 green refractor.

The truly crazy thing about this card is that there are other gold refractor rookies selling on eBay for much less than what I expect the Lebron card to sell for. In fact, the Chris Paul gold refractor (#16/39) is selling for a Buy It Now price of $800 and there was even a Jay-Z card in this set, dubbed the Jay-Z rookie card, and that gold refractor is selling for $1,000 (link to Jay-Z eBay listing).

If I had put up the Jay-Z listing, I would most certainly have quoted Hova from the Numb/Encore song: “What the hell are you waiting for? After me there shall be no more…”. I know it’s corny, but it fits so well. Maybe my lame jokes are why my stuff never sold well on eBay?

Anyway, I like to think of myself as a rational person, but I’m human after all and don’t think I’d ever sell this card. Why? Well its simply because it was my best pull and it’s a pretty cool card. The only way I think I’d ever part this with this card would be if I met a collector who had a graded Jordan and wanted to trade. Even as a grown adult, I still like the idea of trading cards. So please hit me up if you have a PSA 7 or higher Jordan card and are looking to trade.

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