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Lebron James rookie cards are the most popular basketball cards in the hobby.  The Cavaliers super star has become one of the most famous people on the face of the planet.  James has lived up to all the hype and now only has one more thing that he wants to accomplish.  A championship for his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers.  Lebron is only 30 years old, which is hard to believe when you consider that he is a 2 time NBA Champion and has been voted into 11 All-Star games.  If that is not enough, he is also a 2 time MVP Award winner.

These are just a few reasons why Lebron James rookie cards are so popular with collectors.  The problem is he has so many different rookie cards to choose from.  So which are his best cards to buy?  Here is a list that we have compiled of the best Lebron James rookie cards. These are not just his most valuable cards, but also his most popular cards.

Lebron James Rookie Cards for Any Budget

2003 Topps Chrome #111

This chromium card is definitely a fan favorite.  This basketball card looks exactly like the base Topps card except for the chrome finish.  This was a Topps premium product and fans love it.  These basketball cards grade very well due to quality card stock, but poor centering may sometimes be an issue.   Gem mint 10 versions of these cards sell for around $350 while ungraded cards fetch $150.

Refractor and Xfractor parallels are always popular choices with fans.  Numbered, black refractors were also produced and individually numbered to only 500.  In recent auctions, these rookie cards have been selling for about $850-$900 in mint 9 conditions.

2003 Topps Chrome Lebron James rookie cards

2003 Bowman Chrome #123

Another incredible Lebron James RC.  These cards sell very well for around $50-$60 ungraded.  One’s graded gem mint 10 fetches close to $300.  These cards normally grade very well like the Topps Chrome versions, but have the same centering issues.

Lebron James Bowman Chrome RC

2003 Topps #221

Topps rookie cards are always popular choices with collectors.  This is also true for this Lebron James rookie.  These cards sell for $10-$15 ungraded and depending on the condition they are in.  Corners and poor centering are the most common flaws found with these cards.

A few cool variations include the 1st Edition version which looks exactly like the base card, but has a silver 1st Edition foil logo stamped on the bottom left side of the card.  The 1st Edition cards are harder to find than the base cards and normally sell for 50% more.

Another interesting variation is the short printed, factory set rookie.  These cards have the same Topps design, but a different photo of Lebron.  These cards are also scarcer than the base card and sell for around double of what the base card does.

2003 Topps Lebron James rookie

2003 Bowman #123

These James rookies are a little scarcer then the Topps cards and are much harder to find in premium condition.  They tend to have poor corners due to poor card stock and black borders which accentuate almost every flaw.  Currently they sell for $20 ungraded, but gem mint 10 versions sell for around $125 because they are harder to find.

2003 Sports Illustrated for Kids #264

These Lebron James rookie cards are extremely unique.  They were one of his first rookie cards released and the photo shows Lebron in his High School uniform.  They cards tend not to grade well at all for various reasons including poor card stock, terrible centering, and various print marks.  These cards are not rare at all due to the fact that they were included in issues of Sports Illustrated for Kids magazines.  They sell for around $100 in gem mint 10 condition.

2003 SI for Kids Lebron James rookie

2003 Fleer Tradition #261 and #291

This is a nice, clean, white bordered card that is very affordable.  They normally grade very well and sell for about $100 in gem mint 10 condition.  Fleer made two cards of Lebron James in the set including a very interesting rookie trio card.  This card has some of the best rookies of 2003 including Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony. These cool Trio cards sell for $125 in gem mint 10 condition.

Fleer Tradition Lenbron James Rookie

2003 ETopps Uncirculated /10,000

These serial numbered cards are like bricks.  They are super thick and grade incredibly well.  These limited edition Lebron James rookie cards sell for $45 ungraded while gem mint 10’s sell for around double at $100 each.

2003 Upper Deck Phenomenal Beginning Set

Upper Deck wanted to feature Lebron in his own set.  They produced a 20 card Phenomenal Beginning Rookie set that included 20 Lebron James cards.  Gold parallel cards were randomly inserted into sets.  These cards are some of the most affordable Lebron James rookies and are great for collectors buying on a fixed budget.  These cards grade very well and sell for about $10-$15 in gem mint condition.  Factory sets sell for about $40.

2003 Upper Deck Freshman Faces Redemption Set

Upper Deck wanted to take advantage of the immense demand of Lebron James rookies so they produced another set featuring the Cavs star.  The Freshman Faces set includes 60 Lebron James rookie cards.  These sets are not hard to find but don’t grade as well as the Phenomenal Beginning set. Single cards from the set bring $3 ungraded while gem mint versions sell for $10-$15 online.

2003 Upper Deck Rookie Exclusives

This card has an amazing photo of James dunking and has a clean futuristic design.  This Upper Deck set included almost all of the up and coming rookies of the 2003 draft.  These cards sell for $15-$20 ungraded while gem mint 10 versions bring a little under $100.

2003 Topps Matrix M3

The Topps Matrix cards are not for everyone, but they are definitely some of the most unique cards produced in 2003.  Each card is perforated and has three rookies displayed.  The cards change so you can have a different set of rookies on each card.  These cards were on fire when the Miami Heat was on their title run.  One of the Matrix cards had all three of the Heat superstars on one card.  That’s right, James, Wade and Chris Bosh all on one card.

Topps Lebron Wade Bosh rookie cards

2003 Bazooka #276

These retro style cards help us remember days past, with amazing Bazooka, chewing gum.  Bazooka included different variations of Lebron James rookies in the set including a cool comic strip card.  Gold variations are also popular and more limited than the base cards.  The regular cards sell for $2-$3 and grade incredibly well.

2003 Exquisite Jersey Patch

Upper Deck wanted to create a premium product for investors.  These James rookie cards are not for every collector.  They are super expensive and are limited in production.  These are definitely some of Lebron James most valuable cards.  Many of the limited edition cards come with different variations including autographs, jersey swatches, and all individually numbered.  In a recent auction, one sold for over $10,000.  These cards have a wide range when it comes to value so the best thing to do is check prices often before making a purchase.

2003 Finest #178

This is a gorgeous card with a lot of upside. These cards are not rare but are not as common as the Topps cards.  They grade very well and sell for around $75 ungraded.  Buyers beware, because a few variations of these cards exist.  The Rookie of the Year version is individually numbered to only 999 and sells for $500.  A Gold, Rookie of the Year refractor is one of his rarest cards with only 25 ever being produced.  We have seen these cards sell for over $6,000 in gem mint 10 condition.

2003 UD Ultimate Collection Autograph Rookie

With only 250 individually numbered autographs produced, these Lebron James rookie cards are definitely one of his best.  Gem mint 10 versions have sold for over $4,500.  Pretty incredible for any rookie card produced in 2003.

2003 Upper Deck Lebron James autograph rookie card

2003 SP Authentic Autograph

Another super rare autographed Lebron James rookie card.  Only 500 of these gems exist and they fetch $1,500 ungraded.  These cards grade well, so gem mint 10 versions sell for only a little more slightly hovering over the $2,000 mark.

2003 SPX Autograph Jersey

If you are looking for a high ticket Lebron James rookie with an on card autograph this maybe the one for you.  Each card is individually numbered to only 750 and also includes a game used jersey embedded inside.  These cards sell for 50% less than the SP Authentic rookies, fetching a little over $1,100.

As you can see, Lebron James has a large variety of rookie cards.  We made sure to include cards for all budgets.  If James continues to play the way he has, he will compare to the greats like Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain and Magic Johnson.  In the NBA greatness does not come from only stats but from championship rings.  Lebron has two under his belt and maybe on his way for a third.


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Alan Karpuch

Owner of GMA Grading Inc. Over 20 years experience in the sports card industry.

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