Market Cap Analysis Luka Doncic vs LeBron James vs Giannis Antetokounmpo
The sports card market has been on fire as of late and as a result data is being generated at a furious rate. Unfortunately this momentum has picked up so quickly that our ability to capture and analyze the data is still far behind. Geoff over at SportsCardInvestor.com is doing his part to collect and visualize this valuable data for us and I plan to do my best at exploring ways we can use this data to profit. One concept we have introduced over the last few weeks is the Market Cap of a player’s graded cards. In this article I will be reviewing the market cap for three of the league’s biggest stars and hottest basketball rookie cards . If you have not already you can find part 1 of this series here and part 2 here.
We’ll be using Market Movers data to get an idea of what the current market prices are for these cards. You can sign up for your own Market Movers Subscription to access the data on your own and by using the promo code GRINDERS you will get 20% off your first payment on any subscription. You will want to sign up for Market Movers specifically in order to access the great tools and data, and if you sign up for the annual Market Movers subscription, you will save you 20% on the entire year instead of just the first month. I’ll be adding additional targets at the end of the article from previous articles so you can see if you can still find the cards within the target range.
Sports Card Investing Targets – Market Cap Analysis Luka Doncic vs LeBron James vs Giannis Antetokounmpo
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Giannis Antetokounmpo is well on his way to solidifying his second MVP and has a very good shot and earning his first championship ring when the bubble comes to an end this October. If he accomplishes these things he will have done so before turning the age of 26. Needless to say this has made him a hot commodity in the sports card market. Check out the growth of his 2013 Base Prizm PSA 9 in the chart below.
This represents a 150% increase in just 5 months which comes on the heels of an already absurd runup since the beginning of the 2019 season. Some might think that the momentum has to slow down soon after seemingly unsustainable growth but others think there is a lot of runway ahead. In fact one of those people is Geoff over at SportsCardInvestor.com. A few weeks back on one of our shows Geoff asked me to take a look at Giannis’ market cap to see how it stacks up with some of the other big names in the industry. Geoff’s theory is that the print runs in 2013, Giannis’ rookie year, lag behind both LeBron James and Luka Doncic rookie years. This in theory would mean Giannis’ rookie card values should be aided by the relative rarity his cards have over his counterparts. Having already done some analysis on Luka vs Lebron I thought it made sense to turn this into a Royal Rumble of the NBA’s biggest names.
As I have done so with each of the articles before this one I would like to clarify a couple of things before we get started. For many of the cards I am looking at, especially the extremely rare ones like Black 1/1 or Gold 1/10, I do not have much if any sales data. To get around this I filled in as many values as I could and then used trends that I saw in the data I had. For instance a Luka BGS 10 (Yellow Label) typically sells for ~3x a BGS 9.5. In cases where I did not have a recent sale on a 10 but I did have one for the 9.5 I would use the 3x rule to fill in the gap. I also sorted the cards at the very end to make sure no PSA 10s were higher than BGS 10 and that there were no large discrepancies between BGS 9 and PSA 9. All this is to say that these numbers are only estimates of what the market caps should be but I tried to make these as good of estimates that we can get. With that out of the way let’s get started.
Giannis Population Counts Are In Fact Smaller
Geoff was spot on when speculating that Giannis population counts would pale in comparison to Lebron and Luka. The crazy high print runs over the last few years is no secret but Doncic coming in at 6x the population of Giannis is a massive difference. What might be even more surprising is that Giannis comes in at less than half the population of Lebron whose rookie card was released 10 years prior. There are many factors that come into play here but this is evidence of something I have suspected for quite some time. Both Lebron and Luka came into the league with massive hype and the card companies are fully aware. I suspect that Topps in 2003 and Panini in 2018 made sure to fire up the printer a few more times for these guys to make sure consumers had plenty of chances to land the coveted rookies. Giannis on the other hand was the 15th overall pick in an underwhelming draft class who was about as a mysterious draft prospect as you will ever find. Due to the lack of star power in the draft and buzz around Giannis himself I am sure that Panini refrained from overprinting his cards. My theory is that there were many more Luka cards printed then say a Lonnie walker as there were many more LeBron James cards then Nick Collison. What this could mean for card investors is that there is inherent scarcity in players who come out of nowhere to become stars. Finding a player of Giannis’ elk does not happen at pick 15 often but as we can see if these hidden gems emerge their scarcity will only compound their rookie card’s meteoric rise.
Understanding The Set and Era Is Important
The chart above breaks out each player’s population by the two major grading companies. This brings forth an important lesson I think we should all make note of. As we can see from Luka’s data, significantly more of his cards have been submitted to PSA than BGS. For Giannis these numbers are essentially split right down the middle. In a turn of events there were quite a few more LeBron James rookie cards submitted to BGS as compared to PSA. This is important because without the full picture you may think that a card is either more or less rare then it really is. If I were to look at only BGS population counts for Luka I would have a very misleading picture of his rookie card landscape. A more likely scenario may be that a modern collector looks to the PSA population counts for an older card only to walk away thinking they just purchased a card that is twice as rare as it really is. The card market has not always been the way it is today and it is always smart to learn a cards market inside and out before making any decisions.
Has the market priced in the relative rarity of Giannis?
Something tells me Geoff over at SportsCardInvestor.com is going to crack a big grin when he sees the numbers above. Giannis’ market cap of $32.6 million represents only 57% of Luka’s market cap despite having a population count almost six times smaller. While we certainly would expect Giannis to come in a fraction of LeBron’s market cap I think these numbers tell us a couple of things. First, if career achievements matter then we are either grossly overvaluing Luka’s career thus far or wildly undervaluing Giannis’. Giannis will most likely earn his second MVP by the age of 26 which is half as many as the 35 year old King James has earned to date. He also has a good shot to win his first championship in his age 25 season which would be two years younger than LeBron. All this being said you would expect Giannis to represent a larger percentage of LeBron’s market cap than Luka since he has actually achieved more of the success while much of Luka’s value is still just “potential”. I too think Luka is special and will achieve great things in this league but come October only a dolorain will be able to erase 2 MVPs and the Greek Freak is undoubtedly closer to a championship then Luka.
Modern Parallels Allow For Accessibility
Before all the Luka Doncic holders, myself included, start hitting the panic sell button I want to touch on something I mentioned in my last article that I think is relevant here. As we can see in the chart above there are many more parallels within the modern Prizm set than the set back in 2013 and certainly more than Topps Chrome back in 2003. This means that investors have many different entry levels to get exposure to Luka’s coveted rookie card which is not the case for Giannis or Lebron. For instance if you are looking for the cheapest alternative you can grab a Base Luka PSA 10 for around $1,100. If you are more of a middle class investor you can snag a Silver PSA 10 for $6,000. For Giannis on the other hand you would need to shell out $4,200 for a Base PSA 10 and a whopping $21,000 for a Silver Prizm, which in 2013 was just considered a Prizm. Despite a smaller market cap you would need almost four times the cash to get in on the ground floor for the Greek Freak. Much of this has to do with the rarity we already mentioned but it also has to do with an abundance of Luka Parallels which in fact push down the price of the generic base. Myself and I am sure many others would love to grab a Giannis Prizm rookie but we just can’t afford it which in my opinion will always hurt Giannis from a “Market Cap” stand point if only looking at his top cards. Crazy thing is I imagine Lebron’s Topps Chrome market cap would benefit quite a bit if it had some options closer to the average investors budget.
After digging into the data I think there is some serious merit to the thought process behind Giannis still being undervalued as a sports card investment. The unfortunate part is many of us don’t have the bankroll to take advantage of this opportunity but I think there may be a way for us to cash in after all. In my opinion low end investors aren’t going to give up on chasing a Giannis rookie just because they can’t afford the Prizm. Rather they will go searching for the next best thing until they find one that fits their limitations. This means that there may be some real opportunities out there in the Giannis rookie market since all of these cards will be scarce due to the lack of hobby buzz in 2013. My advice would be to learn each of the sets and their markets then target one that is best for you. Select, Hoops, Court Kings, and many more familiar brands were available back then and should provide for good alternatives to the pricey Prizm set.
As for Luka I don’t think we should be overly concerned as this analysis probably means more about Giannis’ value inefficiency than his own. Luka is still many months from turning 22 and will most likely be a top 5 if not top 3 MVP candidate this year. Add in the fact that he has found a home in one of the best organizations in the league and you should feel good about your investments to date. I do want to add a few words of caution though. Luka Doncic’s population counts are at a much bigger risk of being inflated as PSA, BGS, and SGC work through their backlogs which will put a downward pressure on his card prices. Also, as I mentioned earlier a larger percentage of Giannis’s card values are based on actual on court achievement versus achievements that we expect to happen for Luka. If there are any setbacks along the way or if Luka delivers success but at more of a “James Harden” type level than LeBron James then we could see a pullback. In the stock market a lot of individual investors like to chase the fun growth stocks like Tesla and Amazon which oftentimes drives well past what the company is actually worth at that moment. The ROI potential is certainly much higher than the boring blue chip stocks but the ride can oftentimes be much more volatile and carry much more risk.
I hope that you enjoyed this article and feel more excited to dig into the Giannis rookie market. I think this analysis is evidence that while that market is fairly good at valuing players relative to their peers there are still great opportunities out there for savvy investors.. While the data is hard to get I do plan on expanding these concepts and digging into more market cap data in the future. Let me know in the comments if there are any particular players you would like me to look at.
|Sports Card||Description||Target Price|
|2013 Giannis Antetokounmpo Prizm PSA 10|
|2003 LeBron James Topps Chrome PSA 10|
|2018 Luka Doncic Prizm PSA 10|
As always you can sign up for your own Market Movers Subscription to access the data on your own and by using the promo code GRINDERS you will get 20% off your first payment on any subscription.
As a bonus in our articles, here is a list all the cards from recent articles that you can check out to see if you can still buy at the target prices. Just click right on the links next to the cards to get to the eBay searches. Here are the additional targets we’ve recently featured in our articles: