NBA Top Shot: A Digital Evolution to Sports Trading Cards

Sam Schiffman 21', Lead Sports Editor

In the past few years, the financial industry has seen a boom in alternative investment methods. Nowadays it seems as though there are more people than ever trying to find the next big thing to grow their money fast and effortlessly. This sentiment can be seen in the different forms of cryptocurrencies, which saw an exponential increase in both price and consumer interest in 2020. As well as the age-old industry of sports cards, which has seen a similar boom this past year. 

According to a Forbes article written in May of last year, “(Due to) the current coronavirus pandemic and people being confined to their homes and urged to social distance, the (sports card) industry is experiencing a sudden surge, reaching new levels of interest.” What NBA Top Shot has accomplished is connecting the bridge between these two rapidly growing industries. 

NBA Top Shot has taken the idea of sports cards (which dates back to 1886 when Goodwin Tabacco company made the first-ever official baseball card) and revolutionized it for the digitally evolving world we are currently living in. The product is simple, highlights of NBA players put on a digital card with a fresh, next-generation look. 

These Moments can be obtained in two different ways:  1. through different packs, with each pack containing “a different assortment of possible Moments, with an exact breakdown of what is available inside packs while supplies last” (NBA Top Shot Website), and 2.  Through the marketplace, where collectors can buy and sell Moments of their favorite players. The cost of packs can range anywhere from $9 to $230. While $230 may seem like a ridiculous amount of money for digital cards, the potential for profit when reselling the cards on the marketplace is almost guaranteed. 

The past NBA Top Shot pack drop had over 300,000 collectors waiting in the online queue, and with only 75,000 packs available to buy, the gap between demand and supply is enormous. If you are lucky enough to secure a pack you will obtain a mix of “limited edition” Moments and “circulating count” Moments. The difference between the two is that the limited ones mean there is a limited number of cards that will ever be digitally minted. As opposed to circulating count where there are still more and more Moments being made. 

Most limited cards are restricted to 15,000 serial numbers or less while circulating count cards have 35,000+ editions. If the number of Moments available is less, then that means in most cases the price will be higher. Right now the most expensive card on the market is a Lebron James dunk, limited to only 59 serial numbers, with a current listing of $250,000. You read that right, people are willing to pay a quarter of a million dollars, for a digital sports card only accessible through a computer. 

Now part of me thinks this is incredibly stupid and displays how American consumers waste their money on useless stuff. But on the other hand, I think it is a revolutionary idea, for the already established market of sports cards. A Wall Street Journal article published on March 9, showcased how much money can be made in this space. The article explains how a person by the name of Micheal Levy, learned about Top Shot through Twitter. Levy, who saw the opportunity would invest “ $175,000 over the next six months… (today) they are now worth over $20 million.” Levy’s story is similar to others who hopped on the trend early.

NBA Top Shot has made all transactions available for public viewing through their affiliate website named “Evaluate. Market.” This website also provides access to every account holdings and provides an estimate upon how much every account is worth. While looking at the website leaderboard, which tracks the most valuable accounts, it amazed me even more. The most valuable account, under the name “WhaleVault1”, has amassed over $43 million in these digital sports cards. What makes this number even crazier is the fact that the person only spent around $3,000 on buying these cards. According to “Evaluate. Market” this account has seen an unimaginable 1,316,701% return on investment. When seeing this it truly made me speechless, the fact that this person is financially set for life because he spent a mere $3,000 on sports cards, that are not even tangible is just insane. 

On March 30, Forbes Magazine released an article outlining new investments in NBA Top Shots parent company, Dapper Labs. Forbes stated that “Dapper Labs has raised $305 million in a round led by the tech-focused investment firm Coatue that values the three-year-old startup at $2.6 billion.” This round of investments gathered money from popular sports names such as “Michael Jordan, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Kyle Lowry, Spencer Dinwiddie, Khris Middleton, Domantas Sabonis, and JaVale McGee and NFL players including Stefon Diggs, DK Metcalf, Malcolm Jenkins, Devin, and Jason McCourty.” This recent round of investing shows the confidence pro athletes, and more importantly, pro-NBA players have in the future of Top Shot. 

 At a time in which we are exponentially expanding to the digital world, it is important to follow the trends that are taking place. I’m sure some people did not understand the value of owning a picture of a player when sports cards were first released, just as people do not understand owning a highlight of an NBA player now. If Top Shot can successfully expand its product in the coming years, then I truly believe it could completely take over the sports card market. Time will tell what ends up happening with this new innovative product, and it will certainly be interesting to see where Top Shot is in 20 years, whether it burns out, or succeeds in a revolutionary way.

Click here to view the Lebron James Moment that is listed for $250,000: