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The Hunt for My First Giannis Rookie Card

Updated: Oct 29, 2023

My Short Hobby Blog/Vlog Story of the Month details a unique back story and my two-year quest for the first Giannis rookie card I ever saw when I returned to the hobby.

At the beginning of the global pandemic, my cousin Marty, a long-time cardboard collector, encouraged me to take a break from building my vintage and junk wax PC and start building my modern PC. Now, I don't know if my cousin Marty saw the foreshadowing of the Hobby Boom we all experienced during the shutdown because all he said was, “Sam, buy these cards now; why the cost for them is pennies to a dollar.”

Honestly, I did not heed my cousin's advice initially because as the shutdown continued, my focus stayed on vintage and junk wax cards with a sprinkle of modern card purchases here and there. However, my wake-up call would come during the limited occupancy stage at Knuckleball Sports Cards when I attempted to buy a PSA 8 modern rookie card of a superstar player who recently won back-to-back MVPs.

The card was the 2013 Panini NBA Hoops Giannis Antetokounmpo Gold rookie card, number 275.

Two years ago, in the fall of 2021, with a mask on my face, I stood in front of the basketball showcases at Knuckleball Sports Cards, searching for one specific card. As my eyes moved up and down and left and right of the vertical and horizontal basketball showcases, I spotted the best modern card in Steve’s showcase—the Panini NBA Hoops Giannis Gold rookie card. When I saw the Giannis rookie card, I immediately knew without hesitation that this PSA 8-graded version of his NBA Hoops Gold RC was coming home with me.

After I confirmed my decision with my mind and heart, I asked Steve’s assistant if I could see the card. While Steve’s assistant was walking towards the showcase, I asked him what the price was for the Giannis rookie card, and Steve’s reply caused me to have a delayed reaction as his assistant tried to get my attention so he could hand me the Giannis rookie card.

Steve’s $1900 price tag for a base variation rookie card had me so frozen in time that his assistant had to call my name three times!

I was so speechless and shocked by the asking price that I didn't even look at the Giannis rookie card, and when Steve’s assistant finally gave it to me, I only held the card for two seconds before giving it back to Steve’s assistant. Even though I had the funds to purchase the card, on that day, I wholeheartedly felt that a $1900 asking price for a rookie base variation card was somewhat unreasonable and unrealistic from my vantage point.

However, despite how I felt then, I did recognize the possible factors that created Steve’s asking price, such as grading fees, the cost of what he paid for the card, and recent comps. Since I understood Steve’s vantage point as the seller, I didn't negotiate a price for the card out of respect for our relationship and the positive business we did up until that day.

The Journey after Knuckleball Sports Cards…

From 2021 to 2023, I had several opportunities to purchase other mid-to-high-end Giannis rookie cards, but I never followed through with any purchases despite reasonable asking prices. Also, when I decided to buy one of his other rookie cards, someone would always snag it the day before I returned to the local hobby store.

Despite my hesitance, I honestly couldn’t figure out why I was so reluctant to buy the Giannis NBA Hoops Gold rookie card at Knuckleball Sports Cards or his other rookie cards. However, after two years of reluctance and missed opportunities, in the summer of 2023, I learned three valuable lessons from my NBA Hoops Gold Giannis RC chase.

  • The first lesson I learned is when it comes to buying modern cards—be patient because the modern card market will never stay the same.

  • The second lesson I learned is to ALWAYS trust your gut when buying modern sports cards.

  • The third lesson I learned is if the card does not evoke a feeling of emotional nostalgia and physical excitement, leave it for someone else.

In the hobby, all great chases will eventually come to an end. My hobby chase for the first Giannis rookie I had ever seen concluded in the summer of 2023 when I was visiting Wheelhouse Cards. During this visit, I did not enter the store with a specific plan; all I expected from this visit was great conversations and a chance to look at some vintage and ‘90s cards.

However, the hobby gods had another plan for me. After I completed my routine greetings with the staff, I did what I would typically do when I’m at Wheelhouse—look at the slab wall. As I scanned the slab wall, my eyes immediately recognized a card I had seen before—a PSA 9, 2013 Panini NBA Hoops Giannis Antetokounmpo Gold rookie card minus the $1900 price tag.

All cardboard chases are not created equal. However, whether the hunt lasts a day, week, month, or multiple years, every cardboard chase has the same happy ending—A smiling face and a card in your hand. So, until the next hunt, all I can say for now is—Giannis, Welcome To The PC!

Keep Collecting,


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