Dirk Nowitzki Rookie Card Rankings

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If you compare the Dirk Nowitzki Rookie Card lineup to players who entered the NBA even a few years later, things would look a lot different. The Mavericks legend doesn’t have a single base autographed RC. Just two of Nowitzki’s 18 Rookie Cards have a serial number.

Releasing in 1998-99, they come from Upper Deck, Topps and Fleer/SkyBox. Most come from latter-releasing sets meaning a heavier concentration of cards that were considered premium at the time. That doesn’t mean that Dirk Nowitzki Rookie Cards are expensive. In fact, most are quite affordable still today. A couple of exceptions exist and professionally graded cards can add another wrinkle. But, overall, the majority of Nowitzki’s RC are attainable at virtually every budget.

Most Valuable Dirk Nowitzki Rookie Card Rankings

The following list includes only base cards with the RC tag in the Beckett database. Inserts and parallels are not featured here. Ranks are based primarily on value in the Beckett price guide. A comprehensive checklist of Dirk Nowitzki cards can be found here.

1. 1998-99 SP Authentic Dirk Nowitzki Rookie Card #99 /3500

How different were basketball cards in the late 1990s? A “high-end” Rookie Card simply needed to have a serial number. Autographs were still pretty much all inserts, and tough ones at that. While short prints were beginning to seep into base sets, even numbering was limited. Which puts the 1998-99 SP Authentic Dirk Nowitzki at the top of his RC heap.

With 3,500 copies, that is a lot by today’s standards. But it was a tough find back then from one of the sport’s top brands. One also has to consider the fact that there are no parallels, either.

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1998-99 SP Authentic Dirk Nowitzki Rookie Card

2. 1998-99 Topps Chrome Dirk Nowitzki Rookie Card #154

Topps Chrome Rookie Cards have been popular since the line launched in 1996-97. However, in more recent years, the brand has been elevated even further as the reach of chromium cards continue to expand.

Parallels: Refractors

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1998-99 Topps Chrome Dirk Nowitzki Rookie Card

3. 1998-99 SPx Finite Dirk Nowitzki Rookie Card #219 /2500

Could the third most expensive Dirk Nowitzki Rookie Card still be considered a bargain? Quite possibly. His only other serial numbered RC outside of SP Authentic, the base version of the SPx Finite card is actually more rare with 1,000 fewer copies. For those looking for top-condition copies, the foil makes it more condition sensitive as well thanks to chipping.

Although the actual Rookie Card is more rare, if parallels are taken into account, there are more 1998-99 SPx cards than SPA. The Radiance version has 1,500 copies and Spectrum 25. This makes for 4,025 SPx versus the 3,500 for SP Authentic, which has no parallels.

Parallels: Radiance(/1500), Spectrum (/25)

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1998-99 SPx Finite Dirk Nowitzki Rookie Card

4. 1998-99 Finest Dirk Nowitzki Rookie Card #234

Topps Chrome isn’t the only chrome in the Dirk Nowitzki Rookie Card portfolio. 1998-99 Finest Basketball offers up a second option (there’s another one on the list as well). Found in Series 2 packs, the card itself is fairly subtle for something from Finest. 1998-99 was one of the years that Topps put a protective film on base cards. Some traditionalists like it in tact, some prefer the cleaner look that comes with freeing it and others don’t have much of a preference. Complicating things a little is the fact that “No Protector” versions were inserted in packs as parallels for both the base versions and its Refractor. For a hobby that has a history of confusing twists, this might be one of the most befuddling of all-time.

Parallels: No Protectors, No Protectors Refractors, Refractors

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1998-99 Finest Dirk Nowitzki Rookie Card

5. 1998-99 Topps Dirk Nowitzki Rookie Card #154

For the first two decades or so of this card’s existence, it was one of the cheapest Dirk Nowitzki Rookie Cards. Then a surge came towards flagship Topps RCs in all sports. So despite being readily available and done with little flash, it now ranks in the upper tier when it comes to value.

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1998-99 Topps Dirk Nowitzki Rookie Card

6. 1998-99 SkyBox Molten Metal Dirk Nowitzki RC #35

1998-99 SkyBox Molten Metal doesn’t carry the same clout today as the company’s Metal Universe line but it still stands on more of a premium level. Nowitski is part of the Metal Smiths subset, the most common level of the three-tiered base set.

Parallels: Xplosion

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7. 1998-99 Stadium Club Dirk Nowitzki Rookie Card #109

The 1998-99 Stadium Club Dirk Nowitzki Rookie Card is not as common as most of his other RCs. The reason? It’s one of 20 cards included in Series 1 packs as a redemption.

The Mavericks legend has another card in Series 2. However, the first one gets the RC tag.

Parallels: First Day Issue (/200), One of a Kind (/150), Printing Plates Black (1/1), Printing Plates Cyan (1/1), Printing Plates Magenta (1/1), Printing Plates Yellow (1/1)

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8. 1998-99 Black Diamond Dirk Nowitzki Rookie Card #92

Traditional foil gives a flat, albeit shiny, finish. Upper Deck’s etched light f/x foil gives something more textured. Basically, if you’re looking for “pop” in a Dirk Nowitzki Rookie Card, this might be it.

Rookies are slight short prints, landing 1:4 packs. While the base version isn’t numbered, its three parallels, which are based on the number of diamonds shown at the bottom, are.

Parallels: Double Diamond (/2500), Triple Diamond (/1000), Quad Diamond (/50)

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1998-99 Black Diamond Dirk Nowitzki Rookie Card

9. 1998-99 Bowman’s Best Dirk Nowitzki Rookie Card #109

Nowitzki is one of 25 rookies on the 1998-99 Bowman’s Best Basketball checklist. Falling 1:4 packs, it’s one of several products that year to make first-year players noticeably tougher to pull. As far as appearance goes, it’s a heavy silver finish that looks different from more recent Chrome products.

Parallels: Refractors (/400), Atomic Refractors (/100)

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10. 1998-99 Upper Deck Dirk Nowitzki Rookie Card #320

The photo’s not flattering and the design is a departure from the full images usually seen on Upper Deck Rookies. Still, like Topps, there’s some safety in the familiar and the tradition that comes with it.

Parallels: Bronze (/100), Gold (1/1)

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11. 1998-99 SkyBox Premium Dirk Nowitzki RC #255

Nowitzki’s 1998-99 SkyBox Premium Rookie Card has a clean look to it that might be best described as impressionist. You get the sense of on-court action, but there are also glows and blurs that make it less defined. SkyBox had a long run in basketball but at this point, it was starting to get lost in the shuffle as other companies and brands were getting into the “premium” end themselves. The card’s Star Rubies parallel ranks as one of the best from the forward’s rookie season.

Parallels: Star Rubies (/25)

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12. 1998-99 Ultra Dirk Nowitzki RC #118

If you’re looking for a Dirk Nowitzki Rookie Card that doubles as a draft day time capsule, this is it. The earring, haircut and jacket are all admittedly a little goofy, but they also add a level of personality. The framing of the photo might be the weirdest part of the card as it makes the seven-footer look to be on the short side. 1998-99 Ultra Basketball has 25 short print rookies that carry 1:4 hobby pack odds.

Parallels: Gold Medallion, Platinum Medallion (/66) Masterpieces (1/1)

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1998-99 Ultra Dirk Nowitzki Rookie Card

13. 1998-99 Upper Deck Ovation Dirk Nowitzki RC #79

The gimmick behind the 1998-99 Upper Deck Ovation Dirk Nowitzki is all in the touch. Designed to be like a basketball, it comes though with the card’s textured feel. Foil highlights give it a slightly more upscale look as well.

Parallels: Gold (/1000)

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14. 1998-99 Upper Deck Encore Dirk Nowitzki RC #122

Although the layout is the same as Nowitzki’s flagship Upper Deck RC, Encore has a couple of differences. For starters, there’s the photo. It’s still not a great shot, but it’s different. There’s also a reflective coating that gives more of a lighter look than the regular set’s silver-like highlights. The Rookie Watch subset is a 1:4 pack short print in 1998-99 Upper Deck Encore Basketball.

Parallels: F/X (/125)

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15. 1998-99 E-X Century Dirk Nowitzki RC #68

Acetate is the star of the 1998-99 E-X Century Dirk Nowitzki Rookie Cards. The foil circle that comes in from the side gives off a bit of a CD vibe, which fits perfectly with the era. One thing to watch for on this card is the surface. Scratches can sometimes slip by at a glance.

Parallels: Essential Credentials Now (/68), Essential Credentials Future (/23)

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1998-99 E-X Century Dirk Nowitzki Rookie Card

16. 1998-99 Fleer Brilliants Dirk Nowitzki RC #109

Nowitzki’s RC in 1998-99 Fleer Brilliants isn’t spectacular in its own right, at least in appearance. There’s a silver foil backdrop that’s been given a styrene coat to make it a little more sturdy. But the photo feels like it belongs more in a high school yearbook than on an NBA basketball card. Brilliants does offer a pair of tough parallels in Gold and 24-Karat Gold.

Parallels: Blue, Gold (/99), 24-Karat Gold (/24)

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17. 1998-99 UD Ionix Dirk Nowitzki RC #69

1998-99 UD Ionix Basketball has a small base set of just 80 cards. Of those, 20 are rookie Electrix cards that land 1:4 packs. That’s where the Mavericks forward is found. The futuristic design might not be for everyone, but it certainly stands out.

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1998-99 UD Ionix Dirk Nowitzki Rookie Card

18. 1998-99 Flair Showcase Row 3 Dirk Nowitzki RC #16

1998-99 Flair Showcase Basketball keeps with the brand’s shift to a multi-tier structure with each player having progressively tougher Row 3, Row 2 and Row 1 cards. Besides the rarity, photos and layouts are also changed making for a totally different card. Row 3 is the most common and considered the Dirk Nowitzki Rookie Card for the set.

Parallels: Legacy Collection (/99), Masterpieces (1/1)

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1998 Flair Showcase Dirk Nowitzki Rookie Card

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Ryan Cracknell

A collector for much of his life, Ryan focuses primarily on building sets, Montreal Expos and interesting cards. He's also got one of the most comprehensive collections of John Jaha cards in existence (not that there are a lot of them). Got a question, story idea or want to get in touch? You can reach him by email and through Twitter @tradercracks.

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2 comments

  1. JP 21 April, 2022 at 00:15

    For #13 worth noting that the rookies were all redemptions. The 10 redemption cards were for the player selected at that specific draft slot. Card #76 was for Pick #6 and shows the Dallas Mavericks logo, however the Milwaukee Bucks and the Mavericks made a draft day trade. So anyone with Card #76 (Dallas) got the Bucks Robert Traylor and anyone with Card #79 (Milwaukee) got the Mavs Dirk Nowitzki…. even though the team logos would indicate otherwise.

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