The Ben Johns Pickleball Rookie Card is a Future Holy Grail

Pickleball isn't just for gym class anymore

Ben Johns Pickleball Rookie Card RC Exclusive
News

By RC Staff

Key Points

  • Leaf recently released a rookie card for the number 1 player in the world, Ben Johns

  • Rookie cards for superstar players hold massive collector value in major sports

  • If Pickleball continues its growth trajectory, this rookie card will be a holy grail with very low supply

Items

Art & Collectibles
32

Profit

This is the difference between the sale price and resell price. It does not take into account any costs associated with reselling. Things like shipping, storage fees, if applicable.

Ben Johns Pickleball Rookie Card

In 2023, Pickleball player Ben Johns signed with Leaf Trading Cards to release his rookie card. The card was available to order during a 2-week window, with an ultimate total of 3,935 produced. He is notably the #1 ranked player in the world for both singles and doubles.

Art & Collectibles
500

Profit

This is the difference between the sale price and resell price. It does not take into account any costs associated with reselling. Things like shipping, storage fees, if applicable.

Ben Johns Pickleball Rookie Auto Card (Signed)

In 2023, Pickleball player Ben Johns signed with Leaf Trading Cards to release his rookie card. This signed variation was limited to just 300 cards, and sold out just hours after being released on Leaf’s online store.

On the morning of April 4th, the trading card company Leaf posted a cryptic tweet. Two high profile athletes had just signed an exclusive deal with Leaf for an upcoming production run of cards. By 2023, most major athletes have had deals in place with card companies for years, so just who had Leaf signed?

Collin and Ben Johns, that’s who. Not familiar with the Johns brothers? They’re the two biggest stars in Pickleball, a sport that’s rapidly gaining popularity and players across the country. Today, we’re taking a close look at the Ben Johns Pickleball rookie card, and what it might be worth in the near future.

The Ben Johns rookie card

There is one “official” Ben Johns rookie card, though it does exist in two variations — signed and standard.

Both variations went up for sale starting at 1:14 PM PST on April 4th, 2023. The signed version was priced at $99.99, and strictly limited to just 300 cards. However, the standard version of the rookie card, priced at $7.99, would have an infinite amount available to order, with the total print run being revealed once the two-week sale period ended on April 15th.

Although the card company initially received flak on social media following their announcement (mostly from Pickleball-naives that didn’t view it as a serious sport), both the signed and standard versions of the rookie card sold remarkably well.

The signed Ben Johns rookie card (colloquially known as a “Rookie Auto”) sold out in just a few hours, and by the end of the two-week order period, it was revealed that a whopping 3,935 base rookie cards had been ordered. While this number would pale in comparison to most card print runs in other sports, it’s an impressive figure for Pickleball, a sport with basically zero history of cards being released.

Above all else, the sale for the Ben Johns rookie card showed that there is mounting market demand for Pickleball cards.

The rapid growth of Pickleball

But wait. Who gives a damn about Pickleball? It’s not nearly on the level of basketball, football, or even jai alai. Why would anyone care about a Pickleball superstar.

While it’s true that Pickleball is still a pretty niche sport, it’s also a sport that’s growing very fast.

First conceived in Washington state during the mid-60s, Pickleball has been a popular pastime among American senators and elites for decades, but has been gaining rapid popularity in recent years. The sport saw significant growth in late 2019 and through the pandemic. Pickleball courts are an increasingly common sight in American cities, especially considering the relatively small amount of space required to play.

Professional athletes from other sports have good things to say about Pickleball. LeBron James and Drew Brees are both active players, with LeBron actually investing money in Major League Pickleball to create 4 new expansion teams.

I believe this could be an Olympic sport by 2028… I think we’re on the cusp of something really, really special

Even Gary Vee is getting in on the fun. The internet entrepreneur has been invested in the sport since 2022, and owns the MLP team The 5s.

Pickleball enthusiasts and investors point to the sport’s simplicity and low costs as reasons for its growth; building a Pickleball court is around half the cost of a tennis or basketball court. It’s also an ideal sport for players at all levels of ability, as skilled play involves a blend of athleticism and tactics.

Ben Johns Pickleball Growth Since 2019

Graphs from Pickleheads.com

Since 2020, Pickleball has recorded a growth of more than 150 percent, and has 8 million active players in the United States alone. It’s equally popular with men and women alike, easy to pick up and learn, and low intensity. With 10,000 public courts in America, Pickleball has been the fastest growing sport in the US for three years straight.

While it might not be obvious at first, Pickleball is here, it’s growing, and it’s just getting started. Professional play only began in 2019, yet has already cultivated its first batch of star players.

Ben Johns: Pickleball Superhero

So, if Pickleball is the next basketball, Ben Johns is like the next Michael Jordan, right?

Ben Johns is ranked number 1 in the world for doubles, mixed doubles, and singles.

In 2019, he had a 108-match winning streak in singles that will quite possibly remain undefeated forever. If there’s a Pickleball stat out there, Ben Johns is probably ranked number 1. And as of 2023, he’s only 24 years old. So the Michael Jordan comparison isn’t really apt — Michael Jordan had things in basketball he wasn’t ranked number 1 in. And we can also debate how “good” Michael Jordan was. With Ben Johns, there is no debate. He is simply the best.

Ben Johns is the best Pickleball player of this era — and this era of Pickleball history is the one in which the sport truly became a phenomenon, cementing his legacy as a foundational player.

Rookie cards and why they matter

In the world of sports card collecting, the rookie card (commonly abbreviated to RC) for a given player is extremely important.

A rookie card is a card that is the first to feature an athlete playing in their sport at the professional level. And while highly desirable for collectors for the pure reason of being first, rookie cards serve a major purpose by being the baseline metric which all other cards for a given athlete are weighed against.

That is to say, if an athlete performs well over time, their rookie card will generally go up in value, regardless of other cards released for said player. Conversely, normal card values often wildly fluctuate based on things like new releases, supply variations, and more. The rookie card is essentially the purest form of “investing” in a player within the sports card world.

If the player does well enough in their career, their rookie card will always be desirable, and even in cases where lots of a rookie card is printed, it will still serve as a sort of commodity for the card community.

Take for example the iconic 1986 Fleer #57 Michael Jordan rookie card. Across grading companies Beckett (BGS), PSA, and SGC, more than 40,000 copies of the card have been graded alone, with some estimates of the total card supply being as high as 250,000.

Even with a supply considered large by card collecting standards, these rookie cards maintain a massive value, with cards even in poor condition going for thousands of dollars due to Jordan’s unrivaled popularity. His rookie card essentially appeals to near every card collector, Michael Jordan fan, and basketball collector in general, whereas a more niche later-season Michael Jordan card may only appeal to a very specific subset of sports card collectors. Time after time, Rookie cards have proven their massive sticking power and mainstream appeal relative to all other card types.

Comparing the Ben Johns RC to other rookie cards

The total supply of the Ben Johns rookie card is 3,935. An additional 300 signed variants of the card were also printed. On eBay, Ben Johns rookie cards in good condition can currently be purchased for around $20-30.

Michael Jordan 1987 Fleer rookie card

Michael Jordan’s rookie card has a confirmed graded supply of over 40,000. Including cards that are still unopened in sealed product, as well as raw (ungraded) cards that collectors have not graded for one reason or another, the reported total print run may be as high as 250,000.

Pickleball Rookie Card Michael Jordan

As of this writing, the most recent sales for MJ’s rookie card in the PSA 10 grade have occurred in the $150,000 range, with raw cards in poor condition generally selling for around the $2,000 mark.

Tom Brady 2000 Bowman Chrome rookie card

This Tom Brady card has a confirmed graded supply of around 10,000 across BGS, PSA, and SGC, and when considering raw cards and unopened product, the supply of this football rookie card likely sits in the 40,000+ range.

Ben Johns Pickleball Rookie Card Tom Brady

Though football cards are not nearly as popular as basketball cards in recent years, Tom Brady’s prominence has caused this card to be worth around $8,000 in PSA 10 condition.

Mike Trout 2011 Topps Update rookie card

Mike Trout’s rookie card has a confirmed graded supply of nearly 20,000 cards, with the total supply across all variations likely somewhere in the 50,000 to 100,000 range.

Ben Johns Pickleball Rookie Card Mike Trout

In PSA 10 condition, Mike Trout’s rookie card currently sells for around $2,000.

In comparison, Ben Johns’ rookie card is extremely limited when compared to superstar rookie cards in other sports, with a print run of only a few single % points of rookie cards from other sports.

The players on these example rookie cards above are all legends of their sport — and while these sports are currently far larger than Pickleball is on the commercial front, there is no doubt that if Pickleball were to become as prominent as something like Basketball, Football, or Baseball, Ben Johns would be considered a superstar on the level of MJ, Tom Brady, or Mike Trout.

The future of Ben Johns, Pickleball, and his RC

Will the Ben Johns rookie card ever be worth as much as something like the Michael Jordan rookie card? For this to become a reality, two things need to happen:

  1. Pickleball must become a major sport
  2. Ben Johns must be a superstar

Considering that Ben Johns is already a Pickleball superhero (with no sign of slowing down), all that truly needs to happen for his rookie card to become a holy grail is for Pickleball to become a major sport. And with all signs pointing to Pickleball’s meteoric growth continuing to rally, it wouldn’t be all too surprising if collectors view this card as a legendary keepsake in the future… but far, far, more rare.

Get posts like these in your inbox.

Monthly digest of the best of Resell Calendar.

Start Here

Where to Resell Sports Cards
4 Ways to Sell Sports Cards

And make a profit while you're at it

How to Start a Flipping Business
How to Start a Flipping Business

And how to make it profitable

Reselling Business 9 Tips and Tricks
9 Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Reselling Business

Here are 9 ideas for your New Year's Resolution

Pounce on resell opportunities before they sell out.

Get the details

Where to Resell Sports Cards
4 Ways to Sell Sports Cards

And make a profit while you're at it

How to Start a Flipping Business
How to Start a Flipping Business

And how to make it profitable

Reselling Business 9 Tips and Tricks
9 Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Reselling Business

Here are 9 ideas for your New Year's Resolution

Subscribe to Newsletter

A monthly digest of the best of Resell Calendar.