The Mystery of Pricing for WNBA Top Shot
A breakdown of what makes each highlight valuable
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The Mystery of Pricing for WNBA Top Shot
Courtney Vandersloot has the most double-doubles with points and assists in all of WNBA history. The Chicago Sky All-Star is about to lead the league in assists for the 5th consecutive season. Her first highlight currently costs $17. Naturally, that is $6 less than rookie Aari McDonald, who is shooting 33% from the field this season, 6th worst in the WNBA among qualified players.
In last week’s introduction to WNBA Top Shot, I mentioned that there are many different factors that determine the current price of a highlight/moment on the virtual marketplace. Some components are more important than others, and in many cases timing is everything. For McDonald, it is not about what she has done, but what she might do that makes her highlight more valuable.
Scarcity is the name of the game when it comes to unique art, antiques, and collectibles; so fewer copies of the same moment in circulation will increase its value. The first batch of WNBA highlights each had 11,250 prints, and no more will ever be minted, meaning the cards are labeled as limited edition. If Top Shot is still actively creating more copies of a given highlight, it is labeled “CC” for circulating count, meaning that the edition size will increase as more of that same moment are produced.
The number of copies of a given moment determines the label that Top Shot assigns it. There are three main tiers: Common (1000+ copies), Rare (150-999), and Legendary (25-99). The other tier is Fandom, which does not have a set edition size and is rather used as a challenge reward or a dynamic in-person purchasing option during live basketball games. Lastly, there does exist two unreleased tier options, Platinum Ice (3 copies) and Genesis (1), but these moments are so rare that they will not be for sale on the marketplace, rather they will be auctioned off at future events and can be explained in more depth here.
Not all copies of the same highlight are created equally. While the moments are not physically printed, they are still given a serial number to denote when they were digitally created. For collectors, that has translated to a lower serial number being more valuable since it was one of the first versions of that moment minted. For example, the average sale price of the Diana Taurasi layup is $57.16. However, the serial #1 out of 11,250 was bought for a whopping $4,999. There are other numbers of interest that are not as explicit. The same Taurasi moment with serial #9000 will hold extra value since it was her 9,000th career point. Another example can be seen by her Mercury teammate Brittney Griner. Her serial #42 dunk sold for $2,500 two weeks ago, an intriguing digit since it is Griner’s jersey number, which makes it more unique.
While this aspect of valuation has not come into play yet for the WNBA, there are differing groups of moments that can affect their worth. The first facet of this is the series. Series is almost synonymous with the season in which the highlight is minted, so Series 1 of the NBA moments is 2019-2020, whereas Series 2 is 2020-2021. Similar to the fundamentals of serial numbers, highlights are valued more if they were created in an earlier series. With the WNBA regular season almost over, there is a chance that there will be very few WNBA Series 1 highlights compared to future seasons, which would make them very desirable in the long term.
As for Sets, there can be a wide-ranging list of occasions for Top Shot to release a new set, whether it be a Christmas edition, the NBA or WNBA Finals, or just a compilation of game winners. When a moment is released in a set, it gains popularity for the collectors who are eager to own all of the highlights that are a part of that set.
Thinking back to the McDonald vs. Vandersloot comparison, a big factor in the visibility of a moment’s future worth is badges. There are currently five badges that Top Shot will add to a highlight if it fits the given criteria: Top Shot debut (first card), Rookie moment, Rookie year, Rookie premier, and Championship. Debut is exciting because it is the player’s first ever digital collectible, and championship denotes that their team went on to win the championship during the season of that moment, meaning the Connecticut Sun or Las Vegas Aces highlights could see that badge added in a few weeks barring an upset in the playoffs.
The three rookie badges are highly coveted, just like rookie cards are in paper editions, because it represents a star before the star came to be. Aari McDonald and Kysre Gondrezick are the only rookies currently available on the site, and they both have the rookie moment and rookie year badges, but not the rookie premier, which denotes when a highlight takes place in their very first WNBA game. These badges represent the potential for stardom and are what make the moments more valuable than a regular veteran.
Challenges are one of the more interactive and fun aspects of Top Shot. The website will often open opportunities to get rewards by showcasing the moments you already have. There have already been three WNBA challenges in less than a month since the first women’s cards were released. The first reward was an A’ja Wilson fandom moment for any user who had five WNBA highlights in their collection. The next was a Skylar Diggins-Smith fandom moment for users who had eight highlights with certain requirements on the play type of each one. Lastly, a challenge closed earlier this week for a Jewell Loyd fandom moment for collectors that had moments from at least five players who had won Rookie of the Year during their careers.
Now how exactly does this affect value? Challenges are a good example of the short-term fluctuation within the market. For example, while the Loyd challenge was available, the prices of the highlights for the eight former ROY players went up, since their moments were needed to complete the challenge and could be sold at a premium. Of course this means that as soon as that challenge closes, that mini-bubble bursts and those moments go back to being their normal prices, since there was no extra incentive.
The WNBA card collecting community saw last week with the Panini Prizm drop that companies are not perfect, and often there is a name, picture, or statistic that is out of place or just plain wrong. But of course, misprints are unique, and in the world of NFT’s that just increases their value. The digital collectible world is not immune to misprints, and Top Shot is unable to fix the mistakes after they have been minted. One of the most notable examples at the beginning of the NBA site was a Marcus Smart block that had both the incorrect jersey number and included the stats of his teammate Jaylen Brown on accident. While there are no misprints that we know of on any WNBA moments yet, it is worth keeping an eye out for the niche commodity.
The Highlight Itself
Last and most important is the play itself, the player who performed it, and the situation. Griner’s dunk is far more valuable because it is so rare for WNBA athlete’s to dunk. As mentioned earlier, Taurasi’s layup was her 9,000th career point, and that milestone enshrined in a highlight makes it more meaningful than a regular play. Players like Sue Bird, Candace Parker, and Breanna Stewart are going to have moments that are worth way more than other players since they are light years ahead in terms of talent and impact on the sport and WNBA as a whole. These are the players that fans idolize and wear their jerseys to every home game, so needless to say their value is unmatched to fans.
If you are trying to turn a profit, these are just the basic foundations of a moment’s value. There are websites like Cryptoslam and Evaluate.Market that have all of the information for each sale for every card in real time that you can analyze to predict trends in moment prices. Or, you can buy the players you like and the highlights that are cool and enjoy the experience all the same.