1961 Fleer Jerry West Rookie Card (Value, Rarity, Investment)

July 18, 2022

jerry west

As nicknames go, Jerry West has two of the greatest.

"The Logo" (in honor of his iconic profile on the NBA trademark) and "Mr. Clutch" (in recognition of his uncanny effectiveness in big moments), 

West’s legendary 60-foot buzzer-beater to send Game 3 of the 1970 NBA Finals to overtime is one of many examples.

These handles befit the sweet-shooting West, a fierce competitor on the court and one of the game's premier all-around players.

He's one of only seven players who led the NBA in both scoring (1970) and assists (1972) during his career.

West's outsize contributions to the game over a span of decades as a player, coach, and executive make him a familiar favorite for collectors of multiple generations.

In particular, the 1961 Fleer Jerry West rookie card is one of the hobby's most sought-after vintage cards and a centerpiece issue for serious Lakers collectors.

Let's take a closer look at this iconic Jerry West card and the career of "Mr. Clutch."

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Jerry West As A Player

Benched as a high school freshman, Jerry West transformed himself into a college player of the year, All-American, and state champion by his senior year.

This pattern of persistence through setbacks would become a recurring theme in Jerry West's career.

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A sought-after recruit, West chose to play basketball close to home at West Virginia University.

There, the Mountaineers dominated the Southern Conference. Reaching the NCAA tournament in each of West's three seasons while compiling an 81-12 record.

As a junior in 1959, West led the Mountaineers to their first Final Four. Winning the tournament's Most Outstanding Player and tying a tournament record with 160 points in five games. Despite West's brilliance, West Virginia lost a one-point thriller to Cal in the championship game.

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In 1960, Jerry West co-captained the U.S. men's basketball squad at the Summer Olympics in Rome. The U.S. dominated. Winning by an average of 42.4 points a game, West averaged 14.1 points per contest en route to a gold medal.

The team, including fellow NBA legends Oscar Robertson and Jerry Lucas, would become one of a handful of teams inducted into the Hall of Fame as a unit.

Drafted second by the Lakers in the 1960 NBA draft, West joined forces with another high-octane scoring machine, Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor.

The combo of "Mr. Outside" (West) and "Mr. Inside" (Baylor) would overmatch Western Division rivals. Leading the Lakers to the Finals in 7 of their 11 seasons together.

Baylor, a fierce competitor in his own right, thrived with West as a wingman.

Baylor would note, "As a teammate, Jerry is probably [one] of the most competitive guys I ever played against and with. It's winning...just so competitive, it's just unreal. [West would] take a loss; it's so unbelievable -- at the end of a game, Jerry would just go ballistic. Nuts."

Unfortunately, for all the Lakers' talent, West would have to get used to taking losses.

The 1960s Lakers came up short, again and again, blocked from titles six times in the Finals by Bill Russell's Celtics dynasty, arguably the deepest NBA team ever assembled.

The last of these was the most bittersweet. 

In 1969, West, flanked by both Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain, averaged 38 points per game in the Finals against an aging Celtics squad.

In Game 7, West brought his best, posting 42 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 assists with an injured leg. Yet somehow, it would not be enough, as the Celtics stunned the Lakers and became the first team ever to win a Finals Game 7 on the road.

West's gutsy performance earned him the league's first Finals MVP award. To this day, it was the only time that honor was awarded to a losing team member.

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After what would be their last matchup, Russell would graciously note, "Los Angeles has not won the championship, but Jerry West is a champion."

In 1972, Jerry West would finally get the chance to add a Los Angeles championship to his champion resume. Baylor's early-season retirement did not stop the Wilt-and-West Lakers from amassing a record of 33 straight wins and a then-record 69-13 regular season record.

A five-game Finals defeat of the Knicks might otherwise have been anticlimactic for a team so dominant. But for Jerry West, earning an NBA championship after a career of near-misses was a particular triumph.

West retired from the Lakers in 1974He retired as the only player (at the time) to earn the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament, an Olympic gold medal, and an NBA Finals MVP.

His 14 All-Star selections in 14 seasons rank first among players chosen as All-Stars in every one of their NBA seasons. This tops the 11 All-Star selections each for Hall of Famers Julius Erving and Bob Pettit). West was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1980

The 1961 Fleer Jerry West Rookie Card

The 1961 Fleer basketball issue is one of the most attractive vintage basketball sets. 

Marked by bold color backgrounds and iconic Hall of Fame rookies it's a must-own set for any vintage basketball card collectors.

The standard-size set would be Fleer's first mainstream basketball issue (and last until 1986).

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The 1961 Fleer #43 Jerry West rookie card features a young Jerry West with arms outstretched. The black and white photo is set against a red background beneath a mysterious Lakers giraffe logo.

The card is one of two West cards in the set; the other, card #66, is an "In Action" card depicting West in-game action leaping for a rebound.

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The West rookie is the second most expensive card in the 1961 Fleer set, trailing only Wilt Chamberlain's rookie card.

Other key cards in the set include Oscar Robertson and Elgin Baylor rookies and a non-rookie issue of Bill Russell, all who are depicted on "In Action" cards as well.

How Much Is A 1961 Fleer Jerry West Rookie Card Worth?

There are only three PSA 10 (Gem Mint) copies of the 1961 Fleer Jerry West rookie card. No PSA 10 copy has sold at auction of late, making valuing the card in this condition highly speculative.

Two PSA 9 (Mint) copies of the West rookie sold in early 2022 for $68,760 and $84,000, respectively. 

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PSA 9 61 Fleer Jerry West Sales History

This represents a remarkable increase in value based on historical sales; the most expensive PSA 9 prior to 2021 sold for just $21,581 in 2017.

That amount would procure only a PSA 8 (Near Mint-Mint) today; recent sales in that condition have averaged around $19,400.

This trend makes finding a copy on a smaller budget difficult in any condition. The average price of a PSA 1 (Poor) in recent auctions is about $700.

What Is The Current Graded Population For Jerry West's Rookie Card?

PSA has graded just under 1,300 copies of the 1961 Fleer Jerry West rookie card.

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Of these, three are PSA 10 (Gem Mint), 28 are PSA 9 (Mint), and 43 are PSA grade 9's with qualifiers. Most 1961 Fleer West cards graded by PSA receive between a 4 (VG-EX) and 8 (Near Mint-Mint), with grade 6 (EX-MT) being the most common.

Poor centering is a common issue with this set, and the overall graded population distribution for the West card is in line with most of the set's other superstar cards, though is perhaps a little easier to find in higher grades than the Oscar Robertson rookie.

How Much Is An Autographed Jerry West Rookie Card Worth?

PSA has authenticated 98 autographed Jerry West rookie cards, of which half received a grade and half were labeled Authentic. No recent eBay sales are available, but current Buy It Now listings start at $3,000 for Authentic and $4,000 for a graded sample.

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1970 Topps #171 Playoff Game 4 (Jerry West)

Here's a card that shows Jerry West in action doing what he did best: shining in the NBA Finals.

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The black-and-white photo of this tall-boy issue is reminiscent of both West's regular and "In Action" 1961 Fleer cards, and depicts Mr. Clutch scoring two of his 37 points in a Lakers victory over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

It's a hidden gem for West collectors that can be found on eBay for under $100 ungraded in EX-MT condition or better. Many with a signature such as the one above can be found for only a few hundred more.

What's The Investment Potential?

The 1961 Fleer Jerry West rookie card has been one of the most desirable mainstream basketball cards ever issued for decades, and should remain so.

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Cards of Lakers icons, especially those few with the credentials of West, are always popular among collectors, and this card's price and scarcity offer an intriguing challenge for vintage basketball collectors.

Affordable enough to be obtainable and rare enough to be elusive. 

Within the 1961 Fleer set, one of just four basketball issues with at least 200 or more sets in the PSA registry, this card consistently trails the Chamberlain rookie in value.

But it has maintained its relative position as the second most expensive card in the set, making it a key target for set builders.

If you can acquire one within your budget, it's a keeper.

Jerry West Rookie Cards For Sale on eBay

1961 Fleer #66 Jerry West IA PSA 7 NM RC Rookie Lakers The Logo HOF High End

$599.99  
End Date: Sunday Aug-14-2022 11:04:42 EDT
Buy It Now for only: $599.99
Buy It Now

1961 Fleer Jerry West Rookie PSA 5 HOF

$4,000.00  

Buy It Now for only: $4,000.00
Buy It Now

1961 Fleer JERRY WEST Rookie #43 PSA 5 - No Creases

$2,599.00  

Buy It Now for only: $2,599.00
Buy It Now

Jerry West 1961-62 Fleer #43 RC (PSA 9)(OC)

$6,550.00  

Buy It Now for only: $6,550.00
Buy It Now

1961 fleer jerry west rookie card # 43

$1,598.99  
End Date: Thursday Aug-11-2022 04:56:43 EDT
Buy It Now for only: $1,598.99
Buy It Now

 



Brad Worley

About the author

Brad is a freelance writer and long-time collector focusing on vintage basketball and baseball cards. He has an unhealthy memory for junk wax ephemera and a healthy skepticism of cards in cans.

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