The basketball card market has surged in recent years, fueled by a renewed demand for the rookie cards of Michael Jordan and prior year legends.
Basketball cards have a lumpy history, yet many underappreciated vintage sets have finally gotten the attention they deserve.
There has been a bit of a lull in prices over the past year, but premier rookie cards in top condition continue to break records at auction.
For this piece, we utilized the PSA SMR Price Guide and found the most expensive cards listed in the directory ($5000 or higher) to help collectors determine what basketball cards are worth money.
The most valuable cards are the top condition examples- PSA 9's or PSA 10's, and lower grades of some cards on this list are attainable for collectors.
1. 1948 Bowman - George Mikan RC (#69)
PSA 9 Value: $400,000+
George Mikan, aka 'Mr. Basketball' is known as one of the pioneers of professional basketball. His 1948 Bowman rookie card is one of the most prized cards in the vintage basketball collecting community.
Most younger folks aren't as familiar with Mikan as with Ruth, Mantle, and Cobb. But they should be.
Mikan was the first prototypical big man, and at 6'10", he sported thick glasses while becoming a prolific rebounder and shot blocker.
Over the course of his career, he averaged 23 ppg and 13.4 rebounds winning seven championships and three scoring titles.
The higher numbers of the 1948 Bowman Basketball set (including Mikan) were produced in lower quantities; thus, Mikan's rookie card is somewhat scarce.
PSA has graded only around 300 of the Mikan cards, with only four a PSA 9 grade. The latest PSA 9 sold for $426,000 back in 2021.
This is a tough find in nice condition, but if you have a few thousand to spend, you might get lucky and find one with a poorer grade.
2. 1950 Lakers Scott's Potato Chips - George Mikan
Estimated PSA 7 Value: $30,000
The George Mikan 1950 Scott's Potato Chips card is a TOUGH find. PSA has only graded 7 total cards; thus, it holds great value.
The highest graded copy is a PSA 7 (only one has been graded), and there are no sales records. Thus, my estimate is $30,000. Note the latest PSA 4 sold for over $13,000.
Although not as valuable as his Bowman rookie card, this one is the desired card for any Mikan fans or hardcore basketball collectors. I like that the card uses the same image as his '48 Bowman card.
3. 1957 Topps - Bill Russell RC (#77)
PSA 9 Value: $800,000+
Bill Russell is one of the best all-time players in the history of the NBA. Following George Mikan's footsteps, Russell dominated the league as a member of the Boston Celtics.
Over the course of his thirteen-year playing career, Russell averaged nearly 15 points a game, with an astonishing 22.5 rebounds per game. Russell even pulled down 51 rebounds in one game!
A team player through and through, Russell and the Celtics won eleven championships over the course of his career.
Russell's 1957 Topps rookie card is one of the cornerstone cards of the basketball card market, as the set represents the first entry for Topps into basketball cards.
PSA has graded nearly 1000 Russell rookie cards, with only 3 attaining a PSA 9 (Near-Mint) rating.
The set was rampant with print defects, mostly print spots; thus, finding one in pristine condition is a feat on its own.
Finding a high-grade Russell is an expensive challenge, yet lower-grade versions can sometimes be found for a few thousand dollars.
4. 1957 Topps - Bob Cousy RC (#17)
PSA 9 Value: $100,000+
The 'Cooz' as he is more commonly known in Boston circles, was one of the biggest reasons for the Celtic's success in the mid-1950s and early '60s.
Cousy put together an unbelievable streak, leading the league in assists for eight straight years while amassing six championships.
He can be looked at as one of the trailblazers for the point guards of today as Cousy was a magician on the court. Cousy also became a very well-respected broadcaster with the Boston Celtics.
Like the Russell rookie, Cousy's 1957 Topps rookie card is tough to find in good condition. PSA has graded over 1,000 Cousy cards, with only 35 receiving a PSA 8 grade, with 3 getting a PSA 9.
Lower-grade versions can be found for under $1000 ungraded, but the market is super hot right now, and I would expect that number to become more challenging over time.
5. 1960 Kahn's Weiners - Jerry West RC
PSA 8 Value: $30,000+
The Kahn's Weiners set was a local issue and one of the rare food issues of the era. The cards were packaged with Kahn's hot dogs, and because of this, the cards were often damaged.
To some collectors, this is West's true rookie card, as it preceded his mainstream rookie issue from Fleer in 1961. The cards are EXTREMELY rare, as PSA has only graded 23 West cards, with only one of those cards graded a PSA 8 or above.
6. 1960 Kahn's Weiners - Oscar Robertson RC
PSA 8 Value: $15,000
Another rarity from the 1960 Kahn's Weiners set, this Oscar Robertson card is considered by some collectors to be his true rookie card.
Although the scarcity and local issuance makes this more of a rare specialty card, it has high demand among vintage basketball card collectors.
Only 14 of Robertson Kahn's cards have been graded by PSA, making it an even tougher find than the Jerry West issue.
7. 1961 Fleer - Wilt Chamberlain RC (#8)
PSA 9 Value: $340,000+
When it comes to iconic vintage basketball cards, few come close to the 1961 Fleer rookie card of all-time great Wilt Chamberlain.
I love the look of this set, and it's quite attainable, especially the Chamberlain rookie card.
PSA has graded over 1000 of the Chamberlain rookie cards, although only 34 received a PSA 9 or PSA 10 grade.
The highest-grade copies continue to set records at auction. A recent PSA 9 copy sold for $348,000.
Lower to mid-grade Chamberlain rookies can be found on eBay for under $5000, which I still like as an investment for long-term collectors.
8. 1961 Fleer - Elgin Baylor RC (#3)
PSA 9 Value: $30,000+
When he doesn't get as much fanfare as Chamberlain, Russell or Jordan, Elgin Baylor was certainly one of the all-time greats.
Baylor played fourteen seasons for the Lakers, appearing in eight NBA finals, and was named to the All-Star Team in eleven of his fourteen seasons.
His 1961 Fleer card is his official rookie and features Baylor in the iconic Lakers jersey of the 1960s. His rookie card is rarer than the Chamberlain card, as only 461 have been graded by PSA.
While the high-grade Baylor's go for big bucks, lower-grade versions of his rookie card can be found for less than $1000.
9. 1961 Fleer - Jerry West RC (#43)
PSA 9 Value: $50,000+
Jerry West, aka 'Mr. Clutch was one of the best all-around to play the game, having earned fourteen All-Star selections and being a member of the first five NBA All-Defensive teams.
Did you also know Jerry West is the silhouette in the NBA's logo?
His 1961 Fleer rookie card is beautiful (have I told you the 61 Fleers are my favorite set?) with its bright colors and old-school Lakers logo.
PSA has graded 952 of the West rookie cards, with only 28 earning a PSA 9 rating and 3 getting a 10 grade. Thus, if you're looking to save a buck, some low-grade West rookies are available for under $1000.
A great deal, in my opinion!
10. 1961 Fleer - Oscar Robertson RC (#36)
PSA 9 Value: $50,000+
"The Big O," as he was called, Robertson was one of the best guards. He was inducted into the NBA hall of fame twice, the first as a player and later for his play during the Olympics and his work with the National Basketball Players Association.
While, like West, Robertson had a Kahn's Weiner's card from 1960; the Fleer card is considered his true mainstream rookie.
PSA has graded 543 of these cards; like the others, only 14 have received a 9 grade.
11. 1961 Fleer - Walt Bellamy RC (#36)
PSA 9 Value: $15,000+
Walt Bellamy was one of the most dominant big men of his time, amassing a fantastic career in which he averaged 20 points and 13.7 rebounds per game.
He is one of only seven players to score more than 20,000 points and grab more than 14,000 rebounds. Like Oscar Robertson, he was named to the Hall of Fame twice, first in 1993 as a player and later in 2010 for his play with the 1960 Men's Olympic Basketball team.
Bellamy's 1961 Fleer card represents his true rookie card, and due to scarcity, there is high demand for Mint versions of the card. None have received a 10 rating from PSA, and only ten have received a PSA 9 rating.
Collectors looking for a value play should look at lower-grade versions of Bellamy's card, which can be found for under $1000.
12. 1968 Topps Test Issue - Wilt Chamberlain (#1)
PSA 8 Value: $60,000+
Not many collectors are familiar with this 1968 Test issue from Topps, and for a good reason. To this day, no one knows the true origin of the set, with most assuming it was never meant for distribution.
As PSA notes, the cards were likely leaked by an internal employee, as the company had no plans of marketing or producing the test run.
The set is rare; PSA has graded only 180 cards from the 22-card set. The Chamberlain card has only 11 PSA cards that PSA has graded, and thus finding one of these or another in the set is quite challenging.
A PSA 8 copy sold for over $31K at auction in 2021, but I think it could be worth more than double that number in today's market.
13. 1968 Topps Test Issue - Bill Russell (#4)
PSA 8 Value: $75,000+
The last sale happened back in 2021, when a PSA 7 copy sold at auction for $17,700.
I would expect that any sale today would easily eclipse that mark.
If you have a war chest of cash saved up and are looking for a rare card with tons of investment potential, the Russell Topps Test card is an excellent bet.
14. 1968 Topps Test Issue - Jerry West (#19)
PSA 8 Value: $30,000+
There was a recent auction sale in 2022, with a PSA 6 copy selling for $16,600.
I think that buyer got a great deal as there are ONLY 7 of these in PSA holders.
This is a super rare card.
Find one of these for the right price and JUMP all over it. (If you have the cash of course).
15. 1969 Topps - Lew Alcindor RC (#25)
PSA 9 Value: $300,000+
I love this card. The oversized 1969 Topps cards are annoying just because of storage purposes. Still, for history, this rookie card of Lew Alcindor (aka Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) is one of the most iconic and well-known cards in the vintage basketball hobby.
Plenty of these cards are available (PSA has graded over 2200), but because of the awkward size and age of the cards, finding mint versions is a big challenge.
Lower-grade versions of the card can be found for under $2000. So despite the supply, I'd say the demand should remain high for this card, making it a solid investment.
16. 1969 Topps - Wilt Chamberlain (#1)
PSA 9 Value: $15,000
Chamberlain's cards dominate the rankings--even his non-rookie cards are worth a ton of money in nice condition.
There continues to be strong demand for Wilt's cards, and the 1969 Topps is no exception.
There are over 1100 copies of this card graded by PSA. While a high-grade card will set you back a few thousand, an excellent-condition Chamberlain from the set can usually be found for $1000 or less.
17. 1970 Topps - Pete Maravich RC (#123)
PSA 9 Value: $15,000+
Ahh, 'Pistol' Pete Maravich, one of the best court magicians of his generation, Maravich was a fierce and fiery competitor.
The Basketball Hall of Fame calls Maravich 'the greatest creative offensive talent in history, and it's true. Over the course of his career, he averaged 24 points a game and was regarded by his peers as one of the best to play the game.
Sadly, Pete's life ended way too early as he died while playing the game he loved at age 40.
Maravich's 1970 Topps rookie card is one of the most well-recognized cards of the era, even despite the considerable supply available; PSA has graded nearly 2000 of the Maravich rookie cards.
Because of the massive supply, it's hard for me to get excited about lower-grade versions, albeit they can usually be found for $1000 or less.
18. 1971 Topps - Nate Archibald RC (#29)
PSA 10 Value: $8,000
Nate Archibald was one of the best 'little men' to play the game. At a diminutive 6'1," Archibald was a wizard on the court, with a knack for making the no-look pass, and was an unreal shooter.
The Hall of Fame says that Archibald established that 'for once and for all that the little man still belonged in professional basketball'.
His 1971 Topps card is his true rookie card and represents a switch by Topps back to the normal size card.
Archibald's rookie is plentiful, with 448 graded by PSA, although much tougher to find in Mint condition. If you want a lower-grade version, his rookie can be found for less than $200 in Excellent condition.
19. 1971 Topps - Dave Cowens RC (#47)
PSA 10 Value: $8,000
Despite his 6'9" frame, Cowens was a dominating presence on the boards and one of the best to play for the Boston Celtics. Cowens averaged a double-double in points and rebounds while being named to eight all-star teams, winning titles with the 1974 and 1976 Celtics.
His '71 Topps rookie card is plentiful, but only one PSA 10 exists. Recent PSA 9 sales have been in the $100 to $200 rather affordable range, given the legacy of Cowens.
Raw examples in nice shape are also readily abundant on eBay for less than $50 and might be the way to go.
20.1971 Topps - Wilt Chamberlain (#70)
PSA 10 Value: $14,000
Yep, it's Wilt again! And I must admit, I love this card, with the 70's bubble letters and the great pose of Chamberlain in his Lakers uniform.
Excellent copies can be had for less than $1000, which I see as a relative bargain.
PSA has graded only 723 copies. Not a bad investment, in my opinion.
21. 1972 Topps - Julius Erving RC (#195)
PSA 9 Value: $22,000
Another one of the crowned jewels of the basketball hobby, I've always had a soft spot in my heart for this card.
I grew up watching Dr. J at the tail end of his career. This pose of Erving, with the three-colored ABA ball, yellow background, and cool Squires lettering makes for an awesome card.
It's not rare and somewhat abundant, with nearly 5000 copies graded by PSA, so it is quite affordable if you want one in a low-range grade.
Look for something in the PSA 5 to PSA 7 range; you could find something nice for between $1000 to $2000.
22. 1974 Topps - Bill Walton RC (#39)
PSA 10 Value: $10,000
While many probably know Walton for his career as a basketball broadcaster, Walton was a tremendous big man.
An all-around force in college and the NBA, Walton won two titles with the Blazers and later the Celtics. Injuries got the better of him at the end of his career, but he was always a fun player to watch.
His '74 Topps card features Walton in a dazed pose (did you know he's a huge fan of the Grateful Dead?), but it's an iconic card and one of the most well-known rookie cards from the 1970s.
While Mint copies are few and far between, his rookie has 800 copies graded by PSA, and Excellent copies can be easily found for less than $500.
23. 1974 Topps - George Gervin RC (#196)
PSA 10 Value: $14,000
"The Iceman" was one of the best offensive players of his time. According to the Hall of Fame, Gervin was respected for his passion, desire, drive to succeed, and extraordinary athletic ability".
Excellent copies of his rookie can be easily found for less than $1000. PSA has graded over 750 of the Gervin rookie cards, thus not exactly scarce, but not a ton of production.
24.1976 Topps - David Thompson RC (#110)
PSA 10 Value: $8,000
Another 'tallboy' issue from Topps, the David Thompson 1976 Topps rookie card features one of the most prolific scorers in NBA history.
If you don't want to shell out the big bucks for a Mint copy of his rookie, Near Mint versions can be found for $1400 or less.
25. 1980 Topps - Larry Bird/Magic Johnson RC (#6)
PSA 10 Value: $700,000
The holy grail of basketball cards, the Larry Bird Magic Johnson rookie card is a must-have card for all basketball card collectors.
Plagued by printing errors, off-cuts, and because many kids were tearing these apart, the card is very tough to find in Mint condition.
PSA puts a value of $725,000 on a PSA 10 version--note the last sale of a PSA 10 was in 2021 for $800,000, so that figure is likely accurate, as the market has softened quite a bit.
If you want to buy this card, shoot for a PSA 6 or PSA 7 version, as that's still a great condition for this card; the price range would be somewhere in the $1000 to $3000 range.
Again, not a rare card--PSA has graded over 7000 of these!
26. 1984-85 Star Michael Jordan XRC (#101)
PSA 9 Value: $400,000
With PSA's re-entry into the grading of Star basketball cards, the 1984-85 Star Michael Jordan #101 card has reemerged as the Jordan rookie card to own.
It was always clear that Jordan's Fleer rookie was produced in far significant quantities compared to the Star card. But, it has taken a while for collectors to recognize the true value of Jordan's Star rookie card.
Even if you don't want to spend six figures on a PSA 9 Star Jordan rookie, the lowest-grade copies will still set you back by nearly $10,000.
27. 1984-85 Star Michael Jordan XRC (#195)
PSA 9 Value: $20,000
This is one of three Jordan XRC cards in the 1984-1985 Star Basketball set. The 'Gold Medalist' card #195 isn't as valuable as the base #101 Jordan card, but it is a a highly desired Jordan rookie. The card continues to show promise, especially with PSA now grading 1984-85 Star Basketball cards.
28. 1984-85 Star Michael Jordan XRC (#288)
PSA 9 Value: $20,000
This is one of three Jordan XRC cards in the 1984-1985 Star Basketball set. The '1985 Rookie Of The Year' card #288 remains a popular card with Jordan collectors. Look out for fakes as there are many circulating on eBay that lack the same colors and clarity as the original card.
29. 1986 Fleer - Michael Jordan RC (#57)
PSA 10 Value: $250,000
Doesn't get better than the 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan rookie card. If you collect basketball cards, this is a must-have for your collection.
Jordan rookie prices have significantly decreased, but higher-grade copies still command premium prices.
Even with the slowdown, the Jordan Fleer rookie card remains one of the most sought after basketball cards in the hobby.
If buying a Jordan, stick to graded versions--you can find a PSA 6 to PSA 7 now for less than $4000 - as the Jordan rookie is one of the most counterfeited cards in the hobby!
30. 1986 Fleer Sticker - Michael Jordan (#8)
PSA 10 Value: $45,000
Packs of 1986 Fleer basketball cards included one sticker card per pack, thus fewer cards exist as compared to the regular base set.
Stickers were plagued with terrible centering and print issues, making it extremely tough to find mint versions of the card.
The Jordan sticker is not exactly rare---PSA has graded over 7000 of the sticker card from the set, while it has graded over 20,000 of Jordan's regular Fleer rookie cards.
Be careful, there are Jordan sticker fakes. This guide should help avoid any big mistakes.
31. 1986 Fleer Sticker - Kareem Adbul-Jabbar (#1)
PSA 10 Value: $25,000
Yep, this is the second most valuable card in the 86 Fleer sticker set, and it's really because the card has 1/7 of the Jordan cards graded, and the quality in production on the Jabbar was horrendous.
So, finding a PSA 10 is tough, but finding raw or lower-grade copies of the Jabbar is easy and quite affordable.
32. 1987 Fleer Michael Jordan #59
PSA 10 Value: $13,000+
Jordan's second-year Fleer card had been on fire with the big run up in Jordan rookie cards. However, both the Jordan rookie and his second year card have experienced a big correction.
Still, collectors priced out of the Jordan rookie card will look to the harder-to-find Jordan second year issue as an alternative.
The white corners are easy to dent; thus, finding a PSA 10 Gem Mint copy isn't necessarily easy; PSA has graded only 200 perfect 10s.
A PSA 10 (Gem-Mint) copy sells for over $10,000, however, even PSA 8 (NM-MT) copies can be purchased for under $500.
33. 1987 Fleer Sticker - Michael Jordan (#2)
PSA 10 Value: $9,000+
Similar story to the 86 Fleer sticker set, the 87 Fleer stickers were inserted one per pack and were produced in fewer quantities than the regular cards.
There are over 4700 Jordan stickers that PSA has graded. Excellent to Near Mint copies are quite abundant on eBay.
The last PSA 10 Jordan sticker card sold for over $46,000 in 2021. I'm confident that card would sell at a fraction of that price at auction today. It might be why there hasn't been one up for sale in nearly two years.
PSA 9 copies consistently now sell for under $1000. I'd estimate the PSA 10 is worth less than $10,000 today.
34. 1988 Fleer Sticker - Michael Jordan (#7)
PSA 10 Value: $9,000+
It's another Jordan sticker, and this one (in Gem-Mint condition) is worth nearly as much as his '87 Jordan sticker.
Only 2200 of the 1988 Fleer Jordan sticker have been graded by PSA (versus 4700+ of the 87 stickers).
Once again, this sticker set was plagued with serious quality issues, making it very tough to find Mint versions of the cards.
The last PSA 10 sale was in June 2021 for $20,000, however, I believe a PSA 10 today is worth less than half that number.
|$14,200.00 (38 bids)|
End Date: Monday Sep-25-2023 23:59:01 EDT
|$9,999.00 (30 bids)|
End Date: Thursday Sep-21-2023 23:59:01 EDT