The 30 Most Valuable Basketball Cards of All Time (2021 Update)
We had such a great reaction from our ‘30 Most Valuable Baseball Cards of All Time‘ piece that we figured it was time to do the same for basketball cards.
In putting together this piece we utilized the PSA SMR Price Guide and found the most expensive cards listed in the directory, those valued at $5000 or more.
Note that the highest priced cards are normally the best condition examples- PSA 9’s or PSA 10’s (Mint condition) and thus lower grades of these basketball cards can be found for a lot less than the prices listed here.
We’ve narrowed down this list to cards produced in 1988 or prior. Yes, the lines on what constitutes ‘vintage’ are quite blurred, but that still equates to over 30 years ago.
Hope you enjoy this list! I think it makes a great resource for any basketball card collector.
**Note with prices fluctuating so quickly, the numbers here might not be entirely precise, so if interested I encourage collectors to check PSA for some of the latest sales figures. The prices here were updated on February 24, 2021. I’ll try to keep this updated fairly frequently.
1948 Bowman – George Mikan RC (#69)
PSA 9 Value: $300,000+
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 really as familiar with Mikan as they are 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 and thus Mikan’s rookie card is somewhat scarce. PSA has graded only around 300 of the Mikan cards with only 4 a PSA 9 grade. This is a tough find in nice condition but if you have a few thousand to spend, you might get lucky and find one in a poorer grade.
1950 Scott’s Potato Chips – George Mikan
PSA 7 Value: $12,500
This Mikan Scott’s Potato Chips is a TOUGH find. PSA has only graded 7 of these cards, thus it holds great value. Although not as valuable as his Bowman rookie card, this one is a desired card for any Mikan fans or hardcore basketball collectors. I like the fact that the card is an illustration using the same image from his ’48 Bowman card.
1957 Topps – Bill Russell RC (#77)
PSA 9 Value: $400,000+
Bill Russell is one of the best all-time players in the history of the NBA. Following in the footsteps of George Mikan, 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 600 of the 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.
1957 Topps – Bob Cousy RC (#17)
PSA 9 Value: $50,000+
The ‘Cooz’ as he is more commonly known in Boston circles was one of the biggest reasons for the Celtics success in the mid 1950’s and early 60’s. 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 went on to be 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 638 Cousy cards, with only 34 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 would expect that number to become more challenging over time.
1960 Kahn’s Weiners – Jerry West
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 considered 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 of the West cards, with only one of those cards graded a PSA 8 or above.
1960 Kahn’s Weiners – Oscar Robertson
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 the Robertson Kahn’s cards have been graded by PSA, making it an even tougher find than the Jerry West issue.
1961 Fleer – Wilt Chamberlain RC (#8)
PSA 9 Value: $125,000+
When it comes to iconic vintage basketball cards, there aren’t many that 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 card. PSA has graded over 1000 of the Chamberlain rookie cards, although only 34 of those received a PSA 9 or PSA 10 grade. 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.
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 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.
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, along with being a member of the first five NBA All-Defensive teams. Did you also know that Jerry West is the silhouette in the NBA’s logo?
His 1961 Fleer rookie card is a thing of beauty (have I told 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, there are some low-grade West rookies available for under $1000. A great deal in my opinion!
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 of all time. He was inducted into the NBA hall of fame twice, the first as a player and later for his play during the Olympics and for his work with the National Basketball Players Association. Robertson is the only player in history to average a triple-double over the course of one season.
While like West, Robertson had a Kahn’s Weiners card from 1960, the Fleer card is considered his true mainstream rookie. PSA has graded 543 of these cards and like the others, only 14 have received a 9 grade. But don’t fear, excellent versions of the Robertson card can often be found for between $500 to $700.
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 point 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.
His 1961 Fleer card represents his true rookie card and due to scarcity, high demand remains for Mint versions of the card. None have received a 10 rating from PSA and only 10 have received a PSA 9 rating. Collectors looking for the value play should look at lower grade versions of Bellamy’s card, which can be found for under $1000.
1968 Topps Test Issue – Wilt Chamberlain (#1)
PSA 8 Value: $50,000+
Not many collectors are familiar with this 1968 Test issue from Topps and for good reason. To this day, no one really knows the true origin of the set, with most assuming it was never meant for distribution. As PSA notes, it’s likely that the cards were leaked by an internal employee as the company had no plans of marketing or producing the test run.
The set is quite rare; PSA has graded only 180 cards from the 22 card set. The Chamberlain card has only 11 PSA cards that have been graded by PSA and thus finding one of these or another in the set is quite challenging. None of the Chamberlain cards have been sold at auction in recent years, so my guess is that a high-grade version would sell for a lot more than estimated by PSA.
1968 Topps Test Issue – Bill Russell (#4)
PSA 8 Value: $75,000+
Only nine of the ’68 Test Russell’s have been graded by PSA and the last auction sale was back in 2006. If you have the funds and you’re up to find a rare specimen with tons of investment potential, this would be a good bet.
1968 Topps Test Issue – Jerry West (#19)
PSA 8 Value: $30,000+
PSA has only graded a whopping 7 of the ’68 Test West cards. There was a recent auction sale in 2018, with a PSA 6 selling for $9600. I think that buyer got a great deal as there are ONLY 7 of these out there in PSA holders. This is a super rare card. Find one of these for the right price and JUMP all over it.
1969 Topps – Lew Alcindor RC (#25)
PSA 9 Value: $100,000+
I love this card. The over-sized 1969 Topps cards are a bit annoying just because of storage purposes, but 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. There are plenty of these cards 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-$3000. So despite the supply, I’d say the demand should remain high for this card, making it a solid investment.
1969 Topps – Wilt Chamberlain (#1)
PSA 9 Value: $15,000
You will notice that Chamberlain’s cards dominate the rankings–even his non-rookie cards are worth a ton of money in nice condition. There continues to be a strong level of 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.
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 the age of 40.
His 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.
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.
1971 Topps – Dave Cowens RC (#47)
PSA 10 Value: $8,000
Cowens, despite his 6’9″ frame, was a dominating presence on the boards, and one of the best ever to play for the Boston Celtics. Cowens averaged a double-double in points and rebounds over his career, 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 range which is rather affordable, 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.
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. Only 723 copies have been graded by PSA. Not a bad investment in my opinion.
1972 Topps – Julius Erving RC (#195)
PSA 9 Value: $50,000
Another one of the crowned jewels of the basketball hobby, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for this card. First, I grew up watching Dr. J in the tail end of his career, and this pose of Erving, with the three-colored ABA ball and the yellow background, with the cool Squires lettering. Just an awesome card. And it’s still a rather affordable rookie card for one of the best to play the game. It’s not rare, but not abundant, with only 744 copies graded by PSA, so if you want one in low-range grade it is quite affordable. Look for something in the PSA 5 to PSA 7 range; you could find something nice for between $2000 to $4000.
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 both 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 sort of 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 1970’s. 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.
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, his desire, his drive to succeed combined with his extraordinary athletic ability”.
Excellent copies of his rookie can be easily found for less than $1000. Note that PSA has graded over 750 of the Gervin rookie cards, thus not exactly scarce, but not a ton of production.
1976 Topps – David Thompson RC (#110)
PSA 10 Value: $8,000
Another ‘big’ issue from Topps, the David Thompson 1976 Topps rookie card features one of the most prolific scorers in NBA history. Did you know that Thompson is also one of the six players to score 70 or more points in an NBA game? 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.
1980 Topps – Larry Bird/Magic Johnson RC (#6)
PSA 10 Value: $500,000
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 just for the mere fact that many kids were tearing these apart, the card is very tough to find in Mint condition.
PSA puts a value of $300,000 on a PSA 10 version–note the last sale of a PSA 10 was in 2017 for $66,000, so that figure is likely accurate, although, in this market, I believe $500K is more likely. 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 $4000 to $6000 range. Again, not a rare card–PSA has graded over 7000 of these!
1986 Fleer – Michael Jordan RC (#57)
PSA 10 Value: $750,000
Doesn’t get better than the Jordan Fleer rookie card. If you collect basketball cards, this is a must-have for your collection. But expect to shell out a small fortune for anything in the PSA 9 to PSA 10 range. There continues to be strong demand for the Jordan rookie and I don’t see this slowing down anytime soon. But beware, if buying a Jordan, stick to graded versions–you can find a PSA 6 to PSA 7 for between $7000 to $15000 But beware, the Jordan rookie is one of the most counterfeited cards in the hobby!
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 due to the fact that 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.
1986 Fleer Sticker – Michael Jordan (#8)
PSA 10 Value: $200,000
While the 1986 Fleer Basketball remains hot, the sticker set from the same issue is a very in-demand set. The cards were issued one per pack, so first there were fewer cards issued. Plus the sticker cards 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 16,000 of Jordan’s regular Fleer card. Lower grade copies however can sometimes be found for under $4000.
1987 Fleer – Michael Jordan #59
PSA 10 Value: $50,000+
Jordan’s second-year card has been on absolute fire of late. Collectors priced out of a Jordan rookie card have run to scoop up copies of his harder to find 87 Fleer second-year issue. The white corners are easy to dent, thus finding a PSA 10 Gem Mint copy isn’t necessarily an easy task–PSA has graded only 200 perfect 10’s.
1987 Fleer Sticker – Michael Jordan (#2)
PSA 10 Value: $20,000+
Similar story to the 86 Fleer sticker set, the 87 Fleer stickers were inserted one per pack and were produced in less quantities than the regular cards. There are over 4700 of Jordan stickers that have been graded by PSA. Excellent to Near Mint copies are quite abundant on eBay.
1988 Fleer Sticker – Michael Jordan (#7)
PSA 10 Value: $14,000+
Yep it’s another Jordan sticker and this one (in Mint condition) is worth nearly as much as his ’87 Jordan sticker. Only 2200 of the Jordan have been graded by PSA (versus 4700+ of the 87 sticker). Once again, this sticker set was plagued with serious quality issues, making it very tough to find Mint versions of the cards. Still, low to mid-grade copies are easily found, usually for less than $100.
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