- Collecting Larry Bird Cards
- 1992 Topps Larry Bird #1
- 1992 Stadium Club Larry Bird #33
- 1991 Upper Deck Larry Bird #344
- 1990 Hoops Larry Bird #39
- 1990 Skybox Larry Bird #14
- 1990 Fleer Larry Bird #8
- 1993 Topps Finest Larry Bird #2
- 1988 Fleer Larry Bird #9
- 1987 Fleer Larry Bird #11
- 1986 Fleer Sticker Larry Bird #2
- 2004 SP Authentic Michael Jordan/Magic Johnson/Larry Bird Signatures Triple Auto
- 1986 Fleer Larry Bird #9
- 1981 Topps Larry Bird #4
- 2009-10 Exquisite Collection Upper Deck Eight Patches Larry Bird / Julius Erving/ Michael Jordan / LeBron James / Hakeem Olajuwon / Kevin HGarnett / Magic Johnson / Kobe Bryant 3/3
- 1980 Topps Larry Bird Rookie Card #34
- Final Word On The 15 Larry Bird Basketball Cards for Serious Collectors
The worst thing people say about Larry Bird is “he was good for a white guy” or that he wouldn’t be as well known if he weren’t white. The truth is simple. There is no way to coherently deny that Larry Bird was one of the greatest basketball players of any era. The Athletic has him down as #7 all-time in their NBA 75 list, as does ESPN. Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, LeBron James, and Michael Jordan are ahead of him. And you could make a pretty good case that Bird deserves to be higher on the list.
One of the things that made “The Hick from French Lick” such an icon was his lack of athletic ability. Yeah, I know that sounds weird. But many of the best basketball players are physical freaks. Built-in a way that gives them an incredible advantage over everyone else. But Bird became one of the best players by working incredibly hard, fighting for every point, and possessing almost preternatural basketball intelligence. He always seemed to be one step ahead, not only of his opponents but also of his Celtics teammates.
There is no way to argue with his credentials, either. Bird was a two-time All-American, the consensus college player of the year, a three-time champion, a three-time MVP, a two-time NBA finals MVP, and a 12-time All-Star. And keep in mind that a bad back shortened his career. There is little doubt that Larry would have continued to dominate well into the 1990s if his health had held up. But he was the best player of the 1980s.
Collecting Larry Bird Cards
The decade of Larry’s utter domination was a particularly bad one for basketball cards. From 1983-1992, Topps stopped making basketball cards. It is a reminder of how surprisingly unpopular the NBA was then. Looking back, there were some phenomenal players in the early 1980s and incredible games. But the marketing wasn’t good, and some people blame racism for lower ratings and interest. Either way, Topps got out of the game for a while.
The basketball card market was so weak that none of the other companies stepped into the breech until 1986 when the legendary Fleer Basketball series featuring the 1986 Fleer #57 Michael Jordan (it was his third year, after all) was released.
That means that some of the best years of Bird’s career were tragically cardless. But luckily, Topps was still around for the beginning of "Larry Legend’s" career. Unfortunately, his contemporary basketball cards are all base cards, so that the value can be limited. But there are also some tremendous later career cards featuring Bird and some beautiful post-retirement items. So, there is plenty to collect. And Larry’s status as a legend is etched in stone.
1992 Topps Larry Bird #1
A PSA 10 sold for $115.
After going on one long hiatus, Topps basketball cards finally returned just in time to say goodbye to Larry Bird. However, they gave him the respect he deserved with the #1 card in the set. And we have to give props to the picture selected for the 1992 Topps Larry Bird #1 card. It shows the determination the “Larry Legend” had until retirement. But there is a forlorn quality to the picture, hinting at his coming retirement. A wonderful card.
1992 Stadium Club Larry Bird #33
As we will see repeatedly in this last, Bird retired just after the introduction of many of the great card releases of the 1990s. So, we get a taste of what his cards in the path-breaking designs of the time look like. The 1992 Stadium Club Larry Bird #33 is an excellent example of that. He looks fantastic in the trademark full-card action shot of the Stadium Club release. And how good does Bird’s name look next to the classic logo? Too bad there aren’t more cards like this of “Larry Legend.”
1991 Upper Deck Larry Bird #344
A PSA 10 sold for $111.
The glory days of Larry Bird came before the Upper Deck era. But they produced the 1991 Upper Deck Larry Bird #344 before he retired. And it has all the hallmarks of their great early releases. High-quality stock and an excellent action picture. You can see Bird here struggling to overcome his injury issues and put up his usual phenomenal performance. More often than not, he succeeded. The design manages to be both full and satisfying yet clean and simple.
1990 Hoops Larry Bird #39
A PSA 10 sold for $136.
One of the last cards from when Larry was active, the 1990 Hoops Larry Bird #39, shows him driving hard to the basket. It is a reminder of how hard he played, even when suffering from debilitating pain. And if you look at the expression on the face of the “Hick from Salt Lick,” you can see he is suffering. But this great item doesn't have much value as a late card from a pretty unprestigious release.
1990 Skybox Larry Bird #14
A PSA 10 sold for $217.
Bird didn’t play far into the 1990s. Nonetheless, he just managed to fit in a card from Skybox, one of the most iconic releases of that decade. The background is pretty primitive in comparison to the designs they would come up with later in the decade. But the trippy background of the 1990 Skybox Larry Bird #14 is very different from most Larry Bird cards and is a unique addition to his collection.
1990 Fleer Larry Bird #8
A PSA 10 sold for $350.
The 1990 Fleer Larry Bird #8 is not one of his best-known or valuable cards. But it is one of Bird’s most attractive. It captures the definitive Larry taking a shot expression. And, of course, he is doing it over his legendary opponent Magic Johnson. Sadly, that season marks Bird’s first back surgery and the beginning of his deterioration.
1993 Topps Finest Larry Bird #2
A PSA 10 sold for $750.
Larry Bird had no reason to appear in 1993 Topps Finest Basketball. But we are glad he did because it gave us the first-ever “Hick from French Lick” refractor card. And so, what if the color scheme is enough to give even the least sensitive person a migraine? It's one of the first basketball refractors ever released and a piece of hobby history.
1988 Fleer Larry Bird #9
A PSA 10 sold for $1,529.
We love that the 1988 Fleer Larry Bird #9 card picture features a pic from the legendary Lakers-Celtics games that defined the decade. And cards with Boston green edges are among Larry’s best. So, how come everything about this card falls flat? Both James Worthy and our hero look awkward, and the color is off. Still, it's a key Bird card.
1987 Fleer Larry Bird #11
A PSA 10 sold for $7,500.
There is a reason the 1987 Fleer Larry Bird #11 doesn’t enjoy anywhere near the same cache as its 1986 predecessor. Well, two. The rookie class was nowhere near as good, and the design was relatively ugly. And unfortunately, Birds card has to rank as one of the most unsightly in the set. What kind of weirdo came up with that color scheme? Block gray? And to top it off, this card has some serious centering issues.
1986 Fleer Sticker Larry Bird #2
A PSA 10 went for $21,000.
The 1986 Fleer stickers don’t quite have the cache of the cards. But they are pretty sought out because they contain a Jordan rookie and that excellent rookie class in general. Like most stickers, they suffer from condition issues. Lots of people stuck them on things. Therefore, we are pretty lucky to have 40 PSA 10s of this baby on the market. The design of the 1986-87 Fleer Sticker Larry Bird #2 is pretty weak, as is the photo. But the prices are darn strong.
2004 SP Authentic Michael Jordan/Magic Johnson/Larry Bird Signatures Triple Auto
A PSA 10 is on sale for $26,000.
There are a few multiple auto cards with the sharp design of the 2004 SP Authentic Michael Jordan/Magic Johnson/Larry Bird Signatures Triple Auto. Something about the sleek grey background that almost seems transparent really works. And, of course, it features the autographs of the three most dominant players of the late 1980s and three of the best ten ever to play.
1986 Fleer Larry Bird #9
A PSA 10 sold for $49,200.
By 1986 Larry Bird was well into his prime. This year, Larry would win his third and final NBA title, and to leave no doubt as to why the Celtics won, he also won series MVP. So when we are talking about 1986 Fleer Larry Bird #9 we are talking about a relatively late Bird card. And there are many legendary rookie cards in this release. However, anything for the 1986 Fleer release is held in high regard. Those unique borders have come to define 1980s basketball cards.
1981 Topps Larry Bird #4
A PSA 10 went for $49,200.
Here we have the first-ever Larry Bird base card. But of course, we are talking about a second-year card, so there is a serious drop off in price. Having said that, this one still has a good bit of value. The borders in this release are notoriously problematic, and centering could be better.
The photo of 1981 Topps Larry Bird #4 is a simple one, but Bird looks very cool here. The green borders are perfect for a Celtics card, adding to the appealing look. The comic book explosion style lettering works well here too. And it represents a stage in his career when he was already one of the best players in the league, but was not yet dominant. But man, think of that rookie season. Bird averaged 21.3 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.7 steals. No wonder he won rookie of the Year.
2009-10 Exquisite Collection Upper Deck Eight Patches Larry Bird / Julius Erving/ Michael Jordan / LeBron James / Hakeem Olajuwon / Kevin HGarnett / Magic Johnson / Kobe Bryant 3/3
A BGS 8 is on sale for $40,000.
Because he is one of the best players who ever lived, and among the best known, Bird has been part of many super cards with multiple legends. Although this is a memorabilia and not an auto card, it's one of the most beautiful. You may have to sell a kidney in order to get the 2009-10 Exquisite Collection Upper Deck Eight Patches Larry Bird / Julius Erving/ Michael Jordan / LeBron James / Hakeem Olajuwon / Kevin HGarnett / Magic Johnson / Kobe Bryant 3/3. But can you think of a better use for it? Removing waste from you system and controlling your blood pressure? Please.
1980 Topps Larry Bird Rookie Card #34
A PSA 10 went for $861,000.
The Larry Bird rookie card is so much more than just the first pro card of “Larry Legend.” It's one of the most essential and iconic basketball cards ever made. A rookie card featuring Magic Johnson or Larry Bird would be significant enough without help. But here we have the two fantastic players whose rivalry would define the 1980s with a shared rookie card. And if that’s not enough, we also have Julius “Doctor J.” Erving, the man who defined the previous decade of basketball, on there as well. It tells you a lot about the state of basketball cards at the time, that there was no proper rookie card for either Bird or Magic. Just this, as well as the rebound leader cards.
The 1980 Topps Larry Bird Rookie Card #16 is perforated for unknown reasons. That has caused some issues concerning the condition. So, while this is a ubiquitous card, with at least 12,106 PSA-graded copies, only some are in good condition. There are only 23 PSA 10s currently; as you can see, they are worth a fortune.
Final Word On The 15 Larry Bird Basketball Cards for Serious Collectors
There are no cards for some of Larry’s peak years. That is an absolute crime against humanity. Nonetheless, his cards are fabulous. The rookie is, of course, absolutely legendary. Many of the cards have outstanding action shots. Bird also played far enough into the 90s to get some tremendous innovative cards from that time. And there is a massive selection of latter-day auto and memorabilia cards. A collection worthy of an absolute legend.