30 Most Valuable Basketball Cards: The All-Time Dream List

Most Valuable Basketball Cards


The most valuable basketball cards in the hobby can easily fetch upper five and six figure price levels.

Collectors simply go crazy over some of these cards...

Scarcity and fierce auction bidding competition can keep hobbyists searching for some of them for years.

If you're lucky enough to own one or more cards on this list then you've got something special.

To build this list, we relied on PSA's Sports Market Report online price guide to include any basketball card estimated to fetch more than $3,000 on the open market.

Another key point is we only featured cards dating prior to 1990.

So you won't see any Lebron James, Kobe Bryant or Steph Curry cards on here even though those can be extremely valuable, too.

Let's jump right in!

Ross Uitts

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1948 Bowman #69 George Mikan Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 9 Value: $800,000

George Mikan’s 1948 Bowman rookie card tops our list as the “Holy Grail” of all basketball cards.

The legendary center was the game’s first unstoppable big man and set the bar for other big men like Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell who would soon follow.

The imagery of the card is unforgettable as it features a hard-charging Mikan atop a deep blue background.

Centering and edge toning are common challenges with this card.

And it’s also interesting to note that you may run across some hand-cut specimens after several uncut sheets of 1948 Bowmans surfaced a while ago.

1948 Bowman #69 George Mikan Rookie Card

1980 Topps Larry Bird and Magic Johnson Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $600,000

Topps tried something new with its 1980-81 set, offering cards that featured three different players on perforated mini cards.

By far the most sought after is the rookie card of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson with Julius Erving sandwiched in between.

All three players appear on other cars in the set but this one is the key.

Originally the set wasn’t too popular with collectors but that has changed drastically in recent years.

Today, this card is one of the most popular and sought after of any basketball card.

1980 Topps Larry Bid and Magic Johnson Rookie Card

1961 Fleer #8 Wilt Chamberlain Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 9 Value: $250,000

It can be argued that Chamberlain was the game’s most dominant player to ever set foot on the hard wood.

And Wilt’s 1961 Fleer rookie card sits atop many others on this list from the iconic set.

Fleer broke the card fronts into three sections with team logo and name at the top, player name and position in the middle, and a large image of the player at the bottom.

Hobbyists put this card among the keys on their wishlists and values have continued to soar in recent years.

1961 Fleer #8 Wilt Chamberlain Rookie Card

1969 Topps #25 Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 9 Value: $225,000

The NBA’s all-time leading scorer made his mainstream basketball card debut in the 1969 Topps set.

Much larger than typical sports cards, his rookie card measures roughly 2 ½” by 4 11/16″.

Although that design decision was creative, it makes the cards more susceptible to surface wear and tear.

Centering and print defects are also challenges so high grade copies of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar rookie cards can fetch big dollars at auction.

1969 Topps #25 Lew Alcindor Rookie Card

1957 Topps #77 Bill Russell Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 8 Value: $200,000

The 1957 Topps basketball set is one of the most important yet toughest in the hobby–and Bill Russell’s rookie card is the key card to own.

Poor centering and low quality printing make it difficult to find the card in high grade.

The card is a short-print, too, which makes it even more scarce from the beginning.

Russell is one of the most successful and dominant big men the game has ever seen so collectors go crazy for this card.

1957 Topps #77 Bill Russell Rookie Card

1986 Fleer #57 Michael Jordan Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $200,000

The 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan rookie card has earned its place as the hobby’s most important modern sports card due to Jordan’s legendary heroics.

On a per-game basis, no one averaged more points than Jordan’s 30.12 points per making him the game’s most feared offensive weapons of all-time.

Watching Jordan play was really something special as you knew he could do something amazing and never seen before at any given moment.

His popularity has skyrocketed the value of his rookie card but those multi-colored borders can prevent some tough wear challenges.

Watch out, though, as the extreme popularity of this card also makes it one of the hobby’s most counterfeited.

1986 Fleer #57 Michael Jordan Rookie Card

1986 Fleer Sticker #1 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $120,000

Somewhat surprisingly, it wasn’t Jordan’s sticker that was the key to this set even though his card is by far the most desired in the regular 1986 Fleer basketball card set.

Instead, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s card takes the top price honors.

The sticker features a great image of Abdul-Jabbar’s legendary skyhook that was basically unstoppable over the course of his career.

1986 Fleer Sticker #1 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Basketball Card

1961 Fleer #36 Oscar Robertson Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 9 Value: $100,000

After Chamberlain’s rookie, it’s tough to say what the next most valuable basketball card from the 1961 Fleer set is.

But Oscar Robertson’s rookie makes as good of a case as any.

The “Big O” could do everything on the court and famously became the first NBA player to average a triple-double in 1962.

That dominance made him a legend and a collector favorite as a result.

His rookie card lists him as a member of the Cincinnati Royals who later became the modern day Sacramento Kings.

1961 Fleer #36 Oscar Robertson Rookie Card

1985 Prism Jewel Sticker Michael Jordan

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $100,000

One of the more unusual cards on this list is Michael Jordan’s 1985 Prism Jewel Sticker issue.

The hologram of Jordan going up for a reverse dunk put this card ahead of its time in terms of design standards.

These Michael Jordan cards weren’t widely distributed and were often sold out of vending machines that sat in store fronts.

If you’re lucky enough to find one that survived in top shape then you’re looking at a high price tag.

1985 Prism:Jewel Stickers Michael Jordan Basketball Card

1985 Interlake Bulls Michael Jordan

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $100,000

A regional issue that has grown in popularity in recent times is Michael Jordan’s 1985 Interlake card.

These were issued by the Boy Scouts of America through the Interlake Youth Incentive Program in the Chicago area and show Jordan breaking down the defense with his signature tongue-out expression.

he card measures in at 5″ by 7″ making it an oversized issue that can be susceptible to wear and tear.

1985 Bulls Interlake Michael Jordan Basketball Card

1961 Fleer #3 Elgin Baylor Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 9 Value: $85,000

Another key to the 1961 Fleer’s set is Elgin Baylor’s rookie card.

Baylor’s acrobatic moves were something the game had never seen before and paved the way for other exciting performers like Dr. J, Jordan and Bryant.

And most people forget, he’s actually number three on the NBA’s all-time points per game leader board after posting a 27.4 ppg career mark.

Also, notice the giraffe logo on his card, something that’s been somewhat of a mystery to Lakers fans and collectors for years.

It’s an amazing card of one of the Lakers’ most overlooked legends.

1961 Fleer #3 Elgin Baylor Rookie Card

1961 Fleer #43 Jerry West Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 9 Value: $85,000

The final 1961 Fleer card on our list is Jerry West’s rookie card, which features tremendous pop due to its bright yellow and orange coloring.

West’s contribution to the Lakers as a player, coach and executive cannot be overstated.

His silhouette is even famously used as the NBA logo itself.

Collectors love his rookie card and are willing to pay big bucks for high grade copies.

1961 Fleer #43 Jerry West Rookie Card

1969 Topps #1 Wilt Chamberlain

Estimated PSA 9 Value: $85,000

Wilt Chamberlain’s cards are always going to be valuable in any set.

But the fact that this was card #1 in the series meant it was at the top of the printing sheet and therefore exposed to more wear than normal.

It’s a beautiful card of “The Stilt” that shows him in his warm-up gear and wearing a headband which was common for the era.

1969 Topps #1 Wilt Chamberlain Basketball Card

1960 Kahn's Wieners Jerry West Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 8 Value: $75,000

Another oddball card that makes our list is the 1960 Kahn’s Wieners card of Lakers legend Jerry West.

These regional issues were distributed primarily in the Cincinnati area so it’s interesting to note that West was only non- Cincinnati Royal to have a card in this set.

The hobby only recognizes the 1961 Fleer as his rookie, but this pre-rookie card released a year earlier is just as if not more expensive.

Finding them in top condition without staining is tough though, since the cards were distributed inside packages of meat.

1960 Kahns Wieners #11 Jerry West Basketball Card

1968 Topps Test #1 Wilt Chamberlain

Estimated PSA 8 Value: $70,000

One of the rarer basketball sets in the hobby is the 1968 Topps Test issue that was never distributed to the public.

Many think they were an attempt by Topps to obtain an NBA license and re-enter the basketball card market.

Leading the way at card #1 in the set is none other than Wilt Chamberlain.

Each of the card backs in this set also feature small pieces to a larger puzzle of Chamberlain.

1968 Topps Test #1 Wilt Chamberlain Basketball Card

1957 Topps #17 Bob Cousy Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 8 Value: $60,000

Bob Cousy is the second Celtic legend on this list who made his rookie card debut in the 1957 Topps set.

Cousy brought creativity and originally to the game, wowing fans with his unpredictable and improvised passing abilities.

His rookie card is notoriously difficult to find in top grade due to poor print quality and centering issues.

1957 Topps #17 Bob Cousy Rookie Card

1968 Topps Test #4 Bill Russell

Estimated PSA 8 Value: $60,000

Bill Russell was also included in the set and is one of seventeen Hall of Famers that appeared in this small set of just twenty-two cards.

A nice image of Russell dribbling down low ready to attack the defense dominates the front of the card.

This and all other cards in the set usually suffer from poor centering and general wear and tear so finding any of them in top condition is extremely difficult.

1968 Topps Test #4 Bill Russell Basketball Card

1960 Kahn's Wieners Oscar Robertson Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 8 Value: $50,000

As a member of the Cincinnati Royals, Oscar Robertson was the biggest local star to be included in this regional set distributed around the Cincinnati market.

A young Robertson is shown getting ready to toss a bounce pass while a nice facsimile signature accompanies him.

It’s a key to the set along with the cards of fellow Hall of Famers Jerry West and Jack Twyman.

1960 Kahn's Wieners #8 Oscar Robertson Basketball Card

1968 Topps Test #19 Jerry West

Estimated PSA 8 Value: $50,000

Jerry West was another one of the superstars included in this rare set and his signature smile really makes this card glow.

It’s not the most expensive card within this set but it is definitely one of the keys.

Any Jerry West card is likely to be of huge importance to any set and this is no exception.

1968 Topps Test #19 Jerry West Basketball Card

1968 Topps Test #22 Oscar Robertson

Estimated PSA 8 Value: $50,000

Would this set be complete without the “Big O”?

Absolutely not. 

One of the game’s greatest all-around players to ever lace up a pair of basketball shoes is also one of the several stars in this set.

His card really pops as he poses smiling with an energetic look on his face.

Both Oscar Robertson collectors and 1968 Topps Test fans will pay good money for one of these in top condition.

1968 Topps Test #22 Oscar Robertson Basketball Card

1986 Fleer Sticker #8 Michael Jordan

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $50,000

Jordan’s 1986 Fleer sticker can also fetch huge prices.

A young Jordan is shown driving hard to the basket past New Jersey’s Otis Birdsong.

Not surprisingly, the stickers were often peeled off and stuck on any number of surfaces making them basically worthless.

And those that survived intact are difficult to find in top quality condition.

1986 Fleer Sticker #8 Michael Jordan Rookie Card

1968 Topps Test #5 John Havlicek

Estimated PSA 8 Value: $40,000

Since it was never circulated to the public, this set isn’t what you would typically refer to as a “mainstream” issue.

But many collectors still consider this Havlicek’s true rookie card since it was his first appearance on a basketball card of any kind.

Havlicek goes down as one of the all-time Celtic greats so collectors will fight for any of his cards, let alone one as rare as this.

1968 Topps Test #5 John Havlicek Basketball Card

1968 Topps Test #18 Elgin Baylor

Estimated PSA 8 Value: $40,000

The acrobatic Elgin Baylor also made an appearance in the 1968 Topps Test set wearing his legendary Lakers uniform.

You can almost feel him getting ready to break down an opposing defense with one of his signature moves by the way he’s positioned on this card.

His is another one of the keys to this scarce set and can fetch big dollars at auction.

1968 Topps Test #18 Elgin Baylor Basketball Card

1969 Topps #99 Checklist

Estimated PSA 9 Value: $35,000

Perhaps the most boring card on this list is merely a checklist.

The 1969 Topps basketball set is popular among collectors and being the last card in the set, it’s usually tough to find in nice shape.

So, collectors are willing to pay top dollar for the card which displays cards #1-42 on the front and cards #43-99 on the back.

1969 Topps #99 Checklist Basketball Card

1987 Fleer Sticker #2 Michael Jordan

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $32,500

Fleer offered another 11-player set of stickers the year before but surprisingly, Jordan’s wasn’t the most expensive.

That wasn’t the case in 1987.

Fleer again included 11 players in the set and this time it was Jordan’s that was the most expensive of the group.

A patriotic design of red, white and blue flanks both sides of a great image of a young Jordan with a bright smile on his face.

Condition issues are just as tough as before with these stickers making them scarce in high grade.

1987 Fleer Sticker #2 Michael Jordan Basketball Card

1950 Lakers Scott's Potato Chips George Mikan

Estimated PSA 5.5 Value: $30,000

Another regional rarity is the 1950 Scott’s Potato Chips George Mikan basketball card.

It features a black and white Al Papas illustration of Mikan against a light blue background.

In fact, the image is the same pose used for his 1948 Bowman rookie card.

Distributed only in Minneapolis inside potato chip bags you can imagine how rare and difficult it is to find copies of this card in decent shape.

1950 Lakers Scott's Potato Chips George Mikan Basketball Card

1988 Fleer Sticker #7 Michael Jordan

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $25,000

The most valuable of all the Fleer Jordan stickers on this list was actually not his first.

It’s his 1988 Fleer sticker that tops the list. 

PSA 10 Gem Mint copies have actually been seen selling for over $20,000 in the past so the estimate above may be a bit low.

His is lucky #7 in the 11-player set and collectors will need a tremendous amount of luck to find one in high grade.

1988 Fleer Sticker #7 Michael Jordan Basketball Card

1961 Fleer #38 Bill Russell

Estimated PSA 9 Value: $25,000

Though it isn't his rookie card, the 1961 Fleer Bill Russell is still a key to the set.

After all, the big man goes down in history as one of the greatest centers of all time and helped bring eleven championships to Boston between 1957 and 1969.

The green background at the top and the blue background really help give this card some outstanding eye appeal.

1961 Fleer #38 Bill Russell Basketball Card

1970 Topps #123 Pete Maravich Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 9 Value: $22,500

“Pistol” Pete Maravich was nothing short of a magician on the basketball court.

His passes and all around trickery are the stuff of legend.

Maravich sits alone as the key to the 1970 Topps set with his oversized rookie card.

It’s a great looking card and shows Maravich kneeling with the ball atop a bold green background.

1970 Topps #123 Pete Maravich Rookie Card

1986 Fleer #76 Johnny Moore

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $20,000

Johnny Moore is not a household name among basketball fans but collectors of the 1986 Fleer basketball card set know him all too well.

This card is valuable for one simple reason: it is nearly impossible to track down in PSA 10 Gem Mint condition.

Otherwise, it would be worth as much as any other common card in the set.

Print defects as well as the usual wear and tear on the colored borders make Moore’s card extra difficult to find in high grade.

And since this set is arguably the most popular among basketball card collectors, set builders fight over top condition Johnny Moore cards.

1986 Fleer #76 Johnny Moore Basketball Card

Most Valuable Basketball Cards In Review

So, there you have it: the most expensive basketball cards that you’re ever likely to encounter in the vintage hobby.

If you’re lucky enough, that is!

Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson and Jerry West are just several of the basketball greats that reside on this list of cardboard rarities. And their continued popularity and demand prove that basketball cards still do hold great value.

That is a fact not likely to end any time soon. Only a finite number of them still exist and as likely as it is that basketball will remain a very popular sport, collectors will do anything to get their hands on them.

The question is: where do you start on this list? With so many greats, how do you choose between them?

If you’re a collector, just stick to what you love and collect only what you love. With that strategy, you can never go wrong!

Ross Uitts

Ross is the founder of Old Sports Cards and has been collecting sports cards for over 30 years. He also loves to write about the hobby and has written for Beckett, Topps, SABR and of course, this website. Need help buying or selling cards or have a general question about the hobby? Contact him at [email protected]

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