Between the Mantles, Jordans, Ruths, Aarons and other kingpins who dominate our Top 10 online auction chart, there’s rarely enough room for Oscar Robertson. Yet “the Big O” is worth the attention of speculative collectors — and a sale in May proves he’s may be getting it.
A top-condition Robertson rookie card, from Fleer’s 1961-62 set, shows why. An eBay seller listed a PSA 9 specimen of the card and watched it soar to $81,261 on 38 bids.
Robertson, who played in the NBA from 1960-1974, was the king of triple-doubles. In his second season, 1961-62, he actually averaged a triple-double, and he did it in style, dishing out 11.4 assists while hauling in 12.5 rebounds and scoring 30.8 points per game.
A season earlier, as a rookie, Robertson narrowly missed averaging a triple-double, falling short only because of his 9.7 assists per game. He also missed by a hair in both 1963-64 and 1964-65. In the former season, he finished with 9.5 assists per game. In 1964-65, his 9.9 rebounds per game kept him from averaging a triple double. (On the other hand, if we round up his stats, Robertson averaged triple-doubles in each of his first four seasons!)
By the time he retired in 1974, Robertson’s stats showed why he was an easy hall of fame choice: 25.7 points per game; 9.5 assists; and 7.5 rebounds.
If you’re moved to add a Robertson rookie to your collection, don’t be discouraged by the $81,261 price noted above. While grade-9 examples will push six figures, you can lower your sights to a grade 7 and stay under $15,000. Drop to 6 or 5 and you’ll stay well under $10,000, as these auction prices attest:
● $7,100 on 41 bids for a PSA 6
● $6,161 on two bids for a PSA 5.5
● $5,100 on 21 bids for a PSA 6.
Oscar Robertson isn’t the only vintage hoop legend drawing auction attention. Consider these recent sales featuring the best big men of the NBA’s earlier eras.
• A 1957-58 Topps Bill Russell rookie graded PSA 8 sold for an astounding $200,611 on 62 bids in April. This classic hoop issue is known to be a short-print card, adding to its appeal.
Two weeks earlier, a slightly lower graded example — a PSA 7 — sold for $77,877 on 129 bids. That was in line with another PSA 7 that sold in February for $75,500 on 95 bids.
Russell entered the NBA in 1956 and played 13 seasons, all for the Celtics, before retiring at age 34. In his career, he averaged 22.5 rebounds per game to go with 15.1 points and 4.3 assists. He was the centerpiece of a Boston dynasty that accounted for a remarkable 11 NBA titles (including eight in a row) during a 12-year span.
• A 1969-70 Topps Lew Alcindor rookie graded PSA 8 sold for $80,100 on 67 bids in April. Around the same time, two other PSA 8 specimens of the card sold for $76,900 on 81 bids and $75,101 on 140 bids.
Alcindor, who began to use the name Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1971 after converting from Catholicism to Sunni Islam, starred at UCLA before joining the Milwaukee Bucks in 1969. He went on to play 20 seasons, 14 with the Lakers, and averaged 24.6 points, 11.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. His sky hook was a thing of beauty, a signature move that was virtually impossible to defend. Kareem’s teams won six NBA titles in his career.
• A 1961-62 Fleer Wilt Chamberlain rookie graded PSA 8 sold for $144,544 in late March. A month later, an example in a slightly higher grade, PSA 8.5, brought $92,061 on 61 bids. Comparatively, a PSA 9 Chamberlain rookie that sold on eBay in September 2020 now seems like a bargain: $85,100 on 68 bids.
Wilt the Stilt had the gaudiest stats of them all: 30.1 points, 22.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. Yet he won only two titles in his 14 seasons, with Russell’s Celtics often serving as his foil.
Big Ks From Bieber
If you’ve been paying attention to stats, you know Shane Bieber is a hot commodity in fantasy baseball leagues. Collectors haven’t pushed him to “hot” status yet, but that’s coming. Through late May, the Cleveland Indians’ ace hurler struck out 98 batters in only 65 innings, which is similar to his 2020 performance, when he struck out 122 in 77 innings. In his first full season, 2019, he struck out 259 in 214 innings.
Bieber isn’t just a big K man, either. He’s also got a winning percentage close to 70 percent, having posted a 38-17 record as of this writing. The 25-year-old is on a trajectory that promises Hall of Fame-caliber greatness.
Yet Bieber is still a good buy in an otherwise spiking hobby. Recent high-water prices in online auctions include a 2018 Bowman Chrome autographed Orange Wave Refractor that sold for $1,025 on 38 bids. It’s one of only 25 issued and had been graded PSA 9.
You’ll find signed Bieber Chrome cards selling in Buy It Now transactions for higher prices, often showing at $1,500 to $4,000. But if you stick with auctions, you’ll generally stay under $1,000 — for now.
Examples of auction prices paid for top Bieber cards in April and May include:
● $720 on 52 bids for a 2018 Chrome Gold Refractor marked #41 of 50 and graded PSA 9. An ungraded example of the same card (marked #2 of 50) sold for $402 on 16 bids.
● $511 on 37 bids for a 2018 Bowman Chrome signed Blue Mojo Refractor marked #78 of 150 and graded PSA 10.
● $427 on 95 bids for a 2016 ungraded (and unsigned) Chrome Draft Gold Refractor marked #35/50.
Montana Getting No Love
With Mint-condition Jerry Rice rookie cards flirting with — and exceeding — the $100,000 mark, you’d think Joe Montana rookies would be right up there with ’em. But no. A Montana 1981 Topps rookie graded PSA 10 showed up on eBay in April and sparked 85 bids … and then settled at “only” $46,000.
That’s a lot of dough, yes. But compared to current prices paid for Rice and Tom Brady rookies, Montana’s first card is a flat-out steal.
In fact, if you drop to a grade-9 example, you’re looking at sub-$10,000 prices. In recent months, we’ve seen Montana rookies graded PSA 9 sell for $6,300 on 34 bids, $6,206 on 46 bids and, in early May, just $3,550 on 41 bids.