By Larry Canale
Eight of the 10 top-selling online auction results feature NBA legends who collectively make up an all-time dream team of sorts.
At center, we’ve got the great Wilt Chamberlain, represented by a PSA 9-graded specimen of his 1961-62 Fleer card. This prize of Wilt the Stilt’s rookie card inspired 53 bids and soared to $31,100. (To illustrate the impact of a single grade point, a Wilt rookie graded PSA 8 sold for about a third of that figure: $10,800.) Chamberlain, who stood 7 feet 2 inches or thereabouts — he never revealed his exact height — was a dominant figure, to put it mildly. During his 15 seasons, the center averaged a record 22.9 rebounds per game while scoring 30.1 points per game, the second-best average of all time. He also dished out 4.4 assists per game.
At forward, we’ve got Larry Bird, Julius Erving, Elgin Baylor and LeBron James. Bird and Erving are represented by their 1980-81 Topps trio card, which also features Magic Johnson. A pristine PSA 10 version of this popular item fetched $75,100 on 47 bids. PSA’s population report for the card numbers only 21 specimens graded Gem Mint 10.
Bird starred for the Celtics from the 1979-80 season through 1991-92, earning three MVP awards and 12 All-Star Game berths. Known as the best passing forward in NBA history, Bird averaged 6.3 assists per game along with 24.3 points and 10.0 rebounds. He also shot 51.4 percent from the field and was a killer from the free throw line, hitting 89 percent of his attempts.
Erving began his pro career in the ABA, turning heads with his high-flying dunks for five seasons before the league merged into the NBA. During his 16 pro seasons, Dr. J averaged 24.2 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game.
Baylor’s spot on our list owes to his rookie card, a 1961-62 Fleer issue. Graded PSA 9, it attracted 52 bids and reached a final price of $22,940. PSA’s population report shows only eight other Baylor rookies graded at least PSA 9. As a player, Baylor spent 14 years in the NBA, starting with the 1958-59 season. The 11-time All-Star averaged 27.4 points, 13.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game.
King James hogs two slots on our list, with two 2003-04 Topps rookie cards — a Chrome Refractor graded BGS 10 and a 2003-04 Finest Gold Refractor graded PSA 10 — selling for the prices of $28,600 and $27,989, respectively. LeBron, at press time, is seemingly bound for another NBA Finals appearance. At age 32, the 6-foot-8, 250-pounder already has a place waiting for him at the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame. James has averaged 27.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game over his first 13 seasons.
At guard, we’ve got Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson and — surprise! — Michael Jordan. We discussed Johnson’s rookie card above: the $75,100 Topps card he shares with Bird and Erving. As a player, Magic thrilled NBA fans for 13 seasons with his wide variety of head-turning passes, his versatility as a shooter and his rebounding muscle — at 6-foot-9, 215 pounds, he stood several inches taller than most opposing guards. Johnson’s career averages: 24.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 11.2 assists.
Robertson appears at No. 7 on our list via a 1961-62 Fleer rookie card that brought $24,862 on 64 bids. Robertson was the king of triple-doubles; in his second season, he averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists per game. He would become a 12-time All-Star during his 14 years in the NBA, winding up with per-game averages of 25.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 9.5 assists.
As for Jordan, his presence on our chart involves his 1986-87 rookie card, a hobby favorite that would kick into higher levels if there weren’t such a healthy supply. The specimen on our list, graded PSA 10, sold for $19,499. Jordan wowed NBA crowds for 15 seasons, averaging 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game.
ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN
Speaking of Michael Jordan’s rookie card, you see his popular 1986-87 Fleer card at No. 10 on our list, having sold for $19,499. What you don’t see is that the two items just outside our Top 10 are also Jordan Fleer rookies, both of the them also bearing grades of PSA 10. They sold for similar prices that collectively help to set a relatively narrow price range for the card these days: $19,300 and $19,000. One year ago on this chart, we reported on a PSA 10 Jordan rookie that sold for $30,000. In recent years, the card typically has landed between $18,000 and $25,000 if in Gem-Mint condition.
ROGER AND THE BABE
In early April, an eBay seller listed a one-of-a-kind 2010 autograph card bearing cut signatures from Roger Maris and Babe Ruth. Issued by Historic Autographs in 2010, the rarity was a pack pull featuring two horizontal windows cut into a dark blue card with “Historic Autographs” and “2010 / ‘In Memory of’ Edition” printed on the front.
The top window reveals a bold Maris sig in ball-point pen; the lower window has a Bambino sig in pencil cut from the bottom of a scorecard. Both autographs were authenticated by PSA/DNA. The winning bidder paid $8,500 for the card.