by Darren Smythe
A player ahead of his time when it came to scoring and ball-handling, Pete Maravich basketball cards, autographs and memorabilia are always in high demand. His skills not only astounded basketball fans but legends like Red Auerbach and John Havlicek acknowledged Maravich as the greatest playmaker of his time.
Long before Michael Jordan and LeBron James had nicknames and devoted fans, Pistol Pete was a reason why people had to watch basketball. Maravich set numerous scoring records in college, averaging 44.2 points per game with Louisiana State University. He was selected to the Sporting News All-America First Team three times. Not only did Maravich bring the crowds to LSU, there were 15,043 fans at Alabama when he produced his career-high of 69 points in 1970. Today, the Tigers play basketball today in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Maravich would enter the NBA with the Atlanta Hawks. A Maravich rookie card from 1970-71 Topps can sell for anywhere between $50 and $220 for ungraded examples. The highest price on eBay recently for a graded Maravich rookie was $2,550 for a PSA 9 example. Four days after that auction, the Buy-It-Now button was hit to purchase a PSA 8.5 for $900. A BVG 8 Maravich sold for $597 with PSA 6 grades were around $200.
All of Maravich’s Topps cards from the 1970’s vintage basketball issues are popular with collectors, and except the rookie card are fairly affordable for new collectors wanting to add Pistol Pete to their collection. Those who want the best graded cards will need to spend more, as with most Maravich items the demand is high but the supply is not. $385 was paid for a PSA 9 1971-72 Topps and a perfect PSA 10 Gem Mint late this spring and a 1978-79 card went for $100.
After his fourth season with the Hawks, when he averaged 27.7 points per game, Maravich was sent to New Orleans in a blockbuster trade. The Jazz sent two players and four draft picks to the Hawks as they needed Maravich to not only help them on the court but to also bring more fans to the games. Maravich put up solid numbers back in Louisiana but the team would end up relocating to Utah.
Maravich finished his career with the Boston Celtics, playing part of the 1979-80 season next to Larry Bird and Dave Cowens. That was also the first year of the three point line on NBA courts, something that would have added to Maravich’s career points average if it had been there for his entire career. Maravich’s last card during his playing days was the 1980-81 Topps. The unique three-player perforated cards offered a lot of different combinations. One version with Leonard Robinson and Dwight Jones joining Pete sold for a little under $79 recently. Another version of the Maravich 1980-81 Topps card has Dennis Johnson and Lloyd Free on it.
The mystique surrounding Maravich is brought back to collectors when they find a book about him or come across the movie The Pistol: The Birth of a Legend, or a documentary about his life and basketball career or a basketball skills instructional video. On YouTube there are old CBS Sports shows to view with NBA players competing in H.O.R.S.E. games and fans can watch as Maravich defeats other NBA stars, like “The Iceman” George Gervin and Bob McAdoo, with trick shots that he hits while sitting down on the court or jumping from out of bounds under the basket.
Fans of Maravich are able to hunt for his cards today in the various Panini releases. A Prizm Gold card numbered to 10 sold for $200 on eBay. His game-used jersey cards always have plenty of bidders, and there are memorabilia cards for the Hawks, Jazz and Celtics as well as LSU. UD Artifacts Triple Jersey cards of Maravich have sold on eBay for $140 and $76.
Maravich appears on a few oddball sets like the 1971-72 Icee Bear issue, which was postcard sized and printed on thin stock. A near mint-mint graded example can be had for $35-45. A mint, graded card is worth $150-175.
Another part of the collectibles market that Maravich sells well in is autographs, signed on anything and everything. Checks, award certificates, magazines, scraps of paper, if Maravich signed them they are valuable. Autographed basketball cards, when accompanied by a grading company stamp of approval, can sell for hundreds of dollars. In fact, an autographed ’80-81 Topps Maravich card, torn from the other two, sold about a month ago for $665.
Grey Flannel Auctions has sold many items for the Maravich family including a game-used New Orleans Jazz jersey, NBA awards and his Basketball Hall of Fame Induction Ring. The ring sold several weeks ago for $88,826.
Maravich basketball cards should maintain their values as older fans have the funds to invest in the best cards and new fans are interested after watching highlights of his behind the back passes, accurate shooting ballhandling. High grade examples are good for the investor while budget-minded collectors can still latch on to The Pistol through ungraded cards. You can see both here.