The Boston Celtics teams of the late 1950s and through the 1960s had the passing of Bob Cousy, the hustle of John Havlicek, the clutch shooting of Sam Jones, the accuracy of Bill Sharman, and to complete the championship package the Celtics had Bill Russell at center who rebounded, blocked shots, made passes, scored when needed and won 11 NBA titles.
To honor those 11 titles, here are some of the most valuable, most important and most popular Bill Russell basketball cards. At the bottom is a real-time look at the most watched Russell cards on eBay right now.
There was one Bill Russell card in Topps’ first basketball card set. In the first Fleer set, there were two. Our list begins with the ’61-62 Fleer Russell in Action which shows the agile center flying with the ball in his left hand. The Fleer set had 44 cards of different players and 22 In Action cards of better known players.
Cards graded PSA 8 have sold on eBay recently for $270, $330 and $350. A good ungraded card can go for $55 and up. Those wanting to find this old Russell card at a low price can look for those with centering issues, which is common to the early basketball issues.
Russell was a player/coach for the Boston Celtics during the last three years of his playing career, but something that is forgotten is that he coached other NBA teams. Russell coached Seattle for four seasons in the mid 1970s, and briefly was in charge of Sacramento in 1987-88.
The Shur-Fresh bread set includes ten players and two coaches with the Russell card by far the most important. Fred Brown and Spencer Haywood were here, too, though. If a collector wants to really get a card in original condition, they will want to get one with the bread clip still attached to the card.
These may be underrated. There isn’t a lot of demand but the Shur-Fresh sets aren’t that easy to find.
There are several Topps cards from the 1970s that show Russell with the SuperSonics, like card #219 from 1975-76. In 1974-75 there was a SuperSonics Milk Cartons card of Russell as well.
Action Packed produced cards of Hall of Fame players in 1993 and 1995, and while the only autograph that was available in their first set was of Dr. J they had many more autographed cards available through their 1995 release. Among the redemption cards in packs were those that could be exchanged for signed cards from Rick Barry, Bill Walton, Chuck Daly and John Wooden. The most expensive card is the autographed Russell card, the first ever autographed basketball card featuring Russell.
Russell had developed a reputation as someone who didn’t autograph anything, and that could be a reason why the prices of his autographed cards stay at a high level. The Action Packed cards were signed with a silver pen, and numbered out of 500 with the same pen underneath the autograph.
A Bill Russell collector doesn’t need this card to say they have all his best cards, but it would be nice to have it. A year before Topps was back in the NBA game with their 1969-70 set, they made a very limited amount of cards that featured not only Russell but Chamberlain, West, Havlicek, Robertson and Baylor. There are 22 cards in the set. It is close to impossible to find a Russell card from this set.
They are black and white cards, and the card backs form a Wilt picture.
7) 2003-04 Exquisite Collection Patches Autographs #BR
Exquisite Collection cards are hard to find due to the low production numbers, but this Russell card is numbered to 100 and that it makes it a tiny bit easier to acquire.
With very few cards ever for sale, a possible price to expect could be estimated by looking at the same card from the same set from different players. A Julius Erving recently sold for $202.50 on eBay, and a Patrick Ewing sold for $363.88, so the Russell might fit somewhere in that price range. An autographed Bill Russell card from 2008-09 Exquisite, which is not as popular as 2003-04 Exquisite, sold for around $225 and was numbered out of 25.
Eleven NBA championships is an amazing accomplishment, but Russell’s success on the basketball court included even more than that. There was the Gold medal at the 1956 Olympics as well as two NCAA titles with San Francisco. There are a number of cards featuring Russell in his college uniform and the green PMG card from Fleer Retro is one of the best. It is numbered to 10, and two recent sales on eBay for the card resulted in prices of $294 and $213.63.
5) 2004-05 SP Signature Edition Six Star Signatures #6S4 Bill Russell/Bob Cousy/Bill Walton/Larry Bird/Robert Parish/Dave Cowens
The Celtics went from Bill Russell to Dave Cowens to Robert Parish at the starting center position, with a little bit of Henry Finkel between Russell and Cowens. Russell, Cowens and Parish started at center for 16 of the Celtics NBA championships. This card not only includes those three Hall of Fame centers, but also Cousy, Bird and Walton. Numbered to 5, it is a very rare card but one that a Celtics fan should search for.
4) 2000-01 Upper Deck Game Jerseys Combo 1 #WCBR Wilt Chamberlain/Bill Russell
During the 1960s, the NBA was Russell versus Wilt. The champion team had to defeat the most dominant player. The Celtics were able to get the best of Wilt’s Warriors and 76ers, and Lakers too, most years and it was Russell’s defense against Chamberlain that made it possible.
Numbered to 50, this one doesn’t appear for sale very often and could be valued around $300. Some of the other player combinations in the set include Bird and Magic, Garnett and Bryant, Bird and Erving, as well as Jazz teammates Stockton and Malone. Except for autograph versions, numbered to 10, of the Bird and Erving card and the Garnett and Bryant card, the #WCBR card of Russell and Wilt is the most expensive card in the set.
Packs of 1961-62 Fleer contained rookie cards of Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Oscar Robertson, Elgin Baylor and Bailey Howell as well as this Russell card, his second NBA card ever produced.
After landing a Russell rookie card, this Fleer card could be next on a collector’s want-list. A Bill Russell Fleer card graded by PSA at 6.5 sold recently on eBay for $230. The card has a close-up picture of Russell on the front, on the back is player information and stats and a mention that he was a great rebounder and defender.
2) 1999-00 Upper Deck Retro Inkredible #BR
While a collector could open a box of Upper Deck Retro and end up with only an autograph of Cory Alexander, there were also autographed cards of past superstars of the NBA like Wilt Chamberlain, Bob Cousy, John Havlicek, Jerry West, and Bill Russell.
The Inkredible Russell cards can be hard to find. Not only is he a player that many collect, but the Inkredible insert set is something that collectors like to complete. In 2011, Legendary Auctions sold a set missing only Glen Rice for $1,912.
There was also a variation of the Inkredible cards, and they were numbered to the player’s jersey number. Good news for collectors searching for cards of Brian Grant and Glen Rice, their cards are numbered to 44 and 41, but as Russell wore number 6 it makes his card difficult to find. However, one card appeared recently and Russell’s 1999-00 Upper Deck Retro Inkredible Level 2 card numbered 3 of 6 sold on eBay for $699.
1) 1957-58 Topps #77
Bill Russell’s rookie card is the most important card in one of basketball’s most iconic card sets. The 1957-58 Topps set combines great in-game player photographs, a unique design and fun player information on the back and is a set full of rookie cards of Hall of Famers as it was the only basketball release in between 1948 Bowman and Fleer’s first NBA set in 1961-62.
The Russell card shows him in a defensive posture, and the back of the card mentions how Russell “uses his talents to block enemy shots and bottle up attacks”. How often he blocked shots will never be known, as the NBA didn’t keep track of the statistic until the mid 1970s, but most experts who watched him say he probably blocked more shots than anyone who played later in the NBA.
Russell’s rookie card is one of the most valuable ever created and hard to find in high-grade.
It is also possible to buy the entire Topps set, which could be more economical for a collector who wants not only Bill Russell’s rookie card but those of Cousy, Sharman, Tom Heinsohn, Bob Pettit, Dolph Schayes and other stars too.
There are a plethora of Russell cards to collect from more recent releases too. Topps missed out on producing cards of Russell for much of his NBA career, but the 2007-08 Topps Bill Russell The Missing Years insert set shows what his cards could have looked like. They are inexpensive cards to search for. Topps also made official rookie card reprints that were in packs during the mid 1990s, like Russell’s #40 card in 1996 Topps Stars.
Panini often include inexpensive Russell cards in their new sets, while those wanting to spend a lot on a rare Russell can consider his cards in Flawless and Immaculate. Those who collect champion players, championship winners, gold medalists, NBA All-Stars, great centers or Hall of Famers will want to have Russell cards in their collection.