He shared his first Topps card with Magic Johnson and Dr. J. Just two years later, there was so little interest in basketball cards that the league went without a mainstream trading card contract. Fleer brought hoops back to the masses (sort of) in 1986-87 and for the final five years of his career, Larry Bird cards could be found in packs.
Multiple set licenses after his playing days ended, combined with the autograph and relic card craze of the last 10-15 years mean there have been more cards issued of Larry Legend after his career than there were during it.
These aren’t necessarily all of the most valuable Bird cards but below are 33 cards that collectors will want to own. Click the title of each to see them on eBay. At the bottom is a live look at the most watched Bird cards on eBay right now.
33. 1981-82 Topps #4
His first card gets all the fame, but this card from the second season of Bird cards is the first one that has him alone on a card.
Something that kids could have peeled off and put on their school book in 1987, most were kept intact and $350 was recently paid for one graded BGS 9.
31. 2008-09 Upper Deck Premier Stitchings #PSBSTN Larry Bird with Bill Russell, John Havlicek, Bob Cousy /50
An amazing card with four players who would be in the Celtics All-Time starting five.
30. 1991-92 SkyBox Mark and See Minis #NNO
Most cards come out of packs, this one can be found in the middle of a book. Collectors who purchase the book will get not only Bird but cards of Jordan and Magic Johnson as well as other Dream Teamers.
Often overlooked, this is Larry Bird’s rookie card but attached to two other mini-cards. Without Erving and Johnson the price is a lot lower. Bill Cartwright and Larry Drew share this card.
28. 1991-92 Hoops Canadian mini (food issue)
A very small card and one that is overlooked by collectors, it is 1 1/4 inches wide and 1 3/4 inches high. The same design as the regular Skybox card from that year, this card was found in Hostess and Frito-Lay products in Canada. That is why many of the cards still have the clear and sealed plastic wrapper on them.
27. 1990-91 Upper Deck Prototypes #33
The rarest of the rare, this card was produced by Upper Deck a year before their first official NBA set. Maybe one or two cards appear in auctions per decade.
An official NBA card reprint, so an inexpensive way for a collector to have a card that looks like Bird’s rookie card while searching for the original. There are also refractors of the reprints that go at higher prices.
An inexpensive and not very popular card but unique and packed with information as it can be folded out to several pages. Including the front and back there are eight pages, with pictures, statistics and a quote from Bird.
24. 2006-07 Exquisite Collection Numbers #ENLB /33
Those wanting a Bird card from every set he was in will need to save up to buy his cards from Exquisite. From a very expensive box, the Bird card not only has a memorabilia piece but an autograph too. The cards in this set are serial numbered to the players uniform number, so luckily he didn’t wear number 4 because these cards would be even more expensive and even harder to find.
23. 2000-01 SP Game Floor Authentic Floor Combos Gold #C6 with Michael Jordan /100
An expensive card as Bird and Jordan collectors will want it in their collection.
Collectors who want to find parallel versions of Bird’s cards will need this card that was originally included with a frozen pizza. It is the same as his regular Fleer card from that year except for the card number.
A cheap way to learn about Bird’s basketball career is to get his five cards from the Action Packed set. They have an embossed front and on the back are many informative sentences that cover Bird’s successful career.
20. 1985-86 JMS Game #14
The way to acquire this card in mint condition is to buy the sealed Celtics sheet. Uncut sheets have sold on Ebay for $125 and $32.89. Bird’s card has a picture of him scoring over Dr. J of the 76ers. When collectors have found most of Bird’s cards, there are “oddball” ones like this to look for.
Game-used jersey cards were still a rare item at this time, and the Bird uniform piece in the shape of his famous number 33 is a great design. There were also autographed versions which sell for high prices when they become available.
18. 1999 Upper Deck Century Legends Jerseys of the Century #LB
This card set was loaded with retired stars along with some current ones, and collectors could find Moses Malone and Bob Cousy autographs and even a card signed by Wilt Chamberlain. The Bird card was one of the highlights of the jersey insert set.
17. 2006-07 Topps Black #33
Topps went out of their way to create a plethora of Bird cards to collect in their 2006-07 set. There were thirty-four versions of Bird’s card, with the same back but different front. The cards were also produced in various numbered versions, the Black parallel cards are numbered to 99. While bargains can be found, Black parallel cards often sell for around $9.
16. 2000-01 Upper Deck Game Jerseys Combo 1 #DRLB with Julius Erving /50
While many people link Bird and Magic Johnson, it was Bird and Erving who battled several times a year to win the Atlantic Division.
After Bird retired, for a few years after there were only a small variety of his cards produced. At the time the Living Legends cards were an insert set that collectors were after, with around one per box and also including a Jordan card. The Bird card has a shiny finish and the front features two action shots of Bird.
14. 1998 Topps Golden Greats Laser Cuts #3
A couple of basketball card sets used technology that created a moving picture as the card was tilted. There was 1997-98 Upper Deck Diamond Vision which featured current players and also Golden Greats with eighteen retired superstars. The Bird card is the most expensive in the set and by adjusting the viewing angle it shows Bird driving to the basket for a lay-up, and the Laser Cuts is the parallel version with a distinctive rounded pattern for the card border.
13. 1991 Hoops Larry Bird Video #NNO
A card that uses not only the parquet floor for the background but also has a picture of a “LARRY BIRD BLVD” street sign on the back. The NBA Hoops card was found in a VHS tape about Bird’s career. Cards were sealed in a plastic wrapping and that is often how they are sold today.
An affordable piece of Olympic history, there are also versions with print runs of 99 and 49. Bird collectors can find red, white and blue uniform pieces on the cards, with the white versions being available in greater numbers.
11. 1985-86 Star #95G Larry Bird Green
This was the last of three seasons when Star were the only manufacturer of NBA cards. The Celtics cards were available in green and white versions.
10. 1999-00 Upper Deck Retro Platinum #11 Larry Bird /1
One of the very first One of One cards for Bird, and a lot more have been produced in recent years. From Panini products, the price range for 1 of 1 Larry Bird cards is $75 to $150. The unique 1 of 1 cards from their expensive boxes, like Gold Standard, can sell for around $300.
9. 2008-09 Ultimate Collection Jerseys Eight #UECELTIC with Robert Parish, Bill Russell, Glen Davis, Kevin McHale, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce /25
An overload of Celtics championship players, Bird shares this rare card with teammates McHale and Parish who dominated the NBA during the 1980s, Russell who has more championship rings than he has fingers to wear them on, and four Celtics from their most recent NBA title.
8. 2009-10 SP Game Used Six Star Swatches 65 #6SBISHOP with Shaquille O’Neal, George Gervin, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Dwight Howard /65
The Bird card from one of the most famous basketball sets, that was loaded with rookie cards of Jordan, Barkley, Ewing and Olajuwon.
A card that was impossible to find when first released, the Bird parallel Refractors card is still popular and only a few are available at one time. What collectors, and sellers, need to be aware of is that only the refracting shine on the front of the cards indicates it is a Refractors card as there was no information indicating that on the back. Prices might have gone up for these cards over the last year or so.
After a year without cards, Star produced their team sets and the Celtics set is one of the most expensive.
4. 2004-05 SkyBox Premium Parquet Performers #3
An insert set of Boston Garden history was one of the great sets of cards that Fleer/Skybox produced just before they shut down. On the front of the card is a piece of the floor that Bird played on. This card sold on Ebay recently for $22.
3. 1993-94 Hoops #MB1A Magic/Bird
An amazing card but also a potential problem for collectors, this card seems to be one that is available in bigger numbers than the odds at the time indicated. Buying a graded one that also authenticates the signatures would be the safest way to acquire the card.
2. 2002-03 UD SuperStars Legendary Leaders Triple Jersey #JWL DiMaggio/Gretzky/Bird
Upper Deck tried a multi-sport set that had everything from Beckham and Ichiro on a memorabilia card with Kevin Garnett to a card with autographs of Jordan and Tiger Woods. The Bird card features three players who are arguably the best ever at their sports. Gretzky is undoubtedly The Great One of the NHL, and a piece of his New York Rangers uniform is on the card. Joe DiMaggio’s famous New York Yankees uniform is there too, he had a 56-game hitting streak and won 9 World Series.
Bird could be the best all-around basketball player the NBA ever had. He is the only player with career averages of at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists per game and his shooting accuracy and range was rarely equalled as he produced the first ever season of over 50% from the field combined with over 40% for three-pointers and better than 90% from the free throw line.
The most famous Bird card, it is three superstars on one card, and a price a lot higher than anything else in the 1980-81 Topps set. The card will often sell for around $100. Graded versions go much higher, several PSA 9 graded cards have sold for around $1,300.