Larry Bird’s rookie year was in 1978, but many of his collectible cards came much later after the basketball card industry took off in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The following is a list of 12 Larry Bird cards from 1980-1993, that are worth collecting and investing in, whether you have a small or large budget.
(Not sure what to pay for these cards? Have a look at the guide I put to together on how to research basketball card prices online.)
1980 Topps Scoring Leader (Bird, Erving, Johnson)Find on eBay
Many consider this 1980 Topps Larry Bird card as his “true” rookie. He is joined by Magic Johnson and Julius Erving as NBA scoring leaders.
This basketball card set is sort of a strange one, with all the cards featuring multiple players who lead the league in scoring, rebounding, assists, along with standard 3 player cards.
Bird is also featured on other cards in the set, but this is by far the most valuable one because of the elite company.
If you want this card graded in your collection, get ready to pony up. A PSA 10 sold for $114,000 in 2019, according to PSA’s auction records.
However, you can still scoop up a PSA 6 for around $1000.
1981 Topps Larry BirdFind on eBay
Topps made basketball cards again in 1981, but took a 10 year hiatus from the industry after that.
This 1981 Topps Larry Bird is a clean, iconic design featuring Bird in a year where they won an NBA Championship, defeating the Houston Rockets 4-2.
However, these cards are becoming harder to come by and I fully expect the prices to rise over the next decade.
1986 Fleer Larry BirdFind on eBay
Fleer jumped into the basketball scene after the Topps Hiatus that was briefly filled by Star Co. for a few years.
Since this is Fleer’s first year making basketball cards, it has become an iconic set – featuring the popular 1986 Michael Jordan Fleer rookie, which has sold for mid to high 6 figures and will always be one of the most valuable Michael Jordan cards out there.
Larry Bird’s 1986 Fleer card recently broke $2,000 in an auction during July of 2020.
These cards were mass produced, and there is a lot of VERY off-center cuts, making a 10 quite rare.
In fact, only 3% of the graded PSA population was graded a 10, with a majority landing as a PSA 8 (51%). See pop reports here.
I left out Larry’s Star cards from this list, simply because PSA does not grade them. However, Beckett does grade them and you can find his Star cards from years 1983-1985.
1986 Fleer Sticker Larry BirdFind on eBay
The 1986 Fleer sticker cards are not only rare compared to the base cards, but also extremely tough to grade due to the enormous amount of off center cuts.
Larry Bird’s 1986 Fleer sticker has a Gem Mint 10 rate of only 2%.
One of these cards sold for $2,000 in May of 2020.
1987 Fleer & Sticker Larry BirdFind on eBay
The 1987 Fleer Cards continued to be a very tough grading set.
Only 2% of the base and sticker 1987 Larry Bird cards received a Gem Mint 10 grade.
A vast majority (approximately 50%) of these cards will receive a PSA 8 grade.
1988-1990 Fleer Larry Bird CardsFind 1988 Fleer on eBayFind 1989 Fleer on eBay
Fleer continued to make basketball cards into the late 1980s, and all 4 of these Larry Bird cards are great for collecting and investing.
The major differentiation among cards which received a PSA grade of 8 or higher is the centering.
Here is a breakdown of PSA grading for each of these cards by percentage.
|Card Name||PSA 8||PSA 9||PSA 10|
|1988 Fleer Larry Bird||24%||54%||17%|
|1988 Fleer Larry Bird All-Star||21%||51%||20%|
|1989 Fleer Larry Bird||15%||56%||24%|
|1990 Fleer Larry Bird||9%||43%||46%|
1990 Skybox Larry Bird
1990 marked the inaugural year Skybox came out with cards, making this iconic set a great addition to a collection and a steady investment over time.
Centering and print errors are not nearly as big an issue with this set like previously seen in the late 1980s Fleer cards.
Based on PSA population numbers, if you send in a clean, centered version of a 1990 Skybox Larry Bird #14, you have a strong chance at a PSA 10.
My guess for this large percentage of PSA 10s in the population (48%), is that most collectors and flippers are only sending in clean centered cards.
There are certainly a lot of these cards available, making them less rare and valuable, but they will definitely rise in value over time.
Pick up a clean PSA 10 of this card for under $40-50 while you can. It could easily fetch $100 in a few years time.
1991 Hoops USA Larry Bird
There were a total of 6 Larry Bird cards from the 1991 NBA Hoops basketball card set.
I added this one to the list because of its “Dream Team” significance.
This card has been graded the most of the set – but still has a fairly low pop.
For those looking to invest in Bird at a cheaper price, this can make a nice option – especially as other collectors look to complete their own “Dream Team” set – or you could create your own to increase the value as a lot.
1993 Finest Larry Bird Refractor
Topps re-entered the basketball scene in the 90s, and released a 1993 Topps Finest set, which featured a base and refractor card for each one in the set.
This is really a historical set, as it introduced refractors (cards which produce a rainbow-like effect when held to the light) in the hobby which has been a mainstay ever since.
The refractors are much more rare, as there are only 2 per hobby box on average.
Only 134 of these 1993 Larry Bird refractor cards have been graded, and about 27% have recieved a Gem Mint 10 grade.
Larry Bird had a remarkable career, winning 3 NBA titles along with 2 finals MVPs.
His career was cut a bit short by back problems, but he remains one of the all-time greats.
The Bird and Magic rivalry revitalized the sport, and coincided with the rise of the hobby, making him an ideal player to collect and invest in.
There have been many Larry Bird cards since this time period, so as these prices continue to rise, look to cheap modern refractors and inserts of Bird as sneaky investments as the hobby grows.