Larry Bird is widely considered one of the best basketball players of all-time. He has furthered his reputation in the game with successful stints as a head coach and team executive. Likewise, the many Larry Bird cards have an equally strong reputation in the hobby, and, understandably, he is one of the most collected names among the retired players.
Coming a few years before the Michael Jordan era, Larry Bird was responsible for a very significant period of growth in the NBA and basketball card collecting. Feeding off his intense rivalry with Magic Johnson that carried over from college, Bird's Celtics and Johnson's Lakers frequently squared off in games that decided the NBA championship during the 1980s. These two men dominated the early part of the decade, and, in a way, carried the collecting torch until Jordan was ready. Bird and Johnson have also shared space on many cards, starting with their rookies.
Unfortunately for Bird collectors, the heyday of his playing career did not coincide with strong basketball collecting interest. Outside of a few select offerings, most Larry Bird cards from the 1980s and 1990s are worth very little. Bird was not involved in the insert craze of the late-'90s that pushed basketball values way up. He also came well before the time that autograph and relic cards were a regular part of collecting.
However, the boost in basketball card collecting has brought with it renewed interest in early Larry Bird cards. He has also been featured in many products with game-used and autographed cards. These post-2000 cards make up the bulk of his collecting value as well as a large portion of the top Larry Bird cards.
The following selection contains some of the best choices among the various "Larry Legend" cards. This list aims to honor some of the most highly regarded and collected cards of the Celtics great.
Top 10 Larry Bird Basketball Cards to Collect
1980-81 Topps Larry Bird RC #34 / Julius Erving #174 / Magic Johnson RC #139
Like other cards that fall into the "Holy Grail" status of the hobby, there is little explanation required for this amazing card. Featuring the sole rookie cards for Bird and Magic Johnson, the 1980-81 Topps Basketball card would be considered elite with those two alone. But on top of that, it also showcases Dr. J, sandwiched between the two rookies. Three Hall of Famers. Two rookies. One card. Enough said.
1981-82 Topps Larry Bird #4
The following season, "The Hick from French Lick" was featured in 1981-82 Topps Basketball. Very thin borders cause centering issues, but the ungraded and low-grade prices are still pretty reasonable for the second Larry Bird base card.
1983-84 Star Company Larry Bird #26 SP
Acting as the collecting bridge for basketball fans during the card drought that fell between 1981-82 Topps and 1986-87 Fleer, 1983-84 Star Co. offers a short-printed Larry Bird card. The green borders are perfect given the high prices the card commands.
1986-87 Fleer Larry Bird #9
1986-87 Fleer Basketball is an iconic set that put basketball cards back on the map. While Bird may not be the first, second, or even tenth most desirable card, the great design and relevance of the product combined with a player of his caliber make for a dynamic combination.
1986-87 Fleer Sticker Larry Bird #2
As the only insert option 1986-87 Fleer, the sicker set has enjoyed increased attention over time, and not just the MJ card. This is another Larry Bird card that has been seeing a boost from collectors.
1993-94 Finest Larry Bird #2
Despite retiring at the end of the 1991-92 season, Bird still managed to be prominently featured in 1993-94 Topps Finest Basketball. The base card can still be had for a few dollars, but the real chase is the Refractor version, which has since gone on to be one of the hobby's most popular parallels.
1993-94 Hoops Commemorative Larry Bird, Magic Johnson Dual Autograph
At 1:13,896 packs, puling this card was an accomplishment in itself. But the long-term importance of a card that features the signatures of two elite players on one card is nearly impossible to convey. Cards like this didn't exist at the time.
Be very careful when buying one of these cards because they are notorious for counterfeit problems. A good clue for an authentic version is a visible Skybox embossed emblem in the center of the card. Unfortunately, this is still no guarantee of authenticity. Also, be aware the card came as a redemption card in 1993-94 Hoops Series 2 boxes.
1999 UD Century Legends Epic Signatures Larry Bird Autograph #LB
They don't get more simple than this but good luck finding one. The very first mainstream brand to feature a certified auto of Bird exclusively, Bird's Epic Signature card is a rare and valuable option despite having no serial numbering. At 1:23 packs, the autographs were not even that difficult to pull, but the boxes of this popular product quickly dried up and are now hard to find. There is also a Century parallel that is hand-numbered to 33 copies.
2002-03 Ultimate Collection Signatures Larry Bird Autograph #LBS
2002-03 Ultimate Collection Signatures has a nice design and large signature area. High-end collectors will be interested in the gold parallel that is nearly identical except for being hand-numbered to 33. The only other noticeable difference is the "33" in the background of the signature area. The regular version utilizes a silver font while the gold parallel appropriately uses a gold font.
Exquisite Collection Larry Bird Autographs
2003-04 Exquisite Collection ushered in a new era of basketball collecting and it took rookies, veterans and retired players along for the ride. Limited Logos emerged as a collector favorite based on the on-card autograph and medium-sized jersey pieces. A small headshot, rainbow foil and black background helps give this top Larry Bird card personality without overshadowing the autograph and jersey piece.
While this is arguably the most popular Larry Bird Exquisite autograph, it is far from the only one.
Multi-Player Larry Bird Autographs
With the influx of autographed cards since 2000, there have been many new and valuable Larry Bird cards for collectors to pursue. There are also many cards that feature Bird paired with other superstars. The 2006-07 Exquisite Collection Dual Enshrinements card showcasing autographs from Bird and Jordan is a great example of that. While it's overly limited print run makes it very difficult to locate, it is still a fantastic card. To the delight of most collectors, it also features Jordan as a member of the Chicago Bulls. There are quite a few cards featuring the signatures of Bird and Jordan and really you cannot go wrong with any of them.