Earvin "Magic" Johnson is one of the greatest players in NBA history and Magic Johnson cards continue to see strong interest from collectors.
The Hall of Fame guard is a five-time NBA champion, but he is perhaps best remembered for his long-running rivalry with Larry Bird. Dating back to their college days, Magic and Michigan State frequently squared off against Bird and Indiana State, producing many exciting games. They continued their intense rivalry in the NBA, with Bird and the Boston Celtics and Magic and the LA Lakers meeting many times in the playoffs.
Outside of basketball, Magic Johnson is also known for his public battle with HIV. This kept him in the spotlight even after he hung up his sneakers, and he became a source of inspiration for many.
While there are plenty of Magic Johnson cards available, most came during the "junk wax era" of the late-'80s and early-'90s. Nearly all of his autographed and limited cards were released after 2000. In fact, among the NBA's elite, Magic Johnson autographs might just be the most affordable and readily available.
There are still many great options across all budgets and the following list documents some of the best cards for collectors.
Top 10 Magic Johnson Basketball Cards to Collect
1980-81 Topps Larry Bird RC #34 / Julius Erving #174 / Magic Johnson RC #139
There is a reason why this 1980-81 Topps Basketball card remains relevant after all these years. It would have been a popular card if it just featured the Magic Johnson rookie card. But it also happens to feature the rookie card of another Hall of Fame player, Larry Bird. NBA legend Julius Erving rounds out the trio, making it one star-studded card. Few early basketball cards carry more clout than this gem, which is why it is the most popular option among all Magic Johnson cards.
This is the top choice, for sure, but Magic Johnson is also found paired with other players or separated. These '80-81 cards are still his rookies and much more affordable.
1981-82 Topps Magic Johnson #21
Magic's second base card arrived in 1981-82 Topps and it shows Johnson driving to the hoop against the Bullets.
1983-84 Star Company Magic Johnson #13 SP
The first of several Star Co. cards for Magic Johnson came in 1983-84 Star Company Basketball. Issued in team cello packs, the yellow border is hard to miss but it does go well with the Lakers' colors.
1986-87 Fleer Magic Johnson #53
The MJ that carries this product is not Magic Johnson, but this iconic set features a Hall of Fame checklist and Johnson is one of the many strong names. The timeless design and great popularity for 1986-87 Fleer make this one of the top Magic Johnson cards.
1986-87 Fleer Sticker Magic Johnson #7
These 1986-87 Fleer inserts fall one per pack and have proven to be quite valuable. The Magic Johnson sticker card offers a nice contrast to the more colorful base version.
1992-93 Hoops Commemorative Magic Johnson Autograph
Honoring his retirement, the Commemorative insert for Magic Johnson came in 1992-93 Hoops. It features an image of Magic from his rookie season in 1979. Reportedly, 1,000 copies were signed, offering the first pack-pulled Magic Johnson autograph. These carry an embossed Seal of Authenticity stamp.
1993-94 Hoops Commemorative Larry Bird, Magic Johnson Dual Autograph
Despite coming as a redemption, this card was ahead of its time and showcases on-card autographs from Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Pairing signatures of the two long-time rivals, this rare card is tough to track down. This feat is more difficult based on counterfeiting issues.
Over the years, the duo signed other cards together, as well.
1995-96 Finest #252 Magic Johnson
Although he retired before the start of the 1991-92 season, Magic once again joined the NBA for the 1995-96 season. His return to the NBA only lasted one season, but it allowed a whole new world of options to open up for Magic Johnson card collectors. While this is not a high-dollar card, Finest has consistently put out some popular cards and they are a solid option for budget collectors. Refractor parallel cards provide a nice chase element.
Exquisite Collection Magic Johnson Autographs
Exquisite owned the high-end NBA basketball card market from 2003-04 to 2009-10. The premium cards from these sets continue to sell well and the inclusion of former greats like Magic Johnson is part of the reason why.
More specifically, Limited Logos has emerged as a preferred destination for collectors and the reason is quite apparent. Featuring an on-card auto, nice patch and low print run, these rare cards also carry the hard-earned prestige of the Exquisite brand.
There are many other popular options for Magic, including Exquisite Number Pieces and Noble Nameplates.
Multi-Player Magic Johnson Autographs
Given his relevance to the game, Johnson often signed with other all-time greats. These cards tend to be some of the most valuable Magic Johnson autographs issued.
For example, in a clear nod to their historic pairing on the 1980-81 Topps card, SP Signature Edition brings the Bird, Erving and Johnson trio to on-card autograph heaven. Limited to just 25 copies, this card is a great option for high-end collectors.
Related Topics: Basketball Cards: Guides