If the NBA commissioned a basketball Mount Rushmore, Bill Russell would certainly have a spot. The former great was a pioneer in many ways and is a collecting favorite. Because of this, Bill Russell cards and autographs remain in high demand.
Based on his career highlights, Bill Russell is in a league of his own. During his storied career with the Boston Celtics, Russell won 11 NBA Championships, five MVP awards, and was named to 12 All-Star games. He also won two NCAA titles in college with the University of San Francisco.
While the majority of Bill Russell cards and autographs were downright reasonable for a long time, it seems the hobby has finally come around and the prices have picked up.
The following list takes a look at some of the best Bill Russell cards currently available for collectors.
Vintage collectors have very few options because there were only two major products released during Bill Russell’s 13-year NBA career.
Top 10 Bill Russell Cards to Collect
Shop for specific cards on eBay using the links below. Bolded sets go to complete product profiles or card guides.
1957-58 Topps Bill Russell RC #77
While many of his other cards and autographs might be easier on a budget, the sole Bill Russell rookie from 1957-58 Topps is not in that same grouping. The front-lit image with a background gives the impression that the game was being played in a darkened gym. Other than the action shot of Russell, the only additional feature of the card is a yellow and red text box displaying his name and team.
1961-62 Fleer Bill Russell #38
Several years would pass before another NBA product would be available and this would be the last major release of Bill Russell’s career. Vintage basketball collectors should recognize the 1961-62 Fleer design because the product is filled with Hall of Fame rookie cards, including Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson and Jerry West. The simple layout, bold colors and black-and-white photo make for one of the most iconic designs ever produced.
1961-62 Fleer Bill Russell #62 In Action
Although it is not the main Bill Russell card from the 1961-62 Fleer release, card #62 is equally popular and valuable with collectors. The 66-card set features 44 main cards, as well as a 22-card "In Action" subset. The design is virtually the same, except an action image of Russell is shown and the caption reads "Bill Russell Takes To The Air."
1968-69 Topps Test Bill Russell #4
1968-69 Topps Test was the set that came before Topps' official return to basketball cards with the tallboy format used in 1969-70 Topps. The test issue set included 22 cards and is populated with plenty of Hall of Fame players. The simple black-and-white front design is a stark contrast to the design that Topps would use the following year and the backs of the card contain part of an image that can be combined to form a picture of Wilt Chamberlain. These test cards rarely surface and the Bill Russell card is particularly rare.
1973-74 Shur-Fresh Bread Seattle SuperSonics Bill Russell
While it is not the typical card that pops to mind for collectors, the Seattle SuperSonics release from Shur-Fresh Bread presents a fun alternative for Bill Russell collectors. The cards originally came with the bread tab attached to the corner, but they mostly surface without it. During the 1973-74 season, Bill Russell was in the midst of his first year as the head coach for Seattle. Unfortunately, the magic he displayed on the court for Boston did not translate to his coaching stint with the SuperSonics. These can also be tough to find, especially examples in good condition.
1995 Action Packed Hall of Fame Autographs Bill Russell #40 #/500
A staple of early-'90s collecting, Action Packed produced a brief run of Hall of Fame basketball products. Most notable was 1995 Action Packed Hall of Fame, which included one HOF autograph redemption card per box. While the base cards are nothing special, the autograph set contained an impressive group of players, including the first Bill Russell autograph card. Signed in silver and hand-numbered to 500 copies, the gold foil card remains a popular option. Collectors should be aware that there is no base card for Bill Russell.
1999 UD Century Legends Epic Signatures Bill Russell #BR
Nearly four years would pass before the hobby saw another signed Bill Russell card. Epic Signatures from 1999 UD Century Legends was one of those options and the set offered collectors an on-card autograph with a classic design. There is also a rare jersey-numbered Century parallel, numbered to just six copies.
2003-04 Exquisite Collection Uniforms Bill Russell #BR Autographed Jersey #/100
Even though Exquisite was more celebrated for the valuable rookie cards found in each product, many Hall of Fame players populate the checklists. Among the most plentiful signed cards for Bill Rusell, Exquisite Uniforms featured an autographed jersey card, numbered to 100. While specific Exquisite options for Bill Russell do not surface often, almost any signed Exquisite Bill Russell card will be a good addition to a collection.
High-End Bill Russell Autographs
Of course, Exquisite Collection was just the start of the high-end movement and Bill Russell signed for several premium releases over the years from Topps, Panini and Upper Deck.
Multi-Player Bill Russell Autographs
There are nice cards and then there are pieces of history. One example is found in 2007-08 UB Black. This Octo Autographs card is a piece of history. The multi-signed card features eight elite signatures, including Bill Russell, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Julius Erving, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Hakeem Olajuwon. All signatures are on-card and signed in silver. The rare card is numbered to 10 and there is certainly no filler when you consider the autographs that are present.
Given the rarity of cards like this, they are not the easiest to track down. However, collectively, there are multiple options that pair Bill Russell with another elite NBA player.
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