Historically speaking, the Boston Celtics have been the best team in the NBA, although their record this season may say otherwise. Boasting 17 NBA Championships, the team has had more success in the past than any other franchise. In terms of basketball cards, some of the most collectible pieces of cardboard are Celtics rookie cards. Special shoutout to All Vintage Cards for assistance with this research. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the best rookie cards the Celtics have to offer.
Bob Cousy- 1957 Topps
One of the first all-time greats in Boston Celtics history, Bob Cousy definitely made it clear that he was the top point guard to ever call Boston home. Taking the league by storm in 1950, “Cooz” did not get a card until around the halfway point of his career.
In 1957 when Topps produced a full set of NBA cards, Cousy was featured in the set dribbling a ball (#17). Although it came out years after his rookie season, the Cousy rookie card has still been a hit with collectors.
A PSA 5 runs about $200 while a PSA 7 commands close to $700. Only three PSA 9s are in existence, so obviously those are not cheap– one can expect upwards of $7,500 at auction.
Bill Russell- 1957-1958 Topps
Winning 11 NBA Championships as a long-time member of the Boston Celtics, Bill Russell established himself as one the greatest centers in NBA history. Making his NBA debut during the 1956-1957, Russell found himself on cardboard in the 1957-58 Topps NBA set (#77).
His rookie cards are rarely found in high-grade because of the centering issues often seen with the set, the dark color of the photo and the simple passage of time. Only five of Russell rookie cards have been rated at least an 8.5 while just three are graded 9.
While a more common EX condition card usually goes for about $1,000, a PSA 7 will set you back around $3,500. The almost unheard of higher grades fetch a mint.
Tommy Heinsohn- 1957-1958 Topps
Better known now as the color commentator during the Celtics games on Comcast Sports Network New England, Tommy Heinsohn, like Bob Cousy, was a star at Holy Cross. From his league debut, Heinsohn had a profound impact on the team, winning NBA Rookie of the Year for 1957.
In the 1957-58 Topps set, Heinsohn (#19) is attempting to block a shot on his card. That piece of cardboard does not come cheap however, as even an EX/NM example can sell for up to $200.
There are no mint, graded Heinsohn rookie cards in existence and there is just one PSA 8.5. There are just 26 PSA 8 Heinsohn cards and those are not cheap—commanding close to $900 on average.
Sam Jones- 1961 Fleer
Winning ten NBA Championships as a member of the C’s, Sam Jones won the second most rings in his NBA career—second only to Bill Russell.
Had Sam Jones made his NBA debut a year earlier, he would have been featured in the 1957 Topps set but instead, he had to settle for a card in the 1961 Fleer set.
Perhaps the cheapest option of the vintage Celtics greats, a PSA 5 is a bargain at $40 while a PSA 7 can be found for under $100.
Although there are 16 PSA 9’s out there, they do not come cheap—the most recent one sold at auction commanded $1800.
John Havlicek- 1969-1970 Topps
A teammate of Russell for some of his NBA career, John Havlicek might just be best known for a certain steal in the final seconds of the 1965 Eastern Conference Championship. What some may not realize is that he was the best shooting guard in Boston Celtics history.
John Havlicek was already an established NBA star before he was featured on cardboard. Other than Fleer’s 1961-62 set, there were no mainstream basketball cards issued from 1958 through 1968.
Havlicek was in the 1968-69 Topps Test issue but those cards are extremely rare with only a small number in existence. The card generally considered Hondo’s rookie is the 1969-70 Topps issue (#20). You can often find a solid example for under $50 but the oversized cards are tough to find in graded, mint condition.
Larry Bird- 1980-1981 Topps
Winning three titles when it was all said and done, Larry Bird’s legend is reflected in the price of his rookie card. First featured in the oddly perforated 1980-81 Topps set, Bird is pictured on the same card with Magic Johnson and Julius Erving.
The card also counts as a Magic Johnson rookie card which of course, only drives up the value more. The Bird-Magic rookie card is on the list of the most popular basketball cards of all-time.
A graded, mint 9 Bird-Magic rookie card can exceed $1,500 while a PSA 8 (nm/mt) will run close to $400. Larry Bird cards are still among the most collected, more than 20 years after his retirement.
Paul Pierce-1998-1999 SP Authentic
More recently, Paul Pierce stole the show for the Boston Celtics, although he is no longer with the team. Spending much of his NBA career in green, the Celtics first round draft pick back in the 1998 NBA draft played for the team until the end of the 2012-2013 season.
That same year Pierce was drafted, he was featured on a wide variety of rookie cards, although the most notable one is the SP Authentic edition in which the cards are numbered to 3500 (#100).
Considered a rare find, they are still much cheaper than any of the cards previously mentioned. While a PSA 9 typically goes for about $50, finding a non-graded or slightly lower grade version would bring the price down.