I have a passion for everything that is sports. That includes the ever so interesting world of sports card collecting. I have been collecting sports cards since I was little. Back then the cards of choice for me were O PEE CHEE. I collected baseball and hockey cards back then and still have some of those cards in my collection today. The packs back in those days consisted of about 5 cards and a pack of gum. The cards were cardboard with a player’s picture on the front and stats on the back. Those packs cost a quarter or fifty cents and were perfect for a kid like me.
Cards stayed like that for the next decade or so before the hobby began to change. The price of cards went up for the same old cards and collectors decided to invest in something else. Before all of the collectors got away the card companies made a change to bring life back into the hobby.
What the card companies decided to do was get the athletes to sign the cards and authenticate them.
That wasn’t the only change they made though. They also decided to cut up game used memorabilia and insert it in the cards. Anything from jerseys to sticks and bats to balls and even turf and stadium seats.
Then shortly after that, they combined the autographs with the memorabilia to make the ultimate cards.
If you haven’t seen some of these cards, they are a sight to behold… I guess that’s why some packs cost as much as 600 dollars.
What this change did was awesome for the autograph hound and even the regular collector. The companies managed to get every player to sign and most of the greats in each sport. They even thought really far outside the box and started making cards that had cut signatures of deceased players who were the all-time greats of the game. I’ve even seen a guy pull an autograph of babe Ruth out of a 200 dollar pack. It was surreal. The guy almost passed out. It was a sight to see. Because of the availability of such autographs even the low-end collector can amass quite an impressive collection of the pro athletes of the last 30 plus years. In this lengthy series I will look at the most desirable athletes from each of the sports and non-sports to decide who the must have autographs are.
Part 1: College Basketball inception-1970
There have been plenty of great players in the history of college basketball and these are the most important players’ autographs from the college game in no particular order.
Dr. James Naismith- every basketball collector should have an autograph of the inventor of the game in their collection. His autographs aren’t cheap however since he has been deceased for more Than 75 years. You can find one for about a thousand dollars if you’re really lucky but most sell for more than that if you can find one.
Howard Cann- Cann played at NYU and finished his college career in 1920. Cann was the National Player of the Year and is considered by some to be the best basketball player of the first 25 years of the sport. There aren’t many of his autographs out there but they are available if you look hard enough.
John Wooden- Wooden is the best college coach of all time and was also the National Player of the Year at Purdue in 1932. His autographs are everywhere and can be had for around 100 dollars.
Hank Luisetti- Luisetti was the first two-time Helms National Player of the Year. He won the award as a sophomore and a junior while playing for Stanford. His autographs are scarce but aren’t expensive when they are available.
George Mikan- Mikan was one of the game’s first truly great big men. He was a dominant player for DePaul back in the mid-40s winning the National Player of the Year in consecutive seasons.
Mikan has both on card and cut signatures available, with the cheapest going for around 100 dollars.
Ed McCauley- McCauley was a star at Saint Louis University in the late 40’s. He was the Helms National Player of the Year in 1948 while leading SLU to the NIT title and the AP Player of the Year in 1949. McCauley has some autographs out there and can go for as little as 30 dollars.
Dick Groat- most fans remember Groat as an all-star shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but he was a remarkable college basketball player. Groat was the Helms Player of the Year in 1951 and the UPI Player of the Year in 52, while setting an NCAA single season scoring record with 839 points.
Groat has some autographs available on card but all are with him in a baseball uniform. They can be obtained for about 15 dollars on a good day.
Clyde Lovellette- Lovellette was a dominant player for 3 years at the University of Kansas. Lovellette was a 2 time consensus all-American and the Helms Player of the Year in 1952. He is the only player to lead the nation in scoring and win the NCAA title in the same year. Clyde has plenty of autographs out there and some can be had for less than 20 bucks.
Tom Gola- Gola was a 3 time consensus all-American who won different National Player of the Year awards as a junior and senior. Gola led LaSalle to 2 final fours and was the MOP in 1954 as he led LaSalle to the NCAA title. Gola also holds the NCAA record for career rebounds. There are a few cut autographs out there of Gola and cost less than 50 dollars.
Bill Russell- Russell led the University of San Francisco to 55 consecutive wins and back to back NCAA titles in 55 and 56, while averaging more than 20 points and 20 rebounds during his college career.
Russell’s autograph was once very difficult to find but is now available in just about every card store for less than 100 dollars.
Lennie Rosenbluth- Rosenbluth was a two-time all-American and the star player on North Carolina’s first NCAA title in 1957. He was the 1957 Helms National Player of the Year beating out Wilt Chamberlain. If you are lucky enough to track down an on card Rosenbluth autograph they cost around 50 dollars.
Elgin Baylor- Baylor was a two-time all-American and the Helms National Player of the Year in 1958, while leading Seattle to its last final four.
Baylor has tons of autographs out there that go for as little as 10 dollars. Not bad for one of the all-time greats.
Oscar Robertson- Robertson was a three-time consensus first team all-American at the University of Cincinnati. He also won numerous National Player of the Year awards all three seasons, while leading the nation in scoring in each season. Robertson left the Bearcats as the NCAAs all-time leading scorer.
There are plenty of Robertson autographs out there with the cheapest going for around 50 dollars.
Wilt Chamberlain- Wilt only played two years of college ball before moving on but was one of the most dominant big men of all time. Wilt was a first team all-American in both his seasons and was the NCAA final four MOP in 1957 even though the Jayhawks lost in the Championship game. For his two seasons in Kansas, Chamberlain averaged 29.9 points and 18.3 rebounds.
Chamberlain only has a few on card autographs out there and are out of reach for most collectors, going for well over 2,000 dollars. Cut signatures are more readily available and can be had for less than 200 bucks.
Jerry West- West was a two-time consensus first team all-American while playing at West Virginia. West was a great all-around player, averaging 24.8 points and 13.3 rebounds a game, while shooting over 50 percent from the field.
West also has plenty of autographs in circulation and can be had for as little as 30 dollars.
Bob Pettit- Pettit played three seasons at Louisiana State University and was a dominant player every year. He finished with career averages of 27.4 points and 14.6 rebounds a game. Pettit was second team all-American in 1953 and then first team in 1954. Pettit has tons of autographs in the market place and go for as little as 25 dollars.
Bob Kurland- Kurland Led the Oklahoma A&M Aggies to back to back NCAA titles in 1945 and 1946. Kurland was also a first team all-American for three straight seasons and was named as the Helms Player of the Year in 1946.
There are only cut signatures available for Kurland but they only run about 25 dollars.
Bill Bradley- Bradley was a two-time consensus first team all-American while playing for Princeton in the mid-sixties. He averaged 30 points a game in his three seasons as a Tiger as well as leading Princeton to the final four where he was named the Most Outstanding Player.
Bradley only has on card autographs in one set and they are rather pricey, but you can get a signed book or cut auto for less than 40 dollars.
Elvin Hayes- Hayes played at the University of Houston and was just a fantastic player in each of his three seasons. Hayes was a two-time consensus first team all American and won numerous Player of the Year awards after averaging 36.8 points and 18.8 rebounds his senior year.
Hayes has plenty of autographs out there and can be picked up for under 20 dollars.
Cliff Hagan- Hagan was a two-time consensus first team all-American at the University of Kentucky, even though he took a year off in between his all-American seasons. Hagan has plenty of autographs out there and can usually be scooped up for around 10 dollars or so.
Calvin Murphy- one thing Murphy could do in his three seasons of playing varsity hoops at Niagara is score the ball. Murphy averaged more than 33 points per game during his career, while earning first team all-American twice and second team once.
Murphy has more than his fair share of autographs out there and usually cost less than 20 dollars.
Dan Issel- Issel suited up for the University of Kentucky from 1967-1970 and was a great scorer and rebounder. Issel averaged 26.6 points and 13.6 rebounds as a junior to be named second team all –American. As a senior, Issel poured in just under 34 points a game to go along with 13.2 rebounds and earn first team all-American recognition.
Issel’s autographs are plentiful in today’s market place and can be picked up for under 10 dollars.
Jerry Lucas- Lucas was an outstanding player all three years at Ohio State University. He was a three-time consensus first team all-American and two-time National player of the Year. Lucas averaged more than 24 points and 17 rebounds a game while leading the Buckeyes to three straight final fours and a National Title.
Lucas has a few autographs out there and the low-end ones can be purchased for around 30 dollars.
Cazzie Russell- Russell played three seasons for the University of Michigan and led the Wolverines to the big ten title each year as well as two final fours. Russell was a second team all-American as a sophomore and was a consensus first team all-American in both his junior and senior years.
Russell has plenty of autographs out there and if you can find a deal it will only cost you about ten dollars.
Lew Alcindor- Alcindor is the most decorated college basketball player in the history of the game. He was consensus first team all-American all three years he was eligible at UCLA and won numerous National Player of the Year awards each season. During his time as a Bruin, UCLA compiled a record of 88-2 and won three national titles.
I’ve never been able to find anything signed Lew Alcindor but there is plenty of Kareem Abdul Jabbar stuff out there, with the cheapest autographs going for around 70 dollars.
Pete Maravich- Maravich was an unstoppable offensive force in his three varsity seasons at Louisiana State University averaging more than 44 points and 6.5 rebounds a game. Maravich was consensus first team all-American all three seasons while winning numerous Player of the Year awards as a senior.
Since Pistol died before the autograph craze began there are few available and all are quite costly. The average Maravich signed check goes for around 750 dollars.