The Jerry West Rookie Card and Other Vintage Cards
Jerry West Rookie Cards
Jerry West is one of the greatest basketball players to ever take the court and is an NBA icon. His 1961-62 Fleer card is the one most collectors think of as his rookie, but it’s not the only Jerry West rookie. Even though few manufacturers were making basketball cards in this era, four different cards can be considered a Jerry West rookie. In this article I’ll walk through all of them plus one card that is sometimes claimed to be a rookie card but isn’t.
1961-62 Fleer Jerry West Card #43
The 1961-62 Jerry West Fleer rookie card #43 is one of the most sought-after cards by collectors because of West’s prolific career as a player and executive. Born in Chelyan, West Virginia he represented his home state by playing for the University of West Virginia. West was a prolific amateur who was named a 1st-Team All-American and won gold medals as part of Team U.S.A in the 1959 Pan American Games and 1960 Olympic Games, where he served as co-captain of the team with Oscar Robertson.
West was drafted by the Minneapolis Lakers second overall in the 1960 NBA Entry Draft, but never played a game for the Lakers in Minnesota because the team was moved to Los Angeles the season after his draft. He played 14 seasons for the Lakers and won the NBA Championship in 1972. After his playing career, he coached the Lakers for three seasons (from 1976-77 to 1978-79) and was general manager of the Lakers from 1980 to 1988 — a stretch during which Los Angeles won five NBA championships. In addition to his front-office career with the Lakers, he also spent time with the Memphis Grizzlies, Golden State Warriors, and Los Angeles Clippers. He has been inducted into both the collegiate and professional basketball Hall of Fames.
Any rookie of a player with this kind of amateur and professional success would be valued by collectors, but other factors drive the value of Jerry West’s rookie cards:
- Lakers Legend: The Los Angeles Lakers is one of the most storied teams in NBA history. This is partly because of the incredible success of the franchise and also because it resides in a giant media market. West played 14 seasons in Los Angeles, coached for three, and manned the helm for five championships during the ’80s. People who have had great careers in Los Angeles tend to get extra interest from collectors, which makes their cards even more valuable.
- Executive Accomplishments: After his playing career, Jerry West didn’t fade into the background. Instead, he became the general manager of the Lakers and helped steer the franchise to five NBA Championships. He was also instrumental in building the foundation for the Lakers teams that won three additional championships shortly after West left the franchise in the early 2000s.
- NBA Logo: It’s not an honor that Jerry West asked for or is completely comfortable with, but he was immortalized in a way that no other athlete has. The silhouette on the NBA logo was made from a photo of Jerry West. Being immortalized in this way guarantees that West will be remembered and talked about by fans long into the future. Information on the internet often cites the wrong photo, so I’ve included the photo below that was used as inspiration for the NBA logo.
1961-62 Fleer Basketball Set Details
The 1961-62 Fleer Basketball set is a classic set of basketball cards remembered for its bold colors and its small, but loaded, checklist. There are 66 cards in this set, 44 regular and 22 in-action cards that feature in-game photos. It came at a time when not many basketball cards were made and it is very popular with collectors because it contained the rookie card for NBA legends Wilt Chamberlain (#8), Jerry West (#43), Elgin Baylor (#3), and Oscar Robertson (#36). In addition to these key rookies the set has in-action cards for all four Hall of Fame rookies mentioned above as well as other stars like Bob Cousy and Bill Russell.
- Year: 1961-62
- Manufacturer: Fleer
- Size: 2-1/2” by 3-1/2”
- Number of cards: 66
- In Action (22 cards)
- In Action (22 cards)
1961-62 Fleer Jerry West Card #43 Details
- Card no: #43 of 66
- Name on card: Jerry West
- Height: 6’3”
- Weight: 180
- Age: 23
- Position: Forward
- Team: Los Angeles Lakers
- Hometown: Cabin Creek, West Virginia
- College: West Virginia
Front of the card
The design of the 1961-62 Fleer Basketball set is remembered for simple geometric shapes and bold color choices. The front of the Jerry West #43 card has a yellow rectangle on the top with the Lakers giraffe logo and the Lakers city and name spelled out. West’s position and name are below the yellow rectangle. The black and white close-up photo of West is on a bright orange background and shows him with his arm raised as if he’s asking for a pass.
Shop for the 1961-62 Fleer Jerry West rookie on eBay (affiliate link)
Back of the card
The back of the 1960-61 Fleer Jerry West rookie card has a simple and clean design. The right-hand side is teal with the card number 43 in a white circle. The lettering of the card is black with two teal lines separating his name and bio from his height and other biographical information. Below his biographical information is a paragraph about his college career and rookie season, followed by his rookie season statistics.
The former two-time West Virginia All-American has been called the “biggest six-foot, three-inch player you’ll ever see,” by opponents who have tried to stop him. A top-flight scorer, who averaged 28 points a game in college, and just under 18 points a game in his freshman season in the NBA last year, Jerry also is a defensive stalwart and an outstanding rebounder. His sharp reflexes, quick hands, long arms and springy legs make up for the inches he lacks.1961-62 Fleer Jerry West #43
Jerry West Rookie Card Value
The 1961-62 Jerry West rookie card is one of the most valuable basketball cards made in the 1960s. The chart below was pulled from the popular card grading site PSA on 01/06/2022. It shows prices for the Jerry West rookie card in various conditions.
Keep in mind that prices fluctuate. While PSA is a great way to find out the value of a card, we recommend going to eBay to see what cards are currently selling for on the world’s most popular auction site. Click here to view current auctions for the 1961-62 Jerry West rookie card #43
Other Relevant Jerry West Cards
The 1961-62 Fleer Jerry West rookie card (#43) is his most recognized rookie, but it’s not the only Jerry West rookie in the hobby. Fleer made a second Jerry West card in its 1961-62 Basketball set and there are a few oddball rookie cards out there, one of which predates 1961-62 Fleer cards.
1960-61 Kahn’s Jerry West
If you’re looking for the first Jerry West card this would be it. The 1960-61 Kahn’s Jerry West card was produced during his rookie season and was issued nearly a year before his 1961-62 Fleer cards. It was distributed in packages of Kahn’s wieners and is difficult to find. It’s even harder to find in high-grade condition because they often came out of the package damaged. It was one of the oddest ways sports cards have ever been distributed. Believe it or not, many of them have stains from the wiener juice that was present in the package. I can’t believe I just typed wiener juice…
Shop for the 1960-61 Kahn’s Jerry West on eBay (affiliate link)
1961-62 Fleer Jerry West #66
The 1960-61 Fleer set contained 22 “in-action” cards and that’s a good thing for collectors. Jerry West is photographed above the rim trying to pull down a rebound in this photo. Lakers’ all-star “Hot Rod” Hundley is also in the photo vying for the rebound, but he’s well below West. This card is as much a rookie as the #43 card, but it is less valuable because of the hobby’s preference for solo cards.
Shop for the 1961-62 Fleer Jerry West “Snags a Rebound” on eBay (affiliate link)
1961-62 Bell Brand Los Angeles Lakers Jerry West #8
The 1961-62 Bell Brand Lakers Jerry West card is the rarest Jerry West rookie card, so good luck finding this one. The cards measure 1 13/16″ x 2 1/2″ and have a very simple design with photo and the players name. Bell Brand was a Southern California snack food company that operated from 1925 to 1995. The company made Dodgers cards in the late 1950s and early 1960s, but this is the only Lakers set they produced.
Shop for the 1961-62 Bell Brand Los Angeles Lakers Jerry West on eBay (rare) (affiliate link)
1961-62 Kahn’s Oversized Jerry West
Kahn’s produced another Jerry West card for the 1961-62 season and used the same photo from the year before. They are pretty easy to tell apart, but some collectors try to sell this one as a rookie, which is not a designation I can agree with because Kahn’s made a card of West the previous year. This one is larger and has a black ink facsimile signature on West’s legs instead of a white ink facsimile signature on the right side of the card.
Shop for the 1961-62 Kahn’s Oversized Jerry West on eBay (affiliate link)
Jerry West’s Legacy
Jerry West might be one of the most memorable figures in the sport of basketball and was still contributing to the sport well into his 80s. His #44 has been retired by both the Los Angeles Lakers and the University of West Virginia and he was also a member of the 35th, 50th, and 75th NBA Anniversary Teams. He only won a single NBA Championship as a player, but won five as an executive for the Lakers and helped set the table for several more. The NBA immortalized him by using his photo for the player silhouette on the NBA logo. To cap off his wonderful career, in 2019 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
- NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player 1959
- 1959 Gold Medal Pan American Game
- 1960 Olympic Gold Medal
- 1972 NBA Championship
- 1969 Finals MVP
- 14 time NBA All-Star
- 10 time All NBA First Team
- No. 44 retired by Lakers and University of West Virginia
- 8 time NBA Championship as Executive
- 2 time Executive of the Year
- 2019 Presidential Medal of Freedom
- Likeness used in NBA logo
Get Your Jerry West Rookie
Do you want to add a 1961-62 Fleer Jerry West rookie to your collection? If so, we recommend starting your search on eBay – the world’s #1 card trading place. Even if you’re not planning to buy one just yet, it’s fun to look at all the great cards currently for sale.
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All About Jerry West Rookies Infographic
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