Detroit Pistons Memorabilia Buying Guide

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The Detroit Pistons are a National Basketball Association (NBA) team based in Auburn Hills, Michigan. They are members of the Eastern Conference and are one of five Central Division teams. The franchise draws from the entire state of Michigan along with parts of northwest Ohio, northern Indiana, and nearby portions of Ontario, including Windsor, which is immediately across the Canadian border.

This guide will provide some historical background to the Pistons, going back to their inception in Indiana as members of the National Basketball League in 1941. It will highlight some of the most memorable moments in the franchise’s history along with its most notable players. The guide also details the memorabilia associated with various teams, players, and significant events. This guide will further offer advice on where to purchase Pistons mementos, including new and vintage apparel, as well as souvenirs and gift items. It also has information on the best ways to authenticate signed memorabilia and how to identify properly licensed memorabilia.

Detroit Pistons History

Contrary to popular belief, the Pistons were not named because of their proximity to the Motor City of Detroit. The team began as the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons in 1941, playing in a high school gymnasium as part of the small market National Basketball League. Fred Zollner was the owner of a piston manufacturing company located in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In 1949, the NBL merged with the larger market Basketball Association of America to create the NBA. In 1957, Zollner moved the team to Detroit and retained the Pistons name due to the natural blend the name had with the city.

During the years in Fort Wayne, the team won two championships and has won three since moving to Detroit. This was in 1989, 1990, and 2004. The 20-year period from 1964 to 1983 were the bleakest in the history of the franchise as the team only qualified for the playoffs during five seasons. On the other hand, the Pistons have been to the playoffs 21 of the last 29 seasons. Since their inception, the Pistons have been about a 500 team, with an equal number of wins and losses.

The table below summarizes how the Pistons have performed in the NBA Finals:

Pistons NBA Finals




Charlie Eckman

Lost to Syracuse Nationals


Charlie Eckman

Lost to Philadelphia Warriors


Chuck Daly

Lost to Los Angeles Lakers


Chuck Daly

Beat Los Angeles Lakers


Chuck Daly

Beat Portland Trail Blazers


Larry Brown

Beat Los Angeles Lakers


Larry Brown

Lost to San Antonio Spurs

Great Detroit Pistons Players and Coaches

Any mention of the best Pistons of all time chronologically begins with George Yardley during the Fort Wayne years. He led the NBA in 1958 with over 27 points per game and was voted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 1996. Older fans will fondly recall that another Hall of Famer, Dave DeBusschere, was the youngest player/coach in NBA history. That is a record that may stand indefinitely as the league is not likely to ever return to that format. Placed on waivers in December 2011, Richard " Rip " Hamilton was vital to the 2004 championship and a run of six consecutive Eastern Conference finals appearances from 2003 to 2008. While most of Dennis Rodman’s contributions were on the defensive end, both on and off the court, he remains one of the most iconic figures in Detroit sports history. Rodman memorabilia is in as much demand as ever, more so since his 2011 induction into the HOF.

Elected mayor of the city of Detroit in 2009, Dave Bing was a seven time All Star in his twelve seasons with the club and has been named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history. Generally regarded as the all time best player in Piston history, Isiah Thomas is the career leader in team points, steals, games played and assists. Coaches Larry Brown (Hall of Fame) and Rick Carlisle (2002-03 NBA Coach of the Year) also left indelible marks on the franchise.

Best Detroit Pistons Memorabilia, Apparel, and Souvenirs

The demand for Detroit Piston memorabilia, clothing, and other collectibles is befitting one of the most colorful professional franchises in American sports history. The range of items available in memorabilia shops, department stores, sporting goods retailers, and on the Internet is vast and expanding. What follows are recommendations as to where to purchase these articles and how to ensure that the merchandise is authentic and properly licensed.


The term "memorabilia" usually refers to any item directly connected to either the team or to individual players and coaches. Fans buy memorabilia for different reasons. Some simply like to identify with their home team, while others purchase items as gifts. There is a growing number of buyers interested in the long-term potential for sports memorabilia to appreciate in value.

Piston trading cards exemplify this trend. The card collection industry has grown by leaps and bounds over the past couple of decades. Trading cards are the primary focus of those who hope to realize some financial gain in future years. The focus for most investors and collectors alike is a particular player’s rookie card. First year cards are more likely to appreciate in value than those of any other year during a player’s career. The reason is that when a rookie card is produced, the only statistical information included is from the player’s first professional season. At that point, it is impossible to determine to what extent the player’s career will develop. The card manufacturers are not likely to produce a huge number of cards for an untested player. Collectors who acquire a rookie card for a player, who eventually reaches the Hall of Fame, can realize significant gains.

Rookie cards, programs, player photos, ticket stubs and other memorabilia are available from multiple outlets. Primary among those today are online sources. When buying online, it’s important to spend some time researching the seller because sadly, there are quite a few unscrupulous merchants offering fake cards represented as originals. Autographed Pistons memorabilia can now be confirmed as authentic by third party companies. They are discussed below under "Authenticating Detroit Pistons Memorabilia."

Pistons Apparel

Pistons clothing items are a great way to demonstrate team spirit and get outfitted in top quality apparel at the same time. That’s assuming the articles are fully licensed and produced by authorized manufacturers. Unlicensed sports apparel is a multi-billion dollar a year industry. Often, it may be difficult to distinguish the real thing from a knock-off. The buyer should look for poor logo representation, colors that aren’t quite right, off-centered labels or tags, and incorrect player numbers. As the unlicensed articles are generally quite a bit cheaper than licensed apparel, many buyers don’t care whether or not they are buying licensed clothing. Just keep in mind that the NBA is very particular about licensing only top-of-the-line merchandise, and imitations will likely not last nearly as long as quality-made apparel. 

The most sought-after apparel are hats, jerseys, jackets, and t - shirts. However, it is difficult to imagine much in the way of men’s clothing, in particular, that is not available with a Pistons logo on it. This includes shoes, shorts, sweats, neckties, headbands, and even baby clothes. Vintage clothing is also quite popular. Since much of it is newly produced, the buyer should check whether or not the items are retro or actually from the era represented.

Pistons Souvenirs

Just about anything with a current or past Detroit Pistons logo qualifies as a souvenir. The most popular items today include bobbleheads, patches, pins, buttons, posters, watches, and keychains. However, for those who are intent upon finding most anything from toasters to towels, they are available with just a little searching effort.

Then there is the upper end of the souvenir market. Original oil paintings of individual players are available, especially at galleries in and around the Detroit metropolitan region. Pistons jewelry can be found at many of the area’s finest specialty jewelers and online. Only the imagination restricts the possibilities.

Authenticating Detroit Pistons Memorabilia

As the value of Pistons memorabilia or any other sports teams’ memorabilia climbs, the number of sources for illegitimate goods also increases. Especially when one is purchasing memorabilia online, the buyer should keep an eye out for items that "look too good to be true." For instance, when checking prices for Joe Dumars rookie cards, most of them are priced in the $15 to $25 price range. Be wary of anything in the $5 range. It very well may be legitimate, but the problem lies in being able to confirm the origin or date of manufacture. While $5 plus shipping may not be much of a loss, consider that a properly authenticated card with a 99% certainty of legitimacy is well worth it in the long run. Plus, for those who hope to see some eventual increase in value, the next buyer will almost certainly demand some proof of authentication.

There are a number of third party authentication firms in business today. Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) was first onto the scene in the early 1990’s and remains the most widely used. Other good companies include, Beckett Grading Services (BGS), James Spence Authentications (JSA), Global Authentics (GA), and Sportscard Guaranty Corporation (SGC). All of them validate submitted cards, provide a certificate of authenticity, and attach a rating as to the relative condition of the card. They "slab" the card within a thin, clear plastic case to facilitate storage and prevent additional wear and tear. When shopping for cards online, look for those abbreviations in the item descriptions.

Find Detroit Pistons Memorabilia on eBay

Most online shoppers looking for Pistons-related memorabilia head for eBay first. The site is very straightforward to use and the navigation is simple. Beginning on the home page, hover over Collectibles and Art and choose Sports Mem, Cards and Fan Shop. Under "Browse By," you will find options such as Game Used Memorabilia, Cards, Fan Apparel and Souvenirs, and Vintage Sports Memorabilia. Within each of those is the option to choose the sport and team you prefer.

Assuming you already know which item you are trying to locate, it may be faster just to use the keyword search function available on every page. If you know you want a Ben Wallace rookie card for instance, just enter those four words into the field and hit Search. You will be directed to a page with all the available cards. You may want to read up on eBay ’ s Search Tips to get additional information. There is also an eBay Stores area to find more sources for Pistons memorabilia.

Veteran eBay shoppers spend a few minutes learning a bit about the seller. They look for the "Top Rated Seller" seal displayed by those sellers with a good track record. Most sellers will have feedback from previous buyers. If you have questions, it’s easy to get the answers directly from the merchant by clicking the contact link in the seller’s profile. They are glad to answer any questions, provide additional photos, etc.


The Detroit Pistons are an elite NBA franchise with over 70 years of history. Like most professional sports organizations, the team has seen years of glory matched by years of gloom. Regardless, their fans continue to support them with all the devotion fitting a team with such an illustrious past. The team has sent 16 players, three coaches, and two front office personnel to the Hall of Fame since 1983, and several more are receiving attention.

Sports memorabilia collecting has become more than a relaxing hobby for many. It is a serious business that presents itself with all of the associated business risks and protections of any other business. Utilizing the available safeguards and exercising basic caution can eliminate a lot frustration and wasted dollars. That aside, true fans of the team are constantly searching for all things Pistons. Piston memorabilia, apparel, and souvenirs make great gifts for Piston fans of all ages.

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