History of Basketball Cards

As with many other sports trading cards, basketball cards can trace their origin back to the 1933 Goudey Sport Kings set, which featured cards of four popular players of the day: Eddie Burke, Nat Holman, Joe Lapchick, and Ed Wachter.  Basketball cards essentially disappeared until after the Second World War, reappearing in 1948 with a set produced by the Bowman gum company.

wax boxThe 1948 Bowman set is unique for two reasons.  It is the first dedicated basketball card set ever produced and it’s the only set ever produced by Bowman.  These two factors make it by far the most scarce basketball card set of all time. The key card of the set is the George Mikan rookie card, generally regarded as one of the greatest basketball cards of all time. Bowman withdrew from the basketball card business after this set, and the next major basketball card set wasn’t produced until nearly ten years later.  The sport simply wasn’t that popular, even with Mikan and there weren’t that many NBA teams beyond the east coast.  An unopened pack of 1948 Bowman basketball cards recently sold at auction for $16,795.

Card giant Topps produced its first basketball set in 1957, and this set is also incredibly collectible due both to its rarity, and to the presence of a Bill Russell rookie card. As with Bowman in 1948, Topps’ ’57-58 set was a one-year wonder.  The company withdrew from producing basketball cards until the 1969-70 season when the modern basketball card industry can really said to have been born.

Bird-Magic rookie cardFleer jumped into the game in 1961, producing the lone set of NBA cards issued on a national level between 1958 and 1969.  The set thus includes what are considered rookie cards for players like Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson.  The set included 'In Action' cards as well, meaning more stars to collect but the cards are notoriously off-center and high grade examples are scarce.

The first modern era Topps set included one of the hobby’s most iconic cards—the ’69-70 Topps Lew Alcindor rookie.  Printed in a rectangular style, the “tall boys” are certainly unique.

Topps dominated the basketball card industry until the early 1980’s, when the industry took a decided downturn and Topps withdrew from the business again until 1992.

1986-87 Fleer Michael JordanThe emergence of Fleer in the mid 1980’s re-energized the basketball card business.  Fleer’s 1986-87 basketball set really didn’t catch on for awhile.  Boxes were available at around $10 until the market exploded thanks to the boom created by the success and high-flying wizardry of Michael Jordan and the ongoing Lakers-Celtics rivalry that featured Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.

Until the mid-2000s, the basketball card industry was dominated by Topps and Upper Deck, both producing a variety of brands including the ultra-popular, high-end Upper Deck Exquisite line that retails for $300-400 per pack when new.  The early Exquisite cards feature LeBron James’ rookie autographed patch cards that are true hobby treasures.

Panini America is now the exclusive licensee for NBA trading cards.  Having purchased Donruss in 2009, Panini produces numerous sets each year, ranging from around $1.50 per pack to its Flawless brand, sold in a briefcase for around $1,500 and including thick cards, many of which are autographed and serial numbered to less than 100.  The company’s spokesman Kobe Bryant of the Lakers, was once a collector of basketball cards.

2015/16 PANINI TOTALLY CERTIFIED BASKETBALL HOBBY BOX BLOWOUT CARDS
2015/16 PANINI TOTALLY CERTIFIED BASKETBALL HOBBY BOX BLOWOUT CARDS
$85.95
Time Remaining: 1h 21m
Buy It Now for only: $85.95
2015/16 PANINI TOTALLY CERTIFIED BASKETBALL HOBBY 15 BOX CASE BLOWOUT CARDS
2015/16 PANINI TOTALLY CERTIFIED BASKETBALL HOBBY 15 BOX CASE BLOWOUT CARDS
$1,189.95
Time Remaining: 1h 21m
Buy It Now for only: $1,189.95
2012/13 Panini Threads Basketball Factory Sealed Box! 2 Years of ROOKIES ! NEW!
2012/13 Panini Threads Basketball Factory Sealed Box! 2 Years of ROOKIES ! NEW!
$13.99
Time Remaining: 1h 26m
Buy It Now for only: $13.99
(B80) 10-11 Brook Lopez Elite Black Box #50 FLAG PATCH AUTO #D 15/25
(B80) 10-11 Brook Lopez Elite Black Box #50 FLAG PATCH AUTO #D 15/25
$19.95
Time Remaining: 1h 58m
Buy It Now for only: $19.95
2 HOBBY BOXES LOT NBA 2012/13 PANINI BRILIANCE AND PANINI FACT SEALD
2 HOBBY BOXES LOT NBA 2012/13 PANINI BRILIANCE AND PANINI FACT SEALD
$84.95
Time Remaining: 2h
2012-13 Panini Limited NBA Basketball Hobby Box
2012-13 Panini Limited NBA Basketball Hobby Box
$57.88
Time Remaining: 2h 44m
Buy It Now for only: $57.88
2015/2016 Panini Basketball MASSIVE Factory Sealed 50 Sticker Box-350 Stickers!
2015/2016 Panini Basketball MASSIVE Factory Sealed 50 Sticker Box-350 Stickers!
$29.99
Time Remaining: 2h 47m
Buy It Now for only: $29.99
2010-11 Panini Elite Black Box Crusade Materials #23 Jason Richardson Jersey /99
2010-11 Panini Elite Black Box Crusade Materials #23 Jason Richardson Jersey /99
$2.50
Time Remaining: 3h 12m
Buy It Now for only: $2.50
2013-2014 Panini Court Kings 5 x 7 Box Topper Complete Set 1-49 -  eBay 1/1
2013-2014 Panini Court Kings 5 x 7 Box Topper Complete Set 1-49 - eBay 1/1
$475.00
Time Remaining: 3h 53m
Buy It Now for only: $475.00
2013-14 PANINI CRUSADE BASKETBALL HOBBY BOX FACTORY SEALED NEW
2013-14 PANINI CRUSADE BASKETBALL HOBBY BOX FACTORY SEALED NEW
$41.99
Time Remaining: 4h 5m
Buy It Now for only: $41.99
2014 Panini Black Box Intrigue - Las Vegas Summit - Austin Rivers 1/1 Patch
2014 Panini Black Box Intrigue - Las Vegas Summit - Austin Rivers 1/1 Patch
$185.00
Time Remaining: 4h 20m
Buy It Now for only: $185.00
LOT OF 2 - 2012-13 Panini Past and Present NBA Basketball Blaster Box Sealed
LOT OF 2 - 2012-13 Panini Past and Present NBA Basketball Blaster Box Sealed
$5.59 (6 Bids)
Time Remaining: 4h 37m

« Previous12345...89