Loaded with superstars, Hall of Famers, and rookie cards of Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Oscar Robertson, the 1961-62 Fleer basketball set celebrated its 50th anniversary this season with collector interest still strong.
Due to the age and production quality, the price range for the cards is vast. A graded Wilt Chamberlain rookie card, number 8 in the set, with great centering and perfect corners will cost thousands but if you want an “In Action” Cliff Hagan–winner of the 1958 NBA championship with the Hawks and a player with a career scoring average of 18 points per game–one can sometimes be had for less than $10.
An EX to EX/NM set sold via Collect Auctions in April for over $2,100 and that’s a fairly good barometer for what, for this set anyway, is considered fairly high grade. Lower to mid-grade sets can often be found for around $1,000 while hand-picked sets bring thousands at major auctions on the rare occasion when they’re offered.
The 1961-62 Fleer set has 44 regular cards and 22 In Action cards, a subset featuring all the big stars pictured during NBA games. So there are two Chamberlain cards in the set, two Bill Russell cards, and two of most of the best players who were in the NBA at that time.
Centering issues have kept the population of high grade cards quite low. Just 16 collectors who have 100% completed sets can boast a GPA of 7 (near mint) or higher. Just nine sets register 8 or better. Of the nearly 21,000 cards submitted to PSA, only 54 have been deemed good enough to carry a ’10’ label. Walt Bellamy, Paul Arizin, Al Attles, Elgin Baylor and Bob Boozer are often mentioned as among the toughest cards to find in high grade with good centering.
While Chamberlain, West and Robertson are the most expensive rookie cards there are many more legends of basketball who had their first ever card in the 1961-62 Fleer set. Baylor, Bailey Howell, Boston guards Sam Jones and K.C. Jones, Al Attles of the Philadelphia Warriors and Len Wilkens are other rookie cards to look for. Of course, the number of ‘rookie cards’ is because there hadn’t been an NBA trading card set issued since the 1957-58 Topps issue, the last one issued by that company until 1969-70. There are also a number of star players who had a rookie card in that earlier Topps set. Russell, Bob Cousy, Paul Arizin, Tom Heinsohn, Bob Pettit and Dolph Schayes have cards in the 1961-62 Fleer set as well.
The ’61-62 Fleer cards also have plenty of player information on the back. The 1960-61 stats and career stats are noted including, field goals, free throws, points and average on those first 44 cards in the set. Player position, height, weight, hometown, age and their college are printed up the top of the back of the cards along with a paragraph of player notes.
Another reason to want these cards is the history of the NBA team logos. among them the Cincinnati Royals and their ‘face on a basketball wearing a crown’, the New York Knickerbockers and their cartoon-like mascot and the Boston Celtics’ vintage leprechaun that is very different to what most fans associate with the team today. The Lakers? How about a giraffe?
A pack of cards originally cost five cents and today, the wrappers by themselves have value these days, selling for $40-50 and up.
Those who like the design of the 1961-62 Fleer set can also have a look at more recent Fleer cards that have a similar look. The parallel inserts in 1998-99 Fleer called Vintage ’61 were popular with collectors who liked modern players on an old-looking card. The 2001-02 Fleer Platinum set also uses the 1961-62 Fleer design.
At only 66 cards, the 1961-62 Fleer basketball set is attainable when collected card by card. How fast you complete the set will likely depend upon how picky you are. Over 260 listings for this set were on eBay at last check. Click here to shop around.