They were one of the more unique pack bonuses you could ever find, designed to be stuck on stuff but almost too nice even for kids to consider doing so. Executed in a format that would be revisited a decade later, the 1971-72 Topps Basketball Trio Stickers may be among the more underrated ‘mini sets’ of all time, with a handful of scarce panels that make accumulating a nice complete set pretty challenging.
Called ‘Trio Stickers’ for their horizontal design that contained three individual posed photos, the set is a high-grade collector’s nightmare. Not only were many of them peeled off and stuck to books, paper and other items kids came in contact with, the set is plagued by miscut panels, black borders that are prone to wear and scuffing and blank backs that invited notes and scribbles from young hands.
Basics of the 1971-72 Trio Sticker Inserts
There were 26 panels issued, with one placed inside each pack of that season’s cards. Both NBA and ABA players were included and the set includes numerous Hall of Famers including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Lew Alcindor then), Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Pete Maravich and Jerry West, among others.
In addition to 22 Trio stickers featuring players, there were others that contained small, square ABA and NBA team logos that could be peeled off.
Interestingly, in 1980-81 Topps revisited the three player panel design for its regular card set.
Why Some Are More Scarce Than Others
The Trio Stickers were printed on a sheet that had seven rows and 11 columns, creating an odd mix of distribution.
Some panels were printed only twice. Others were printed three or four times and one panel (#46 featuring the NBA team logos) shows up a whopping 14 times on the sheet. The Alcindor/Connie Hawkins/Jeff Mullins panel is among the short prints and is easily the most valuable panel of all, listed at $30-80 in the Beckett Basketball Price Guide.
High Grade Challenge
Graded examples provide a huge challenge. Some of the panels that were printed in smaller quantities have fewer than five total examples at the Mint 9 or Gem Mint 10 level.
Out of more than 3,000 1971-72 Topps Trio Stickers submitted to PSA, less than 300 have been awarded a 9 or 10.
Topps tended to produce its cards in lower quantities during odd-numbered years at the time and compared to other seasons, 1971-72 cards are harder to find today. With just one Trio sticker per pack, quantities today are somewhat limited but except for high-grade examples, prices remain relatively reasonable for most panels.
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