If you were a basketball card collector over 40 years ago, there wasn’t much to chase after once you bought enough packs to put the annual Topps set together. The 1974-75 Carvel NBA disc set was a little oasis in that winter desert—as long as you could get your hands on them.
Carvel Ice Cream was—and still is—a regional product. The company, which had grown from a one man operation in the 1920s into a major corporate entity with restaurants by the 70s, used the disc set as a promotion in its stores. Using sketched portraits for its design and avoiding the NBA team nicknames meant kept the licensing expenses to a minimum.
There are 36 discs in the set, measuring about 3 3/8” in diameter. The design is simple: a portrait in the middle, a facsimile autograph at the bottom, the player’s team and position on the left and his name on the right. Inside the left and right borders are some basic personal info. At the very bottom is the NBA Players Association copyright and the “1975” date.
There’s also an “MS” for Mike Schecter, the producer of many similar sets during the era. The front borders were printed in five different colors. The backs, like many of those 1970s disc sets, are blank.
The set includes several Hall of Famers including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Bradley, Nate Archibald, Walt Frazier, John Havlicek, Bob Lanier, Bob McAdoo, Earl Monroe and a few others. Phil Jackson, still with the Knicks as a player in ’74-75, actually looks a bit menacing with his long hair and mustache. Happy Hairston and Chet Walker were both in their final seasons. Future NBA coaching stars Jerry Sloan, Paul Silas and Don Nelson, all heading toward the finish line as players, are in the set as well.
The set leans heavily on teams in the eastern part of the country, likely because of Carvel’s location, but there are a few Lakers, Suns, Warriors, Suns…and Kansas City-Omaha Kings (the franchise would lose the “Omaha” part by the next season).
Who’s missing? One big omission is Pete Maravich, a mega star at the time. Elvin Hayes, Oscar Robertson, Dave Bing, Wes Unseld and Jerry West were all active at the time but don’t have a card in the set. Perhaps they opted out of such licensing agreements or Carvel couldn’t afford them for some reason. Thankfully, Harthorne Wingo and John Gianelli did make the cut (we told you they went heavy on the east coast).
Of the multitude of disc sets issued during the 70s, few carry much value. The round size makes them a challenge to display (although they’ll fit in four-pocket sheets) and the lack of photos sometimes turns collectors off. Many of the sets were produced in excessively large quantities but the 1975 Crane NBA discs aren’t really that plentiful.
Complete sets are usually priced at $50-70—sometimes less but you won’t find many offered online. Individual cards and lots are a little easier to spot. Most singles cost less than a fast food lunch. Even Hall of Famers can be had for less than $10 each.
You can see what’s currently listed on eBay by clicking here.