If you were a kid growing up in the 1950s, chances are you had never seen a basketball card before. With interest in the NBA lagging behind baseball, football and even hockey for many, the market was limited. Bowman had produced a one and done set in 1948 but for the next eight years, the hoop landscape was totally barren.
That drought came to an end in 1957 when Topps produced its first set of NBA trading cards. Now, the original file copy sets stored by the company 58 seasons ago are on the auction block.
A slice of hobby history, the two black binders, with 160 cards neatly glued inside, are in the new SCP Auctions catalog. The minimum bid is $20,000.
Storing copies of the cards it produced was standard practice at Topps for many years. Two of each card from its many sets—one showing the front and one revealing the back—were pasted into those oversized scrapbooks and then stored for archive purposes.
The two three-ring binders consist of 40 pages of cards each with two players per page. Rookie cards of Bill Russell, Bob Cousy and 16 other Hall of Famers are inside, well-preserved as they came off the presses at Topps.
The binder has the words “BASKETBALL 1957” neatly imprinted on the spine that Topps Product Development Department Director Woody Gelman used to create a historical record of their creations.
The set originally emerged from the Topps files at the Topps Company Archives Auction held at Guernsey’s in New York City on August 19 and 20, 1989.
Other file binders with partial sets have sold at auction in the recent past and individual pages still come up for sale through the Topps Vault auctions on eBay.
As collectors know, the 1957-58 issue was the last until 1969-70. Topps had a huge amount of unsold ’57-58 cards after the season came to an end.