Anyone who opened 1980-81 Topps basketball card packs when they first arrived in stores wasn’t quite sure what to make of what was one of the most radical design departures in company history. The cards were standard size but there were…say what???…three pictures on each card divided by perforations. Topps was actually encouraging you to tear your cards apart. Most adults kept them together but for kids in the pre-monthly price guide era it was a dilemma. Leave them be or cut them up?
Basketball card sales were pretty dismal during the late 1970’s and Topps was looking for something to capture the attention of buyers. There were two fresh players on the scene to liven it up and Topps took advantage of the arrival of two young stars by putting them together on the same card–along with another big name. Today, the Magic Johnson-Larry Bird rookie card (which also features a Julius Erving Scoring Leaders as part of the tri-card design) is one of the most sought after modern era rookie cards in any sport. A BGS 10 example is expected to sell for tens of thousands of dollars when it comes up for bid later this summer.
Topps had all kinds of player combinations in the 1980-81 basketball master set, though, so you’ll find Larry and Magic on cards other than the holy grail rookie card. You’ll also find a lot of players who have been lost to history after more than 30 years. There were eight cards per pack (or 24 if you’re counting separately as Topps was in its on-wrapper promotional message), plus a team poster.
In the third installment of our ‘Vintage Pack Break of the Week’, Just Collect Inc. tees up a 1980-81 Topps basketball wax pack for your viewing pleasure.