After dipping a toe in the pro basketball waters for the first time in 12 years, Topps jumped in with both feet in 1970-71, producing a set that was spread over two series and included many of the same features you could find on its baseball and football sets like leader cards, playoff highlights and all-star cards.
The cards remained unusual in size–2 1/2″ x 4 11/16″, a nod to the generally tall nature of NBA players. For collectors of wax packs and boxes, the 1970-71 issue is easier to find than unopened product from the 1969-70 series, but still pretty rare and valuable.
This week’s Vintage Pack Facts from VintageBreaks.com delivers the goods on one of the “tall boy” basketball sets.
- Topps put 110 cards in the first series, then followed up during the winter with cards 111-176. The addition of more cards produced after the NBA Draft gave Topps the chance to include Pistol Pete Maravich, the highly anticipated rookie out of LSU. Maravich is #123–the most valuable card in the set, although the second card of Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) is also popular. Pat Riley makes his cardboard debut, too. The first series includes 22 short prints.
- Boxes of 1970-71 Topps basketball included 24 packs of 10 cards with packs priced at a dime. Each pack also included one of 24 player poster inserts. No cello packs or racks were produced.
- A first series wax box sold for $24,427 via Heritage Auctions in 2017. Individual wax packs usually sell for $700-$1,000, depending on grade.
- There is a packaging configuration many collectors aren’t aware of. Topps did produce vending boxes of ’70-71 basketball that contained 500 cards, but instead of the traditional generic blue box, the company used the same display box that held wax packs. We know second series vending boxes exist but are uncertain if a first series box was issued. One such box sold for $19,404 at auction in 2015.
- Wrappers contained offers for a Bazooka Joe Club sweatshirt, a whale’s tooth good luck charm and a camera.
- Vintage Breaks recently offered spots in a pack break for $150 each. They also opened a pack as last summer’s National Sports Collectors Convention. You can watch it below.
You can learn more about participating in vintage pack breaks—or just watch—by visiting VintageBreaks.com.