Fans of the 11 teams in the American Basketball Association had to be stoked when they picked up a pack of 1971-72 Topps basketball cards. For the first time, the league’s players were welcomed into the basketball bubble gum fraternity. Kids across America were intrigued by the red, white and blue ball, the unique team names, the unfamiliar uniforms and the players they knew mostly through articles in The Sporting News.
The addition of ABA players meant Topps had to increase the size of its set but after two years of tall boys, the company went to a standard sized card design.
This latest edition of Vintage Pack Facts focuses on one of the toughest years for pack collectors.
- The 1971-72 Topps basketball set included 233 cards including 36 rookie cards and a whopping 40 Hall of Famers. The key rookies include Nate Archibald, Rick Barry, Larry Brown, Dave Cowens, Spencer Haywood, Dan Issel, Bob Lanier, Rudy Tomjanovich and Doug Moe.
- Topps produced its boxes by using two 132-card sheets and double-printing 29 of the NBA cards on the second sheet along with the two checklists.
- Boxes touted the insert offered in each pack, known today as the Topps Trio Stickers. There was one in each pack.
- Boxes of 1971-72 Topps basketball took up much less space on store shelves. The smaller size cards meant for smaller boxes with eight cards per pack along with a Trio sticker and 24 packs per box. Packs were once again priced at ten cents.
- Not every box held 24 packs, though. Topps pushed out a one-year experiment of selling two 12-count boxes inside an outer sleeve, which promoted the inclusion of both leagues and suggested the retailer display both boxes at the same time (“re-order the moment your first box is sold out.” One of those “double boxes” sold at auction a couple of years ago for $23,600. A singular 12-pack box sold for $6,440 in 2017.
- The wrapper featured a generic basketball player design. Offers on the side panel included a bracelet, a whale’s tooth, a telescope and binoculars.
- Vending boxes were also produced and are quite scarce today. The last one offered at auction sold for $6,622 in 2019.