The world of pro basketball was a wild and woolly place in the 1970s and Topps was along for the ride. After a call to the league got them another crack at NBA trading cards in the late 60s, the company toyed with the format of its cards–and the size.
Their first two sets were “tall boys”, rectangular in size, supposedly a nod to the size of the players. They incorporated the ABA into their sets starting in 1971 and shrunk the size to the standards kids had grown accustomed to. By ‘75-76, the set had ballooned to 330 cards. And for ’76-77, everything changed.
This week’s Vintage Pack Facts from VintageBreaks.com focuses on a one-of-a-kind set: 1976-77 Topps basketball.
- The NBA and ABA merged, with only four teams from the latter league joining the NBA, eliminating the need for a big checklist (although some collectors felt otherwise). Big cards were back–but these were not only tall, but wide: 3 1/8 x 5 1/4″. The set shrunk back down to 144 cards. One can only imagine how crazy it must have been around the Topps offices that fall with the September merger news and new design concept creating some major challenges.
- For the only time in its history, Topps changed the size of its 500-count vending boxes it sold to dealers. They had to be larger to accommodate the size of the cards. Those boxes are pretty rare today. Two sold at auction back in 2012, netting a little over $1,200 each. Today, the price might be three times that amount.
- Wax packs were 15 cents each–no change from the previous year but there were only six cards per pack, as opposed to 10 in 1975-76.
- Wax boxes contained 24 packs. While the surviving quantity has dried up a bit, they’ve been fairly prevalent at auctions over the last ten years. One box sold for over $2,000 in 2017; another went for a little over $1,800 last year.
- Wax cases held 24 boxes.
- There was a find of a several boxes inside an original shipping case that came from a long-closed “mom and pop” type store in Cheektowaga, NY in 2011. Dave & Adam’s Card World got the call and you can get a peek at the case and read about the find here.
- Vintage Breaks is currently offering spots in a 1976-77 Topps pack break at $27.50 each.
- 1976-77 Topps basketball is relatively easy to find in high-grade with almost 10,000 cards currently rating 9 on PSA’s Population report. A whopping 25,000 have been graded 8 or better. Only 14,000 1977-78 Topps basketball cards have graded 8-10, despite a checklist that’s only 12 cards smaller. General value has a little bit to do with that, but it’s still quite a gap considering they were issued only a year apart.
You can learn more about participating in vintage pack breaks—or just watch—by visiting VintageBreaks.com.