It wasn’t a great time to be a basketball card collector. After a mammoth 330-card set in 1977-76 and a unique postcard-sized set the next year, Topps all but waved the white flag on hoops for the next three years. The checklists shrunk to 132 cards. By 1979-80, the design of the cards and pack were decidedly uninspiring. Dealers were taking just about anything to move sets and unopened as the 1980s unfolded. Yet time tends to heal some wounds and some 40 years later, vintage is vintage and packs and boxes of 1979-80 Topps basketball enjoy a lot more respect.
This week’s edition of Vintage Pack Facts takes us back to the transition from one decade to the next and the end of 20-cent packs.
- Topps would push the price of all sports card packs to 25 cents within a few months but you could still grab a pack for two dimes (and maybe a penny or two for tax) in the winter of ’79-80.
- Each pack held 1979-80 Topps basketball held 12 cards, so assuming all were different, a pack held 1/11th of the entire set. With 36 packs per box and good distribution, it was possible to land three complete sets in a single wax box.
- Each case held 16 boxes.
- The wax box was yellow with actual action photos on the front. While the players weren’t identified, the most visible were Hall of Famer Dan Issel and veteran center Kim Hughes (a little odd Topps chose two Denver Nuggets, but whatever) and Washington Bullets forward Greg Ballard.
- The wrapper was bland. Just a red border with an “exploding” brown basketball. Ads on the side included the obligatory Topps Sports Card Locker, Bazooka’s Smooth and Juicy Bubble Gum and an option to order your own personalized trading card from Topps.
- The sell sheet for wax cases touted an “exciting new series” and the addition of “more game action shots.” We’ll give them that one.
- There weren’t a lot of other packaging options for 1979-80. No three-pack trays were issued, despite Topps having produced them in 1978-79 (as well as 1973-74 and ’74-75).
- As usual, dealers could purchase vending cases with 24 boxes of 500 cards. Those who did and made sets probably wound up with at least 80-85 full sets and duplicates.
- Complete, NM/MT sets of 1979-80 Topps basketball can usually be found for around $50, thanks in large part to a dearth of popular rookie cards. Alex English is the headliner but you’ll be more attracted to the numerous Hall of Famers like Kareem, Dr. J and Pete Maravich
- Today, authentic 1979-80 Topps wax packs typically sell for $15-$25.
- You can see 1979-80 Topps singles, wrappers, packs, boxes and sets on eBay here.