It isn’t often that a player’s first trading card coincides with his greatest season but the 1961-62 Wilt Chamberlain rookie card is hard to top from a timing standpoint.
It seems unfathomable, even in the age of Curry and at the tail end of Kobe, but 54 years ago Wednesday Chamberlain began a streak in which he scored 50 points or more in seven consecutive games. It was barely above par for the course for him that season.
In March of ’62, he set the NBA scoring record with 100 points in a game played at Hershey, PA, finishing the season with a 50.4 points per game scoring average while pulling down over 25 rebounds per game.
“He can score anytime he wants,” said seven time NBA All-Star Ed McCauley, who played against Chamberlain for several seasons. “There is no way to stop him. How can you defend him? The only way I know is to lock the door to the dressing room before he comes out.”
Fleer had picked up the NBA basketball card contract that Topps had left behind four years earlier. Chamberlain was card #8 in its 1961-62 series.
Wilt Chamberlain Rookie Card Not Rare
Today, Chamberlain’s rookie card is not difficult to find. Well over 1,000 have been graded with nearly half rating EX/MT or better. It remains a major draw, however. A PSA 8 example sold this fall for $12,781 through Mile High Card Company. An SGC 88 example brought $3,258 via Huggins and Scott in October of 2014. A few examples are currently available online.
Most collectors and dealers agree that Chamberlain’s 1961-1962 Fleer rookie card ranks with the 1948 Bowman George Mikan, 1957 Topps Bill Russell, 1969-70 Lew Alcindor and 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan as one of the most important basketball cards ever made.
Like most of the big stars in the Fleer set, Chamberlain actually appears twice. He’s part of the In Action subset with card #47 showing him, appropriately, executing one of his famous Dipper Dunks over a helpless defender. It’s less pricey and in reality, a more appealing image than the waist up shot that’s on the traditional rookie card, but card #8 will always be considered Chamberlain’s true rookie card.