The NBA was having a rough time back in the late 1970’s. The league had merged with the ABA but the limited excitement created by the move didn’t last long. Rumors of franchise shifts were common and sometimes they happened. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson hadn’t yet arrived and Michael Jordan was still in high school.
Trading card sets were kept to a bare minimum–just 132 cards were produced in 1977 and and Topps stuck with that formula for the two years after that. Open a box of 1978-79 basketball packs and if the card distribution was good, you might have two full sets and a good start on a third.
More than 40 years later, those sets are starting to garner a lot more appreciation. Despite the lack of a strong class of rookie cards, the odds of pulling a Hall of Famer or big name star out of a pack isn’t bad. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is here. Julius Erving. Pistol Pete. George Gervin. Walt Frazier. Bill Walton.
The design is basic, but clean. There’s an action shot, with the player’s name and position at the bottom along with a head shot. In fact, Topps touted “more thrilling action shots” in the sell sheet it sent out to stores and trading card dealers in hopes of drumming up excitement. The team name is in vertical form along the side.
While the 1978-79 Topps basketball set isn’t exceptionally great looking or valuable, it does have rookie cards of Bernard King, Walter Davis, Jack Sikma, the underrated Marques Johnson, Norm Nixon and Cornbread Maxwell, among others. Complete sets have ticked up in value over the last year, but solid examples can still be had for $125-$200.
The latest edition of Vintage Pack Facts sponsored by Vintage Breaks, features a deeper look at the packaging for a hoops set from the disco era.
1978-79 Topps packaging photo gallery
1978-79 Topps sell sheet
1978-79 Topps basketball shipping case
1978-79 Topps basketball boxes
1978-79 Topps basketball wax pack
1978-79 Topps basketball wrappers
1978-79 Topps basketball tray pack
1978-79 Topps vending case
1978-79 Topps vending box
Card #1 1978-79 Topps Bill Walton
Pack Facts: 1978-79 Topps Basketball
This issue offers a lot of fun for the hoops fan and collector who likes his sets nice and tidy and his pack ripping to be reasonable.
You can learn more about participating in vintage pack breaks—or just watch—by visiting VintageBreaks.com.