The first product dedicated to professional hoops, 1948 Bowman Basketball is a tough set to complete. The George Mikan rookie card is considered the top card in the release.
1940s to 1960s Basketball Cards
When talking about pre-1970s basketball cards, there are really only a few mainstream options available to collectors. The Basketball Association of America did not begin until 1946 and the league did not adopt the NBA moniker until 1949.
The first official product issued was 1948 Bowman Basketball. Nearly a decade passed before another product came in the form of 1957-58 Topps Basketball. Lastly, 1961-62 Fleer Basketball rounded out the period between 1940 and 1969. Regularly-issued basketball cards finally began with the release of 1969-70 Topps Basketball.
Because of the gaps in card production, all of the releases are packed with rookie cards. The most popular rookie options include Bill Russell, George Mikan, Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), Bob Cousy, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, and Jerry West.
Pre-1970s Basketball Card Sets
Explore our pre-1970s basketball database featuring vintage 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s Basketball Card Set Information. Each product profile offers set checklists, product info, expert analysis, and deals on singles and boxes. Browse basketball cards from the earliest years of basketball collecting.
The Bill Russell rookie card anchors 1957-58 Topps Basketball. As the first NBA card product, it remains very popular with vintage collectors.
1961-62 Fleer Basketball is one of the greatest NBA sets the sport has ever seen. The checklist includes rookie cards of Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Oscar Robertson and more.
Featuring the tallboy rookie card for Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), 1969-70 Topps Basketball is a memorable vintage release.
1969-70 Topps Rulers Basketball is one of the most unique and colorful sets you’ll likely ever encounter. Showcasing players’ height, the fold-out cards include cartoon interpretations of such superstars as Wilt Chamberlain and Lew Alcindor.