The first decade in which yearly sets were released, the ‘70s are often overlooked when it comes to basketball cards. They lack the prestige of ‘90s options, while you won’t find parallels or signatures like you would with the current crop of basketball stars.
However, a number of cards are beginning to pick up in price rapidly, and there’s a range of decent investment options, as well as numerous PSA 10s that sell for thousands of dollars.
Here’s a rundown with five of the most valuable basketball cards from the 1970s, with lots of info about how and why they managed to make it onto the list.
The 5 Most Valuable Basketball Cards From the ’70s
As the majority of the cards below are nearing their 50th year, so it’s only natural that there aren’t many gem mint copies available in comparison to later options. Print runs were far smaller and cards weren’t cared for to the same extent that they are today, while everything from gum to packaging could potentially cause damage.
Popular: Ja Morant Rookie Cards
As such, we’ll be looking at high PSA grades, representing cards found in the very best condition. You might be able to find cheaper versions for a fraction of the price, so there is a chance to add a copy or two to your personal collection.
Signed versions had yet to take off by the ‘70s, so we’re left with some of the better RCs, as well as a couple of rare options that don’t come up at auction that often.
5. 1970 Pete Maravich Topps Basketball RC #123 (buy on eBay)
Peter Maravich was a supreme offensive talent in the ‘70s, and picked up five All-Star appearances as well as being the NBA scoring champion in ‘77. He passed away unexpectedly at the age of 40 during a pick-up game, due to an undetected heart defect.
The 1970 Topps is his one and only RC, and it’s one of the most recognizable rookie cards from the era. Printed on oversized stock, it has a deep green background and features an image of a young Maravich taking a knee with a basketball in his hands. The player and his team name are noted on another basketball at the bottom, in yellow text. The same yellow is used to line the border, in a great design choice.
It’s truly a classic card, offering a vintage color scheme and no Topps logos. However, the larger card size can lead to some flaws, while centering is also a commonly found problem due to printing errors which were more common at the time. It’s a rare RC from one of the best players from the era, so it’s no surprise that Pistol Pete’s 1970-71 Topps is the first card on our list.
4. 1971 Rudy Tomjanovich Topps Basketball RC #91 (buy on eBay)
Rudy Tomjanovich is a former player and coach who took the Houston Rockets to two consecutive NBA championships after his retirement. He was an All-Star forward for the Rockets during his playing career, and most recently had a brief stint as the LA Lakers GM.
Tomjanovich’s RC is found in the 1971 Topps set, which is definitely dated to its era. For one, there’s the ‘groovy’ font used for the team name at the top, and then there’s the bright pink color that takes up the majority of the background. There’s a large profile image of the player, grinning directly towards the camera. With a solid white border, it all comes together nicely, and high PSA grades pop well.
Must Read: Best Baseball Cards to Buy Now
Given his decorated career as a coach and a player, (and that incident with Kermit Washington in 1977 that caused the game to be changed completely) it’s no surprise that his RC is one of the most valuable ‘70s cards.
3. 1972 Pete Maravich Comspec Basketball (buy on eBay)
The second Maravich card to make the list, his 1972 Comspec is a great alternative compared to the many Topps sets from the decade. He was still with the Atlanta Hawks at the time and had been named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team after a successful first season.
A tiny set consisting of just 36 cards, one of the main reasons why Maravich’s version is so expensive is the fact that it’s almost impossible to find in higher grades. They were printed on thin stock by Comspec, which was ruined far too easily.
It’s unsurprising that a PSA 8 recently sold for four figures, with only one card achieving a higher rating overall from PSA. Demand far outweighs supply.
The 1972 Comspec itself is mostly white, with a thick border that takes up half of the space at the bottom. Maravich’s name, team and position are listed here in a basic black font. The player image is found at the top, in an orange square that contrasts well with the white background.
He’s pictured dribbling between his legs, in one of the better shots you’ll find from the decade. (Interestingly, the image is the same that was used for his 1972 Topps card.) The Clockwork Orange coloring, a flimsy design, and the small print run all combine to make for a classic option and one of the more expensive basketball cards from the decade.
2. 1972 Wilt Chamberlain Topps Basketball #1 (buy on eBay)
Wilt Chamberlain was skillful enough to be a Globetrotter before he joined the NBA, going on to win two championships, four MVP awards, make 13 All-Star appearances and claim the 1960 Rookie of the Year award. Widely seen as one of the greatest of all time, he passed away due to natural causes in 1999.
Released in his final season as a player, the 1972-73 Topps Wilt Chamberlain is a classic card from the set, featuring a black border with a bright blue background. Chamberlain is staring at the camera with a basketball in one hand, but it is worth noting that he has his Lakers jersey on backwards. The team name is written in ascending green letters found at the bottom.
Read Later: Top 5 NBA Rookie Cards from the 1990s
It can’t compare to the price of his RC, but it’s still one of the best Chamberlain cards from the era, and extremely valuable if you’re looking at higher grades. (The Julius Erving rookie card is another key option from the set.)
Chamberlain also has a second card in the set, numbered to #168. They focused on the All-Stars from the previous season, and it has an action shot of the player scoring.
1. 1975 Moses Malone Topps Basketball RC #254 (buy on eBay)
In a career that spanned from 1974 through 1995, Moses Malone is one of the most decorated players of all time. He was named the NBA MVP three times, was a 12-time NBA All-Star, and led the Philadelphia 76ers to an NBA championship in 1983, where he won the league and was named as the Finals MVP. He passed away in 2015 at the age of 60.
The last card on our list is his RC from the 1975 Topps set. It has a great action shot of Malone leaping towards the basket, with a large Stats logo at the top and a simple white border. His name is listed at the bottom, while there’s a yellow and green diagonal stripe in the top right corner.
One of the more affordable vintage rookie cards among Hall of Fame players, prices begin to rise rapidly when you get to closer to the PSA 10 mark.
The Most Valuable Basketball Cards From the ’70s: Summary
The ‘70s weren’t the best era for basketball, or for the collectible hobby on the whole.
No team really dominated in the NBA, while the 3-point line wasn’t created until the beginning of the next decade, so there was no point in shooting from distance. It was also a more physical game back then, hampering flair players to some degree as fights broke out regularly.
The lack of one dominant team means that the best ballers were spread out, so at least there’s a ‘70s legend on almost every team. The lack of rare options can make it difficult for collectors to identify the best players, but at least Topps were releasing sets regularly,
Despite the above, the 1970s still has a host of great cards from a list of Hall of Famers. You’ll just have to stick to the higher grades if you want to find the most expensive ones. On the other hand, low PSA versions are often highly affordable, and they’re great if you’re building up a collection on a tight budget