With rookie cards of Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, Bill Sharman, Paul Arizin, Frank Ramsey, George Yardley, Dolph Schayes, Tom Heinsohn, Bob Pettit and many other stars of the early seasons of the NBA, the 1957-58 Topps basketball set is a must-have for those who enjoy the history of the sport. It’s the only basketball card set issued in the 1950s and the only one between Bowman’s late 1940s issue and the 1969-70 Topps basketball set. There are 80 cards in the set and about 40% of them are more scarce than the others including Russell, Cliff Hagan and Andy Phillip.
A total of 19 Hall of Famers–nearly 25% of the set–are sprinkled among the 80 cards.
1957-58 Topps Hockey Set Ahead of its Time?
Something that collectors will notice about 1957-58 Topps cards is that they may be vintage but have a modern look. The front picture for many of the cards has an action shot of the player, and the player name and team name are located in futuristic geometric shapes. While the front of the card has a simple and uncluttered look that works, on the back Topps went for a design that fits a lot of elements into a limited space and does it effectively. Going along the entire right side of the card is a ruler, and the player is represented by a drawing and a note is made of their height. The top left corner has the card number, located on a drawing of a backboard. The rest of the card is filled with written information as well as stats.
The Celtics had just started their big run of titles, which would be eleven in thirteen seasons, so it is logical that Boston rookie cards are prominent in this set. The big card in this set is the Bill Russell rookie card, #77. On the front picture is in-game action of Russell defending, and that was what he was known for. As the back of his card says, “he uses his talents to block enemy shots and bottle up attacks”. How many blocks he actually had will never be known, they were not officially recorded by the NBA in those days. His rebounding numbers were entered in the history books, with 21,620 rebounds at an average of 22.5 per game. He once had 32 rebounds in just half a game. Russell could also pass the ball, with a career average of 4.3 assists per game.
Key Rookie Cards
The Russell rookie sells for around $1,000 in mid-grade but into the thousands for PSA 8 and higher examples.
Bob Cousy, the exciting point guard is called “Mr. Pro Basketball” on the back of his Topps card while some fans refer to him as the “Houdini of the Hardwood”. Cousy led the NBA in assists eight times, while still averaging 18.4 points per game over his career. Bill Sharman led the NBA in free throw percentage seven times, averaged 17.8 points over his career and also coached the Lakers to the 1972 NBA title. Tom Heinsohn liked to shoot the ball but he could also rebound, with career averages for the Celtics of 18.6 points and 8.8 rebounds. He also won titles as a coach and later was a successful commentator. Expect to pay $400 and up for a nice looking example but a PSA 8 sold for over $4,000 in 2015.
Dolph Schayes and Bob Pettit are underrated by basketball fans. They each won an NBA title, and starred at the center position. Schayes had a long career, his first season was in the NBL with Syracuse and his last season was in Philadelphia after the team relocated and became the 76ers. Pettit won league MVP twice, and was All-NBA First Team ten times. Pettit’s first season was with the Milwaukee Hawks, and the rest of his career was with the St. Louis Hawks after the team moved.
The set also includes Earl Lloyd, the first African-American to play in the NBA and early pioneer Nat Clifton, too. “Sweetwater” is #1 in the set and carries a premium price, often $800 and up for anything close to Near Mint.
The single-printed card of Dick Schnittker is the final card in the set and typically sells for as much or more than some of the Hall of Famers.
The 1957-58 Topps basketball card set is plagued by centering issues and scuffing of the dark backgrounds. Difficult to find in high grade, the cards sell at a premium. Even in mid-grade, a complete set will cost $3,000 and up but it’s small enough to try and tackle one at a time.
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