There is no set that compares to the bigger than a postcard sized 1976-77 Topps basketball issue. With dimensions of 3 1/8 inches by 5 1/4 inches, each is nothing short of gigantic compared to most trading cards.
Stars and Rookie Cards in the 1976-77 Topps Basketball Set
The set has most of the big stars of basketball from the 1970s. The Julius Erving, Pete Maravich and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar cards are often the most expensive. Other stars include John Havlicek, Moses Malone, George Gervin, Rick Barry, Bill Walton and Dave Cowens. There are also several cards of players who were stars then but would be known as legendary coaches in later years, like Phil Jackson and Jerry Sloan.
Those that have the complete set will enjoy two cards of the greatest players from that time, as there is a subset of ten cards for All-Star players. That means another card for Maravich, Erving and eight other superstars. There are 144 cards in the set, including card #48 which is a checklist. The set size is smaller as Topps and the NBA condensed following the 1975-76 set after which the ABA and NBA merger took place, eliminating a few teams.
The huge size of the cards and the overall checklist of the 1976-77 Topps basketball set is a better reason to collect them than the rookie cards in the set, although it does have David Thompson’s first card. They sell on eBay for $10 to $20, along with those of Gus Williams, Junior Bridgeman, Lionel Hollins, Alvan Adams and Lloyd Free, who was later known as World B. Free and averaged 20.3 points per game over his NBA career.
On the front is a very large picture of the player, with his name and position along the bottom. Along the left side of the card is the team name, in a very futuristic and three-dimensional font, along with a graphic of a basketball going into a basket. The shorter the team name, like Jazz, the more basketballs that filled the left side of the card. With so much space to use on the back of the cards, Topps filled it up with college and pro stats, along with a paragraph of information about the player and a basketball tip on the bottom quarter of the card. The “basketball terms” and “how to play basketball” tips helped explain the game to fans.
When most card collectors think of oversized cards they remember the Jam Session cards or the more rectangular Topps cards like 1969-70 and 1970-71. Those cards can be displayed in a folder with a 6-pocket page. That doesn’t work for the 1976-77 Topps basketball cards. They need a 4-pocket page or a 3-pocket page. To display the entire set, the 4-pocket page is best and 36 pages are needed for the binder.
Collectors of graded basketball cards should know that there are holders available for them but good luck finding a lot of high grade examples because their size has made them susceptible to wear. PSA has graded over 26,000 of them with about 8,000 9’s. Among the toughest high grade examples are Free, the Dave Cowens All Star, Mike Newlin, Billy Knight, Jimmy Walker and Billy Keller. Surprisingly, the #1 card of Erving isn’t that hard to find in high grade.
Sending these large cards through the mail also presents some challenges. Plastic card holders, penny sleeves and sealable team bags are not often available for that specific size. The best option is to use a plastic card, or postcard holder that measures in at approximately 4 inches wide and 6 inches high. Surrounded by cardboard and posted in a protective envelope, this is a safe way to send 1976-77 Topps basketball cards through the mail.
Prices for completed sets generally range from $150-250. High grade sets will sell for more but you can pick up very nice PSA 7 and 8 graded cards for very little money.