During the late 1970s the NBA lacked a lot of star power. The 1978-79 Topps set still has Walton, Maravich, Erving and Abdul-Jabbar but few other stars that collectors might chase. It’s a set short on rookie cards, but if collectors look closely they will find several interesting pickups and no matter the player, prices for this set are very reasonable. It’s also easy to put together at just 132 cards (as are the ’77-78 and ’79-80 sets).
1978-79 Topps Basketball: The Look
The design of the 1978-79 Topps basketball cards uses a large action photo with a smaller close-up located on the front of the card, with the player and team name along the side of the card front. With action shots and often substandard print quality, it’s not considered one of Topps’ best efforts but there is a lot to like, too. The back of the card has career statistics as well as useful information along the lower portion called “Star Stats”. Complete ungraded sets are generally available for no more than $75 unless they are ultra high-grade.
Rookie Cards and Stars
Boston Celtics forward Cedric Maxwell’s rookie card is in this set, as are those of players who would join him later in Boston, Quinn Buckner and Dennis Johnson. DJ also won in Seattle with center Jack Sikma, whose rookie card is also in this set. Norm Nixon, a title winner with the Lakers, and James Edwards, a member of the Detroit Pistons during their two titles a decade later, also have rookie cards. None are expensive.
There are also three rookie cards of scorers that collectors look for, those of Bernard King, Walter Davis and Marques Johnson. King scored 24.2 points per game in his first season, and 32.9 for the Knicks much later in his career during season 1984-85. Davis was Rookie Of the Year in 1978. He would average 20.5 points per game for the Suns over the first 11 seasons of his career. Johnson played his best basketball for Milwaukee, appearing in four All-Star games as a Buck, before a trade to the Clippers.
The Washington Bullets won the 1978 NBA championship and Kevin Grevey, Bob Dandridge, Tom Henderson, Mitch Kupchak, Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld have cards in this set with pictures and stats from that championship season. Unseld was the NBA Finals MVP, passing for 4.4 assists from the center position during the playoffs. Hayes had averages that postseason of 21.8 points and 13.3 rebounds. All of the Bullets cards are inexpensive, and those who collect the Washington Wizards will want to have cards from the most successful era of the franchise.
The lack of a major rookie card and the small number of cards in the set make 1978-79 Topps Basketball one of the least expensive vintage sports card sets in the market. Complete sets can often be found for well under $75 with most ungraded star cards selling for less than $5, even in higher grades. While unopened boxes will cost $500 and up these days, the cards themselves are cheap. Much like 1979-80, it seems to suffer from a lack of respect but that’s good news for bargain hunters.