There are times when Lady Luck smiles on you. That’s exactly what occurred when a card collector from the Lone Star State offered his group of football and basketball cards to us recently. The group is loaded with Hall of Fame members of both the Pro Football Hall of and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame – and there aren’t many HOFers missing from this purchase.
This collection of about 300 or so cards spans from the mid-1930’s all the way through the late 1980’s, and is filled with the greatest football and basketball legends to ever step foot on the gridiron and hardwood. Even though this collection was significantly smaller than our last few purchases, it supersedes the larger ones in value per card – as literally every card was a Hall of Fame rookie card. The collector parted with many of his prized rookie and star cards, while maintaining an ample collection of cards for himself.
The earliest of the gridiron greats appear under the 1933 Goudey Sport Kings brand and1935 National Chicle label. There are stars from the 1948 & 1949 Leaf sets, the early 1950s Bowman & Topps sets, including a Tall-Boy 1965 Topps Joe "Willie" Namath rookie card, and a nice array of AFL players on Fleer stock. Philadelphia Gum Company presents a varied representation of mid-1960’s NFL Hall of Famers, and the balance of the football cards are spread out over the post AFL-NFL merger period from 1970 through the 1978.
The 1930’s cards are not of the same condition as their more recent brethren in this collection issued from the late ‘40s through the 1970s, but what they lack in overall grade is made up for in the superstar quality of the players pictured. Most others present in the EX through NM range. It’s a remarkably attractive collection that we just couldn't pass up.
Highlights of the football cards, besides the Namath, include the likes of Jim Thorpe and Knute Rockne in the Sport Kings. Cliff Battles, Dutch Clark, Ken Strong, Turk Edwards and Clarke Hinkle are represented in the National Chicle contingent. A blue jersey variation of Pete Pihos and Doak Walker’s rookie card come in the 1948 Leafs, and rookies of Steve Van Buren, Alex Wojciechowicz and Bob Waterfield from one year later. Coaches Paul Brown and George Halas are among the 30+ Hall of Famers contained in the run of Bowman cards. There is a 1948 Magic Photo Card #7, Chuck Bednarik, “The Last of the Sixty Minute Men”, one Topps Felt Back, and a group of 1955 Topps All-Americans, led by “His Honor, Supreme Court Justice Whizzer White and Duke’s Clarence “Ace” Parker.
Johnny Unitas’s first Topps card from the 1957 set is also among this prestigious collection. AFL luminaries Abner Haynes (the new league’s first Rookie of the Year AND Player of the Year) and Hall of Fame offensive tackle Ron Mix are pictured on 1960 Fleer cards. Still in the AFL, 1961 Fleer is represented by Jim Otto, one of only a few players who survived all ten years of the American Football League (1960-1969), and Don Maynard wearing his New York Titans jersey, with Billy Shaw (1962 Fleer), Nick Buoniconti and Len Dawson (both 1963 Fleer). Bobby Bell and Buck Buchanan from the 1964 Topps AFL set and ’65 Tall Boys Fred Bilentnikoff and Willie Brown along with the Namath Rookie, round out the AFL-only sets in this contingent.
There are plenty more, however, as “Philly Gum” sets offer Canton residents Paul Warfield, Dick LeBeau and Carl Eller as 1965 rookies; the Bears’ best Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus RC’s from ’66, and 1967 rookies Jackie Smith, Chris Hanburger and Leroy Kelly.
By 1968, Topps was the Lone Ranger producing US issues of football cards sets. Floyd Little and Bob Griese are in the recently acquired collection, while ill-fated Brian Piccolo’s only card, 1969 Topps, appears with the first issue of Larry Csonka.
The 1970’s gave us the Hall’s only “pure kicker”, Jan Stenerud, as well as Alan Page, Lem Barney, the infamous O.J. Simpson, Tom Dempsey, Terry Bradshaw, Mean Joe Greene, John Riggins, Franco Harris, Ray Guy, John Hannah and of course, “Sweetness” Walter Payton - all as rookies, and all contained in this collection. The first NFL card of Canadian League defector Joe Theismann and the rookie card of The Ol’ Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier, are also in this Lone Star State collection. Rookies of James Lofton, Ozzie Newsome and Steve Largent are a few more of the Hall of Fame players that close out the decade of the 1970s.
Then, the collection switches over to the hardwood, and offers us some basketball rookie cards going back to 1940s. The first “Big Man” and early superstar of the game emerges on George Mikan's 1948 Kellogg’s Pep Cereal card. Eight 1957-58 Topps basketball cards feature HOFers Bill Russell, Paul Arizin, Bill Sharman, Dolph Schayes, Dick Maguire, Bob Cousy, Bob Petit and Tom Heinsohn.
Basketball cards were not issued every year. Topps led the way in 1957-58 with their inaugural set, nearly a decade after Bowman issued their 1948 set, with Fleer releasing a singular issue in 1961-62. For a short time period, there were none, until Topps began a continuous run in 1969-70. This phenomenon in the hobby makes another rookie crop available in the 1961-62 Fleer set, with rookie cards of Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, the Jones Boys from the Celtics – Sam and K.C., Oscar Robertson and Walt Bellamy, Hal Greer and Lenny Wilkins, too – all featured here in this Texas-sized collection.
1969-70 Topps basketball cards came out in a big way - Tall-Boy style that is. Our Texas treasures include the enigmatic white bordered “talls” of Lew Alcindor, now known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Billy Cunningham, Jerry Lucas, Nate Thurmond, Dave Bing, Willis Reed, Elvin Hayes Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, Dave DeBusschere, Wes Unseld and Walt Frazier. Topps followed up that set with another Tall Boy format a year later, and the only representative of the oversized 1970-71’s we obtained is a keeper, the rookie card of Pistol Pete Maravich – who is one of my favorite player of all-time.
Rounding out our roundball gains are 1970’s and 80’s rookies, such as well traveled-coach Larry Brown, Rick Barry (from ’71-’72 Topps), the 1972-73 Virginia Squires ABA star “Dr. J” Julius Erving, and Artis Gilmore, a ’73-’74 Topps Bob McAdoo and Bill Walton’s 1974-75 rookie. The 1980-81 Tri-Card rookie of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson with Erving as the “Trifecta” is here, a classic and most-desirable basketball card. 1986-87 Fleer rookies of Charles Barkley, Clyde Drexler, Karl Malone, Akeem Olajuwon, Isiah Thomas and James Worthy all came with this gathering of hardcourt and gridiron greats. Scottie Pippen also debuts on a’88-89 Fleer along with the Indiana Pacers Reggie Miller.
All in all, this is a dynamic collection of high-voltage names from over sixty years of sports. Hall of famers from two sports abound, and rookies from several teams are teeming with collecting power. As stated earlier, once in a while Lady Luck smiles down on you. This time, her smile delivers a tremendous opportunity for collectors to obtain cards of some of the greatest players their sports have ever known. We will be auctioning off each card individually over the next few months, so be sure to keep a close eye on our eBay listings.
Just Collect is always looking to purchase vintage football, basketball and baseball cards, ranging from 1879 to 1979.