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Invented in 1891, basketball is played around the world, but its main focus is in America. The famous NBA, a league comprising 30 teams, was founded in 1946 as the Basketball Association of America (BAA) and became the NBA in 1949.
For basketball card collectors, cards that predate the NBA are few in number. In 1933, a Sports Kings Gum collection featured four basketball players: Nat Holman, Ed Wachter, Joe Lapchick and Eddie Burke.
Card collectors in general look at the condition of the card - particularly creasing and the sharpness of the corners - as well as the “centering” (i.e. how central the card has been printed). The same is true of basketball card collectors.
To ascertain the approximate value of a basketball card, collectors can consult the Beckett Basketball cards price guide. As with anything, values are largely dictated by supply and demand: how many cards exist versus their desirability. Rookie and hall of famer cards are always desirable in collections, past and present.
The most valuable card to date was a 1969-70 Topps Lew Alcindor rookie card in mint condition, which sold for $501,900 at public auction, in 2016.
Many of the world’s high-value basketball cards are modern because of the popularity of the sport over the past few decades and the huge increase in basketball card production after 1980. The 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan rookie card is one of the most sought-after among collectors.
Famous vintage basketball card sets include those of Bowman (1948), Topps (1957) and Fleer (1961). The second-most valuable card ever was the 1948 Bowman George Mikan #69 rookie card, which sold at the SCP Auctions' Fall Premier online auction for $403,664.