Friday, July 1, 2022

An INSANE set: 1980-81 Topps Basketball

I mentioned in a previous post that I went to a card show a couple of weeks ago and I bought some vintage pages. I ended up getting them for the 5/$15 price, or $3 each. I showed each of the baseball pages I purchased and then I showed a stack of pages with 1980-81 Topps basketball cards that I bought. There ended up being 27 pages.

Let me start by saying that there were no big superstars among these cards, but there was a lot of star power. So no Magic or Bird rookies. No Kareem or Maravich cards. There was one Dr. J Slam Dunk card, but no base or All-Star card of Erving. Magic has his rookie card and an All-Star card. Bird has a rookie card and two other team leader cards. So one set contains 5 Magic and Bird cards from their rookie year.

I also want to point out that if you see "card" or "cards" in quotation marks I am referring to a three card panel. If I just have card or cards, then it would be referring to the individual one player panel or card.

With that out of the way. This set is INSANE. Okay. It's not really the set, but putting the set together is INSANE. Like it took me two days to get a grasp on this set and put them in order and come up with the cards I needed.

Let me explain. The cards come in panels of three, with each individual card being numbered, but the cards are not in numerical order. Let me show you an example.

So this "card" is actually three different cards. The cards were meant to be separated. Again the numbers of the individual cards on each three card panel are not consecutive. This "card" contains card numbers 142, 186, and 116.

The set contains 264 cards, which can be made with just 88 three card panels. If you were going to separate the cards out and collect the 264 card set that way, it wouldn't be that bad although I would have to carefully separate all these cards and undoubtedly some of them would probably get damaged. Because of this the cards that are the panels of three cards are more collected and valued. Most card collectors, even if you primarily collect baseball are probably familiar with the three card panel that contains the Magic Johnson rookie, the Dr. J Scoring Leader card, and the Larry Bird rookie. This card, intact, is worth a great deal more than the individual cards combined.

Alright, back to the cards I purchased. 27 sheets of 9 cards. So I ended up with 243 "cards". Each of these "cards" is a panel of 3 cards, so there were actually 729 individual cards. Remember the set is only 264 cards, so in theory, I could have almost 3 sets. But almost all of the superstar cards were missing, so I didn't even end up with one full set, but that's okay.

I probably should break the cards apart and just go after one set of 264 individual cards because that is likely the only way I'll be able to afford the Magic and Bird cards, but since I ended up with so many of these cards intact I decided I would collect the set that way. The problem is, the "cards" (panels of three) were each printed with two different versions. Let me show you an example.

Here you see a two "cards" that contains cards of Jamaal Wilkes and Paul Westphal, but the third card of the panel is different. One contains a card of Dave Cowens and the other, a card of Dudley Bradley. 

The entire set is like this. Two of the same players and then a different player. So in a weird way, there are two versions of each "card". Having each of both "cards" would give you two complete sets of 246 individual cards.

And so, that's what I have decided to go after. How stupid is that? It's INSANE. Instead of going after just one set, I'm going after two sets and that's the more expensive way by far. Let me repeat myself. It's INSANE.

Now let me talk about putting the set together this way. It's INSANE. Again it's not like the three card panels have cards 1, 2, and 3 and then 4, 5, and 6. They are all over the place. It took me a while to even find a checklist online and I'm still not sure of why they used the order the did. For example, the first "card" contains card 3, 181, and 258. I think it might be based on the way the "cards" were on the printing sheet, but I am not sure. If anyone can provide insight, I would love to hear it.

So to sort the cards in order you almost just have to find the individual card. Sorting them by number order  really doesn't work when But there are only 88 "cards" in the set, so it's not that bad. Except that, I'm collecting two of the sets because of the variations, so it's actually 176 "cards" and I had 243 "cards" to sort through. Let me say it one more time. It was INSANE to put this set in order. It hurt my brain. 

I had a few cards already that I ended up needing, so as it stands I need 26 out of the 176 to complete two full sets of the 246 cards. 12 "cards" for one set and 14 "cards" for the second set. As of 7/11/22 I have added the Magic Johnson RC and the Larry Bird RC from Set 2 to my collection. I only need 12 "cards" from each set now.

I am going to list the "cards" I need for my reference.

Set 1

Roundfield (#3) Erving (#181) Brewer (#258)

Bird (#34) Erving (#174) Johnson (#139)

Maravich (#38) Free (#264) D. Johnson (#194)

Carr (#61) Abdul-Jabbar (#8) Natt (#200)

Long (#88) Erving (#1) Sobers (#49)

Abdul-Jabbar (#135) Thompson (#79) Taylor (#216)

Landsberger (#140) Lanier (#10) Walton (#222)

Marques Johnson (#143) Bird (#30) Sikma (#232)

Bridesman (#146) Bird (#31) Brewer (#198)

Marques Johnson (#149) Erving (262) Jeelani (#62)

Cheeks (#178) Johnson (18) Boone (#237)

Boswell (#238) Maulte (#109)  Lanier (#150)

Set 2

Roundfield (#29) Mickey Johnson (#113) Robensine (#130)

Maravich (#38) Robinson (#187) Jones (#46)

May (#47) Bird (#30) Sikma (#232)

Long (#88) Johnson (#18) Boone (#237)

Reid (#110) Newlin (#153) Hollins (#182) 

McGinnis (#121) Lanier (#10) Walton (#222)

Abdul-Jabbar (#132) Parish (#93) Burleson (#126)

Abdul-Jabbar (#135) Shumate (#253) Demic (#167)

Nixon (#141) Hayes (#242) Carr (#35)

Bridgeman (#146) Erving (#1) Sobers (#69)

Bryant (#217) Abdul-Jabbar (#8) Nett (#200)

Brown (#228) Bird (#31) Brewer (#198)


  1. Let's not call it stupid or insane. How about "ambitious"? ;-)

  2. A very bizarre set -- tells you little basketball was collected at the time. But I've always liked it.

  3. I would have to agree that it is a confusing way to number cards if you are a set builder. I am starting to enjoy the older NBA cards. Back in December, I picked up Cavaliers singles from the 1970s at a card shop for a quarter a piece.

  4. Best of luck on your set builds. That Bird/Erving/Johnson card is so iconic. Back in the 80's, I opened up a few packs of this stuff in hopes of pulling a Magic Johnson (I was a huge Lakers fan back then). I did, but it wasn't the famous one.

    Although I kind understand the set... the numbering is very crazy. I just picked up a handful of singles last weekend, because a dealer at the card show had clean copies in his 3 for $1 box.

  5. Insane indeed! Good luck with the set attempt!