George Mikan is considered a professional basketball pioneer, primarily due to his size and influence on what a “big man” is in the game. His dominance led to the widening of the lane from 6 to 12 feet, the introduction of the shot clock, and the outlawing of defensive goaltending.
But since Mikan was a professional between 1946 and 1956, there aren’t a lot of mainstream basketball cards of him. The only major release for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer during his playing days was the 1948 Bowman card. And while some collectors may consider his Topps Magic and Exhibits cards to be more mainstream, the pickings of Mikan cards are pretty slim on the surface. So what are vintage basketball fans or fans of Mikan to do? Luckily, there were a few oddball Mikan releases (some of which I’ve discussed previously on the blog or have documented in the Oddball Archive). While many are incredibly expensive, some are attainable for the average collector. So here are 9 George Mikan cards you might want for your collections.
1948 Kellogg’s PEP George Mikan
This card came in Kellogg’s PEP cereal boxes, and Mikan is one of the set’s key cards. The cards are incredibly thin and brittle, so high-grade copies are pretty rare, but since the Mikan card is competing with his Bowman release from the same year, the card doesn’t command outrageous prices. PSA has graded only 95 Mikan examples; the last high-grade sale in recent years was a PSA 7 selling for $700 in December 2020. The pictured PSA 1.5 sold for $300 in December 2020.
1950 Bread For Health and 1950 Bread for Energy George Mikan Cards
The Bread for Health and Bread for Energy (aka Fisher’s Bread) George Mikan cards are so rare that PSA didn’t include them in the George Mikan Master Set on their Set Registry. The Bread for Health card has a total PSA population of just 7, and only a handful of the Bread for Energy cards exist. Manufacturers placed both cards at the end of bread loaves. The Bread for Energy example sold for $3000 back in 2014 during a Huggins and Scott auction.
You can read more about the Bread for Health set on the Oddball Archive.
1950 Lakers Scott’s George Mikan
The Lakers Scott’s George Mikan card is one of his rarer oddball cards; it was a scarce regional release inserted in potato chip and cheese potato boxes. Making them even rarer is that they were redeemable for tickets and photos. PSA has graded only 15 of this Mikan card, and Heritage Auction sold the pictured PSA 3.5 for $17,400 in January 2022.
1951 Wheaties George Mikan
The 1951 Wheaties George Mikan card is the back of a small individual box of Wheaties. The card is one of Mikan’s more available and liquid cards from his playing days; PSA has graded 72 of them. A gorgeous PSA 10 last sold for $1300 in February 2021, but a more affordable PSA 8 last sold for $225 in April 2021.
1952 Royal Desserts #6 George Mikan
Collectors found this George Mikan card on the back of Royal Puddings, Royal Tapioca Puddings, Royal Gelatin Desserts, and Royal Custard Flavor Dessert Mix. PSA has graded only 5 of these cards, with a PSA 4 last selling for $1625 back in October 2020.
You can read more about the Royal Desserts set on the Oddball Archive.
1952 Wheaties George Mikan Action and Portrait Cards
1952 Wheaties cards were issued in panels of 8 or 10 on the back of Wheaties cereal boxes, and two different Mikan cards were released; an Action and a Portrait card. The 1952 Wheaties George Mikan Action card has a total PSA population of 67, and a PSA 6 sold for $185 in October 2021. The Portrait card is a bit more common, having been graded 100 times; a PSA 9 was sold for $510 in May 2021, and a more recent sale was a PSA 7 for $281 in December 2021.
1955 All American Sports Club #21 George Mikan
The last oddball for the list is the All-American Sports Club Mikan card. The set has 500 cards issued on 9’’x12″ uncut sheets. The Mikan card is pretty rare, with a total population of just 14 cards in the PSA Pop Report. However, the cards aren’t particularly popular as a PSA 10 last for just over $1k (considerably less than what some of the other oddball Mikan’s go for) in November 2019.
Ultimately, as a basketball pioneer, Mikan’s cards are incredibly popular, and given the rarity of many of these oddballs, that makes them expensive. But a few examples are affordable for the common collector, particularly lower graded 1952 Wheaties cards, both of which are part of my personal collection.
If you plan to dabble in the competitive George Mikan vintage card collectors group, I wish you the best of luck; happy collecting!