Bob Pettit was considered the best basketball player in the game when Topps printed their first basketball issue in 1957. So it’s no surprise that they printed more copies of his card in laying out the 80-card set on a 132-card sheet than any other. This article will go deeper into Pettit’s career, the 1957 Topps basketball set, and Pettit’s quadruple-printed 1957 Topps basketball card.
Pettit was drafted second overall, out of LSU, in 1954 by the Milwaukee Hawks (who moved to St. Louis in 1956) and won the NBA Rookie of the Year award in 1955. He played 11 seasons in the NBA and was the first player to score 20k points. His final career totals included 20,880 points (26.4 per game), 12,849 total rebounds (16.2 per game) and 2,369 assists (3.0 per game). Over his 11 seasons, Pettit went to 11 All-Star Games (winning the MVP there four times) and made 10 All-NBA First Teams. He was also the League MVP in 1956 and 1959 and won an NBA title in 1958. He retired in 1965 and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1970.
The 1957 Topps basketball set was Topps’ first and was the first basketball set to use the standard card size. However, it must not have been a success since Topps wouldn’t print another basketball set until 1968 (as a test issue) before creating the iconic 1969 tallboy set.
The 1957 Topps basketball set has 80 cards that Topps released in a single series via 5-cent packs (6-card per pack and 24 per box); you can see more details on the Unopened Archive page for the set. The set’s key card is Bill Russell, followed by Bob Cousy, Bob Pettit, Tom Heinsohn, Dolph Schayes, and Nat Clifton.
As I said, 1957 was the first year Topps used standard-sized cards and 12 x 11 sheets, so there are some interesting print notes concerning how they laid out this 80-card set on the 132 card sheet. Ultimately, the set ended up with 49 double prints, 30 single prints, and one quadruple print (Pettit). 49×2 + 30×1 + 1×4 = 132 cards. But how do we know this?
In December 2015, SCP Auctions sold a one-of-a-kind 1957 Topps basketball production sheet (From the Topps Archives) for $91k, clearly showing each single or double-printed player and Pettit’s quadruple print as well. The Topps Archives blog has written an excellent post detailing the sheet, which they had an image of a few years before the SCP auction.
We can also investigate the PSA population report and compare Pettit to other cards in the set. However, this is a tough comparison because Pettit is a Hall of Famer whose cards could be more likely to be graded. But, given the popularity and value of 1957 Topps basketball cards, most used to warrant (when it wasn’t so expensive to grade cards) encapsulation.
In the following image, you can see that Pettit has 721 graded cards in the population report. There are others with more; Cousy has over 1k graded examples, while Russel has just under 1k. But you can see many other players have around 200 graded examples.
Additionally, PSA wrote about A Texas-Sized Find of 1957 Topps Basketball Cards in October 2001 and shared the amount of each card discovered. 54 Pettits were in the collection when the average for players was in the teens.
From a cost perspective, here is the Prices by Grade and population counts for the 1957 Topps #24 Bob Pettit card:
I dug a little deeper and pulled the dates for each of the past sales for each grade.
- PSA 9: $18,100 in March 2018
- PSA 8: $5509 in Feb 2022
- PSA 7: $703 in Oct 2021
- PSA 6: $511 in Mar 2022
- PSA 5: $353 in Jan 2022
- PSA 4: $257 in Nov 2021
If you’re a 1957 Topps basketball set collector, I’d love to hear about your perception of the cards’ availability based on the single, double, and quadruple printing we see on that incredible uncut sheet; please reach out in the comments, on Twitter, or directly. And happy collecting!