In January, I wrote an article on Five Underrated Baseball Rookie Cards. It’s been one of the most popular on my site since then, so I thought I would investigate underappreciated basketball cards as well.
I will say that vintage basketball cards tend to be “undervalued” compared to baseball from a macro perspective. But there are a lot of other factors to consider a basketball card underrated than just cost; teammates may have overshadowed the player, they could have played in a small market, other cards in the set may overshadow the specific card, the size of the print run, the appearance of the card, and the available number of high-grade variants of the card, to name a few.
I used the above rationale to create this list of five underrated basketball cards.
1971 Topps #20 Spencer Haywood
Spencer Haywood, between the ABA and NBA, averaged 20.3 ppg, 10.3 rpg, and 1.8 apg. He won a gold medal in the 1968 Olympic games (as the leading scorer), was an NBA champion in 1980, was the ABAs MVP in 1970 is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, class of 2015.
And you can get a PSA 7 variant of his 1971 Topps card for $30. The card has a total PSA population of only 252. Even a PSA 8 for ~$150 for a player of this caliber and a card with that low population seems reasonable.
1972 Topps #180 Artis Gilmore
Gilmore was an ABA champion and MVP, a 6x NBA and 5x ABA all-star averaging 18.8 ppg, 12.3 rpg, and 2.4 bpg over his pro career. He was a 2011 inductees into the Naismith Memorial Basketball HOF. He was the Ironman of pro basketball once playing 670 consecutive games.
There are 670 graded variants of his 1972 Topps card available, and PSA 8s of this legend can be purchased for ~$160. That seems reasonable for a professional with such an established career. If that is out of your price range, a PSA 7 can be purchased for 35-50$.
1969 Topps #80 Earl Monroe
Another Hall-of-Famer, inducted in 1990, Monroe was one of the flashiest players of his era. He was a member of the 1973 NBA champions, a 4x all-star, and averaged 18.8ppg over his career. Monroe partnered with Wes Unseld early in his career who sometimes overshadows Earl in the basketball card market. He then moved to the Knicks, where he was again just slightly overshadowed by Walt Frazier.
The 1969 Topps set is one of the most iconic the hobby and is loaded with stars. 763 Monroes have been graded with only 1 PSA 10, and 14 PSA 9s. The thing is a PSA 6 copy can be purchased for around $50-60, and they have incredible eye appeal.
1978 Topps #117 Jack Sikma
Sikma is a recent inductee, 2019, into the hall of fame. He’s an NBA champion and 7x All-star who nearly averaged a career double-double with 15.6 ppg and 9.8 rpg. He just happened to have played in smaller markets. But his influence as an accurately shooting center influenced the game for a long time.
Two hundred eighty-one copies of his 1978 Topps card have been graded, and while PSA 10s command prices in the thousands, great looking PSA 8 variants go for prices under $50.
1974 Topps #250 Wilt Chamberlain
Wilt is a legend of the game, with his key cards commanding incredibly high prices. His 1961 Fleer is one of the basketball hobby icons with mid-grade cards commanding 5-figure prices.
But his last card as a player, his 1974 Topps, is much easier to acquire. Nine hundred fifty-three have been graded, and even with the recent run-up in basketball prices, this card, in PSA 8 form, can be acquired for $140-$200. They were selling for around $80 a few months ago. PSA 7s sell for $50.
There are many other cards I considered for this list, for example, the 1957 Topps Bob Cousy is often overshadowed in that set by Bill Russell, and the 1976 Topps Tall Boys are often overshadowed by the 1969 Topps Tall Boys. One could even say that Oscar Robertson’s 1961 Fleer card is overshadowed by both Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor in that set, making it slightly underrated.
Which vintage basketball cards do you feel are underrated or underappreciated? Let me know in the comments or over on Twitter.