The Celtics, Bulls and Lakers all won last night, but tonight is the real start of the NBA season as far as I'm concerned. Hawks at Magic on SportsSouth! I'll be glued to the screen, at least until the World Series does/doesn't resume. I wanted to commemorate the new NBA season with some vintage basketball cards and boy, did I find some. I want to warn the more sensitive members of the audience, what you're about to see is not pretty... View at your own risk!
True connoisseurs of vintage basketball cards just recoiled in horror as if they just witnessed the scene of a massacre. Casual card fans are thinking that these things look familiar, but I just can't place them. The other 99.9999999% of humanity has no clue what the heck that big mess is. Those are 1980-81 Topps Basketball cards. They normally look like this:
However, it is possible for an enterprising (and very bored) 14 year old to take them apart at the perforations and create mini basketball cards. What? Someone tore up a complete set of these cards? That set is worth hundreds of dollars! The Bird/Magic rookie card is insanely expensive by itself! Who would do such a thing?? Yeah, well, um... that was me. Lemme explain.
Back when I was a kid I used to get most of my cards from Atlanta Sports Cards in the Green's Corners shopping center. I was a very frugal young lad and I'd always try to get the most cards for my money. That usually meant picking up bricks of cards from the 60's and 70's and scrounging the bargain bins. Sometimes though I'd get a cheap box on sale. One cheap box they had was a vendor's box of '80-'81 Topps Basketball. 500 cards for 7 bucks. That's a lot of cards! Back in the mid '80s though, no one cared a lick about basketball cards. Amazing really, since the '80s were arguably the golden age of NBA basketball, but in 1986 or so when I bought this box no one cared about basketball cards at all. And these cards were widely considered to be the ugliest damn things this side of 1990 Topps and that wouldn't even exist for another four years. So my young cheap self picked up some crap that no one else wanted and had a good ol' time with his big pile of cards.
Now, the thing with this set is that the 264 mini cards are distributed among the tri-cards in a complete set of 88 cards. There was actually a second possible set as Topps slightly altered the mini card order for the second set. So all in all, there are 176 different cards in the '80-'81 Topps Basketball set. Now remember, a vendor's box has 500 cards. What I'm saying is, I had a CRAPLOAD of doubles.
Now follow my logic here. I'm 14. I have a big ol' pile of basketball cards that, at the time, were essentially worthless. These cards have perforations on them just begging to be torn. I already have at least two complete sets. I was well versed in tearing mini cards out of Dover reprint books already. Boy, was that fun to do! Plus, the card shop still had a few more vendor's boxes of this stuff for cheap so I could get another one anytime if I decided I just had to have a third set of this junk. The big basketball card renaissance caused by the landmark '86-'87 Fleer set wouldn't even happen for a few years. Seriously, what the heck would you do?*
So, that big mess o' cards up there is actually a complete set of ripped mini cards. 1-264. I didn't just take a complete set and rip it as I have 11 mini doubles left over. I remember being meticulous enough to try very hard only to rip cards I had 4 or more of, but not quite focused enough to just complete a set of 88 panels and rip that. Don't worry, I never ripped a Bird/Dr. J/Magic card. Even back when the cards were junk, I recognized that THAT card was pure gold. I got three of them out of the box, One was lost when my laptop bag was stolen in the late '90s (with the laptop itself sitting on a desk right next to the bag, oddly enough) One is safely in a toploader and the third? I think it's in a an old binder full of basketball cards somewhere, but I'm not really sure. At any rate, I've got both full card sets, one mini card set and a whole bunch of doubles. Since I bought a vendor's box I don't have the mini poster set though. I need to get one of those someday.
So what I'm gonna do with this thing is post one mini team set per week until the end of the season. This set was well before the expansion rush of the '90s so there are 22 teams active during the '79-'80 season, The expansion Dallas Mavericks, an All-Star/ checklist subset, and a Slam Dunk subset. That's 25 sets, and coincidentally enough there are 25 weeks in the NBA season. It's a neat, uncommon set, and I'm pretty sure that no one else out there has posted a complete ripped set of the stuff.
If there's someone out there who is actually interested in this stuff, I can trade off some doubles. As for the 11 mini cards I have no use for, check back during the Hawks game tonight (sometime after 7pm eastern) to find out how you can get one...
* Do not do this nowadays. In 1986, sure. This ain't 1986.