Huge vintage basketball collection features rookies of Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, and More!

Vintage basketball hoard unearthed in Seattle w/ sets of 1948 Bowman, 1957 Topps, 1961 Fleer, 1984 Star & More
  • March 21, 2024

48 Bowman Main

Complete sets of the most important, vintage basketball cards ever produced have been discovered and proudly purchased by Just Collect. We flew across the Country for a collection that include rookie cards of basketball legends such as George Mikan, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, and more!

Before achieving my dream of finding Just Collect almost 20 years ago, I used to work for Lelands auctions, a sports memorabilia auction house. One of the many great Lelands events I had the pleasure of working was a signing with players from the ABA, the American Basketball Association. The ABA was a professional league, existing from 1967 to 1975 before merging into the NBA. As the players were signing memorabilia, I immersed myself into the stories each player told. I already loved basketball growing up, and still dream of having Boston Celtics legend, Larry Bird, give me his famous trash talk during a game of HORSE. Being that close to ABA legends, listening to their tales, and learning about the history of the game brought my love for vintage basketball deeper than a long-distance three-pointer from Larry.

Flash forward to today, imagine my excitement when I opened our free appraisal form section here on the Just Collect site from a collector in Tacoma, Washington interested in selling COMPLETE sets of the most iconic basketball cards ever made. Complete basketball sets of 1948 Bowman, 1957 Topps and 1961 Fleer. As a vintage basketball card specialist, knowing how to handle, care for, and appraise these rare items, I am always ready to travel to purchase collections of this nature. The 1948 Bowman basketball set is the first ever created in the hobby! As Steve Miller once said, I went "All the way to Tacoma." 

THE VINTAGE BASKETBALL SILVER CLOUD COLLECTION

Shipping Boxes

I could no longer see the fireplace in Darrell's living room. Where the fireplace was now stood a MOUNTAIN of cards.

When I read Darrell's message on our free appraisal form, he mentioned one of the basketball sets was graded by PSA. With the grade and condition of a set provided ahead of time, I was able to tell Darrell the value of that particular set and the offer I would make to purchase the set before planning to leave the Just Collect office here in New Jersey. Being comfortable with my offer, Darrell and his wife invited me to their home in Tacoma, Washington so I could see the remainder of the collection in-person. 

Two suit cases, a note pad, and 60 hours blocked out like my Boston Celtics blocking out for a rebound. I was ready to go! My plan was simple: Fly in late Thursday night, review the collection Friday, (hopefully) purchase and pack the collection Saturday and be back in time for Saturday night bedtime stories with my son, Crosby. What I didn't factor into my plan was - the mountain of additional cards!

In the first picture below you can see a 1948 Bowman George Mikan rookie card graded PSA 5 on top of other star cards from this set. This is just the tip of the The Vintage Basketball Silver Cloud Collection

48 Bowman Main
48 Bowman graded-1
48 Bowman stack graded
57 Topps Main Photo
57 Topps graded
57 Topps batch-1
61 Fleer Main Photo
61 Fleer Big 3
61 Fleer with Wrapper
Jordan Star Rookies
Kobe - Shaq - 86 Fleer
Olajuon 86 Fleer and Additonal Rookies
Montana - Brown - Sayers - More Brady Rookies
Manning - Brady - Rodgers rookies
Manning Rookies and Autos
Trout and Harper Rookies

1948 Bowman Basketball Cards

Basketball was still in its infancy in 1948 when Bowman released their debut set. The game was invented in 1891, and the NBA didn't join our world until 1946. Bowman produced the first set of basketball cards in our hobby with their 72-card release in 1948. Each card is 2-1/16" x 2-1/2" in size; a little smaller than the standard size today of 2.5" x 3.5". The set was released in two series, with cards 1-36 release to start and cards 37-72 following. The higher-numbered cards from series 2 weren't in circulation as long as the first series were, and can be scarce.

The biggest star of the set, George Mikan, dominated the game as a pioneer of hoops. Mikan led his teams to four NBA championships, was the leading scorer in the league three times, and was so great on defense, the NBA had to rewrite rules around him! Mikan is shown in his Minneapolis Lakers jersey with an aggressive look on his face, perhaps driving to the basketball in that rookie card. You're wondering about the "Minneapolis" Lakers of the NBA. The "Showtime" Lakers of Los Angeles didn't arrive to the Sunshine State until 1960. Now, you're probably just realizing where the LAKErs name came from; far more lakes in Minneapolis than in Los Angeles! Other key cards in this set include Hall of Fame coaches and players such as Red Holzman, Bob Davies, and Jim Pollard. A few of these stars are shown in the second photo, and the graded collection stacked in photo three of the slideshow above.

The entire set being graded is an unbelievable attribute. PSA keeps track of how many cards they grade, and on their population report, we see that only many of the cards in the set have such few copies graded - they are quite simply hard to come by! Using the George Mikan, just 410 of these cards have been graded by PSA. Of those 410, only 122 in the world have been graded higher than PSA 5, you are looking at one in this collection!

1957 Topps Basketball Cards

The SECOND basketball release in our hobby came along with 1957 Topps. Looking at the timeline, you see the massive gap between the first and second basketball sets in the hobby. The sport was basically just getting started in 1948. After Bowman released their 1948 set, no card sets were made until Topps created their 80-card set in 1957. Each card is the standard size, features action shots in-color, and includes the player names and teams on the front. You can see the key card of the set in picture four above in the slide show - Bill Russell's rookie card.

Bill Russell played just 13 seasons in the NBA, and won 11 championships! Russell and his Boston Celtics made the NBA Finals and lost in 1958, meaning only once in his entire career did Russell not get to the championship game. Russell also won two NCAA Championships in college and the 1956 Olympic Gold Medal; he just didn't lose. A five-time NBA MVP and 12 All-Star appearances place Russell as one of greatest ever to step on the court. The Russell rookie card is graded PSA 6, and it looks like he is standing tall on defense in this special card. I'll go ahead and guess Russell didn't let the guy with the ball score.Bill Russell is one of 20 Hall of Famers in this set! As you view pictures four, five, and six in the slide show, you can see other stars such as Bob Cousey, Sweetwater Clifton, and Dolph Schayes. I have purchased other Bill Russell rookies and complete 1957 Topps basketball cards sets before including one collected by a Sirius Radio DJ.

1961 Fleer Basketball Cards

Ready for a pattern? Another big gap between basketball card sets! No basketball sets were released after the 1957 Topps cards until the 66-card set from 1961 Fleer. It took 13 years to have 3 basketball sets. In a world where we know see three new sets released in a single day, imagine not being able to find a new pack of basketball cards for over a decade! In 1961, using the standard-size cards, Fleer has the team name on the top of the card followed by the player name just below, and then the player picture at the bottom. Some of the player photos are cutout shots in front of a color background while others are black and white action shots.

Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, and Oscar Robertson are the big three on picture seven. These three phenomenal hoopers call the 1961 Fleer set the home of their rookie cards. A close-up photo of these three cards are in picture eight. Chamberlain is graded an SGC 6, West a PSA 6, and Robertson PSA 5. Chamberlain won a pair of NBA championships, won four MVP awards, and led the league in scoring for seven straight seasons. Today, Chamberlain still holds the record for the most points scored in a game with an even 100 (March 2nd, 1962). To give you an idea of how many points that is for one player to score - the entire (now Golden State) Warriors team combined scored 97 points last night while I'm writing you this story. Jerry West won on and off the court, holding the championship trophy as a player and while as an executive. Scoring titles, all-star games, and stellar defensive under his belt, West is still on the court today at the age of 85 - his silhouette is the NBA logo! Oscar Robertson, The Big O, was well ahead of his time with his on-court abilities. Long before we knew what a triple-double (double-digits in points rebounds, and assists) was, Robertson not only garnered many - he averaged a triple-double for a season. In the 1961-62 season, Robertson averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 11.4 assists per game! The final totals were 41 triple-doubles in 79 games. The most triple-doubles Michael Jordan has ever had in one season? 15. The ninth photo shows the remainder of the 1961 Fleer set and a wrapper from a wax pack! Remember opening wax packs as a kid? You ripped the cards open, ate the gum, and perhaps put the cards in your bike spokes. I previously purchased a Wilt Chamberlain rookie card from a gentleman that won the card in a game of FLIP when he was kid!

STAR Basketball Cards + Jim Brown Football Rookie +  Modern Mountain

Speaking of Michael Jordan, you see his name on these rare STAR basketball cards from 1984-85 in the tenth photo, just after the 1961 Fleer cards. Your friends may argue and tell you that Michael Jordan's rookie card is from 1986-87 Fleer. Yes, Jordan's more traditional rookie card is considered to be the Fleer version, but in the 1984 season, only one company has the NBA license to make cards - STAR. Rather than placing cards in wax packs, all cards were bagged into team sets. Clear bags with team sets. If you picked up a Chicago Bulls team set, opened the plastic baggie, you could pull yourself out a Jordan rookie card. Not as much fun as ripping into that wax pack, right? The third card in picture ten has the Jordan Star rookie cards. We start with Gold Medalist insert, the Rooke-Of-The-Year insert in the center of the tenth photo, and the base rookie card right on the right.

You're scrolling in the photos now and stopping on more modern cards. Modern baseball and football cards, not vintage basketball. Look a little closer, though. Among these modern is a vintage gem! In lucky photo number thirteen, your keen eyes spotted a spectacular vintage football card, too. A 1958 Topps Jim Brown graded PSA 6. Before Barry Sanders, there was Jim Brown. A three-time MVP on the gridiron, an NFL Champion, Brown led football in rushing yards EIGHT times. I once purchased a collection with multiple Jim Brown rookie cards found inside of a garbage bag! Always make sure to check for unexpected places you may find sports cards.

In the remaining photos are high-value modern cards like the Bowman Chrome Tom Brady rookie cards, autographs of Peyton Manning, and even baseball rookie cards of Mike Trout. Why are there modern cards being shown in a vintage card collection? I told you there was a mountain. 

APPRAISAL AND PURCHASE

After I landed in Tacoma on Thursday, I hit the hay to rest up for the big day at the beautiful SILVER CLOUD in Ruston. Looking at the beautiful views of Tacoma from the Silver Cloud kept the name of this spot in my head all trip. "Silver Cloud" sounds do delightful, I knew If I could purchase the collection, i would be named after the Silver Cloud. I had two days. Two suit cases and two days; I needed the beauty sleep. Friday morning, I was welcomed in Darrell's lovely home where a mountain of cards blocked his fireplace. I told Darrell I was interested in purchasing the vintage basketball card collection, but he was adamant about selling ALL of his cards. The large white boxes on top of those FedEx boxes you see above hold 5,000 cards. I lost count - there had to be at least 30 of the 5,000-count boxes. 

With my note pad, I took my own advice when it comes to evaluating a collection: focus on the bulk of the value. I knew the value of the collection was in those three vintage basketball sets: 1948 Bowman, 1957 Topps, and 1961 Fleer. I reviewed each card, took notes, and was ready to do my homework that night. When it came time to move on to the mountain of boxes, I realized most of the boxes were modern cards. Perhaps Darrell enjoyed wax packs much more than STAR bags, and opened pack after pack of 2000 Bowman Chrome, looking for the Tom Brady rookie. I asked Darrell if there were any Brady rookies in that box, to which he replied likely not. While the majority of the cards did not fit the mold here for a Just Collect purchase, Darrell truly wanted to sell every single card. 

Friday night I checked back into hotel de Leighton and pulled an all-nighter. I appraised the vintage basketball cards, some of the high-end modern cards, and made a document for Darrell to review.

Saturday morning I returned to Darrell's home. I showed him my document that lists his cards, the value, and the strong offer I was willing to make for purchasing his collection. Darrell then made a counter-offer. Another piece of my own advice I listed to: shoot for the bullseye. I pay as much as I can for a collection; leave nothing on the table when I make an offer to purchase a collection. I don't want to make an unfair offer to anyone! For Darrell, I made an exception. I paid MORE than my initial offer, but I sort of put him on the Just Collect payroll. 

Deep inside, I knew Darrell didn't want me to leave with only the vintage basketball collection; he wanted to sell his entire collection. He enjoyed the moments with these cards and decided it was time to move on. While the thousands of modern cards hold value, they don't fall into the realm of cards I specialize in here at Just Collect, but DO make wonderful additions to my other company, Vintage Breaks. These more modern cards could be used as free prizes I love to give out. Thus, I agreed to buy the WHOLE collection. The three vintage basketball sets, the Jim Brown rookie card, the Tom Brady and Mike Trout rookie cards, and the mountain of boxes. 

I looked at my watch. I looked at the mount of cards. I looked back at my watch. No way I could sort through and pack up all of these modern cards and still make my flight back home for bedtime stories. Back came memories of seeing my dad in similar situations, knowing there was a zero percent outcome of victory here. "How will you ever do this, dad?"  "Very carefully, son." Jokes aside, Darrell was very kind to pack up the boxes of modern and then SHIP his collection via FedEx to NJ. With a solid plan made, we stood up, shook hands, and made the deal.

Suit case time! I used the note pad. My 60 hours were almost up. Now time for the suit case. This isn't my first rodeo! One suit case held my clothes, and the other is EMPTY. In go sports cards! Placing collections inside of a suit case makes them much easier to transport. Tom Petty t-shit in one suit case and a 1948 Bowman basketball set into the other. 

I then paid Darrell how he wanted to be paid. When you and I make a deal to purchase your collection, I'll pay you in cash, company check, wire transfer, etc. Perhaps you are interested in selling your collection to fund that dream vacation you're always thinking about. I could help you find new top-of-the-line luggage for your trip; I have a lot of experience in which suitcases fit the most souvenirs 😎

Thank you to Darrell, and his wife for allowing me into their home to purchase this collection! Their hospitality was glorious, and each made my trip out West impeccable. I am so thrilled to own these vintage basketball sets, I want to show you the smile on my face! Here is a video our top-notch team made of the Silver Cloud Collection:

 

If you're looking to sell your collection and would like me to travel to your area, I would love to hear from you! My name is Leighton, owner of Just Collect, and professional sports card treasure hunter! You may reach out directly to Leighton@JustCollect.com. 

WE ARE ALWAYS BUYING

Just Collect is always buying vintage sports and non-sports cards from 1879 to 1979 as well as select modern cards. If you have a collection that you are considering selling, contact us today to discuss or get our industry-leading purchase offer. If you have a collection that you want appraised, please contact us and we would be happy to discuss your collection and help you understand the real cash value of your collection in the current marketplace. Check out the Just Collect Buy List.

We always offer a FREE APPRAISAL for your collection here at the Just Collect site. Just click here:

FREE APPRAISAL

We offer may ways to evaluate your cards other than or using our website, too.

  • Travel to Us

If you can make the trip here like the son from my hometown did for this collection- we can make a deal at the office. We once met a father-son duo that drove eight hours from Virginia to meet us to sell a Michael Jordan rookie card stored in Tupperware since 1986 - great read here

  • Come to convention

We keep a LIST of card shows we'll be attending.  Come stop by the Just Collect table and chat.

  • Meet in-person

If you have a valuable collection and want us to come to you, we'll hop on the next plane out.

  • Meet in New York City

We have another location in New York you can meet us at; read all the information here.

  • SHIP your collection 

If you choose to mail your cards for an appraisal, we will evaluate your cards for FREE still. If you choose not to sell the cards, we'll ship them back shipping fees paid by us!  We can offer our FedEx account with 2-day shipping, fully insured, all covered by us. Simply contact the office to set up this option.

OUR BUYING PHILOSOPHY

We've run into a wide range of people and collections over the last 25 years. Although Just Collect is known for buying vintage sports cards and especially vintage baseball cards, we are also extremely interested in buying non-sports cards, too!  

Every collection and every collector is different and we treat EVERY collection with the respect and attention that we show for our own collections. We understand that many have put their heart and souls into building their collections. So when you're ready to sell, we understand the feelings that you're going through and will work with you to help you reach a decision that is a WIN/WIN, because if you're not happy, we're not happy.

CONTACT US ANY TIME

Whether you have vintage cards or modern wax you want to sell, you can reach out to us any time! 

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