The key to the set, a Russell rookie card.
The key to the set, a Russell rookie card.

The 1957 Topps basketball set is one of the toughest issues in the hobby. With the level of difficulty involved and the key cards that reside in the set, this Topps issue is always in high demand.

Enter Texas.

Recently, Marc Perna, of Vintage Sports Investments, uncovered a large group of 1957 Topps basketball cards during a trip to Texas. This news is obviously very intriguing to collectors due to the scarcity mentioned above. The story goes as follows:

A woman in her late-70's, named Martha, contacted Perna through his company website. Martha's late husband was very active in the vending machine business in the mid-to-late 1950s and, while sifting through her garage; she uncovered 11 of the machines he used. The machines were the typical 1950's card and gum examples that you see in major auctions today; they represented a time long past.

Interestingly enough, during a recent auction, one of these very same vending machines appeared as a lot for public sale. After Martha discovered the machines, she sold them off to various antique stores in the surrounding area. Martha would sift through her garage one more time and, as she dug deeper into the piles of memories, some vending boxes of 1957 Topps basketball emerged.

At first, Martha was unsure of what she had but, after closer inspection, the find became real. All of the boxes were original and unopened. Aside from some staining on the outside of the boxes, they were fairly new in appearance. When Perna arrived in Texas and finally saw the boxes for himself, he was amazed that these gems could survive for so many decades. Perna figured the dry climate kept the boxes intact and prevented the cardboard from succumbing to the elements.

The cards themselves were as fresh as the day they were produced. The boxes still had remnants of printer's dust throughout, further authenticating the find. Remember what I said about the difficulty of this issue above? Perna was about to find out, first hand, how tough the 1957 Topps basketball cards really are despite finding them untouched for many years.

As typical with the issue, poor centering and print defects plague the overwhelming majority of the cards. Out of the 1711 total cards, only 50 or so had the necessary qualifications for a PSA NM-MT 8 or better! That's only a percentage of about 3% and these cards were straight from the factory.

Perna would leave with all the cards after enjoying a terrific meal of chicken and dumplings, not to mention peach cobbler pie. When he arrived back at his office, Perna began sorting through the boxes and organizing the cards. Below is a population breakdown of all the cards unearthed:

Card Number
Card Amount Discovered
1
24
2
13
3
17
4
17
5 (Sharman)
45
6
24
7
48
8
26
9
17
10
45
11
21
12
17
13
50
14
19
15
21
16
17
17 (Cousy)
42
18
19
19 (Heinsohn)
24
20
26
21
26
22
12
23
14
24 (Pettit)
54
25
17
26
17
27
19
28
14
29
19
30
23
31
17
32
19
33
19
34
24
35
9
36
14
37
14
38
21
39
19
40
19
41
21
42
45
43
17
44
21
45
19
46
19
47
24
48
24
49
16
50
21
51
28
52
19
53
17
54
16
55
12
56
17
57
24
58
21
59
19
60
14
61
17
62
23
63
21
64
19
65
17
66
16
67
14
68
26
69
21
70
12
71
17
72
19
73
21
74
19
75
16
76
16
77 (Russell)
17
78 (Lovellette)
26
79
24
80
12

As you can see, there were only 17 Bill Russell cards found while there were 42 Bob Cousy examples reinforcing the short print versus double print aspect. Amazingly, this find should not alter the market in a negative fashion, as the high-grade population numbers will only change slightly. What this find will do is bring attention to the fact that vintage issues, especially this tough basketball issue, are incredibly tough to locate in NM-MT condition or better. Remember that these cards were found in their original boxes with only 50 of 1,711 cards potential candidates for PSA 8's. Amazing!


Joe Orlando has been an advanced collector of sportscards and memorabilia for over 25 years. Orlando attended Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California where he studied communications and was the starting catcher for the baseball team. After a brief stint in the minor leagues, Orlando obtained a Juris Doctor from Whittier Law School in Southern California in the spring of 1999. During the last fourteen years, Orlando has authored several collecting guides and dozens of articles for Collectors Universe, Inc. Orlando has also authored two books for Collectors Universe. Orlando's first book, The Top 200 Sportscards in the Hobby, was released in the summer of 2002. His second book, Collecting Sports Legends, was released in the summer of 2008. Orlando has appeared on several radio and television programs as a hobby expert including ESPN's award-winning program Outside the Lines and HBO's Real Sports, as the featured guest. Currently, Orlando is the President of PSA and PSA/DNA, the largest trading card and sports memorabilia authentication services in the hobby. He is also Editor of the company's nationally distributed Sports Market Report, which under Orlando's direction has developed into a leading resource in the market. Orlando also contributed the foreword and last chapter to The T206 Collection: The Players and Their Stories, a 2010 release, and to The Cracker Jack Collection: Baseball's Prized Players, a 2013 release.
Despite the "find," a very small % of cards were found in high-grade
Despite the "find," a very small % of cards were found in high-grade
No Mint Cousy rookies were found, the card is very tough
No Mint Cousy rookies were found, the card is very tough