1968-69 Topps Test Basketball, one of the rarest sets in hoops history

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By Ryan Cracknell | Hobby Editor

If you want to talk rare and valuable vintage basketball card sets, there’s one that’s at the forefront. 1968-69 Topps Test Basketball doesn’t look altogether fancy. However, because it’s a rare test issue, the low-key styling doesn’t matter much.

Instead, it’s one of those elusive specialty releases that takes time, patience and some budgeting to bring together. Although the set doesn’t have many common players, even those can fetch hundreds of dollars in decent condition.

The 1968-69 Topps Test Basketball has 22 cards. Of those 15 are Hall of Famers. Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, John Havlicek and Oscar Robertson are among the legends in the issue.

It marks the first Topps basketball product since 1957-58, even if it’s almost barely there. It wouldn’t be until the following season with 1969-70 Topps Basketball that hoops cards would get a regular run again.

1968-69 Topps Test Basketball cards are some of the plainest cards the sport has ever seen. They’re definitely a far cry from the colorful tall boys that would follow. Most noticeably, they’re in black and white. All except Chamberlain are posed. Even the limited amount of font on the cards is in black. Fronts have only the player’s name, team and height.

Card backs form a puzzle of Chamberlain. Unlike a lot of other Topps puzzle that have ten cards plus an eleventh that acts as a key, this one uses all 22 cards. It lays out two cards wide and 11 high, making the legend even more of a cardboard giant. Because of the puzzle backs, there are no stats or bios.

For his first professional basketball card, Havlicek has the dubious distinction of being an uncorrected error. His last name is spelled “Havilcek” on the card.

Other players with their first cards include Dave DeBusschere, Earl Monroe and Willis Reed. However, because this wasn’t an official release, they’re not generally considered to be rookie cards.

You can check out 1968-69 Topps Test Basketball values in the Beckett Basketball Price Guide.

1968-69 Topps Test Basketball Checklist

1 Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia Warriors

1968-69 Topps Test Basketball 1 Wilt Chamberlain

2 Hal Greer, Philadelphia Warriors

1968-69 Topps 2 Hal Greer

3 Chet Walker, Philadelphia Warriors

1968-69 Topps 3 Chet Walker

4 Bill Russell, Boston Celtics

1968-69 Topps 4 Bill Russell

5 John Havlicek, Boston Celtics UER

1968-69 Topps 5 John Havlicek

6 Cazzie Russell, New York Knicks

1968-69 Topps 6 Cazzie Russell

7 Willis Reed, New York Knicks

1968-69 Topps 7 Willis Reed

8 Bill Bradley, New York Knicks

1968-69 Topps 8 Bill Bradley

9 Odie Smith, Cincinnati Royals

1968-69 Topps 9 Odie Smith

10 Dave Bing, Detroit Pistons

1968-69 Topps 10 Dave Bing

11 Dave DeBusschere, New York Knicks

1968-69 Topps 11 Dave DeBusschere

12 Earl Monroe, New York Knicks

1968-69 Topps 12 Earl Monroe

13 Nate Thurmond, San Francisco Warriors

1968-69 Topps 13 Nate Thurmond

14 Jim King, San Francisco Warriors

1968-69 Topps 14 Jim King

15 Len Wilkens, Seattle Supersonics

1968-69 Topps 15 Len Wilkens

16 Bill Bridges, Atlanta Hawks

1968-69 Topps 16 Bill Bridges

17 Zelmo Beaty, Atlanta Hawks

1968-69 Topps 17 Zelmo Beaty

18 Elgin Baylor, Los Angeles Lakers

1968-69 Topps 18 Elgin Baylor

19 Jerry West, Los Angeles Lakers

1968-69 Topps 19 Jerry West

20 Jerry Sloan, Chicago Bulls

1968-69 Topps 20 Jerry Sloan

21 Jerry Lucas, Cincinnati Royals

1968-69 Topps 21 Jerry Lucas

22 Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati Royals

1968-69 Topps 22 Oscar Robertson

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Ryan Cracknell

A collector for much of his life, Ryan focuses primarily on building sets, Montreal Expos and interesting cards. He's also got one of the most comprehensive collections of John Jaha cards in existence (not that there are a lot of them). Got a question, story idea or want to get in touch? You can reach him by email and through Twitter @tradercracks.

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