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The first true basketball card set didn’t appear until midway through the last century. Today, led by Starr Cards, the future of basketball cards has never been brighter, with the ability for anyone to produce professional-quality designs.


Pictorial History of Basketball Cards

To celebrate a hobby that began in 1948 with Bowman, we offer here a stroll back through the history of basketball cards in a pictorial timeline.

— 2011 —

Starr Cards Offers iPhone’s First Basketball Cards

Palo Alto, California


The first new basketball card company of the new millennium is also the first to offer the ability to make your own custom basketball cards directly on the iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. Starr Cards Basketball Card Maker has been winning accolades and a fan favorite ever since its 2011 debut in the App Store.
Basketball Divider

— 1991 —

Upper Deck Produces its First Set of Basketball Cards

Yorba Linda, California


The success of Upper Deck’s baseball cards in 1989 led the company to produce sets in other major sports including hockey (1990), basketball and football (1991). They were the first trading card company in ten years to be licensed by all four leagues.
Basketball Divider

— 1990 —

SkyBox Joins League of Basketball Card Makers

Durham, North Carolina


SkyBox International was originally formed as Impel Marketing in 1989. SkyBox produced its first card set in 1990 featuring players from the National Basketball Association. Two years later they produced their first National Football League cards.
Basketball Divider

— 1989 —

NBA Hoops Takes the Court

Secaucus, New Jersey


In 1989, the Hoops card set from NBA Properties, Inc. lifted the quality of basketball ball cards with detailed player info on the back sides. After three years of Fleer skimping on biographical information of the backs of the cards, NBA Hoops went the extra mile — even tossing in a full-color head shot for good measure.
Basketball Divider

— 1972 —

Comspec Joins Fleer and Topps in Making Basketball Cards

Long Beach, California


For the 1972-73 NBA season, Comspec issued its first and only set of basketball cards. The 36-card set included the best players of the era including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Rick Barry and Walt Frazier.
Basketball Divider

— 1961 —

Fleer Releases Inaugural Basketball Card Set

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Well established as a gum and candy company, Fleer predated many of its competitors into the business of issuing sports cards with its 1923 release of cards in its “Bobs and Fruit Hearts” candy product. Years later, Fleer launched a card set solely comprised of players in the National Basketball Association.
Basketball Divider

— 1957 —

Topps Tries its Hand at Basketball Cards

New York, New York


In addition to baseball, Topps also produced cards for basketball for the first time for the 1957-58 season. More than a decade passed before Topps released its second basketball card set in 1969.
Basketball Divider

— 1948 —

Bowman Produces First Basketball Card Set

Chicago, Illinois


The 1948 Bowman set consists of 72 cards that measure approximately 2 1/16″ by 2 1/2″. The most prominent card from the set is #69, the George Mikan rookie card.