Pre-War Basketball Card Sets
Most collectors view 1948 as the year basketball cards were first printed since that was the year of the landmark 1948 Bowman set. But while there aren’t many pre-war basketball card issues (and no major complete sets), there are several basketball cards that were a part of multi-sport sets from the era.
Basketball was not even invented until 1891 and didn’t become widely popular for a while after that. The first recognized basketball cards by many collectors are those in the 1909-10 T51 Murad set (one is pictured here), which was a multi-sport issue with four basketball cards of generic players at various colleges. Earlier cards may exist but many collectors often cite these as the first.
The NBA, after all, didn’t surface until after the pre-war era in 1946. Then, it was known as the Basketball Association of American. For those reasons, it makes sense that pre-war basketball issues would be scarce.
They aren’t the first, but arguably the most popular of the pre-war basketball cards are found in the 1933 Goudey Sport Kings set. That set included four basketball cards, including three Hall of Famers (Nat Holman, Ed Wachter, and Joseph Lapchick).
Collecting pre-war basketball cards may require some concessions, too. Early cards sometimes feature the sport of netball. While similar to basketball, it isn’t quite the same thing and there are some differences.
To research specific pre-war basketball sets, use the drop down menu at the top of this page.