Everyone is probably familiar with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s rookie card, which was released by Topps in 1969. At the time, the incredibly skilled Milwaukee Bucks center was known as Lew Alcindor, and his first appearance in the North American sports card market was in Topps’ main basketball card release that year.
Abdul-Jabbar’s 1969 Topps rookie is one of the most iconic basketball cards in the hobby. Sales figures of this card are often thousands of dollars, with copies of the card in high grades selling for six figures. The all-time record sale of this card is a PSA 10 that sold for $501,900 in 2016.
The rarity of Abdul Jabbar’s rookie card, plus his position as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, pushes the value of his rookie card higher every year.
But interestingly, there is another rookie card (or rather, a sticker) of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar that is even rarer than his 1969 Topps release.
In 1968, an Italian sports magazine called “Mira Tuttosport” released an issue called “I Campionissimi” (“The Champions”). Inside the magazine were many colorful stickers of the very best athletes in the world, many of which were World Champions.
The magazine included every sport you could think of, including many American sports that Italians at the time were very much interested in. Along with explanations of each sport, each page included color stickers of popular players and their statistics.
1968 Mira Tuttosport I Campionissimi
Swimming, baseball, cycling, auto racing, weight lifting, track and field sports, tennis, shooting, skiing, fencing… you name it, the Mira Tuttosport “I Campionissimi” had it.
Including, of course, basketball:
Page 50 of the magazine is where you can find Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, along with NBA players Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Bradley. This page is devoted to “Pallacanestro” or “Basketball”. The page even includes several women’s basketball players.
With this released in 1968, this is Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s first ever rookie card. The back of each card included a sales pitch for future Mira Tuttosport magazines, rather than information about the player, but there was a caption underneath the photo that explained Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s impact on college basketball.
The image of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the photo is a profile shot and looks to be taken from a locker room. The photo had to be taken during his college playing days at UCLA. Perhaps Kareem was listening to then head coach John Wooden during a pre-game speech, although the red practice jersey he’s wearing suggests maybe it was not taken during a game.
Because this magazine was not distributed in the U.S., and because card collecting in Europe has never been quite as popular as in North America, issues of this magazine and the sticker cards included are very difficult to find. It’s also likely that many of these stickers were used for their intended purpose. If we could go back, how many Kareem Abdul-Jabbar stickers might we find stuck to the walls of Italian homes in the early 1970s?
As of today, only 35 copies of this card have been graded at PSA, only three copies at SGC, and only one at Beckett. Compare that with Abdul-Jabbar’s 1969 Topps rookie, which has been graded 3,520 times at PSA, 1,160 times at SGC, and 834 times at Beckett.
Despite its rarity, the sales prices of Kareem Abdull-Jabbar’s 1968 Mira Tuttosport rookie do not come close to the sales prices of his 1969 Topps rookie. The highest grade ever recorded of his 1968 is a PSA 8, which last sold for $16,200 in June 2021. Compare that with PSA 8 copies of his 1969 Topps, which average $33,233 over the last 12 months.
There could be many reasons for this. Perhaps it’s the unidentifiable, underwhelming photo on the card. Perhaps it’s the foreign language text. Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s technically a sticker, and not a card. Also, the Topps name has been the gold standard for sports cards for many decades, so it’s no surprise collectors want the Topps rookie card of basketball’s all-time greatest center.
However, any true Kareem Abdul-Jabbar collector will certainly want a copy of his 1968 Mira Tuttosport in their collection.
They just might have a hard time finding one.
Sources: vintagecardprices.com; basketball-reference.com