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1972 Topps Julius Erving Rookie Card: A Closer Look

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Values of Julius Erving’s rookie card have surged of late. And for good reason, Erving’s 1972 Topps rookie card is a hobby legend, one of the most valuable basketball cards of all time.

The rookie card of one ‘Dr. J’, as he was better known, features Erving as a member of the Virginia Squires, one of the American Basketball Association (ABA) teams. 

Erving led a storied career, first with the Squires and Nets of the ABA, while finishing up his career with the Philadelphia 76ers.

While Erving tends to get overshadowed by some of the bigger stars from the era, such as Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson, his rookie card has found renewed interest.  

This guide reviews Dr. J’s 1972 Topps rookie card, including the existing population, current values, and investment potential. 

1972 Topps Julius Erving Rookie Cards

The 1972-73 Topps Basketball set features the official rookie card of Julius Erving #195. The set is popular among collectors for the Erving rookie and its attractive bright, colorful designs. The 264-card set featured a mix of both NBA and ABA players, making it the largest set for Topps to that date. 

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The 1972 Topps Julius Erving Rookie card.

The Dr. J. rookie card from the set is a stunner, with a great pose of Erving flanked on a dark yellow background. At the time, Erving was dominating the ABA with the Virginia Squires. It would be another three years following the release of this card that Erving would join the NBA as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers

The Erving rookie card is notorious for centering issues along with a small ‘fisheye’ print dot that is commonly found under Dr J’s left elbow. Collectors seeking higher grade Erving rookie cards will usually opt for ones without the fisheye. 

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Print defect found on many Erving rookie cards.

The back of the Erving rookie card provides a brief bio of Dr. J, along with some of his ABA accomplishments. The back lists Erving as a Center, whereas the front of the card shows Dr. J as a Forward.

And it’s an excellent factoid to learn that Dr. J wears a size 15 sneaker! Not quite the size 22 worn by Shaq, but still a big shoe, nonetheless. 

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The back of the 1972-73 Topps Erving rookie card.

There are two more Dr. J cards in the 1972-73 Topps Basketball set. An ABA All-Stars #255 card and an ABA Rebound Leaders (#263) card that also features Artis Gilmore and Mel Daniels.

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1972-73 Topps Erving ABA All Stars #255

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1972-73 Topps Julius Erving ABA Rebound Leaders

Neither card has close to the same demand as Erving’s base rookie card in the set, but they are exciting cards to collect/invest in, especially in higher grades

How Much Is Dr J’s Rookie Card Worth?

PSA 9 (Mint) copies of Dr. J’s Topps rookie card have averaged between $20K to $22K at auction. 

There is only one PSA 10 (Gem-Mint) copy of Erving’s rookie card in existence and there are no comps. I’d expect record-shattering results if it ever came to auction. 

Lower-graded copies sell for less; in fact, a PSA 7 (Near Mint) copy of Erving’s rookie card is worth about $1200. A PSA 3 (VG) copy of Erving’s rookie sells for between $300 to $400.

Julius Erving Rookie Card Values By PSA Grade

Here’s a chart from PSA showing some recent pricing by grade:

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Is Julius Erving’s Rookie Card Rare?

The Erving rookie card isn’t exactly “rare”.

PSA has graded over 5,000 copies of the card.

This chart shows PSA graded population’s for Erving’s rookie card across all grades. 

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5000 isn’t a small number, however, this is dwarfed in comparison to the Jordan rookie card for example.

PSA has graded over 24,000 copies of Michael Jordan’s rookie card and Jordan’s rookie card on average sells for a sizeable premium versus Dr. J. 

Maybe Dr. J needs his own documentary?

How Much Is An Autographed Dr J Rookie Worth?

I’ve seen sales on eBay for an autographed Erving Rookie card averaging between $1000 to $3000. Pricing depends, of course, on the card’s condition and the signature.

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Signed rookie copies are not widely available, but they are getting more challenging to find at a reasonable price. Erving is, of course, getting up there in age and isn’t a prominent signer.

Vintage collectors sometimes argue that an autograph shouldn’t add a premium value to a rookie card. And some collectors focus only on finding autographed copies of key rookie cards. 

Autographed rookie cards are fantastic, and Dr. J. has a sweet signature, making his signed rookie card a treasure.  I recommend stepping up for the autographed Erving rookie if you can afford it. 

Is Dr. J’s Rookie Card A Good Investment?

I’d say the investment potential for Erving’s Rookie card is quite good.

While not scarce, the Erving rookie has a limited population as compared to other star rookies of the era. And Erving is one of the most recognizable names in the history of basketball. 

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The 1972 Topps Julius Erving Rookie card.

Although Erving doesn’t exactly get the same name recognition as Jordan, Bird, or Magic, he’s right there in the conversation (ESPN ranked him as the 15th-best player of all time).  

With the availability of YouTube and the vast library of his old videos and dunks, I can only think the legend of Erving will grow greater from here.

Add on the hype that has been pushed from guys like Gary V, and Erving’s rookie should continue to have staying power as an attractive investment

If you’re priced out of buying a Jordan rookie card, a lower-grade Dr. J rookie should be high on your list of cards to buy.

In addition, a signed copy of Dr J’s rookie is a great investment option as is the often overlooked #255 ABA All-Stars card from the 1972-73 Topps Set.   

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1972-73 Topps Erving ABA All Stars #255 is often overlooked and could be a solid investment in high grades.

Julius “Dr J” Erving As A Player

Julius Erving was a prolific scorer and one of the best players to play the game of basketball. He grew up in Roosevelt, New York and was so good at an early age that he was dominating NBA players at the famed ‘Rucker Park’ in Harlem.  Crowds of people would come to watch Erving play as he showcased what many basketball fans would soon come to realize–Erving had crazy skills. 

We played him the first game and they kept saying ‘You wait till Julius gets in, you wait til Julius gets in” and I’m like ‘Who’s Julius? I’m in the NBA, what do I care about Julius.‘ He came down one time, I had the angle on him — but he dunked the ball so bad, the ball hit me in the top of the head, my teeth fell out on the ground and the crowd roared.  I had scrambled the ground to put them back in my mouth. That helped build his reputation.”

Tom Hoover, former NBA Player

Erving played college ball at UMass Amherst but left his Junior year to head to the ABA.  He dominated the ABA, and in his rookie season he finished second to Artis Gilmore in Rookie of The Year voting.  The NBA was trying to lure Erving, but contractual disputes would keep Erving tied to the ABA for the next three years, despite his desire to exit for a bigger payday. 

How Did Erving Get The Nickname Dr. J?

“I have a buddy—his name is Leon Saunders—and he lives in Atlanta, and I started calling him “the professor”, and he started calling me “the doctor”. So it was just between us…we were buddies, we had our nicknames and we would roll with the nicknames. …And that’s where it came from.”

-Julius Erving (as told to Class Act Sports)

Erving was not only a fantastic playmaker, but his legend also grew as a big time dunker.  He was one of the first to popularize the foul line dunk, setting the stage for Michael Jordan years later to take Erving’s trademark and make it his own. 

The 1976 ABA Dunk contest was a precursor to the famous NBA dunk contests of nowadays, but in it’s own right, was just as great.  

Check out footage of Erving below with his famous foul line dunk.

Erving finally was able to reach the NBA in the 1976-77 season with the merger of the ABA and the NBA.  Erving would play the next eleven seasons as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers, where he would amass one of the best statistical records of all time. Erving finished as an All-Star each season, won the MVP in 1981 and was a five-time member of the All-NBA First Team.

Battles with the Celtics and Larry Bird were the norm, as this photo from a legendary encounter shows.  While Dr. J never really had the surrounding cast to take out the Celtics in the playoffs, he finally won the NBA Championship in 1983

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2 Comments

  1. Great article I am an original owner of 3 JE 72/73 Virginia Squires RCs. I was 10 when I bought them! I’m 62yrs of age!

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