The 9 Most Coveted Set Breaks of All Time

You’ll have to pry our cold, dead hands off of these if you want them. Introducing the 9 most coveted set breaks of all time.

Owning a complete, iconic card set for your personal collection is a dream we all share; we want that ultimate conversation starter. You know that laying out a complete set, such as 1952 Topps baseball with Mickey Mantle’s rookie card front and center, is enough cardboard gold to cause a little whiplash when your friends walk by! 


Completing the top card sets is nearly impossible without joining in on set breaks. There simply aren’t any  sealed wax packs – that we know of – that may hold Mantle’s rookie card. The cost of a key card in top sets could also very well set you back more money than you wish to spend. This is why set breaks are so popular today! Which set breaks are collectors like yourself looking to buy into the most? Here are the 9 most coveted set breaks of all time!


1. The 1952 Topps Baseball 

You started to daydream about owning this set since you read the second sentence in this story, didn’t you?  Without hesitation, the ’52 set is on the list of coveted breaks.


• 407 cards

• Released in 6 series (#s1-80, 81-250, 251-280, 281-300, 301-310, 311-407)


Key cards:


• #311 Mickey Mantle

 #1 Andy Pafko

 #261 Willie Mays

 #312 Jackie Robinson

 #407 Eddie Matthews


The Mantle rookie card really drives the ’52 Topps baseball set breaks; it’s arguably the most desired sports card in the hobby. Most of the top-condition Mantle rookies stem from the Mr. Mint find that you can read about here, and set breaks are the most affordable way to land one. Even a PSA 1 Mantle can command $30,000, so many collectors will flock to a ’52 Topps baseball set break in the hopes of scoring one.

86F With Jordan

2. 1986-87 Fleer Basketball

While sealed products for 1986-87 Fleer basketball are available, if you’ve read our article on this Elusive Set Break, you know the price is sky high for an unopened wax box. There is always a ton of action for ’86 Fleer basketball from collectors in hopes of hitting a rookie of the most famous basketball player in the world, .


• 132 cards

• 11 stickers


Key cards:


• #57 Michael Jordan

• #7 Charles Barkley

 #26 Clyde Drexler

 #32 Patrick Ewing

 #68 Karl Malone

 #82 Hakeem Olajuwon

 #109 Isiah Thomas

 #121 Dominique Wilkins

 Sticker # 8 Michael Jordan


We could list over 100 key cards for this set! Some of the greatest NBA players ever lurk in ’86 Fleer. Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dr. J Julius Erving… the checklist is amazing. A relatively small list in a set loaded with Hall-of-Famers and an affordable buy-in price is too enticing an offer for collectors chasing Michael Jordan’s rookie card to resist. We’ve seen this set break sell out within a few hours!

Trading Cards

3. 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Hockey

The Great One’s rookie card has been on a meteoric rise. A PSA 10 Wayne Gretzky O-Pee-Chee rookie card last sold for 3.75 million dollars!


• 396 cards (more than the Topps counterpart of 264 cards)

• #244-261 are team card checklists including the Oilers with Gretzky


Key cards:


• #18 Wayne Gretzky

• #175 Gordie Howe

#185 Bobby Hull


The odds are longer to pull Gretzky on the O-Pee-Chee set break than a Topps set break. We wouldn’t turn down either rookie card of the Great One, but most collectors will hop into the OPC set break in search of Gretzky. At card 175, you can also pull the last issue of Gordie Howe! Look at Howe playing without a helmet; imagine that today.

Trading Cards

4. 1965 Topps Football

“Tall Boys” are fun to own! The 1965 Topps football cards measure 2.5″ by 4 11/16″. For comparison, the standard size today is about 2.5″ by 3.5″. Anchored by the Joe Namath rookie card, the unique size makes the ’65 Topps a hot one for set breaks.


• 165 cards

• 132 short prints


Key cards:


• #122 Joe Namath

• #35 Jack Kemp

#99 Len Dawson

#123 Fred Biletnikoff


Broadway Joe was fresh off a National Championship at Alabama and the first overall pick of the 1965 NFL draft. Heading to the Jets, all eyes were on the rookie. Namath delivered a Super Bowl title to the Jets over 50 years ago, and still doesn’t need to pay for a drink anywhere near New York/New Jersey. Topps’ “tall boys” are a fan favorite due to their design and the appeal of owning a truly iconic football card.

Trading Cards

5. 1957-58 Topps Basketball

It’s hard to imagine in today’s world, but between 1949 and 1956, there were ZERO basketball card sets issued!  Not since the 1948 Bowman set was a collector able to open up a pack of basketball cards, so 1957 Topps is always on the list of sets to complete.


• 80 cards

• 20 Hall-of-Famers!


Key cards:


• #77 Bill Russel

#1 Nat Clifton

• #17 Bob Cousy

• #24 Bob Pettit


Aside from having over 20 Hall of Fame players in a small set that filled a void for the basketball world, the ’57 set boasts the rookie card of Bill Russel!


Russell played 13 seasons in the NBA and won 11 championships. Add on his two NCAA championships and FIVE MVP awards, and we can safely say Bill Russel is the card you’ll want in the break. Nailing a rookie card of the legendary Russel with great odds (we’ll take 1:80 any day of the week) is just too tempting for collectors to pass up in this set break.

Trading Cards

6. 1980-81 Topps Basketball

Larry Legend and Magic on the same rookie card? Yes indeed! The 1980-81 Topps basketball set design has a trio of players that was set to be perforated into three cards. One of the cards in the set has Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in their rookie year, and Dr. J to boot!


• 176 different cards

• 88 panels of 3-player cards

• 264 total numbered cards (Topps used two printing sheets and changed the players) 


Key cards:


• #6 Bird/Erving/Johnson

 #94 Bird/Cartright/Drew

 #146 Van Bred Koff/Erving/Johnson


The combo of having Bird and Magic on the same card is what draws any basketball card collector to this set break. You can even pull a few more Bird or Magic cards with the Team Leaders. Panel #6 is the desired card, but taking home any rookie card of either Hall-of-Famer in this set break makes for a nice pull. The coveted break obviously includes cards that have NOT been perforated; you’ll want those in-tact, mint rookies.

Henry Aaron Card

7. 1954 Topps Baseball

There’s plenty of star power in 1954 Topps baseball; there are few bad spots for you to pull. The card you’re eyeballing is the rookie of Hank Aaron. However, there are also 18 Hall-of-Famers in this 250-card set – great odds to pull a star!


• 250 cards

• Released in 3 series (#s 1-50, 51-75, and 76-250)


Key cards:


#128 Hank Aaron

• #1 Ted Williams

• #10 Jackie Robinson

• #90 Willie Mays

• #94 Ernie Banks

• #201 Al Kaline

• #250 Ted Williams


Baseball sets usually hold a great deal of cards, but the 1954 set has fewer than half of the cards from what a current set contains. Lower odds to pull a big card is exactly what you’ll want in a set break! Topps signed players to exclusive contracts and held the rights to Teddy Ballgame, so you have two chances to take home a Williams in card numbers 1 and 250. Even in a poor condition such as a PSA 1, the Hank Aaron rookie card still goes for $2,000. A high-end Aaron rookie with a grade of 8 is around $50,000. A lovely set with incredible odds to pull a star!

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8. 1958 Topps Football

There are TONS of Hall of Famers to be had in 1958 Topps football! Topps more than made up for not putting out a set in 1957; there are 34 cards of Hall-of-Famers you can land on in this set break! You can also find the rookie card of Jim Brown, perhaps the greatest running back in NFL history.


• 132 cards

• 34 Hall of Famers


Key cards:


• #62 Jim Brown

• #22 Johnny Unitas

• #66 Bart Starr

• #73 Frank Gifford

• #90 Sonny Jurgenson


Jim Brown is where you’ll want to land in the set break, but collectors are never disappointed when taking home a Hall-of-Famer. Luckily, the ’58 set is packed full of HOFers. Every 4th card is a Hall of Fame player! Just those odds alone are what makes this set break one to dive into.


9. 1977 Topps Star Wars

This is probably the top non-sports set that exists! The 1977 Topps set started it all for Star Wars card releases. The first eight cards in the set introduce us to the core characters of the franchise. You can say there’s a Luke Skywalker rookie card; you’d be hard-pressed to name a cooler pull.


• 330 cards

• Released in 5 series with each series containing 66 cards

55 sticker cards (11 per series)


Key cards:


• #1 Luke Skywalker

• #7 Darth Vader

• #207b C-3PO Error


The C-3PO Error card is the most valuable in the set, and some collectors hope to pull this card in a break over the Luke rookie! Topps had to fix the original C-3PO card #207 for THIS.


Star Wars is a multi-billion dollar franchise that has an entire section of Disney World carved out for it. Since day one, the love from fans has not worn off. The first card set for any franchise is sure to draw attention from collectors. Try and name another set break that elicits a quote from you for every card you land on!