Mint 1970 Pete Maravich 'tall boy' basketball card nets $552K

This is one "tall boy" that you shouldn't crack open.

A 1970 Topps Pete Maravich "tall boy" rookie card -- a perfect, gem-mint 10 from card grader PSA -- sold via PWCC Marketplace on Thursday night for $552,000, a record for any "Pistol Pete" item, sports card or memorabilia.

The card is one of only two copies of the 1970 Topps Maravich card to receive a perfect grade from PSA.

The Maravich card becomes fifth-most-expensive vintage (pre-1980) basketball card behind a 1948 Bowman George Mikan rookie card ($800,000 on eBay), a 1961 Fleer Wilt Chamberlain rookie card ($670,000, a private PWCC sale) and two Bill Russell rookie cards ($660,000 and $630,000, via PWCC and Heritage Auctions, respectively).

The Maravich card from the highly sought-after set is the most expensive 1970 Topps basketball card of all time.

Topps had previously made "tall boy" cards -- cards with the same 2 1/2 inch width, but 4 11/16 inches tall in contrast to the standard 3 1/2 inches -- in hockey and in football, but the design didn't make it to basketball until 1969, when Topps produced basketball cards for the first time in more than a decade.

The 1970 Topps set featured the same "tall boy" design.

Because of their unique size, storing and maintaining high-grade "tall boy" cards has proven challenging. PSA has graded a total of 128,783 Topps cards from 1969 and 1970, and only 278 of those have come back graded a perfect 10 -- a 0.216% success rate.

Along with the Maravich card, six other PSA 10 "tall boy" cards from 1969 were purchased Thursday for player-record prices: a Walt Frazier rookie card ($252,000), a Willis Reed rookie card ($150,000), a Nate Thurmond rookie card ($114,000), a Wes Unseld rookie card ($111,000) and non-rookie cards of Oscar Robertson ($186,000) and Jerry West ($180,000).

In the past three months, according to PWCC, 34 records have been set via purchases of 1969 and 1970 Topps "tall boy" cards.