One of the unusual consequences of the pandemic was how it impacted the hobby of baseball card collecting. With millions of people stuck at home, many of them revisited their own personal collections. Over the last 12-14 months, thousands of cards have been brought into baseball card shops in hopes of finding value. Many of those are from the 1970’s and while they don’t have the same scarcity of cardboard heroes from the 50’s & 60’s, they still come from an era where Topps was the only producer of cards. Today, we’ll look at the decade’s prime rookie cards and the current values are based on “Near Mint” (NM 7) condition.
In 1970, Topps issued their largest set ever at 720 cards in six series. The key rookie card in the set was that of the Yankee Captain, Thurman Munson ($100). Interestingly, however, the 3rd year Nolan Ryan card is almost three times as valuable ($290) because it was part of the scarce high number run. Also included in the set are the rookie cards of Vida Blue, Oscar Gamble & Hal McRae (all worth $15-$20).
The 1971 set was even larger at 752 cards and remains a distinct challenge to collectors even today for one primary reason…the cards had black borders. So, even the most careful of handling couldn’t prevent excessive wear and finding 71’s in nice condition is very difficult. The key rookie cards are the Dusty Baker / Don Baylor in the high number series ($80) and HOF Pitcher Bert Blyleven ($115). Ted Simmons RC has taken a jump ($90) since his HOF induction and you can also find the first cards of Dave Concepcion ($25) & Steve Garvey ($40).
In 1972, the Topps set expanded once again…this time to 787 cards. Carlton Fisk (who shares the card with Cecil Cooper) is the key rookie card ($60). 1973 found the set reduced to 660 cards (five series of 132) and includes one of the best rookie cards of the decade in Phillies great Mike Schmidt ($290). As with other years, this particular card was in the high series and Schmidt shared the card with two other players. ’73 also has the RC’s of Rich “Goose’ Gossage ($22), Bob Boone ($10) & Dwight Evans ($28).
660 cards remained the standard from 1974-1977 and cards were no longer issued in series, making it easier for the collector to put together a set. Great rookie cards were found during that time including Dave Winfield ($45) & Dave Parker ($10) in ’74… George Brett ($220), Robin Yount ($90), Jim Rice ($35) & Gary Carter ($25) were all in the ’75 set…Dennis Eckersley ($30) & Ron Guidry ($12) in ’76. 1977 had Andre Dawson ($25), Dale Murphy ($15), Bruce Sutter ($12) & Mark Fidrych ($15).
Topps went to 726 cards for 1978 and that remained the standard for the next four years. The ’78 set featured the rookie card of Eddie Murray ($100) and a combo rookie card including Paul Molitor & Alan Trammell ($80). Other combo RC’s feature Jack Morris ($25) & Lou Whitaker ($10). 1979 finished off the decade with the rookie card of the “Wizard”…Cardinals legend Ozzie Smith ($200).
1980 was the last year of Topps exclusivity, so we’ll sneak it into this category with the rookie card of Rickey Henderson ($230).
The end of an era for baseball cards and we’ll discuss the 1980’s in a future visit.