The mid-1970s saw the NFL’s popularity begin to skyrocket. Heading into the 1975 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers were basking in the glow of their first Super Bowl title and would win three more by the end of the decade.
The Miami Dolphins were still smarting after being thwarted in their quest for a fourth straight Super Bowl appearance by the Oakland Raiders and the Ken Stabler-to-Clarence Davis “sea of hands” touchdown play in the playoffs.
In the NFC, the Minnesota Vikings were coming off their third Super Bowl appearance, while the Dallas Cowboys were getting ready to reach the big game for the third time.
In short, 1975 was a great year to collect football cards…but it wasn’t very complicated. For the third consecutive year, Topps put out a 528-card, one series set to capitalize on that popularity. Although it was the only game in town as far as football sets went, Topps still was not allowed to use team logos or insignias on helmets, uniforms or even sideline shots. That’s why there is a lot of airbrushing.
Still, the card fronts boasted large photos, and the banner at the bottom looked like a fluttering pennant flag. The team name was inside the banner, and to the right of that was the conference affiliation. A helmet adorned with the player’s position was directly to the right of the pennant, with the player’s name stretched across the bottom of the card in black, capital block letters.
The card backs have a vertical design, with a look that suggests a playing field. Right under the player’s name and vital statistics is a small white goal post. Beneath that are lines of text giving statistics and other pertinent information about the player. Year-by-year statistics make up the bottom part of the card.
Subsets abound in the 1975 set. The first six cards feature the NFL’s statistical leaders in each conference. Card Nos. 201-225 lists All-Pro players in each conference by position, with two players to a card. Cards 351 through 356 highlight players who hold NFL records, like Tom Dempsey, O.J. Simpson and George Blanda. Card Nos. 452 through 460 honored standout players from the 1974 season, like Lydell Mitchell, Emmitt Thomas and Stabler.
Notable rookie cards, all which are plentiful on eBay, include Lynn Swann, Mel Blount, Dan Fouts, Rocky Bleier, Cliff Branch, Drew Pearson, Charlie Waters and Cliff Harris. The 1975 set also marked the debut card for Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann, who had been playing in the Canadian Football League.
A total of 215 Swann rookies have been submitted to SGC, but only one graded as high as 98. There have been 1,302 Swanns sent to PSA, and nine came back as gem mint. Graded mint 9s currently sell for around $400 with NM/MT 8s typically bringing $70-80.
’75 Topps football doesn’t seem to be very popular for collectors of complete, graded sets. A few dozen cards have fewer than 15 mint ‘9’ examples on PSA’s Set Registry.
There were new stars emerging and members of the old guard were still playing well, two factors which generally leave collectors with a good feeling about this 40-year-old set, which remains very affordable. Prices for complete sets depend greatly on condition, but a very nice one can generally be found for under $200.
Now an international event, the Super Bowl that followed the 1975 season was a thriller as the Steelers edged the Cowboys. The St. Louis Cardinals were the surprise team of the NFL, winning the NFC East title. Dallas got past Minnesota thanks to Roger Staubach’s “Hail Mary” pass to Pearson, who seemingly pushed off his defender to make the game-winning, 50-yard touchdown catch. Baltimore and Miami tied for the AFC East lead at 10-4, but the Colts advanced because they swept the season series against the Dolphins.