The end of the 1960s signifies the end of the “vintage” era for many collectors. To many, the 70s feel modern somehow. Collectors can find most card sets–all Topps of course–with little trouble. They’re not expensive, unless you’re talking mint sets or graded, mint rookie cards. Still, the latter-year baby boomers entering the hobby and those priced out of the older card market are making the 70s a pretty attractive option.
If you’re looking to invest or own some cool cards for a decent price, we’ve got a top ten list of 1970s baseball cards you should consider adding to your collection. Some are underrated. Some are hard to find in top grade and others are just cool for what they are.
1970 Topps Thurman Munson: Munson rookie cards have never gained tremendous respect because he never made the Hall of Fame. His career was cut short by a plane crash nine years later. Now, with a new book out about his career and Yankee fans harkening back to the days when the team had tough, acerbic guys on the roster, Munson is gaining newfound respect. This card is from the first series and it’s not rare, but you can find a really nice one for around $100…maybe less.
1971 Topps Ernie Banks: Mr. Cub’s last card. The 1971 Topps Banks was issued as Ernie was joining the 500 home run club–a real feat in those days. Banks’ ever-enthusiastic visage is a fitting capper on a Hall of Fame career. The card is #525–a semi-high number that’s hard to find in high grade because of the black borders. Expect to pay at least $100 for an investment quality card.
1972 Topps Ted Williams: Williams spent the late 1960s and early 70s trying to carve out a managerial career. It’s a cool piece of baseball history. If you can’t afford a card from his playing days, you can grab one of these for around $30 in really, really nice shape. They’re not going down in value.
1973 Topps Roberto Clemente: We’re a little bullish on 1973. Undervalued, hard to find in high grade because of the black borders on the back and full of great Hall of Fame cards. This is Clemente’s last card, already on the way to the printer when he was killed on December 31, 1972. A first series card, not difficult to locate, but way, way underpriced for what it represents.
1973 Topps Willie Mays: There would be a huge void in 1974. No Clemente cards. No Mays either. Willie was finally wrapping up his career. He may have stayed a bit too long, but those of us not old enough to have seen him in his prime appreciated the fact that we could still collect his cards. A Mays card for under $100? You’re buying the best you can afford.
1973 Topps Mike Schmidt: OK, OK. If you’re on a budget, this is a tough card to recommend. But it’s his rookie card. It’s a high number. Notoriously off-center. There just aren’t many NM/MT Schmidt rookie cards around, let alone mint ones. Ron Cey, a pretty good player in his own right, shares the card, which doesn’t hurt it’s value either. In the steroid era, Schmidt is gaining newfound respect. An icon in Philadelphia, hotbed for card collectors. So what you say? Demand will always be greater than supply.
1974 Topps Hank Aaron: I vividly remember walking into K-Mart one day during the season, sticking a nickel into the vending machine slot and pulling the lever. Out came this cool-looking card. Come to find out it was his regular issue card–not some special commemorative thingy. It’s not his last one, but the #1 card from this set and emblematic of how fans feel about him still. “Home Run King” indeed. Grab the Hank Aaron Specials (#2-8) while you’re at it…just for fun.
1975 Topps Jim Rice: We’ll admit it’s a bandwagon pick, but the Rice rookie still pales in value to the Brett and Yount from the same set. He shares the card with three others, but Hall of Fame rookie cards don’t usually take a dive. There’s still time to grab a nice one for a reasonable price until people wake up and realize..hey, Jim Rice really IS in the Hall of Fame.
1977 Topps Andre Dawson: The Hawk is in the Hall which gave him long overdue recognition as one of the finest players of the late 1970s and 80s. Still beloved by the Wrigley faithful–and by those who saw his great career begin in Montreal. Probably the best card in the set, with apologies to the legion of Dale Murphy fans.
1979 Topps Thurman Munson: The last-ever card of the Yankee captain. There’s nothing scarce about 1979 Topps, but this one is way undervalued. Sort of the Yankee version of Clemente. Someday this one will be on a lot of want lists.