The 1957 Topps football set is one of the most prized vintage football issues of all time. While there are some big name stars and a key error card, there’s no question that the numerous Hall of Fame rookie cards have made this issue so popular — and valuable. Here’s a closer look at this landmark set.
The 1957 Topps football set is known for its key rookie cards but is also popular because of its unique design. The ’57 football issue utilized a horizontal layout with a pair of pictures for each player – a head shot and an action photo. The cards are printed in full color with the player’s name, team, and position on the fronts. The horizontal view on the cards is one of only a few times Topps used that layout in its vintage sets.
After its first NFL trading card set in 1956 utilized the same size as Topps’ first five baseball card sets, the ’57 football set matched that year’s baseball issue in the standard 2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ size of today.
In all, there were 154 cards in the 1957 Topps football set, which was released in two series. The first series was 1-88 and cards 89-154 covered the second.
As stated, the big name rookies are what drive this set. Leading the way is No. 138, the rookie of Johnny Unitas (a tough find in high-grade condition) and No. 119 Bart Starr. One of those cards in a set would be enough to make it an important issue but there’s also a third big one here in the rookie of Paul Hornung. Those aren’t only the the three biggest cards in the set but they’re three of the biggest vintage football rookie cards across all sets.
Those are the big three but that’s not the end. In addition, collectors will find the rookie card of Hall of Fame end Raymond Berry. Also here is the first card of seven-time All-Pro Hall of Famer Dick ‘Night Train’ Lane. There are over 30 Hall of Famers on the checklist.
As if that wasn’t enough, a few big name non-Hall of Famers are here as well, such as quarterback Earl Morrall. Morrall isn’t in the Hall of Fame but he was a former Most Valuable Player and a three-time champion. Finally, another notable rookie is that of Hopalong Cassady, who was a Heisman winner and the No. 3 overall pick in the 1956 NFL Draft.
That collectors can find this many key rookies in one set is kind of unheard of.
Collectors more into errors and anomalies are also drawn to the set. That’s because of a key error in the release that is difficult to find.
Will Sherman’s card No. 58 is one of the more sought after errors in vintage football. Four versions of the card exist – an error where Sherman’s Rams team is not named on the front, one that includes his position as “Back” but no team, a third that has “Back-Rams” in the space and a fourth version that states “Halfback-Rams.”
The error that has a blank space must have been caught early because few of them exist. The error card typically sells for $500 and up, depending on condition. And yes, he went by “Will” rather than “Bill” despite what it says on the front of the card.
Topps randomly inserted a checklist into some packs. There are actually two versions–one with a Bazooka ad and the other promoting Topps “Twin Blony” gum. Unmarked, high-grade versions are especially scarce but they are readily available in lower grade.
1957 Topps Football Prices
With so many big names and key rookie cards, this isn’t a cheap set. Starr and Unitas rookies start at several hundred dollars for mid-grade cards and go up from there, depending on condition. Hornung is a little cheaper, but still among the top vintage football rookie cards. Complete sets can run well into the thousands, with prices obviously dependent upon the condition of the “big three.”
Below is a look at the current ‘most watched’ 1957 Topps football cards right now.