It was one of many ideas drummed up by Topps decades ago to create more sales. There had been pins, stand-ups, posters, stamps and glossies. For two years, the company gave its standard cards the super size treatment, creating sets that filled up a good chunk of the shoebox. The 1971 Topps Super baseball set would be the end of the brief experiment. Today, they may just be some of the most underrated gum company sidebar sets of all time.
1971 Topps Super Baseball Basics
The “Super” concept was born in 1969, although the look wasn’t much like the two sets that followed. Distributed in a very limited area, it looked much like the 1970 Super Glossy football card inserts.
While they shared the rounded corner, borderless design concept, the 1970 and ’71 Super sets were much different. The size (3 1/8″ x 5 1/4″) was much along the lines of the 1964 Topps Giants set and the card stock was the heaviest Topps had ever used. Most of the photos used were posed shots. Topps also produced a Super football set in the fall of 1970.
1971 Topps Supers were distributed in three-card packs for ten cents. Your odds of pulling a player who would eventually be elected to the Hall of Fame were pretty good. Of the 63 players on the checklist, 20 have been inducted. The checklist was built around the game’s best players at the time. Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente are all part of the set.
Condition Sensitive…Sort Of
In contrast to the 1970 set, which had just 42 cards including several single prints, the 1971 set had equal distribution and the cards are a bit more plentiful today, keeping prices somewhat in check.
The borderless cards are prone to scuffing and chipping but grading company population reports show a fair percentage of high-grade examples. In fact, of the thousands of cards examined by PSA to date, over 26% have graded 9 or 10 and over 30% rate NM/MT 8.
Among the most difficult cards to find in top shape are Lou Piniella, Reggie Smith, Felix Millan, Dave McNally, Willie McCovey, Tim McCarter, Tony Oliva and Larry Dierker. Reggie Jackson and Ron Santo are two other Hall of Famers who can be a challenge. In 2017, the number one rated 1971 Topps Super set on PSA’s Registry, one with 22 cards graded Gem Mint 10 and the rest Mint 9, sold for a whopping $25,399.
If you’re not into chasing the best of the best, though, the 1971 Topps Super baseball set is budget friendly for most of us, considering the age and the quality of the players on the checklist. Complete, ungraded, crease-free sets with limited wear can be found for $250-$350, sometimes less. If you want to tackle it card-by-card, some of the Hall of Famers in respectable shape are available for under $15 with commons running a third of that or even less when purchased in lots. You can see what’s currently being offered on eBay here.
Square-cornered proof cards exist and prices are significantly higher.
Whether they were too expensive to produce, didn’t sell well enough or Topps simply decided to focus on their bread and butter isn’t known but collectors today seem to appreciate what was created when Topps decided to “go big.”