Topps football card sets of the 1970s were not noted for innovative design or risk-taking. After all, Topps had a monopoly on the football card market, and its airbrushed sets were doing just fine. So why mess with a good thing?
Besides, there were some great rookie cards, and whether Topps realized it at the time or not, these first-year cards would be the keys to those 1970s sets.
A perfect example are the 1975 Topps football rookies. As far as originality goes, this set fits the pattern of other 1970s sets — lots of airbrushed logos and stock shots. The 1975 product was the third consecutive 528-card set, and it was released in one series. What makes this set stand out are some of the great players who made their cardboard debuts. Overall in fact, it’s pretty hard to find a better 1970s set from a rookie card perspective than the one issued 40 seasons ago.
If you are a Pittsburgh Steelers collector, there were three nice ones — Lynn Swann (No. 282), Mel Blount (No. 12) and Rocky Bleier (No. 39).
Other key 1975 Topps football rookie cards include quarterbacks Joe Theismann (No. 416) and Dan Fouts (No. 367). Debut cards of Cliff Branch, Charlie Waters, Cliff Harris, and Drew Pearson also were included.
Swann, Theismann and Fouts are the most valuable.
There have been 1,196 Swann rookies that have been sent to PSA for grading. Of those, only nine have been graded gem mint. A total of 214 have been graded PSA-9. On eBay, PSA-9s range from $15o to $450, depending on the seller.
There have been 217 Swann rookies submitted to SGC. Of those, only one grades as high as 98, while 29 come in at 96.
You can own a near mint Swann for around $40.
Theismann is an interesting case. While he was technically an NFL rookie in the mid-1970s, he already had spent a few years playing in the Canadian Football League. In 1971, he had been selected in the fourth round by the Miami Dolphins, but he could not come to an agreement. Theismann, rightly sensing he would be a backup to Bob Griese for many years, decided to sign with Toronto of the CFL. When he returned to the NFL, the Dolphins traded his rights to Washington for the Redskins’ top pick in 1976.
On eBay, Theismann is surprisingly affordable. A quick look at several live auctions shows even graded NM/MTexamples available at under $40. There have been 908 Theismann rookies submitted to PSA, but only five came back graded gem mint. One of those is currently being offered at over $3,300. There are more PSA-9s, with 126 submitted.
SCG has had 132 Theismann rookies submitted, but only one came back graded 98. Seven were graded at 96.
Fouts is the third key card in the 1975 set, and there have been 1,600 cards submitted to PSA. Of those cards, only 23 have been graded at PSA-10. An additional 230 are PSA-9s.
But they are affordable and plentiful. And that goes for the other key cards in the 1975 Topps football set.