If you lived in Minnesota or Wisconsin in the late 1970s and early 1980s and collected sports cards, you probably ingested a lot of carbohydrates. It’s where Holsum and Gardner’s brand breads kept collectors full by offering a few different sets as promotions aimed at youngsters.
They cranked out three different football issues during the time period including two that were created by Topps but had their own distinctive look. After a 1977 release that included only players from the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers, they came back the following year with something a little more expansive.
The 1978 Holsum set included 33 cards and was issued during the fall of the 1978 season, with one card in each specially marked package. The photos were exceptionally sharp and clear, higher quality, really, than the regular Topps cards that came with gum. The backs were completely different, printed in bright green and yellow with a player’s career highlights listed next to check marks. There was no mention of Holsum, Gardner’s or Topps anywhere on the back.
The company still tried to curry favor with fans in the region by including three Packers and three Vikings on the checklist (and yes, there is a physical checklist card, #33), but each of the other NFL teams was represented by one player. Tom Jackson, whose rookie card is in the 1978 Topps set, was also given a card in the Holsum/Gardner’s set.
While the set included some big names of the era, by far the most notable is Walter Payton. The photo on the front of the card used appears to have been taken during Payton’s rookie season four years prior, however, as he’s shown wearing #21 instead of the #34 he’d famously adopt. Today, it’s by far the most valuable in the set. PSA 10 graded examples have been selling for $1,500 and up in recent years. Near mint Payton cards can usually be found for around $100.
In all, there are ten Hall of Famers in the set, not bad considering the one per team concept meant only Franco Harris represented the powerhouse Steelers and Harvey Martin’s inclusion meant no Roger Staubach or young Tony Dorsett.
A quantity of the 1978 Holsum football cards that never appeared in packages of bread made its way into the hobby at some point and that’s led to over 300 having been graded and authenticated by PSA alone. Most have rated 7 or better. However, there are a few cards in which no examples have ever graded higher than 7.
The set’s distribution wasn’t extensive and complete sets are hard to come by. With a good quality Payton, prices often ascend past $300 for a full 33-card set with an unmarked checklist.
Over the years, the Topps Vault auctions have included printing proofs, original negatives and other items associated with the production of the set. BST Auctions sold an uncut proof sheet for $448 last year.
Single cards and some of those proofs are available on eBay with the occasional set sometimes being offered.