The 1984 Topps football set is easily the most sought-after product of the 1980s and beyond, especially because of the great crop of rookies. Start with quarterbacks John Elway and Dan Marino; add running backs Eric Dickerson, Roger Craig and Curt Warner; and throw in wide receivers Mark Duper and Willie Gault, and that’s quite a rookie card class.
And on defense, don’t forget Howie Long and Andre Tippett.
The 1984 Topps set contains 396 cards. Its design is different from previous years, with the main photograph having a tilted effect. The main photo on the card looks like it is tilted slightly to the left, although the players’ images appear to be straight-on shots into the camera. A solid-colored strip in the upper left-hand part of the card features the player in block letters; like a parallelogram, the bottom right-hand part of the card has a solid strip with the team name in block letters. The team logo is located just to the left of the team name.
The backs of the cards contain a green number on gray stock. The number is stacked vertically in the top left-hand corner of the card back and can be difficult to see as it blends into the gray cardboard stock. The player’s name adorns the top of the card, with vital statistics and year-by-year stats located underneath. In the case of defensive players or offensive linemen, there are no season-by-season statistics, just a longer paragraph of biographical information. The right side of the card contains a vertically placed cartoon that covers the bottom two-thirds of the card.
The set is broken up numerically by teams, and players are listed alphabetically by their last names. The teams also are sorted alphabetically by conference. The lone exception is the Colts, who had moved from Baltimore to Indianapolis before the 1984 season. They are listed first, as if they were still in Baltimore.
The first card in each team set pays tribute to its offensive and defensive leaders. In the set, card Nos. 1-6 highlight individual achievements of players like Dickerson, Franco Harris, John Riggins and others. Card Nos. 7-9 recap the conference title games and Super Bowl XVII. Card Nos. 202-207 list the conference leaders in passing, receiving, rushing, scoring, interceptions and punting. The final three cards of the set are checklists.
Players who made the Pro Bowl also are featured on separate cards, and Instant Replay cards generally follow the player’s base card in the checklist.
Because of this set’s star power, it is not surprising that the Marino and Elway rookie cards are the most valuable. The Marino is much easier to find at the highest grades than the Elway, which can be prone to print defects and as such, you’ll pay more for the Broncos’ legend. Both are among the most popular Topps football cards of all-time.
While most cards are readily available in raw form for a few cents, graded set collectors have found some challenges because of the propensity for off-centered cards, those with “snow” on the surface and others with touches of corner wear right out of the pack.
Glossy Rack Pack Inserts
There were two distinct inserts in the 1984 Topps football set. The NFL Stars set consisted of 11 cards, and one could be found in every wax pack of the 1984 set. The cards were glossy and had blue borders, and included an action shot of the player. Marino and Dickerson were included in the set, along with defensive standouts like Lawrence Taylor and Mark Gastineau.
The other insert was called Topps Play cards and could be found in every pack. This was a 27-card set that included a play that showed yardage gained. A collector that amassed 25 yards was entitled to receive five glossy inserts. Yardage gained ranged from 2 to 8 yards; Dallas, New Orleans and the New York Jets led the way with 8 yards gained, while Buffalo, the New York Giants, St. Louis Cardinals and Houston cards only gained 2.
The 1984 Topps football set is easy to assemble, and a collector won’t have to break the bank to put together a nice set, although if you’re buying for the long-term it might be best to grab the highest quality Marino and Elway rookie cards you can afford.
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