We went from psychedelic to disco; from the end of flannels to flashy double-knits and striped caps. The Ed Sullivan Show died and Saturday Night Live was born.
Baseball cards brought us some memorable players and with more than 35 years since the last of the decade’s debut cards arrived, we can look at which 1970s Hall of Fame rookie cards offer high-end collectors the biggest challenge. A top 10 list of the toughest ones to find in PSA 10 (gem mint) grades.
The current quantity of 10s is listed in parentheses below. Click the links to see if there are any currently listed on eBay–along with some more pedestrian examples.
- 1971 Topps Bert Blyleven (1). The list starts and ends with a year you might expect. The black borders of the 1971 Topps set mean Bert Blyleven’s rookie card is virtually impossible to find at the highest levels. In fact, of the 1,480 Blyleven cards submitted to PSA for grading and not given a qualifier, just one has been given the ‘10’ rating, a percentage of .00067. The card was once in the collection of former big leaguer Dmitri Young, who sold his PSA 10 rookie card collection at auction a couple of years ago.
- 1975 Topps Robin Yount (3). This is a bit of a surprise. There is no shortage of ’75 Topps in the marketplace but the issue is plagued by poor centering, not to mention the colored borders that show off the smallest bit of wear. One could argue this is THE toughest 1970s card to find in PSA 10 because over 5,000 have been submitted. That means just .00059 percent of all Yount rookie cards have been awarded a 10.
- 1975 Topps Jim Rice (3). Only 1,617 Rice rookies have been submitted to PSA for grading, likely due to the relatively low value. It took the Baseball Writers Association quite a while to elect Rice and for many years, his rookie card could be had for less than $5, even in NM condition.
- 1972 Topps Carlton Fisk (4). Fisk shares his rookie card with another pretty good player, Cecil Cooper. As of this writing, 3,558 have been submitted with only four receiving a 10, a percentage of .00112. It’s an easy card to find, having been issued in the first series that year, but not so easy to locate a perfect specimen.
- 1979 Topps Ozzie Smith (4). Poor centering, thy name is Ozzie. Finding a nice example of this Cardinal great’s rookie card drives collectors batty. He was a Padre then and you could pray all you want but that 10 likely isn’t getting put on your submission. Just ask the over 4,300 collectors and dealers who have sent them in. A ’10’ sold for over $20,000 in 2012. Even a ‘9’ will sell for over $1,000, amazing for a 1979 Topps card.
- 1975 Topps Gary Carter (5). Just 2,123 Carter rookie cards have been sent in for grading. Five 10s out of the group combined with the late catcher’s popularity mean plenty of high-grade set collectors would pounce if you put one up for auction.
- 1973 Topps Mike Schmidt (6). Just .00136 percent of the 4,407 Schmidt rookies landed in 10 country. That tells you it’s a very tough 10 but it also tells you that most believe it’s worth grading just about any Schmidt rookie because of the inherent value as the key to the entire set.
- 1976 Topps Dennis Eckersley (6). Eck’s rookie card doesn’t get graded that often. Only 1,840 have been reviewed, with .00326 landing the 10 spot.
- 1974 Topps Dave Winfield (8). You wouldn’t think the percentage on this one would be that high, but outside of some centering issues, the Winfield rookie is not a hard card to find in high grade. Nearly 3,900 have been reviewed during PSA’s history.
- 1975 Topps George Brett (8). More Brett rookie cards have been graded than any other 1970s rookie card (6,283) with .00127 percent of them 10s in the Population Report. Two of them sold at auction in 2014, with both fetching over $20,000.
- 1978 Topps Eddie Murray (9). There are 5,979 Murray rookies are in PSA’s Population Report, second only to Brett in total for 1970s rookie cards. Just nine of them, or .00150 percent, have gotten a 10. Centering is the usual culprit.
- 1978 Topps Paul Molitor/Alan Trammell (14). Considering that nasty smudge that often appears on this card, that’s a somewhat surprising number, although vending and wax boxes from ’78 are still available and sometimes opened. Still, .00330 will have you tempering expectations. Either way, it’s still a great rookie card, even if Trammell never sees Cooperstown.
- 1977 Topps Bruce Sutter (21). With only 1,122 graded, it would seem you’ve got a fighting chance if you find an extremely high quality example.
- 1977 Topps Andre Dawson (26). The most plentiful 1970s Hall of Fame rookie card, the Hawk’s four-player debut has been graded more than twice as often as Sutter’s rookie but it’s more evidence that the ’77 set seems to yield a few more 10s than most other sets from the decade. Still, just .00989 percent of the 2,629 submitted currently reside in 10 holders.