It was the last year of Topps’ 660-card regular sets and the first and only year for a quirky set that drives condition-conscious collectors crazy. Was it really 30 years ago?
by Joe Fawley
Jimmy Carter had taken over the White House. Disco was king. 1977 was the year of Yankees, Dodgers, Royals and Reds. In other words, the usual suspects. Another much-despised slugger ruled the power ranks. Reggie Jackson was a "big money" free agent coup for the Yanks, signing a deal that might get you a middle reliever today.
Thirty years ago this spring, baseball cards were still pretty much for kids and you couldn’t find anything on the shelf other than Topps. The 660-card regular baseball card issue was again distributed in one series and the only other national pack product offered by the card-making monopoly was a 55-card set of stickers made of a light, sticky-backed cloth. It would be a one-year run for an issue that is surprisingly popular among vintage card collectors.
Designed for kids to peel the stickers from the backing and put onto notebooks or whatever else kids were sticking things on in 1977, the technology may have been revolutionary at the time, but today makes the cards appear somewhat crude.
The photos were much the same as those found on the primary cards that year. The set was a mix of superstars, minor stars and players that might have been considered solid up-and-comers in ’77 but who have since been relegated to the commons box.
The set is fairly easy to put together, even in high grade. A complete, ungraded set in near mint condition generally sells for $35-50. Several collectors have taken on the challenge of building a graded set with a few PSA members honing in on sets that have been graded gem mint 10 across the board.
The most expensive and popular card/sticker in the set is #40, Nolan Ryan, which often finds buyers in the $10-15 range; higher for near mint to mint copies. Several Hall of Famers are represented including Johnny Bench, Lou Brock, Mike Schmidt, Pete Rose, Carl Yastrzemski and Robin Yount. Common cards can be found for less than a dollar.
The major problem with the set is that over the years, unless well-protected, the cloth sticker often begins to separate from the thin backing, rendering such cards virtually worthless. Unopened packs have survived in relatively good numbers, but the cards are susceptible to wax and gum stains and with only a few cards in each pack, buying unopened product with hopes of assembling a high grade set is more difficult than it might sound.
In addition to the cards, Topps included two nine-piece puzzle sets which could be joined to form a team photo of the American and National League All Star teams from 1976.