The 1983 Topps football set doesn’t include the big name rookies found in other 1980s sets. But it is an affordable set that’s nearly 35 years old and includes some key players. Here’s a closer look at the issue.
1983 Topps Football Basics
Topps’ focus appears to have shifted slightly in 1983. That year, they produced their smallest set in more than a decade. You have to go back to 1972 to find a Topps football issue that wasn’t at least 528 cards (that year, Topps’ set was only 132 cards) and the company massive cut its set from 528 cards to only 396 in 1983. That 396 count seemed to work for Topps as they stuck with it for the rest of the decade, jumping back up to 528 in 1990.
The cards are your standard Topps issue, measuring 2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″. The overall look, like many late 1970s and early 1980s sets, was pretty bland. A color picture of the player was included on the front with his team name printed at the top in large white outline lettering. His name and position were printed at the bottom inside of a mono-color box.
Backs of the cards were relatively straightforward, including statistical information and vital information (player name, height, weight, college, draft status, date/place of birth, and home). A card number was printed inside of a small black football and the card also included a few other miscellaneous bits of information. The background of the back area was red with a dark red border. One nice touch was seeing the player’s team helmet printed behind the text on the reverse.
The set had a nice collection of star cards, including Walter Payton, as well as early cards of Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Lawrence Taylor, among others. But if there’s one thing the set is known for, it’s likely the inclusion of some key rookie cards that are often overlooked.
Leading the way is Hall of Famer Marcus Allen. Allen is one of the most impressive running backs of all time and his rookie here is the feature piece of the set. In addition to his base card (No. 294), Allen is also found on a couple of other cards in the set, including a League Leaders card, as he scored the most points in the league in 1982 (84). Interestingly, Allen rushed for only 697 yards that year but scored 14 touchdowns. 11 came on the ground but Allen was also a receiving threat, catching 38 passes, including three receiving touchdowns.
In addition to those guys, the set also includes a handful of other notable rookie cards. Three-time All-Pro offensive lineman and three-time Super Bowl champion Joe Jacoby is one of those as is Gary Anderson, one of the top kickers of all time.
1983 Topps Football Subsets and Inserts
In addition to the rookies and stars, the set includes a few subsets. As found in other sets, this issue includes a League Leaders subset, featuring statistical leaders from around the league in key categories. Other subsets also include Team Leader cards, which picture the top players from any given team.
Along with those, collectors will find sticker inserts, which were inserted into packs. A total of 33 stickers were in the set and these had a different look with a player picture and his name, position, and team in a gold nameplate at the bottom. These stickers looked much more ‘current’ than the actual cards did.
The stickers are desired by collectors because they include the biggest names, such as Montana, Payton, Taylor, Tony Dorsett, Terry Bradshaw, and others. In addition, Allen was featured in this set as well, with his being an insert rookie card.
1983 Topps Football Prices
The 1983 Topps set is incredibly affordable as you can typically get high-grade raw sets for under $50. Most of the key cards in the set can be found for under $10. The Allen #294 base card is the key issue and even in high-grade condition is usually able to be found for $10-$20, depending on condition.
One note is that 132 cards in the set were double printed, including the Allen base rookie. That has probably contributed to the affordability of some of the key cards, such as his.
With the lack of a high dollar rookie card, prices for unopened boxes and packs of 1983 Topps football remain relatively low compared to most other early and mid-1980s football products.