After boosting its set to 720 cards in 1970, Topps went even bigger the following year. Their 1971 baseball set grew to 752 cards (they’d top it again in ’72 with a whopping 787).
This week’s edition of Vintage Pack Facts courtesy of VintageBreaks.com takes a look at the products released by Topps during that 1971 season, one that ended with Roberto Clemente leading the Pittsburgh Pirates to a World Series victory over the Baltimore Orioles and MVP awards handed out to veteran slugger Joe Torre (NL) and young ace Vida Blue (AL).
- The ’71 set was produced in six series, released about one every four to six weeks. If you were a kid collecting the set, it was always a thrill to open a pack and find cards you hadn’t seen before (unfortunately, scraping up enough dimes to buy more than one pack always seemed to be a challenge).
- Each wax pack contained ten cards. For the second straight year, the cello packs were tucked inside a cardboard “house.” There were 30 cards in each cello pack, which sold for a quarter. The best bargain? Well, if you could come up with 39 cents and found rack packs hanging on the shelf of your local store, you received 54 cards–well over a third of the entire series.
- Topps went radical with its design, going from rather bland gray borders in 1970 to a jet black look in ’71. They used all lower case fonts and used reproductions of the players’ actual signature . The backs were green and black. The design looks almost wet when the cards are of the “pack fresh” variety. Those borders do show even the most minuscule touches of wear, making high-grade sets expensive and hard to piece together.
- There are more than 281,000 1971 Topps cards on PSA’s population report but only about three percent grade 9 or 10. As of now, PSA has graded only 199 1971 Topps cards with its GEM MINT 10 designation, a shockingly small percentage.
- Topps brought back its metal coin insert concept in ’71, dropping one into packs throughout most of the year. A similar set was produced as an insert in the 1964 set. The scratch-off cards issued in 1970 were re-issued with a different colored back and made their way into some packs as well.
- Robert Edward Auctions is currently offering an unopened box of 1971 Topps 4th series cards in its current catalog. The series included Steve Garvey’s rookie card, Nolan Ryan, Hank Aaron and Bob Gibson, among others. It’s possible there are high-grade multiples of at least one of those players inside. As of now, the high bid is $40,000. In 2016, Heritage Auctions sold a fourth series box for over $77,000.
- A 1971 1st series box (missing one pack) was part of the famous ‘Beer Box Find‘ by Mile High Card Company last year. The box, potentially with high-grade Thurman Munson, Pete Rose and Reggie Jackson cards inside, sold at auction for $44,730.
- Vintage Breaks has opened a few 1971 Topps packs in recent months, including a third series wax pack which was ripped during its show this week (watch the video below). The third series included a treasure trove of stars including Steve Garvey’s rookie card, Brooks Robinson, Ted Williams (Senators manager), Juan Marichal, Joe Morgan, Rollie Fingers, Fergie Jenkins, Joe Torre and George Foster’s rookie card. It was also home to the World Series subset. Spots in the break cost $325.
You can learn more about participating in vintage pack breaks—or just watch—by visiting VintageBreaks.com.