Collectors–and in the 1972 that was mostly young folks–had gotten used to two series of Topps football cards since the company resumed its place as the NFL’s official partner in 1968. However, after four years, the company turned things upside down.
Football was exploding in popularity, thanks in part to the new ABC-TV smash hit, Monday Night Football. Things started out normally. There were two series of 1972 Topps football but as winter arrived, a third series emerged. In the pre-internet world, the news spread pretty slowly. In fact, it’s not a stretch to say the word never reached some collectors. The 1972 third series wax boxes didn’t reach the usual nationwide distribution area and are thought to have been available to less than half the country–and not for very long.
This week’s Vintage Pack Facts from VintageBreaks.com zeroes in on one of the more intriguing football packs:
- The first two series of 1972 Topps football contained 263 cards in all with the first series including #1-132 and the second #133-263. Roger Staubach’s rookie card (#200) is in series 2. The third series was smaller, containing numbers 264-351.
- The “high numbers” are less plentiful than their first and second series brothers.
- The third series apparently didn’t sell well (think 1952 Topps baseball high numbers) and Wisconsin dealer Larry Fritsch bought several dozen wax cases for “around $5 each” as he told Sports Collectors Digest several years before his death. Fritsch Cards has sold most of the boxes off over the years, making a very handsome profit after it became clear that third series cards were hard to find. Originally a ten-cent item, the packs now trade for $200 and up, depending on grade.
- Topps produced vending, wax, rack and cello boxes for its first two series of football cards in ’72, but only wax boxes were created for the third series.
- Because the 1972 Topps high number boxes have been stored in the same location since they were purchased, quite a few of the surviving packs that have been graded are in the upper range of the 1-10 scale.
- Packs of 1972 Topps football contain ten cards and the stick of gum. Each pack of third series cards, then (provided there are no duplicates) contains over 11 percent of a complete third series set.
- Because so many of the existing 1972 Topps third series cards have been pulled from that supply of unopened boxes in a more collecting-savvy era, there are solid number of high-grade cards on the grading company population reports despite the smaller overall supply.
- #316 Rayfield Wright has long been considered notoriously hard to find well-centered and with sharp corners. However, the current population reports don’t seem to bear that out. The last card in the set, Ken Willard, would seem to be the toughest card to find in high-grade. PSA lists the value of a 10 at $3,500 and a 9 at $950. #290 John Gilliam and #315 Milt Morin also among the other cards that are rare in high-grade. Several other cards have populations of MINT 9 and GEM MINT 10 cards that are less than 40.