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Investment Options: Rookie Cards of the 70's
Rookie cards of the 70’s
Ok. The decade of the 70’s is known for many things but significant baseball cards likely aren’t one of things you hear about too often. However, time marches on and cards from the 50’s and 60’s are getting more and more expensive while cards from the 70’s have either come down over the past decade or stayed essentially flat.
There are significant cards in the 1970’s to pick up now, while prices aren’t extreme, before they begin to rise back up over the coming years. Remember that card production in the 1970’s was no better than that of the 60’s and 50’s and the idea of saving them didn’t really hit the mainstream until the very end of the decade. While there may be more of them (production numbers don’t exist but it is generally accepted that print runs got larger over time right through 1994), there isn’t THAT MANY more of them than cards from the 60’s. The real big production numbers start in the 80’s.
I thought it would be interesting to go through the major rookie cards from each year’s Topps Set and discuss the merits of each card.
1970 Topps Munson RC
1970 Topps: Thurman Munson ($100), Darrell Evans ($12), Larry Bowa ($8), Bill Buckner ($5)
The decade starts out with an odd year for rookie cards. The top cards are Darrell Evans, Larry Bowa and Bill Buckner rcs which are not all that expensive. The most likely to jump is Darrell Evans should the HoF come calling one day. Evans has 400+ Home runs and has good numbers across the board. Besides those three, the main rookie card is Thurman Munson. I have to admit that this card seems over-priced by most standards. As much as he had a great career, it was also cut short due to his death in a plane crash in 1979. His numbers are not Hall-worthy but they are very good. Munson’s RC value is a direct result of this industry’s New York-centric view. Munson was extremely popular and a NY Yankees captain so this card is very popular. I also have to admit that most times when I come across this card, it has a pinhole in it from being pinned to someone’s wall as a kid. I’ve never seen that phenomenon before on any other card, but this card was pinned up A LOT. As the years go by, more Yankees fans will continue to look for this card and it will continue to move up. At $100 it seems overpriced but I don’t doubt that it will continue to rise.
1971 Topps Baker/Baylor RC
1971 Topps: Dave Concepcion ($15), Steve Garvey ($30), Bert Blyleven ($20), Ted Simmons ($8), Bobby Valentine ($6), George Foster ($8), Dusty Baker/Don Baylor
This set, with its black borders is difficult to find in any type of good condition. There are a number of popular RCs in this set. Dave Concepcion and George Foster were part of the Big Red Machine so they remain popular, Ted Simmons was loved in St. Louis and Bobby Valentine remains one of the sports best minds and a lightning rod for controversy. The Steve Garvey card could rise if he ever got the call to the Hall. Blyleven’s card should be more expensive as he made the Hall of Fame but I think people just don’t think of him that way. The enigma here is the Dusty Baker/Don Baylor card. This card features two great ball players who became two very good managers and they could make the Hall of Fame as either. It’s only expensive as it’s a high number in the 1971 Set, card 709. If either man wins a World Series as a manager or manages to get into the Hall of Fame, this card will jump in value. I have to say that I actually EXPECT this one to happen at some point.
1972 Topps Fisk RC
1972 Topps: Carlton Fisk ($50), Dave Kingman ($6), Charlie Hough ($6)
There isn’t much to say here. Carlton Fisk is in the Hall of Fame as one of the best catchers of all time. Dave Kingman and Charlie Hough had long careers, were stars at times, but will never be considered for the HoF. I don’t think there is a significant jump coming to any of these cards. There are a number of common RCs in the notoriously hard to find high number series that are valued in the $12-$20 range. All of these will continue to rise up but not because of the players on the cards, just due to card scarcity.
1973 Topps Schmidt RC
1973 Topps: Mike Schmidt ($150), Goose Gossage ($30), Bob Boone ($15), Dwight Evans ($20)
The Mike Schmidt RC was $400 at it’s peak and now sits at $150. I could easily see this rising back up though not to $400. The Gossage RC jumped when he made the HoF. It was $8 one month and $30 the next. As appreciation for closers grows over the years, this card might see future rises in price. The Boone RC won’t go anywhere and the Dwight Evans card shares the same issues with the Darrell Evans card. Both players had all-star careers but need to be in the HoF for these cards to move further. If your budget allows, pick up the Schmidt RC.
1974 Topsp Winfield RC
1974 Topps: Dave Winfield ($50), Bucky Dent ($5), Dave Parker ($10), Ken Griffey ($12)
Nothing much to say here either. Winfield is a HoFer. Dave Parker and Ken Griffey had All-Star careers but likely won’t see any big jumps. The Bucky Dent is an anomaly. Dent didn’t have a great career but he has an iconic moment as a NY Yankee that drives his popularity to this very day. I can still move Bucky Dent Yankees cards 35 years later. I hate to say it but this card may have more room to climb as this iconic moment won’t ever go away.
1975 Topps Brett RC
1975: George Brett ($80), Robin Yount ($50), Gary Carter ($20), Jim Rice ($25), Keith Hernandez ($10), Fred Lynn ($8)
I have extolled the virtues of this set numerous times, in numerous hubs. Each of the RCs listed here has a huge following. The Brett and Yount cards were much more expensive years ago but are great to put into a collection now. The Rice and Carter cards just started to move up as they were inducted into the HoF. Fred Lynn also has a strong following. The Hernandez card is popular due to his 1986 Mets exploits and he’s in a very select group of players that sits on the bubble of the HoF. He’s not eligible unless the Veterans committee gets him in but he’s got good offensive numbers and ridiculous fielding numbers. He’s one of only 2 players currently eligible with more than 10 Gold Gloves who isn’t in the Hall of Fame. Ken Griffey Jr and Greg Maddux aren’t eligible yet. The other player is Jim Kaat of the 283 Wins (who also belongs in the HoF).
The Mini versions of these cards are also great investments. The minis are much rarer than people generally believe. They were a test issue and should continue to be popular with collectors.
1976 Topps Ecksersley RC
1976 Topps: Dennis Eckersley ($30), Ron Guidry ($8), Willie Randolph ($5)
Eckersley is in the HoF and his card got a huge boost when that happened. Guidry and Randolph won’t ever get there but they are former NY Yankees players so their RCs remain popular. If you deal in New York, he Guidry card in particular sells very well.
1977 Topps Dawson RC
1977: Dale Murphy ($15), Andre Dawson ($20), Bruce Sutter ($15)
Dale Murphy is a borderline HoF candidate and a world class great guy so he remains popular. Dawson and Sutter are HoFers with underpriced RCs (much like Carter and Rice in 1975). All are easy pickups at these prices. There are other popular rookie cards in 1977 but nothing to invest in (Lee Mazzili, Garry Templeton and Dennis Martinez).
1978 Topps Molitor RC
1978 Topps: Eddie Murray ($80), Jack Morris ($5), Lou Whitaker ($8), Paul Molitor/Alan Trammell ($50)
Well Eddie Murray is a bit pricey here but he’s considered one of the two best switch hitters of all time. The other one is Mickey Mantle so Murray’s high price is somewhat justified. If you can get Murray in the $40-$60 range, I’d jump on it. Morris will likely gain Hall induction and this card will jump in price when he does. The Whitaker card likely won’t though again, he’s on the bubble so it’s possible. The Molitor/Trammell card is expensive due to Molitor but Trammell might make the Hall as well someday. At $50 it’s a bit high but if you can get it in the $25 range – add it to the collection.
1979 Topps Smith RC
1979 Topps: Ozzie Smith ($60)
Actually, this is the one card I don’t particularly like at any price. Ozzie was a great shortstop, but I remain unimpressed with his career offensive stats. I will argue that defensive prowess counts too, but Ozzie was the epitome of 70’s shortstops, all glove and no stick – for much of his career. Yes he has many Gold Gloves and an iconic World Series moment and lots of back flips but his overall numbers aren’t spectacular. I think he gets a lot more credit than he should but he is popular. I personally think Ozzie was marginalized by the rise of Cal Ripken Jr. who changed how shortstops were built (think, Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Jeter and Miguel Tejada). There are a few minor rookie cards in this set as well – nobody who would cost more than a dollar but names you probably remember like Pedro Guerrero, Carney Lansford and Danny Darwin.
In conclusion, there are a nice mix of rookie cards in the 70's. Some have potential as HoF standards continue to change. Some have potential due to scarceity. Others have potential based solely on popularity of the player or event, they are associated to. When any of these players hit the news, watch their card prices and see if you can pick out patterns. If it were me (it is, by the way), I would go with guys who have HoF eligibility who are on the proverbial bubble. I would also go with guys who have major milestones on their career stat lines like Brett (3000 Hits & HoF), Yount (3000 Hits & HoF) and Schmidt (500 Home Run Club and HoF).