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1971 Topps Baseball

By Patrick Mondout

Once again setting a record for its size (752 cards - up 32 from 1970), this is the most difficult modern set to collect in high grade due to its black borders, which are subject to noticeable chipping at the slightest provocation. It is also one of the most valuable easily topping its predecessor.

Further frustrating complete set collectors is the fact that half of so-called hi-number cards from 644-752 were short printed, including the Dusty Baker/Don Baylor rookie card (see below).

The card backs featured another snapshot of the player - a major innovation (which Kellogg's matched), even if it was on dark card stock - and the usual collections of statistics and biographical material. In order to make space for the photos, year by year statistics for the players - a feature since 1962 - were eliminated.

Another innovation was the use of photographs from actual games. While specials, such as World Series cards, had featured game photos in the past this was the first set to include them on "regular" cards.

Subsets include the 12 league leaders cards, eight league championship series cards, six World Series cards, and rookies (by team or by position). While the World Series cards featured full color photography, the LCS cards were monotone with either a yellow or pink coloring (see below).

Topps did not produce a separate set of All-Star cards in 1971, nor did they mention that a player was so honored on the front of their regular card. Topps did produce an "All-Star Rookie" trophy for the front of the cards for players honored at each position by the company - a practice that began in 1961 and would continue through 1978 (see Thurman Munson below).

Yer Out!

An all-time favorite of many Yankees collectors is this action card of Thurman Munson.


The cards were distributed in 10 wax packs (most with either a coin or scratch-off insert) and extremely rare rack packs. The rack packs can be a joy to find and an extreme disappointment at the same time. As with most rack packs, there are three windows through which you can see the top and bottom cards (you can usually see more, depending upon the space in that pocket and the design of that year's cards). But the area where the '71 rack packs were hole punched doesn't contain an ad for Topps, it contains another card! One that has been hole punched and thus worthless. Imagine finding a 1971 Topps rack pack with the Munson in that position!

Notable rookie cards include Steve Garvey, Dusty Baker/Don Baylor, Greg Luzinski, George Foster, Ted Simmons, Bert Blyleven, Ken Singleton, Jon Matlack, Ralph Garr and Dave Concepcion. This group looked remarkable in 1978, but not quite so by 1983. Despite this and the challenge of finding mint cards, it remains one of the most popular sets of all time among collectors.

When buying cards in person, watch out for cards that have altered borders. Some have trimmed the cards, making them smaller than they should be, to hide the chipped edges while others have used a Sharpie pen to fill in the white areas.

A checklist for all 752 cards is available here.

1971 Topps at a Glance
Back Checklist Wax Pack
Rookies World Series League Leaders
League Champs Managers Team


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Year: 1971

Manufacturer: Topps

# of Cards: 752 (Checklist)

Value/Price: Check eBay (see links below)

Size: 2 x 3

Image courtesy of Topps

'71 Topps Sets!
'71 Topps Singles!
'71 Topps Unopened Packs!
'71 Topps Lots!
'71 Topps Cases!

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