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1973 Topps Baseball

By Patrick Mondout

This set, perhaps more so than any other of the post-Bowman, pre-Donruss/Fleer era, shows just how bad a product can become when there is virtually no competition. It features the worst overall photography of any modern set, including shots were it is hard to figure out who is being featured (the Steve Garvey has Wes Parker blocking out most of his face), action shots where it inexcusably out of focus shots. And as if his legacy needed any more damage, Willie Mays was immortalized in his last card (from his playing days) looking about 40 years older than he actually was (though he did play like an 85 year old in the '73 World Series).

Who dat?

Steve Garvey derisively called his '73 Topps card the "Wes Parker Memorial" card as it features more of Wes than Steve!

There are also gratuitous "All-Time Leader" cards of Babe Ruth and other long dead stars. The inclusion of such cards would have made sense if Topps were once again trying to set a record for the largest set, but the '73 set reversed a decade-long trend of larger sets by declining from the 787 cards of the 1972 set to just 660 - a number it would remain at until 1978.

The manager cards also have pictures of the team's coaches - a great idea considering who some of those coaches were (Ernie Banks and Warren Spahn, for example) - but they are barely recognizable in those small, monotone photos (see Earl Weaver, below)! Even some of the photos that were pleasing were placed on the wrong card: Gene Tenace graces the Joe Rudi card while John Fleske's photo adorns Elly Rodriguez's card.

Some of the bad photos are excusable: Topps once again featured boyhood photos of several stars and the one of future Jockey Underwear model Jim Palmer in a swimming pool (see below) is probably framed somewhere at Neverland.


Not all the out-of-focus photos were uninteresting. On September 1, 1972, Cub pinch-runner Jim Tyrone is thrown out at home plate in the 7th inning as Pat Corrales holds on to the ball in agony! The Cubs won anyway 14-3. Corrales wouldn't play again for a week.

All of this tends to make this set far more affordable than than any of the regular Topps sets that proceeded it, and even '75 Topps regularly sells for more. On the bright side, this set did feature the Mike Schmidt rookie card (which he shared with Ron Cey, who was featured on a similar card with Ben Oglive in 1972). Other rookies include Dwight Evans, Buddy Bell, Goose Gossage, Gary Matthews.

This was the last Topps set of the era to be released in series, with cards #529-660 carrying a premium. The backs of the cards are vertically-oriented for the first time since 1968.

The cards were distributed in 10 wax packs containing 10 cards. Packs from late in the year claim "all 660 cards now in one series", which isn't quite true, but it did mean that those packs contained cards from all of the series.

A checklist for all 660 cards is available here.

1973 Topps at a Glance
Back Checklist Wax Pack
Manager/Coaches League Leaders Rookies
Boyhood Photos All-Time Leaders Team


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Year: 1973

Manufacturer: Topps

# of Cards: 660 (Checklist)

Value/Price: Check eBay (see links below)

Size: 2 x 3

Image courtesy of Topps

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

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