Defined by strong defenses and a growing popularity for the NFL, the 1970s were also home to a large amount of Hall of Fame rookie card options. Although some will cost you an arm and a leg, there are still many that are much more affordable. The following guide looks at 20 of the most budget-friendly Hall of Fame rookie cards that were released in the 1970s.
To compile this list, several constraints were put in place. First, only official rookie cards from 1970-1979 products are included. Also, a budget card for the purposes of this list is defined as one that can regularly sell in a PSA or BVG/BGS 8 grade at $50 or lower. Many can be found in that grade for less and obviously lower grades and non-graded cards can be located for even cheaper. On the flip side, grades above that go up in price very quickly.
The cards are shown below in chronological order. Check out a complete look at all the Topps sets from the 1970s in our detailed product profiles. View some of the more expensive rookie cards from the 1970s here.
Top 1970s Budget NFL HOF Rookie Cards
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Before joining the Minnesota Supreme Court, Alan Page held his own court on the field. One of the greatest defensive lineman in NFL history, Page was a terror for opposing offenses in the 1970s. He totaled nine Pro Bowl selections with the Minnesota Vikings and his 1970 Topps rookie card features a distinct look because of the vivid purple and framed photo design.
While his career was split between the Houston Oilers and Washington Redskins, Ken Houston remained an elite safety throughout and was selected to the Pro Bowl 12 times. The bright red border of his 1971 Topps rookie tends to dominate the card and also makes for considerable condition issues. This is partly the reason why his rookie card is near the top of the list in terms of value.
Willie Lanier played in both the AFL and NFL for the Kansas City Chiefs, earning two AFL All-Star Game nods and six Pro Bowl selections. His 1971 Topps rookie goes with the red-blue combo border and yellow text.
More remembered for his time with the Washington Redskins, John Riggins started his Hall of Fame career with the New York Jets. Performing at a high level deep into his thirties, Riggins was an important part of the Redskins' 1982 title run and he was named the Super Bowl XVII MVP. His 1972 Topps rookie is slightly overshadowed by his killer haircut and mustache combo.
A celebrated NFL linebacker, Ted Hendricks was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection and won four Super Bowls during his career. His 1972 Topps rookie features the same layout as John Riggins, but with a pink border.
Gene Upshaw is known to many based on his time as the executive director of the NFPL, but he earned his Hall of Fame nod thanks to a successful career on the offensive line for the Oakland Raiders. Upshaw went to six Pro Bowls, one AFL All-Star game and won two Super Bowls with the Raiders. Also found in 1972 Topps, the Gene Upshaw rookie has a different feel than the previous two rookie cards due to the vertical layout and smaller team text.
Before a second career as an NFL coach, Art Shell was one of the top offensive tackles of the 1970s. Shell earned eight Pro Bowls trips with the Oakland/Los Angles Raiders and won three Super Bowls. His 1973 Topps rookie stands out due thanks to his huge grin.
Part of the perfect 1972 Miami Dolphins team, Jim Langer was one of the best centers of his era. He was a six-time Pro Bowl selection and won two titles with the Dolphins. Unlike Art Shell, Langer looks very unimpressed in his 1973 Topps rookie card.
Jack Youngblood spent his entire career with the Los Angeles Rams, totaling seven trips to the Pro Bowl and two NFC Defensive Player of the Year Awards. Renowned for his consistency and determination, Youngblood's sole rookie is found in 1973 Topps.
His last name might be a mouthful, but Joe DeLamielleure was even more difficult on the field for opposing defenders. His prime years were spent with the Buffalo Bills and he earned six Pro Bowl selections during his Hall of Fame career. The only representative from 1974 Topps, DeLamielleure's rookie showcases a design that evokes goal posts.
An important part of the Steelers defense during the 1970s, Mel Blount is considered one of the greatest cornerbacks in NFL history. The five-time Pro Bowl selection won four titles in Pittsburgh and was the 1975 Defensive Player of the Year. If Blount looks a little older in his 1975 Topps rookie, it is because he actually joined the league in 1970.
Although he could never reach the pinnacle of NFL success, the Super Bowl, Dan Fouts was one of the top quarterbacks of the 1980s and spent his entire career with the San Diego Chargers. Fouts went to six Pro Bowls and won the 1982 MVP Award. His 1975 Topps rookie is near the top end of the 1970s budget Hall of Fame options.
A fixture of the Dallas Cowboys' defense for many years, Randy White went to nine Pro Bowls and was the Co-MVP of Super Bowl XII. While it does not look bad, White's 1976 rookie feels a little cluttered by the large green football drawing.
Mike Haynes enjoyed an elite career with the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Raiders and is viewed as one of the top defensive backs in NFL history. The nine-time Pro Bowl selection won the 1976 Defensive Rookie of the Year Award and added a Super Bowl title with the Raiders. His 1977 rookie is also available in a virtually identical Topps Mexican release.
While he was sometimes undervalued playing alongside Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson was certainly a defensive force for the New York Giants. Carson went to nine Pro Bowls and won one Super Bowl with the team. Collectors can find his rookie in 1977 Topps.
One of the greatest receivers in NFL history, Steve Largent spent his entire Hall of Fame career with the Seattle Seahawks. The seven-time Pro Bowl selection is the top rookie draw in 1977 Topps.
A popular option for collectors, Tony Dorsett was a top running back for the Dallas Cowboys in the 1970s and 1980s. Dorsett totaled four Pro Bowls and eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in seven of his first eight seasons. His simple 1978 Topps rookie is the preferred card in the release.
A prolific receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers, John Stallworth won four Super Bowls and went to three Pro Bowls. The 1978 Topps John Stallworth rookie is one of the cheapest HOF options on the list.
Another top receiver in the 1970s and 1980s, James Lofton put forth a Hall of Fame career despite spending time with five different teams. Also like Stallworth, James Lofton's rookie in 1979 Topps is one of the most inexpensive choices of the group.
Earl Campbell was an accomplished running back throughout his career and is best remembered for his time with the Houston Oilers. The former Heisman Trohpy winner was a five-time Pro Bowl selection with the Oilers as well as the 1979 MVP. His 1979 rookie is a tad generic because of an abundance of white and the image chosen doesn't scream football player.