1971 Topps Football CardsBrand: Topps Football
The 1971 Topps Football card set was the first to reflect the merger of the AFL and NFL with the newly aligned AFC/NFC conferences. The set consists of 263 total cards, each measuring the standard 2-1/2 by 3-1/2 inches. The set is laden with rookie cards of Hall of Fame players, most notably, Terry Bradshaw (#156) and "Mean" Joe Greene (#245). Joining these two legendary names are rookies, Charlie Sanders (#210), Roger Wehrli (#188), Willie Lanier (#114) and Ken Houston (#113). Notable veterans on the checklist include Johnny Unitas (#1), Dick Butkus (#25), Gale Sayers (#150), Bart Starr (#200), Joe Namath (#250), and O.J. Simpson (#260).
Most of the player images utilized on the front of the cards follow the standard helmet-less pose, which Topps used for the set since 1956. However, a few of the cards actually used game-action photography that was then airbrushed to remove logos and team names. Topps did not pay the requisite league licensing fee for use of such elements. The player's name runs along the top of the card. The lower left corner features a cartoon that pictures the player's position, with the position name below that, and the team beside it. In the lower right corner, the player's conference is named. The backs are vertically-oriented. A small box contains a card number, and a larger box has the player's position, team, name, and vital stats. To the right of that is a cartoon about the player. The rest of the card features a brief biography, along with a list of yearly statistics for most players. The 1971 Topps Football card set would be the very first time year-by-year statistics were used on the the backs of their football cards. There are three versions of the front design. AFC players have a solid red border, while NFC players use a solid blue border. Finally, the All-Pro players, noted as All-Stars on the cards themselves, are given a border that has both red and blue. 1970 would also mark the first year Topps identified All-Pro players in its set.
Printing and Distribution
The 1970 Topps Football card set was issued in two separate series. The second series checklist (card #106) was printed with each series. Printed on two printing sheets, cards from the first series are #'s 1-131 and the second series includes card #'s 132-263. The cards were distributed in wax packs, cellos and vending boxes. The traditional wax packs, costing 10c, came with eight cards, one game card, one poster and one stick of gum.
Inserts and Condition Issues
The aforementioned game cards, that were inserted at a rate of one per wax pack, were designed to play an actual football game on a table-top. Their are 53 total cards in the set. Of those, 52 are player cards and one card is used to mark field position and down. The game cards are just a bit smaller in size than traditional cards, measuring 2-1/4 by 3-1/4 inches and have rounded corners. The game board came in the form of the poster back, also inserted at a rate of one per wax pack. The flip side of the posters contain a four-color player image in the foreground against a two-color drawing of football game action scene. When unfolded, the posters measure 4-7/8 by 6-7/8 inches. There are 22 posters in the set.
The brightly colored, solid borders show wear easily and are difficult to find in top condition. Vintage dealers and veteran hobbyists claim that the 1971 Topps Football card set is the most difficult to assemble in high grade of all the Topps sets from the 1970's and 1980's. In addtion to corner wear, chipping and flaking, the cards often have roughly cut edges and poor centering. As a result, high grade cards command top dollar on the secondary market.