Vintage Spotlight: The Best Rookie And Star Cards From 1973 Topps
The 1970s were a transformative decade in US history, and that extended to the baseball diamond.
1973 was no different. Skyrocketing gas prices. Runaway inflation. I know, it’s hard to imagine! The Paris Peace Accords ended the US’s involvement in the Vietnam War. Secretariat won horseracing’s Triple Crown, and Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs took part in the famous “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match. The Oakland A’s dynasty of the era won their 2nd of three straight World Series.
Topps produced some classic sets in the 1970s, with some amazing rookie cards. Less modern production and quality assurance processes, plus the ravages of time have made some of these cards challenging and valuable in top condition.
In this series, we’ll look at the top cards for each set, including key rookie cards and other valuable cards, with info on their PSA populations and recent values. Come hop in the way back machine and relive the glory that was 1970’s Topps baseball.
We’ll look today at the 1973 Topps baseball cards.
1973 Topps baseball cards – The basics
The 1973 Topps set features 660 cards released in five series of 132 cards. This marks the final year that Topps released its flagship set in series.
In addition, 24 “Team Checklist” cards were randomly inserted into Series 5 packs. These checklists are unnumbered and not considered part of the regular set.
1973 Topps packs contained 10 cards and a stick of gum and retailed for 10 cents. The cards were also available in cello, rack pack, and vending box formats. The cards are printed on thinner stock than 1972 Topps, making them more easily damaged. They also suffer from centering issues.
The 1973 Topps set is the first to regularly feature action shots on the majority of the cards.
PSA has graded 204,279 1973 Topps cards, of which 3,258 were graded PSA 10 (1.6%).
1973 Topps – The design
1973 Topps offers up a classic vintage Topps design. A player photo ringed in black is surrounded by a white border that contains the player name, team, position, and a small silhouette of a player on a colored background. The silhouette matches the pictured player’s position.
The card back features players’ stats in a yellow square on a black background, player bio info in white text on the black background, and a “comic” usually related to the pictured player.
Subsets include Rookies, League Leaders, World Series, All Time Leaders, and Kid Pictures. Yes, Kid Pictures, which feature little league photos of stars of the day.
Topps 1973 baseball cards – Key rookies
The Topps 1973 baseball card set features the rookie card of two Hall of Famers. Phillies legend Mike Schmidt appears on card #615, “1973 Rookie Third Basemen.” Between Schmidt’s status as one of the greatest third basemen ever and the card being in the final and scarcer series, it’s a recipe for a classic and valuable card. Interestingly, the card is NOT Cey’s rookie card, as he appeared in the 1972 Topps set.
Closer Rich “Goose” Gossage appears on card #174 in the set. One of the “fireman” closers of the ’70s and early ’80s, Gossage is one of only eight relievers in the Hall of Fame.
There are several other rookie cards of players who could someday join Schmidt and Gossage in the Hall of Fame.
One such rookie card of note is Rick Reuschel, card #482. Reuschel accumulated 69.5 WAR in his career and is getting new attention as a possible Hall of Fame candidate, and his card value is already starting to reflect this newfound attention.
Dwight Evans, who appears on card #614 “1973 Rookie Outfielders” is another player who has long had his Hall of Fame advocates.
If longevity is your thing, both Charlie Hough (25 seasons) and Bob Boone (19 seasons…as a catcher!) have their rookie cards in the set as well.
|Card||Total PSA Pop||Recent Sale Pop||Recent Sale Price|
|1973 Topps Rookie Third Basemen #615||9,042||PSA 8 = 1,536||$900-1,400|
|1973 Topps Rich Gossage #174||2,453||PSA 8 = 769||$150-175|
|1973 Topps Rick Reuschel #482||273||PSA 8 = 125||$50|
|1973 Topps Rookie Outfielders #614||1,123||PSA 8 = 369||$175-225|
|1973 Topps Rookie Pitchers #610||304||PSA 8 = 158||$40-50|
|1973 Topps Rookie Catchers #613||798||PSA 8 = 354||$50-60|
1973 Topps Baseball cards – Other key parts of the set
1973 Topps is a bit of a transitional set, with the final card of Roberto Clemente (who passed away on New Year’s Eve 1972 in a tragic plane crash) and Willie Mays (never stops being weird seeing him in a Mets uniform).
Centering issues plague the issue, making cards such as card #1 (All-Time Home Run Leaders), #230 (Joe Morgan), and #245 (Carl Yastrzemski) among others especially hard to find well centered.
|Cards||Total PSA Pop||Recent Sale Pop||Recent Sale Price|
|1973 Topps All Time HR Leaders #1||1,949||PSA 8 = 395||$500|
|1973 Topps Roberto Clemente #50||6,057||PSA 8 = 1,480||$450|
|1973 Topps Hank Aaron #100||4,177||PSA 8 = 979||$275-400|
|1973 Topps Nolan Ryan #220||4,735||PSA 8 = 847||$600-750|
|1973 Topps Joe Morgan #230||835||PSA 8 = 237||$150|
|1973 Topps Carl Yastrzemski #245||1,279||PSA 8 = 353||$100-200|
|1973 Topps Willie Mays #305||3,243||PSA 8 = 799||$325-400|
The final word on 1973 Topps
1973 Topps baseball cards are 49 years old, a fact that is likely shocking to long-time collectors. It represents a time in the history of Topps cards that was very much of their 70’s monopoly. Centering issues and thin stock, plus almost 50 years of wear and tear, can make finding high-grade copies a challenge.
That being said, whether you’re a mid-grade set builder, a collector of rookie cards, or just someone who appreciates cards of some of the all-time legends of the game from their playing days, there’s a place for Topps 1973 baseball cards to your collection.
Other 1970s Topps baseball sets
Check out our other features on Topps baseball sets from the 1970s.