The 1970s wasn’t the best time to be a baseball card collector, as it’s decidedly less interesting compared to the eras that came before. That’s not to say that there aren’t some valuable options, but they pale in comparison to legendary sets from the ‘50s.
As such, early options are typically more coveted than cards released in the latter half of the decade, although there are some standout options that you should definitely be aware of.
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Here’s a list with five of the most valuable cards from the ‘70s, featuring some of the biggest names in baseball.
The Most Valuable Baseball Cards from the 1970s
The majority of ‘70s baseball cards are worth little in the grand scheme of things, as the decade suffered from less interest than those that came before, and after.
They’re far cheaper than options from the 1950s and the ‘60s, which is good news if you’re more interested in completing sets, rather than picking up the most valuable options on the market. We’ve listed the cards in chronological order to make it easier.
As we’re looking at the most valuable cards from the decade, graded options are the name of the game, and are highly recommended. You’ll also be able to avoid the many counterfeit cards on the market, which were rampant during the 1980s.
1970 Carl Yastrzemski Topps #10 (buy on eBay)
We’re starting off at the turn of the decade. Carl Yastrzemski spent his entire 23-year career with the Boston Red Sox, and was an 18-time All-Star from 1963-83. A truly legendary player, he’s the Red Sox’ all-time leader in career RBIs, runs, hits, singles, doubles, total bases, and games played.
Yastrzemski’s 1971 Topps is the first card to make the list, selling for a considerable amount when looking at higher grades. It features an image of the player with a bat primed in both hands, with a great blue sky background.
Gem mint versions sell for an average of $16,000, making them some of the most valuable cards from the ‘70s. One of the reasons is because of a thin grey border, where you’ll find his name and his position. It’s rare to find a copy that is still in good condition, as the corners are susceptible to chipping and general wear.
1971 Nolan Ryan Topps #513 (buy on eBay)
Next up is Nolan Ryan. Over a record 27-year career, Ryan pitched for the New York Mets, California Angels, Houston Astros, and Texas Rangers. He holds a number of MLB records, including his totals of 5,714 strikeouts and seven no-hitters. He might not be the greatest pitcher in history, but it’ll be hard for anyone to match his numbers.
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The card has a unique design, with an inserted picture of the pitcher mid-throw. There’s a copy of his signature at the bottom, and his team is listed in orange text at the top. It has a thick black border that makes it instantly recognizable and also leads to it’s increased value.
Mint versions have sold for five figures, and there’s a reason why it’s one of the more valuable sets from the decade. The black border makes it susceptible to chips and wears, with any minor flaw showing up instantly.
1971 Roberto Clemente Topps #630 (buy on eBay)
Roberto Clemente is a former right fielder who spent 18 seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was a 15-time All-Star and a two-time World Series winner, who passed away in 1972 after a plane crash while delivering aid in Nicaragua. He’s well-remembered for his humanitarian work, and he’s still an icon in the sport almost 50 years after his death.
Topps released the 1971 baseball card set with 752 baseball cards, which was a record at the time. Clemente’s version is one of the keys to the set, with a similar design to the Ryan option seen above. You’ll find a copy of his signature at the base of the card, and the image shows Clemente taking a swing.
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In fact, it looks like he’s about to smash the camera, so it’s a great shot. As with the card above, the black border makes it prone to wear and tear, to a point where it becomes difficult to find gem mint copies on the market.
1972 Roberto Clemente Topps #309 (buy on eBay)
The second Clemente card to make the list is from 1972. It’s slightly cheaper than the ‘71 edition when looking at gem mint versions, but it’ll still sell for a significant four-figure fee.
As the last release before he passed away, the ‘72 Topps is a special card. It has a posed shot of Clemente as he throws a ball up with one hand, holding it outstretched as he waits for it to fall. His Pirates logo is on full display, with a strong blue and orange design.
1972 Willie Mays Topps #49 (buy on eBay)
Willie Mays rounds out the list, thanks to an illustrious 22-season MLB career playing for the New York/San Francisco Giants, before finishing up with the New York Mets. You can easily make a case for him being the greatest center fielder that major League Baseball has ever seen.
His 1972 Topps is one of the better releases from the decade, featuring a posed shot of the player with a bat slung over his right shoulder. It pays special attention to his Giants team, with a unique border design that has a franchise logo at the top, and Mays’ name at the bottom.
The Most Valuable ‘70s Baseball Cards: Summary
The ‘71 Topps set has a range of valuable cards that are worth keeping an eye on, and there are a number of popular RCs which didn’t manage to make the list throughout the decade.
They might be few and far between, but there are decent options to be on the lookout for, as long as you stick to the players found above.
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Since there’s a distinct lack of parallels and special editions to keep an eye out for, condition and scarcity seem to be the most important factors when deciding on the overall value of many 1970’s cards.
The decision to go for darker backgrounds was a mistake in hindsight, but it has allowed for some separation between grades, so stick to the best version possible when you can if you’re hoping for a decent ROI.