#513 Nolan Ryan is a key card in the 1971 Topps baseball set.
#513 Nolan Ryan is a key card in the 1971 Topps baseball set.

Think Nixon, Ford and Carter. No, not the baseball players, but the Presidents of the United States. These were the men of their times, and the time was the 1970s. War and political scandal and social protest dominated the news, proving that H.G. Wells was right in saying, "Every era is the same." The 1970s were years of magic, though, as baseball (and other sports) brought us thrills, chills and indelible memories.

In 1970 Topps produced its largest baseball set in history (at the time), with 720 cards in a 2½" by 3½" format. In addition to the color photo of the player(s) there was a well-executed and easy-to-read reverse with statistics and biographical information. Key issues include the #712 Nolan Ryan.

Other 1970 Topps productions were the Topps Candy Lids, Topps Posters, Topps Cloth Stickers, Topps Story Booklets, 1970-71 Topps Scratch-Offs and the 42-card Topps Super.

The 1971 Topps baseball set swelled to 752 cards in a 2½" by 3½" format. The obverse features a color photo to contrast with a black-and-white snapshot on the reverse. Valuable rarities include #513 Nolan Ryan and a short-print rookie card #709 with Dusty Baker, Don Baylor and Tom Paciorek in triple splendor. Additional 1971 baseball issues were the Topps Coins, Topps Greatest Moments, Topps Super and Topps Tattoos.

The year 1972 was another record-breaker for Topps, with 787 different baseball cards in the familiar 2½" by 3½" format. Cecil Cooper and Carlton Fisk appear on the same rookie card #79 (along with Mike Garman) and #595 Nolan Ryan is once again the key. What else could you buy in '72? Topps Cloth Stickers and Topps Posters, the latter featuring Willie Mays, Pete Rose, Hank Aaron and Carl Yastrzemski among other major stars of the day.

There were "only" 660 cards in the 1973 Topps baseball set. The cards remained the same 2½" by 3½" but the reverses were returned to the vertical format for the first time since 1968. The Rookie Third Basemen #615 includes Ron Cey, John Hilton and some fellow with promise named Mike Schmidt. Other 1973 issues are the Topps Candy Lids, Topps Comics, Topps Pin-Ups, Topps Team Checklists and Topps 1953 Reprints. The Reprints were a comedy of errors, with three of the eight cards having the wrong player picture. For example, the Al Rosen card shows a picture of Jim Fridley.

The 1974 set was issued all at once rather than in a series. This led to multitudinous errors, including 15 San Diego Padres cards listed as Washington NL (a proposed move that never happened). These cards were 2½" by 3½" with color photos. Dave Winfield, Mike Schmidt and Nolan Ryan are among the most valuable issues in this 660-card set.

There were many other 1974 collectible issues from Topps, including Topps Traded, Topps Action Emblem Cloth Stickers, Topps Deckle Edge, Topps Puzzles, Topps Stamps and Topps Team Checklists.

Next time: Topps cards and related baseball items of 1975-79.

Card #709 in 1971 Topps baseball was short-printed, making it a valuable rarity.
Card #709 in 1971 Topps baseball was short-printed, making it a valuable rarity.

Bruce Amspacher has been a professional writer since the 1950s and a professional numismatist since the 1960s. He won the OIPA sportswriting award in 1958 and again in 1959, then spent eight years in college studying American Literature. This background somehow led him to become a professional numismatist in 1968. Since then he has published hundreds of articles on rare coins in dozens of publications as well as publishing his own newsletter, the “Bruce Amspacher Investment Report,” for more than a decade. His areas of expertise include Liberty Seated dollars, Morgan and Peace dollars, United States gold coins, sports trivia, Western history, modern literature and the poetry of Emily Dickinson. In 1986 he was a co-founder of the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS).