It's easy to understand the appeal of a set that boasts the rookies of, arguably, the two greatest quarterbacks of all-time.
The 1984 Topps Football set, thanks in large part to the cardboard debuts of Dan Marino and John Elway, is as relevant and coveted today as it was when it was initially released.
"Dan Marino and John Elway, that's a hard foundation to beat," said Mike Moore, owner of the No. 9, 1984 Topps Football set on the PSA Set Registry.
Of course Moore is right but, as he also points out, this issue offers more than just the inaugural singles of these legendary signal callers. Also included are the rookies of Hall of Famers Howie Long, Eric Dickerson, Jackie Slater and Dwight Stephenson and the first cards of Canton-bound gridironers like Russ Grimm, Darrell Green and Roger Craig.
"I always collect Hall of Fame football rookies and this set is just loaded with Hall of Famers and future Hall of Famers," noted Moore.
Joe Squires, who owns the No. 6 registry set, agrees, adding that notable NFLers Morten Andersen and Curt Warner also premiered in this set. On top of the impressive rookie roster, this set also showcases pasteboards of legends like Terry Bradshaw, Dan Fouts, Joe Montana, Marcus Allen, Tony Dorsett and Lawrence Taylor.
Released in wax packs, rack packs, cellos and vending boxes, this 396-card set was one of Topps' most highly anticipated releases.
"Elway and Marino came out of college with stars swirling around their head already, so people were collecting them," said Squires. "Even when I was collecting them (raw '84 Topps cards as a kid), I knew who the stars were."
On top of this set's outstanding player selection, PSA Set Registry enthusiasts have also been drawn to this issue for nostalgic reasons.
"Those were the last cards I bought as a kid in actual packs and put together (a set). I always liked those cards. I like the design of them. I like the color of them," said Jim Hunter, who owns the registry's No. 3 and No. 7 sets.
Squires also collects for sentimental reasons.
"The '84 is nostalgic because I'm 37 years old. There's a 7-Eleven near my grandmother's house that I used to go to when I was seven or eight and buy football cards. Then, in 1981, we had a house fire and I lost them all. I started buying again and '84 was the first year I started buying with, so I love this set," he said.
Moore also grew attached to this set during his childhood. His dad bought 11, 1984 Topps Football wax boxes for $4 each at a card show when Moore was 10.
"We opened '84 Topps Football all afternoon and it was awesome. I had 20 Dan Marino cards," he recalled.
Hobbyists agree that the Marino (#123) is not difficult to find in high-grade. Of the 14,303 submitted, there have been 177 PSA 10s and 1,987 PSA 9s. Still a Marino PSA 10 is likely to command $1,200.
High-grade Elways (#63) are also readily available. There have been 12,396 of the Bronco legend's cards sent into PSA; 60 of them have been deemed PSA 10s and 1,159 have been tabbed as PSA 9s. PSA 10 Elway rookies sell for around $1,800 each.
"I think Elway might be a little tougher in (PSA) 10 (than Marino), but there's still like 50 (the actual number is 60) of them," said Moore.
Stephenson (#129) might be the most difficult Hall of Fame rookie to uncover in flawless condition. Of the 165 sent in, there have been just two PSA 10s. Hunter says that at one point, PSA 9 Stephensons were selling in the $125 to $200 range. Moore adds that the first PSA 10 copy sold for $2,500 a few months ago. More recently, a PSA 10 example fetched $545 in an eBay auction in October.
"I've had a couple of those . . . they had stains on them. I had a couple of them that had printing errors on them. They're tough to get centered," said Hunter.
Though not his rookie, the Walter Payton (#228) regular issue card is also elusive in pristine condition. Of the 167 Paytons graded, there are just two PSA 10s and 33 PSA 9s.
"If you're getting into (a population of) two or three (PSA) 10s of a card, it's pretty rare at that point," said Squires.
"The Walter Payton . . . that one was awfully hard to come by for awhile. There weren't any (PSA) 10s out there. Last fall, a PSA 10 sold for around $600," he said.
A number of condition issues plague the Payton.
"That Payton is a dog to get centered. It always seems like that one is smeared or something is wrong with the print on that card," said Hunter.
There are also a number of low population commons from this issue. For example, only two cards of Joe DeLamielleure (#51) have been submitted to PSA, and just three examples have been graded of Nesby Glasgow (#14), Matt Bahr (#48), Barney Chavous (#62), Mike Kenn (#216) and Mike Richardson (#230).
Overall, poor centering seems to be one of the condition issues that hampers the 1984 Topps Football cards.
"You get a lot of centering problems on these," said Hunter.
"With older Topps cards, the centering is inconsistant," he said.
Another common flaw is print defects.
"What I find mostly is snow," said Squires, adding that he often sees "white dots" on these cards.
These condition issues make competition for high-grade examples of 1984 Topps Football cards fierce. Moore has noticed that more people are collecting these cards in recent months.
"It just seems to be a really popular set," he said.
And with its unparalleled player selection - headed by arguably the two greatest quarterbacks of all-time - this set is bound to be coveted by more hobbyists in the future. The fact that many collectors consider it to be the best football set of the modern era also bodes well for it.
"It would definitely be the No. 1 set of the '80s for me," said Hunter.
Please feel free to contact Kevin Glew at [email protected] if you have any additional information or comments. 4 Sharp Corners provided pictures for this article. Please note that the Population Report figures quoted are those as of press time.
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