Two legendary defenders are the backbone of the 1982 Topps Football set.
Lawrence Taylor (#434) and Ronnie Lott (#486) not only make their cardboard debuts in this offering, but Topps also featured them on "In Action" cards.
"The Taylor and Lott are big rookie cards," said Roger Rumsey, co-owner of 4 Sharp Corners in Walpole, Massachusetts. "They are two of the best to ever play their positions. So you have two all-time greats anchoring the set."
Perennial Pro Bowl lineman Anthony Munoz is the third Hall of Famer with a rookie (#51) in this unheralded, 528-card issue.
The fronts of the regular player cards are similar to those in the 1981 Topps Football set. However, the 1982 cards were licensed by NFL Properties, which enabled Topps to showcase team logos again after a lengthy hiatus. A helmet bearing the team logo is located on the bottom-left corner above the team name, while the player's name and position can be found in a wavy pennant to the right.
Â "I really like the design of the 1982 set," said Rumsey. "I guess I'm partial to it because it's the first one I collected as a kid, but I also like the bright white card stock, which is a little bit different than a lot of other years where they used an off-white stock. It gives the card a clean look."
The regular player card backs are horizontal and present blue text on a yellow background. The card number is indicated in a helmet design on the top left, alongside the player's name and position. Biographical information and year-by-year statistics ensue and a team record is documented on the right side of the card. The player's vitals (e.g., Height, Weight, College, etc.) are highlighted along the bottom. All-Pro players from 1981 are designated as such in a white bar at the top of the photo.
The cards are in alphabetical order by team city within each conference (starting with the AFC then the NFC). Each team segment begins with a Team Leader card, followed by the player cards in alphabetical order by the player's last name.[
The 1982 set also houses several subsets, including record breakers (#1 to #6), playoff cards (#7 to #9) and league leaders (#257 to #262). It also introduced a new "Brothers" subset that shines the spotlight on siblings playing in the NFL (#263 to #270). The most prominent brothers featured are Walter and Eddie Payton (#269).
In 1981, "Action" cards returned to a Topps Football series for the first time since 1972. In the 1981 offering these were deemed "Super Action" singles. These cards were brought back in the 1982 set as "In Action" cards.
Four checklist cards (#525 to #528) close out the 1982 Topps Football set, which was the last of the company's 10 consecutive 528-card, pigskin sets. The 1983 set was reduced to 396 cards.
The 1982 Topps cards were distributed in 15-card/30-cent wax packs. Cards were also available in 28-card cello packs that sold for 49 cents, 36-card grocery rack packs, 51-card regular rack packs and 500-card vending boxes.
"This is the one [early-to-mid-1980s Topps Football] set that you'll still find a wax case of on occasion," said Kevin Roberson, who owns the No. 1, 1982 Topps Football set on the PSA Set Registry. "You can go on eBay and you can find 1982 wax pretty easily, and the boxes aren't expensive. They're selling for about $200 a piece."
Jeremy Murphy, owner of Brave Puppy Sports Cards in Lake Mary, Florida, says he generally has his best luck pulling high-grade cards from rack packs, but 1982 Topps rack packs are becoming harder to find.
"I see a ton of wax boxes and cello boxes for 1982, but I think that, like a lot of sets from this era, the rack packs - at least the boxes and cases - are drying up," he said.
But when collectors are able to track down these 1982 Topps boxes today, they are, of course, hoping to pull a Taylor, Lott or Munoz rookie.
With just 2.5% of submissions being PSA GEM-MT 10s, the Lott (#486) is the toughest Hall of Famer rookie in this series to track down in pristine condition. A review of one of the 1982 print sheets reveals that the Lott card is the first card on the left in the third row, an edge-sheet position that generally makes cards vulnerable to condition flaws.
"The Lott card has a lot more print defects on it than the Taylor rookie," noted Rumsey.
The print problems are often found in the helmet area on the bottom-left corner of the card fronts.
"There's a very noticeable print line that runs down through that area," explained Rumsey. "It's on almost every card."
In recent months, PSA 10 Lott rookies have been selling for about $300 more than similarly graded Taylor rookies. Roberson points out that the primary reason for this is that there are fewer PSA 10 Lott cards (46) than Taylor rookies (72). One PSA 10 Lott sold for $849.99 on eBay in August 2014.
With this said, the Taylor rookie can also be challenging to find in flawless form. Just 2.8% of submissions have received the vaunted PSA 10 grade. Like the Lott rookie, the Taylor is also located on the left-edge of a sheet (11th row), so it's not surprising that this card is often plagued by poor left-to-right centering. One PSA 10 Taylor sold for $537.75 in a Huggins & Scott auction in December 2014.
The Munoz single (#51) is the easiest of the Hall of Famer rookies to uncover in top condition. Of the 776 evaluated, 27 (or 3.5%) are PSA 10s, one of which garnered $399.99 on eBay in November 2014.
Other notable rookies in this set include Cris Collinsworth (#44), Freeman McNeil (#176), James Brooks (#226), Drew Hill (#379), George Rogers (#410), Neil Lomax (#471), Stump Mitchell (#472) and James Wilder (#507).
"You have a lot of name recognition with these rookies," pointed out Murphy. "If you watched any football in the 1980s, then you recognize these guys and you were fans of them even though they may not be Hall of Fame-worthy."
This set also houses the second-year cards of Hall of Famers Kellen Winslow (#241), Dan Hampton (#297), Joe Montana (#488) and Art Monk (#515). Not surprisingly, the Montana commands the most interest. "Joe Cool" is also highlighted on an "In Action" card (#489) and the Passing Leaders card (#257) in this issue.
Montana is pictured talking on the phone on the sidelines on his regular card (#488). Of the 2,385 evaluated, there have been 116 PSA 10s. Roberson points out that you can generally purchase a PSA 10 Montana for $200 to $250.
"You would think that a second-year Montana would pull a much higher price," he said. "It's one of the rare instances where you have second-year card of one of the all-time greats that's not that expensive, especially when you consider that Montana's rookie in PSA 10 is selling for over $10,000."
Roberson points out that the "In Action" Montana card (#489) is much more elusive in high grade. There are just 22 PSA 10s and it's selling in the same price range as his regular card. A PSA 10 sold for $202.50 on eBay in April 2014.
This set also features cards of a number of other Hall of Famers, including Ozzie Newsome (#67), John Hannah (#150), Ray Guy (#188), Art Shell (#198), Mel Blount (#203), Terry Bradshaw (#204), Jack Ham (#210), Franco Harris (#211), Jack Lambert (#213), John Stallworth (#219), Dan Fouts (#230), Steve Largent (#249), Walter Payton (#302), Tony Dorsett (#311), Randy White (#331), James Lofton (#364) and John Riggins (#520).
Payton is featured on four official cards - with his brother, Eddie (#269), Chicago Bears Team Leaders (#292), his regular issue (#302) and In Action single (#303) - but if you look closely, you'll also see him in the background on the Matt Suhey single (#305). One of the 65 PSA 10 examples of Payton's regular card commanded $182.75 on eBay in September 2014.
There are three cards in this set - Bert Jones (#16), Rolf Benirschke (#224) and the St. Louis Cardinals Team Leaders (#462) - that have yet to register a PSA 10.
The most difficult card, however, is the St. Louis Cardinals Team Leaders single (#462). Just two examples have registered as high as PSA MINT 9. Most examples are hampered by poor top-to-bottom and left-to-right centering. One of these two PSA 9s fetched $98.99 on eBay in September 2013.
Poor centering, print defects and stains are the most common condition issues with cards from this set.
"There are some centering issues and the bright white borders do show chipping a little bit, especially on the bottom," said Rumsey.
But in general, it's not a tough set to put together in high grade.
"If you're looking to collect a football set from this era, this would be a great starter set because you can put it together for a reasonable price," said Roberson.
"If you're looking for a good build at a reasonable price and with some unopened material still available out there, the 1982 and 1983 Topps Football sets are great picks," he said. "They're fun sets. They've got some great rookies and a lot of players you'll remember."
Rumsey shares similar observations. He thinks this set will become more popular in the future.
"I don't think this set has hit its stride yet," he said. "I think there's enough of an anchor with the two big rookies and the second-year Montana to get more people collecting it [in the future]."