PSA Set Registry
Collecting the 1970 & 1971 Kellogg's® Football Card Sets
A Short-Lived 3D Gridiron Series
By Kevin Glew
Not even "Mean" Joe Greene could prevent the demise of the Kellogg's football sets.
The Pittsburgh Steelers legendary defensive tackle was the key rookie in Kellogg's 1971 football set, which was their second - and last - gridiron issue that decade.
Darrick Swigart, who owns high-grade 1970 and 1971 Kellogg's football sets on the PSA Set Registry, says the cereal manufacturer probably stopped releasing the cards because they weren't producing the desired spike in sales.
The 1970 and 1971 Kellogg's football cards closely resemble their baseball cousins. Measuring 2-1/4" by 3-1/2" each, the gridiron singles employ a 3D design. The 3D effect was generated by placing a color photo in front of a blurred background underneath ribbed plastic.
"When those came out, they were like the space age," explained Mick Cornett, who has assembled top condition 1970 and 1971 Kellogg's football sets on the PSA Set Registry. "They had just landed on the moon in 1969 and then here come these 3D cards. The cards just seemed so futuristic."
Some changes were made to the design of the card fronts between the 1970 and 1971 issues, but a posed player photo and facsimile autograph were common components of each year's singles.
"I still remember when these cards came out in 1970; I thought they were the greatest looking cards ever," noted Swigart.
The card backs share the player's full name, personal data (age, height, weight, etc.), statistics and extensive biographical information (college background, pro honors, etc.). The bottom flaunts the copyright information. Both series were produced by the Xograph company.
Cards were distributed one per box in a white, semi-transparent wrapper. Ads indicate that they were inserted into specially marked boxes of Corn Flakes and Raisin Bran.
These sets appeal to collectors for a number of reasons. Their focus on stars is a major draw (although Joe Namath and Bart Starr are notably absent), as is the fact that they are comprised of only 60 cards each.
"I think part of their appeal is the size of the sets," explained Cornett. "Another reason I think they're so popular is that they're so different [in design]."
Though some cards in the 1971 set can fetch respectable sums in high grade, the Kellogg's football cards generally remain inexpensive compared to their Topps contemporaries.
In part, this could be due to their esoteric nature. "They do kind have
an oddball status," commented Cornett. "For some people, that's appealing, but for others, that may not be the case. To me, it makes them appealing. I like the smaller oddball sets that are more manageable. If you just want to collect the sets in PSA [NM-MT] 8 or [MINT] 9, those cards are available and affordable."
But both sets can be challenging to assemble in gem-mint grade due to the tendency of the cards to curl and crack.
"I've bought an awful lot of cards, and you get them and then all of a sudden you put them into a holder and they crack," noted Swigart. "The cards curl very, very easily."
Ken Marks, who owns high grade 1970 and 1971 sets on the PSA Set Registry, agrees.
"A Topps card can have some flaws and still present itself pretty well, but a Kellogg's card can't when it starts cracking," he noted.
Swigart has even pulled cracked cards from original packages in recent years.
With all of this information in mind, let's take a more detailed look at the two sets:
The 1970 Set
Measuring 2-1/4" by 3-1/2" each, these cards have a simple, pure design. The white-bordered fronts present a player photo and a facsimile autograph with their full name in a blue helmet design.
The backs are horizontal and offer extensive player information, including personal data (age, height, weight, etc.), extensive biographical information (college background, pro honors, etc.) and the card number. There's also a large NFLPA logo and copyright information.
As noted earlier, these cards were distributed one per specially marked box of Corn Flakes and Raisin Bran during the football season. Collectors could also mail in $1.50, plus two 3D football stamps (that had to be cut off the boxes), to a Kellogg's address to receive the entire 60-card set.
As of today, 27 of the 60 players featured in the 1970 set have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"The array of stars is much more prevalent in the 1970 set compared to the 1971 set," said Marks.
The O.J. Simpson card (#48), which was produced in the same year as his Topps rookie, is one of the set's most noteworthy singles. Marks says this card is not difficult to find. Of the 514 submitted, there have been 64 PSA GEM-MT 10s, one of which sold for $129 on eBay in August 2018.
Other coveted star cards include Dick Butkus (#10), Bob Griese (#17), Gale Sayers (#51) and Johnny Unitas (#55). The Butkus card is particularly cumbersome to uncover in top grade. It's regularly hampered by poor top-to-bottom centering. Of the 548 submitted, there have been just 26 PSA 10s.
Hall of Famer Lance Alworth's card (#40) can also be elusive in pristine condition.
"The hardest card to get in [PSA] 10 is Lance Alworth's," said Cornett. "It's not that there were any less cards printed of him, but there were centering issues on the Alworth card for some reason."
Of the 291 submitted, there have been 23 PSA 10s, one of which garnered $253 on eBay in March 2018.
There are also some commons from this series that can be challenging to track down in flawless form. Both the Mike Garrett (#25) and Carl Garrett (#27) singles are often found with poor centering.
"If you're trying to get PSA 10s, don't underestimate the Garrett cards," said Cornett. "Mike and Carl Garrett's cards are really hard to find."
Marks says the Mike Garrett single (#25) is the harder of the two to uncover in top grade. Cornett adds that this card is regularly hampered by poor top-to-bottom centering. According to the PSA Population Report, the 12 PSA 10s are the lowest number of any card from the set. One PSA 10 commanded $464 on eBay in September 2018.
With just 16 PSA 10s out of 247 cards submitted, the Bobby Bell (#42) is also hard to obtain in top condition.
"The Bobby Bell card is really, really tough to find centered," said Swigart.
One PSA 10 garnered $285 on eBay in March 2017.
The 1971 Set
Measuring 2-1/4" by 3-1/2" each, these white-bordered cards present a player photo, facsimile autograph and the player's name in a red helmet rather than the blue helmet on the 1970 cards. These cards can be further distinguished from the 1970 singles by the blue frame (with white spots) surrounding the photos.
The backs are vertical and share extensive player information, including personal data (age, height, weight, etc.), extensive biographical information (college background, pro honors, etc.) and the card number. There's also a large NFLPA logo and copyright information.
As with the 1970 set, these cards were distributed one per specially marked box of Corn Flakes and Raisin Bran during the football season. Unlike the 1970 cards, however, there was no mail-in offer for a complete set. As a result, these cards are scarcer than their predecessors.
"In 1971, it was nearly impossible to put this set together," said Cornett, who was collecting them at the time. "There were no card stores. There was no mail order. And you only got one card in a box of cereal, so you'd have to buy probably a thousand boxes of cereal to come up with all of the different cards."
Interestingly, there are only five players - Dick Butkus, Bob Griese, Mel Renfro, Floyd Little and Johnny Unitas - in this set that also had cards in the 1970 offering. The number of Hall of Famers in this issue also dropped to 13 from 27 in the 1970 set, but it still showcases some key early cards of stars including the Joe Greene rookie (#15).
"The Joe Greene rookie is a very desirable card," said Swigart.
It was released in the same year as his Topps rookie. Of the 110 submitted, there have been just 12 PSA 10s. One PSA MINT 9 fetched $185 on eBay in July 2018. Cornett says PSA 10s don't sell very often, but he estimates that one would command between $500 and $1,000.
"They don't change hands very often," said Cornett. "Just think about how many fans the Pittsburgh Steelers have from that era - there were millions. So the 10 or 12 people that have that card [in PSA-graded form] are probably not going to sell it."
This set also harbors a Curley Culp card (#37) that was released two years before the Hall of Famer's Topps rookie.
"That card should be considered his rookie card," noted Swigart. "He didn't have a Topps issue until 1973 and here you've got a 1971 card. That card should be even more desirable because it really is his predecessor rookie card."
The Culp card is also elusive in top grade. It was the last card that Marks needed for his set. There are only four PSA 10s. A PSA 9 commanded $60 on eBay in April 2018.
Other notable Hall of Famer cards are Unitas (#28), Butkus (#39) and Griese (#55).
It's interesting to note that the set's first card features Tom Barrington. The New Orleans Saints running back is not highlighted in any other major card set and he didn't play during the 1971 season.
"That card is very difficult," noted Marks. "At one point, there weren't any PSA 10s out there."
Cornett recalls selling some of his doubles to Barrington's family about 15 years ago.
With just five PSA 10s and 20 PSA 9s, the Barrington card is the set's most elusive single in PSA 9 or better. One PSA 9 sold for $75 on eBay in April 2018.
Please feel free to contact Kevin Glew at [email protected] if you have any additional information or comments. Thank you to Mick Cornett, Darrick Swigart, Mile High Card Company and Ken Marks for providing images to go with this article. Please note the PSA Population Report statistics and Set Registry rankings quoted are as of July 2019.
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