20 Most Valuable 1971 Topps Baseball Cards

Most Valuable 1971 Topps Baseball Cards

I'll never forget the first time I laid my hands on a small stack of 1971 Topps baseball cards...

When I was a kid, I would often visit my grandparents on their farm, and one weekend, I saw a pile of maybe 300 or so vintage cards that spanned across the 1970, 1971, and 1972 Topps sets sitting on a bookcase.

The cards had belonged to one of my uncles and my grandma had dug them out to show me since she knew how much I loved baseball cards.

Though there wasn't much to see in the small number of 1970 and 1972 Topps cards, there were a bunch of 1971 Topps, including two huge ones:

a Reggie Jackson and Tom Seaver.

I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw those two cards...

I had only seen names like that as I skimmed through old Beckett price guides but never had I seen them up close.

To this day, those two cards and the entire 1971 Topps set are some of my favorites.

And in this guide, I'll run through the twenty most valuable.

Let's jump right in!

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Ross Uitts

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1971 Topps #5 Thurman Munson

Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $4,000

Thurman Munson cards have always been quite popular in this hobby, but this one, in particular, is often a collector favorite.

While many of the cards in this set feature a simple player pose, Munson's card is chock-full of action as he tags a runner at home plate, while the horizontal design and "Topps All-Star Rookie" trophy help distinguish it even more.

After establishing himself as a star in the making during his American League Rookie of the Year campaign in 1970, Munson entered his sophomore season on a train of hype.

And though the young catcher's offensive production regressed a bit, his stellar backstop work made up for it.

Munson allowed just nine passed balls as the primary starting catcher for a Yankees pitching staff that posted a better-than-MLB-average 3.43 ERA.

He also caught 36 of 59 potential base-stealers for an impressive 61% success rate. All of this added up to Munson's first of seven All-Star appearances.

Though the Yankees stumbled to an 82-80 record, 21 games out of first in the AL East, Munson was a bright spot for a young core that paid dividends late in the decade. 

1971 Topps #5 Thurman Munson Baseball Card

1971 Topps #630 Roberto Clemente

Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $1,800

After spending the offseason in his native Puerto Rico managing the San Juan Senadores, Roberto Clemente returned to Pittsburgh determined and invigorated ahead of the 1971 MLB season.

The All-Star right fielder finished the season fifth in NL MVP voting, posting a robust .341/.370/.502 slash line with 13 home runs, 50 extra-base hits, and 86 RBI in 553 plate appearances (522 at-bats).

He also brought home his 11th-straight Gold Glove thanks to his usual outfield defensive mastery for the NL East champions.

But, Clemente was far from finished.

After hitting .333 with four RBI in the team's four-game NLCS victory over the San Francisco Giants, Clemente scaled his Hall-of-Fame legend to unassailable heights in the team's epic seven-game World Series victory over the Baltimore Orioles.

During the Fall Classic, Clemente was on fire at the plate, going 12 for 29 for a .414 clip while blasting two home runs, including his timely fourth-inning solo shot in Game 7 to open the scoring in the team's 2-1 triumph.

With this stunning performance, he added 1971 World Series MVP honors to his trophy case alongside his four batting titles and 1966 NL MVP award.

1971 Topps #630 Roberto Clemente Baseball Card

1971 Topps #100 Pete Rose

Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $1,750

During a decade in which they dominated MLB, the 1971 season was a frustrating outlier for the Cincinnati Reds.

After the Orioles dispatched them in five games in the 1970 World Series, 1971 looked like it would be their year.

Unfortunately, it wasn't to be. Thanks mostly to an unremarkable offense, the Reds scuffled to a 79-83 record, their only losing season during the 1970s.

Despite earning a handful of MVP votes and his fifth-straight All-Star nod, even the great Pete Rose posted a so-so 1971 season by his lofty standards.

With limited protection in a lineup full of holes, Rose posted his worst OPS in seven seasons (.793).

His .304/.373/.421 line in 709 plate appearances (632 at-bats) was hardly unimpressive, but it was a pronounced down year compared to most of his 24-year resume.

Rose's 44 extra-base hits and 44 RBI also marked his worst outputs since his spotty sophomore campaign in 1964.

The arrivals of Joe Morgan and Cesar Geronimo breathed life into the Big Red Machine the following offseason, though, and all the struggles of the 1971 campaign would be a distant memory before long.

1971 Topps #100 Pete Rose Baseball Card

1971 Topps #42 Boots Day

Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value (No Stadium Light Variation): $1,600

Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value (With Stadium Light Variation): $400

Boots Day spent six years in the Majors, playing the first two seasons in a limited role with the Cardinals and Cubs before landing with the Expos, where his playing time increased substantially.

The 1971 season would be his best, as he batted .283 with 4 home runs, 33 RBI, and 53 runs scored.

After the Expos acquired Willie Davis from the Dodgers in 1974, Day lost his center field job and eventually found himself in the Minors, where he would play until 1980.

What makes this card so valuable in high grade is that it can appear in two variations: one with the stadium lights visible next to his ear and one with the lights appearing faint and hardly visible.

The variation without the stadium light is one of the most challenging cards to find in high grade in the set with fewer than ten examples registered in PSA 8 holders, causing set builders to pay a heftier price tag than you might think.

Stadium Light Next To Left Ear

1971 Topps #42 Boots Day With Stadium Lights in Background Baseball Card

No Stadium Light

1971 Topps #42 Boots Day Without Stadium Lights in Background Baseball Card

1971 Topps #250 Johnny Bench

Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $1,500

One of the biggest reasons for the Cincinnati Reds' 1971 slump was Johnny Bench's struggles at the plate.

Playing injured for most of the season, Bench followed up his 1970 NL MVP campaign with an offensive performance to forget.

The future Hall-of-Famer's line of .238/.299/.423 with 27 home runs and 61 RBI in 613 plate appearances (562 at-bats) was well below his standards.

His .722 OPS for the 1971 campaign is 95 points worse than his career mark.

All of this wasn't for lack of effort.

He tried everything to get back to form, including tweaking his batting stance, replacing the grips on his bat, switching helmets, and coming up with new in-box rituals and techniques.

His work behind the plate was steady as always, but that wasn't enough for Bench.

"Going from MVP to MDP (Most Disappointing Player) was a crucial period for me, the closest thing to anything like an identity crisis kids my age had in college or thereabouts," Bench remarked later.

That identity crisis wouldn't last. 1972 would be yet another watershed year for the Reds backstop, culminating in his 2nd NL MVP award in three seasons.

1971 Topps #250 Johnny Bench Baseball Card

1971 Topps #513 Nolan Ryan

Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $1,500

Just under a year before one of the worst trades in New York Mets history, future Hall-of-Famer Nolan Ryan was happy as could be under Tom Seaver’s learning tree.

In 30 appearances (26 starts) for the Mets in 1971, Ryan finished 10-14 with a 3.97 ERA in 152 innings pitched.

His control remained in need of polishing, as he hit a career-worst 15 batters with pitches and walked a career-worst 6.9 batters per 9 innings.

However, he punched out 116 batters and credited Seaver for helping him to become less of a token hard thrower and more of a pitcher.

Ryan was undoubtedly showing signs of promise and would need only one more year for a true breakout season.

The following offseason, the Mets traded Ryan, outfielder Leroy Stanton, catcher Francisco Estrada, and fellow pitcher Don Rose to the California Angels for shortstop Jim Fregosi.

Ryan was taken aback by the trade and used it as fuel for his first All-Star season in 1972.

He later credited the perceived betrayal on the Mets’ part as a turning point in his career.

1971 Topps #513 Nolan Ryan Baseball Card

1971 Topps #536 Claude Raymond

Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $1,500

The 1971 season would be Claude Raymond's last in Major League Baseball for the reliever out of Quebec, Canada.

"Frenchy," as his teammates called him, finished his career with a 46-53 record, 3.66 ERA, 497 strikeouts, and 82 saves over 721 innings pitched with the White Sox, Braves, Colt .45s, and Expos.

His twelve-year career was highlighted by the 1966 season in which he made his only appearance in the All-Star Game as a member of the Houston Colt .45s.

Perhaps his most significant honor, though, was his induction into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984.

Raymond's card is one of the toughest in the set to find in PSA 8 condition, with fewer than fifty examples having achieved the grade as of this writing. 

1971 Topps #536 Claude Raymond Baseball Card

1971 Topps #600 Willie Mays

Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $1,500

Entering his first full season as the San Francisco Giants manager, Charlie Fox tabbed 40-year-old superstar Willie Mays as a player/coach to help instruct the team's young outfielders.

While Mays was fantastic in his mentoring role, he also added to that on-field legacy in 1971 by stunningly retooling his approach.

Although he went on an early-season tear and became the first MLB player to hit home runs in the first four games of a season, Mays knew he wasn't the same power hitter he used to be.

So, he decided to be more patient at the dish, and it paid off with NL-best marks in on-base percentage (.425) and walks (112), both career highs.

Mays finished the 1971 regular season with a .271/.425/.482 line, 18 home runs, and 61 RBI in 537 plate appearances (417 at-bats).

And on May 30th, he passed Stan Musial to become baseball's all-time leading run-scorer at 1,950.

The Giants fell in the NLCS to the Pirates, but Willie's legacy just grew and grew.

1971 Topps #600 Willie Mays Baseball Card

1971 Topps #20 Reggie Jackson

Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $1,400

The Oakland Athletics organization entered the 1971 MLB season in a 40-year title drought.

No World Series titles.

No division titles.

Nothing...

With the help of a young Reggie Jackson, things changed.

The 25-year-old right fielder bounced back from a down season in 1970 to secure his second of 14 All-Star Game selections.

In the heart of a revamped Athletics batting order, Jackson slashed .277/.352/.508 with 32 home runs and 80 RBI in 642 plate appearances (567 at-bats).

His patience at the plate, though, would forever be a work in progress.

Jackson struck out an MLB-worst 161 times in 1971, en route to becoming one of the game's most notable all-or-nothing hitters of all time.

When Jackson did make contact, he changed game after game for the A's, helping to lead them to a 101-61 record and an AL West division title.

It was the franchise's first title of any kind since capturing the 1931 American League pennant as the Philadelphia Athletics.

The Baltimore Orioles promptly swept the A's from the playoffs with a three-game American League Championship Series triumph.

But, bigger and better things were on the way for Oakland and the future Mr. October.

1971 Topps #20 Reggie Jackson Baseball Card

1971 Topps #634 Phil Regan

Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $1,200

Another tough card to find in high grade would be the #634 Phil Regan, a thirteen-year veteran who found much of his success on the mound coming in relief.

After six seasons with the Detroit Tigers, where he mainly pitched in their starting rotation, Regan grew frustrated and found himself traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers heading into the 1966 season.

With a star-packed rotation that featured Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Don Sutton, the Dodgers utilized Regan out of the bullpen, where he quickly grew a reputation for earning the win.

In fact, Regan was earning so many wins that Koufax nicknamed him "The Vulture."

The 1966 season turned out to be the best of Regan's career as he earned his only All-Star selection that year while finishing as the league leader in games finished (48) and saves (21) to go along with his 14-1 record and blistering 1.62 ERA.

Pitching for the Chicago Cubs in 1971, Regan went 5-5 with six saves, a 3.93 ERA, and 28 strikeouts in 73.1 innings pitched.

Regan would play one more year in the Majors before hanging it up after the 1972 season.

1971 Topps #634 Phil Regan Baseball Card

1971 Topps #400 Hank Aaron

Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $1,100

At 37 years old, "Hammerin' Hank Aaron" put together one of the best seasons of his legendary career in 1971.

Things kicked off in April when the Atlanta Braves' slugger hit his 600th home run off of fellow future Hall-of-Famer Gaylord Perry, joining Willie Mays and Babe Ruth as the only players in the 600-homer club at that point.

Aaron finished the season for the 82-80 Braves with a career-high 47 home runs, setting a new league record with his seventh season of 40 or more.

His masterful .327 batting average and 118 RBI raised plenty of eyebrows but perhaps most impressively, Aaron led the Majors in slugging percentage (.669), OPS (1.079), and OPS+ (194), all career bests.

Aaron simply produced, and he produced better in 1971 than in any of his 22 other years in the game.

For his efforts, Aaron earned his 17th-straight All-Star Game selection and a third-place finish in the National League's MVP voting.

1971 Topps #400 Hank Aaron Baseball Card

1971 Topps #709 Rookie Stars Outfielders

Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $850

While Dusty Baker and Don Baylor are the key names on this rookie card that the three players share, Tom Paciorek turned spent eighteen years in the league as a decent hitter and even made the All-Star Team in 1981 with the Mariners.

Of the three, Don Baylor was the best on the field as he collected 2,135 hits, knocked in 1,276 RBI, belted 338 home runs, and scored 1,236 runs during his 19-year career.

A one-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger, Baylor was also named MVP in 1979 when he led the league in runs scored (120) and RBI (139) to go along with his 36 home runs.

After retiring, Baylor later found success as an MLB manager leading the Colorado Rockies for six seasons and the Chicago Cubs for three, while being named Manager of the Year in 1995.

And while Dusty Baker was no slouch on the field as a player, noted by his two All-Star selections, two Silver Sluggers, one Gold Glove, and a 1981 World Series ring, he later found even more success as a manager.

The three-time NL Manager of the Year (1993, 1997, 2000) is one of only six managers to have reached the playoffs ten times and the only manager to have led five different teams to the postseason.

As the current manager of the Houston Astros, time will tell if he can eventually grab a World Series title as a manager.

This card is also a short print, adding to its scarcity in high grade.

1971 Topps #709 Dusty Baker and Don Baylor Rookie Card

1971 Topps #635 Bobby Murcer

Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $800

Bobby Murcer played 17 seasons in MLB from 1965 to 1983, spending the bulk of his time in New York Yankees pinstripes.

Like his boyhood idol, Mickey Mantle, Murcer was born in Oklahoma and was originally scouted and signed by Tom Greenwade, the same Yankees scout who had signed Mantle years before.

Murcer was one of the greatest players of the 1970s, appearing in five All-Star Games, winning one Gold Glove, and finishing in the top ten for MVP voting three times during the decade.

During the 1971 season, Murcer turned in one of his best campaigns as he hit 25 home runs, drove in 94 RBI, and scored another 94 runs himself.

He also established career-highs in batting average (.333) and slugging percentage (.543), with his career-highs in OBP (.427), OPS (.969), and OPS+ (181) being tops in the league.

While his card is tough to find in PSA 8 condition, the fact that he was one of the most popular Yankees of his era also gives the card a boost in value.

1971 Topps #635 Bobby Murcer Baseball Card

1971 Topps #26 Bert Blyleven Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $750

In 1970, Minnesota Twins righty Bert Blyleven headed into the offseason after his rookie campaign as a two-pitch pitcher.

He entered 1971 with three, and that was one too many for opposing hitters.

The future Hall-of-Famer added an off-speed pitch to his fastball and game-changing curveball, prompting pitching coach Marv Grissom's compliment that he was the "most coachable pitcher" Grissom had ever coached.

Blyleven finished with a misleading 16-15 record, with most of his losses due to uncharacteristically bad run support by an otherwise competent Twins attack.

While the rest of Minnesota's pitching staff flailed en route to the second-worst earned run average in the American League (3.81), Blyleven was a diamond in the rough with a 2.81 ERA, good enough for the fifth-best mark in the American League.

He also finished first in the AL with a 3.80 strikeouts-to-walk ratio and fourth in strikeouts (224).

The Twins finished in fifth place in the AL West with a dismal 74-86 record, but Blyleven was undoubtedly a bright spot in an otherwise gray year in the Twin Cities.

1971 Topps #26 Bert Blyleven Rookie Card

1971 Topps #117 Ted Simmons Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $700

Over a career spanning 21 years with three different teams, switch-hitting Hall of Famer Ted Simmons established himself as one of the greatest hitting catchers in MLB history.

Simmons hit for .300 or better in seven different seasons and finished with a career .285 batting average to go along with 2,472 hits.

His power wasn't quite on the same level as Johnny Bench, but Simmons still impressively hit 20 or more home runs in six different seasons, ultimately finishing his career with 248.

He was no slouch with the glove, either, noted by his .986 career fielding average to go along with his impressive 122 shutouts.

On August 14, 1971, Simmons was on duty behind the plate helping the legendary fireballer, Bob Gibson, throw the first no-hitter of his career as the Cardinals destroyed the Pirates 11-0 that day.

Originally eligible for the Hall of Fame in 1994, Simmons fell off the ballot after receiving less than 5% of the vote but was fortunately later elected in December 2019 via the Veterans Committee.

Since his induction into the Hall of Fame in 2021, the eight-time All-Star's rookie card has seen a significant uptick in value.

1971 Topps #117 Ted Simmons Rookie Card

1971 Topps #160 Tom Seaver

Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $700

In retrospect, you can make a case that Tom Seaver was robbed in 1971.

The New York Mets right-hander put together arguably the most dominant season of his Hall-of-Fame career, finishing with a 20-10 record and pacing the Majors with a career-best 1.76 ERA.

He also led the Majors in WHIP (0.946), strikeouts per 9 innings pitched (9.1), ERA+ (194), and FIP (1.93).

Add in a career-best 283 strikeouts to pace the National League, a sterling 10.2 WAR, and complete games in 21 of his 35 starts, and you have a recipe for a National League Cy Young Award.

Alas, it wasn't meant to be.

Chicago Cubs right-hander (and pitching Ironman) Ferguson Jenkins took home 17 first-place votes to Seaver's six, winning the award in large part thanks to his MLB-best win (24) and complete game totals (30).

The Mets and Cubs finished with identical 83-79 records in 1971,14 games behind the NL East champion Philadelphia Phillies.

Jenkins received the nod, all things being equal, and Seaver's electric 1971 campaign goes down as one of the best second-place seasons in Cy Young voting history.

1971 Topps #160 Tom Seaver Baseball Card

1971 Topps #300 Brooks Robinson

Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $650

Brooks Robinson was the storyline coming out of the 1970 World Series after dominating with his bat and his glove at third base to earn Series MVP honors in the Orioles’ five-game victory over the Reds.

The AL East champion Orioles may have fallen one game short of back-to-back titles in 1971, but Robinson was still doing his part.

At age 34, Robinson had another fantastic all-around year for the O’s as he batted .272 with 20 home runs and 92 RBI in 663 plate appearances (589 at-bats).

His steady bat and all-world defense earned him his 12th-straight Gold Glove, 12th-straight All-Star appearance, and a fourth-place finish in the American League’s MVP balloting.

His success carried over to the ALCS, going 4 for 11 (.364) with a home run and a double in the team’s three-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics.

And in Game 2 of the 1971 World Series, Robinson reached base five times in Baltimore’s convincing 11-3 win over the Pirates.

Up two games to none with that win, the Orioles looked like they were on the verge of repeating as champs, but Pittsburgh rallied to come back and win it all.

1971 Topps #300 Brooks Robinson Baseball Card

1971 Topps #564 Al Fitzmorris

Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $650

Initially signed by the Chicago White Sox in 1966, Al Fitzmorris didn't make his MLB debut until the 1969 season after the Kansas City Royals took him with the 40th pick of the 1968 Draft.

Fitzmorris played eight seasons with the Royals before finishing the final two years of his career with the Cleveland Indians and California Angels.

Upon retiring, Fitzmorris had logged a 77-59 record with a 3.65 ERA and 458 strikeouts in 1,277 innings pitched.

Midway through his career, the Royals turned Fitzmorris into an everyday starter, with his best season coming in 1975 when he started all 35 games in which he pitched, finishing with a 16-12 record.

Fewer than fifty examples of this card have been given a PSA 8 grade, making it one of the most difficult to find in this condition.

1971 Topps #564 Al Fitzmorris Baseball Card

1971 Topps #525 Ernie Banks

Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $600

In 1969, Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks earned his final All-Star Game appearance and finished 12th in the National League's MVP voting.

If it ended there, it would have been a befitting ending for one of the game's most lovable and durable players.

It didn't, though, and things got a bit tough. In 1970, Cubs manager Leo Durocher relegated Banks to a backup role for the first time in "Mr. Cub's" career.

And in 1971, at the age of 40, his role was reduced even further as knee problems that plagued him his entire career started to zap his athleticism.

Banks played in just 39 games, batting .193 with three home runs and six RBI in 92 plate appearances (83 at-bats).

He hit his 512th and final home run on August 24th against Cincinnati's Jim McGlothin, tying him for eighth (at the time) on the all-time list with Eddie Mathews.

He officially retired on December 1st, 1971, and remained a coach with the team until 1973.

The Hall-of-Famer still holds the MLB record for most games played without a postseason appearance (2,538).

1971 Topps #525 Ernie Banks Baseball Card

1971 Topps #384 Rollie Fingers

Estimated PSA 8 NM-MT Value: $550

In 1971, the young core of the Athletics took center stage and gave the City of Oakland its first taste of postseason baseball.

24-year-old righty Rollie Fingers was a big part of that, but not in the role he assumed he'd have.

After splitting time between the starting rotation and bullpen in 1970, Fingers opened the 1971 campaign in the rotation for new manager Dick Williams.

Fingers started eight games in the first month-and-a-half, going just 1-3 despite flashes of nasty stuff.

Williams saw what Fingers was capable of but figured he'd be better suited in a different role so after his last start on May 15th, Fingers was slotted in as the team's closer.

Fingers took to the bullpen like a fish to water, saving 17 of 20 opportunities for the fourth-best saves total in the American League.

He finished with a 4-6 record, 2.99 ERA, and just 94 hits allowed in 129.1 innings pitched.

His 0.959 WHIP was the second-best mark of his Hall-of-Fame career.

The A's bowed out of the postseason quickly, but they had found their closer for the next 15 years.

1971 Topps #384 Rollie Fingers Baseball Card

1971 Topps Baseball Cards In Review

Though their black borders present a challenge when it comes to condition, the 1971 baseball card set is one of the most recognizable of the era.

Within the 752-card checklist, there are several key rookie cards to chase along with many Hall of Famers and stars, offering collectors plenty to enjoy.

Along with multi-player rookie cards, team cards, and checklists, there were also several different subsets, including:

  • League Leaders (#61 - 72)
  • Playoff Highlights (#195 - 202)
  • World Series Highlights (#327 - 332)

One note about those black borders: always be aware that doctoring has been an issue with these cards for years.

Many of them have been found touched up with black marker to try and conceal edge and/or corner wear to the unsuspecting buyer.

So, if you're in the market, you may want to consider buying them only if they've been professionally graded.

Ross Uitts
 

Ross is the founder of Old Sports Cards and has been collecting sports cards for over 30 years. He also loves to write about the hobby and has written for Beckett, Topps, SABR and of course, this website. Need help buying or selling cards or have a general question about the hobby? Contact him at [email protected]

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