17 Most Valuable 1972 Topps Baseball Cards

Most Valuable 1972 Topps Baseball Cards

What has always stood out to me about 1972 Topps baseball cards is how effectively their design speaks to the time period.

Just look at those groovy colors and funky team names...

This set screams 1970s, plain and simple.

Some collectors enjoy the design and some don't, but despite the mixed opinions on the look and feel of the cards, there's no debate that Topps packed a lot into this set.

Scan through the extensive 787-card checklist and you'll find plenty of stars, Hall of Famers, and several subsets to keep things interesting.

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

Let's jump right in!

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1972 Topps #79 Carlton Fisk Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $1,800

Although he hit .313 with two home runs in 14 games after a September call-up in 1971, 24-year-old rookie Carlton Fisk was the Boston Red Sox’s third-string catcher heading into 1972.

That didn’t last long.

The Red Sox lost starter Duane Josephson to injury in the third game of the season.

Rather than handing the duties to backup Bob Montgomery, Boston manager Eddie Kasko turned to Fisk.

He didn’t disappoint.

Fisk stormed out of the gates, living up to his billing as the 4th overall pick in the 1967 MLB January Draft.

On July 12th, his slugging percentage sat at an eye-popping .629, and the heads of the baseball world collectively turned to watch him.

“Fisk is rapidly gaining the reputation of being the Johnny Bench of the American League,” sportswriter Larry Claflin wrote.

The pride of Charlestown, New Hampshire finished the season with a .293/.370/.538 slash line, 22 home runs, and 61 RBI.

His nine triples led the Majors.

On the year, Fisk earned his first Gold Glove and All-Star selection, won the AL Rookie of the Year award unanimously and finished fourth in the league’s MVP voting.

1972 Topps #79 Carlton Fisk Rookie Card

1972 Topps #299 Hank Aaron

Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $1,800

A season removed from his career's most impressive statistical campaign, Hank Aaron entered the 1972 MLB season improbably at the top of his game at 37 years old.

And while he logged his lowest total of plate appearances since his rookie season (545), Hammerin' Hank backed up his MVP-caliber 1971 performance with another solid showcase.

While the Atlanta Braves floundered to a 70-84 record, Aaron was still a force to be reckoned with, batting .265 with 34 home runs and 77 RBI.

A deeper statistical look into Aaron's work at the plate showed a marginal decline, with his 44 extra-base hits qualifying as the fewest of his two-decade career to that point.

However, a slightly down year for Aaron would be a dream season for many others.

Aaron earned his 18th-straight All-Star selection in 1972 and finished 16th in the National League's MVP balloting.

One of Aaron's most memorable moments, though, occurred on a single day in the dog days of summer.

On August 6th, in front of 29,149 fans in Cincinnati, Aaron homered off Reds pitcher Don Gullett in the tenth inning to give Atlanta the lead for good in a 4-3 win.

It was #649 for Aaron, pushing him ahead of Willie Mays for second on baseball's all-time home run list.

1972 Topps #299 Hank Aaron Baseball Card

1972 Topps #595 Nolan Ryan

Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $1,800

25-year-old right-hander Nolan Ryan felt betrayed by the New York Mets after being traded to the California Angels before the 1972 season.

Rather than letting it zap his confidence, he used the slight as motivation.

Ryan embraced a vigorous weight-training regimen to increase the zip on his fastballs.

It worked.

In his first year with the Angels, Ryan posted the second-best ERA of his 27-year career (2.28).

He led the Majors in shutouts (9), strikeouts (329), hits per 9 innings (5.3), and strikeouts per 9 innings (10.4).

Yet, while Ryan’s stuff was electric, there were kinks still to work out.

He led baseball with a whopping 18 wild pitches and 157 walks.

Also, his run support was virtually nonexistent.

The Angels finished dead last in the Majors in runs scored (454), and Ryan lost six times when giving up two runs or fewer.

“I feel like I have to pitch a shutout every night or lose,” Ryan said.

1972 Topps #595 Nolan Ryan Baseball Card

1972 Topps #49 Willie Mays

Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $1,200

Less than two months away from his 41st birthday, Willie Mays struggled mightily to start the 1972 season in San Francisco, hitting just .184 in the first 19 games.

His relationship with the team was in bad shape, as well.

Mays had requested a ten-year contract before the season, hoping to retire a Giant and serve the organization in an off-field capacity.

However, the Giants were struggling financially and Mays had to settle for a two-year, $330,000 deal.

Tensions boiled over, culminating in Mays leaving the stadium before a scheduled April 30th doubleheader after an argument with manager Charlie Fox.

Less than a week later, the Giants traded Mays to the New York Mets for pitcher Charlie Williams and a rumored cash amount of $100,000.

Fifteen years had passed since the Giants had left the Big Apple for the West Coast, but Mays was still beloved in New York.

Mays was a hit in his Mets debut against the Giants on May 14th, homering in the fifth inning to put New York ahead to stay.

Between San Francisco and New York, Mays played in 88 games in 1972, slashing .250/.400/.402 with eight home runs and 22 RBI in 244 at-bats.

Out of reverence for his impact on the game, Mays was selected for his 19th-straight All-Star Game.

1972 Topps #49 Willie Mays Baseball Card

1972 Topps #309 Roberto Clemente

Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $1,200

Roberto Clemente entered the 1972 season 118 hits short of the 3,000-hit plateau, but intestinal problems and tendon strains in both heels made crossing the mark questionable.

However, Clemente found his rhythm late in the season and entered a September 30 home game against the New York Mets just one hit short.

In the fourth inning, he ended the suspense, doubling off of Jon Matlack to notch his 3000th and final regular-season hit.

He was taken out for pinch hitter Bill Mazeroski the next inning.

Clemente hit .235 with a home run and two RBI in the Pirates’ five-game NLCS loss to the Cincinnati Reds, his final five games in an MLB uniform.

He ended his last regular season batting .312 with ten home runs and 60 RBI in 413 plate appearances (378 at-bats).

He was selected to his 12th All-Star Game, finished 13th in the National League’s MVP balloting, and captured his 12th-straight Gold Glove to end his career.

Sadly, during the offseason on December 31, 1972, Clemente was killed in a plane crash after he and several others were attempting to fly to Nicaragua to deliver aid to earthquake victims.

1972 Topps #309 Roberto Clemente Baseball Card

1972 Topps #300 Hank Aaron In Action

Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $1,100

Aaron belted a career-high 47 home runs during the 1971 season, so it's nice to think that this photo captured him rounding the bases after one of them.

While his base card is much more expensive, his "In Action" card can also be quite pricey in mint condition.

1972 Topps #300 Hank Aaron In Action Baseball Card

1972 Topps #29 Bill Bonham (Green Letter Variation)

Estimated Green Letter Variation PSA 9 Mint Value: $1,000

Estimated Yellow Letter Variation PSA 9 Mint Value: $25

Bill Bonham made his major league debut for the Chicago Cubs in 1971, and the 22-year-old finished the season with a 2-1 record in 60 innings pitched.

He would spend the first seven years of his ten-year career with the Cubs but only managed a winning record twice.

During his final three years in MLB with the Cincinnati Reds, Bonham faired better and had a winning season each year.

His 1972 Topps card appears in two variations: one with the underside of the 'C' and 'S' in the Cubs team name shaded correctly in yellow and the other where they're colored in green.

There are just eight examples of the green letter variation that have earned PSA 9 status, making it one of the rarest cards in the set in that grade.

Three other Cubs players had both the green and yellow letter variations, cards #18 (Juan Pizarro), #45 (Glenn Beckert), and #117 (Cleo James), with Pizarro's being the next-toughest to find in mint condition with just thirteen examples in PSA 9 holders.

Green Under 'C' and 'S'

1972 Topps #29 Bill Bonham Green Under C and S Baseball Card

Yellow Under 'C' and 'S'

1972 Topps #29 Bill Bonham Yellow Under C and S Baseball Card

1972 Topps #178 Paul Schaal In Action

Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $1,000

Paul Schaal had a career year on offense in 1971 as the Royals' everyday third basemen, just in time to be included in the 1972 Topps "In Action" subset.

Schaal set career marks on offense in nearly every statistical category, including his 150 hits, 31 doubles, 6 triples, 80 runs scored, 11 home runs, 63 RBI, 7 stolen bases, and .412 slugging percentage.

They weren't All-Star numbers but not bad, nonetheless.

But, things weren't as positive on the defensive side of the ball as he led the American League in errors committed at third base with 28, and his .940 fielding percentage was well behind Rico Petrocelli's AL-leading .976.

So, this card featuring Schaal ready at the hot corner is just another example of the many "In Action" cards not necessarily lining up with what a particular player was known for the previous season.

Of all the "In Action" cards, Schaal's is the toughest to locate in high grade, with just fourteen PSA 9 examples on record.

1972 Topps #178 Paul Schaal In Action Baseball Card

1972 Topps #582 Expos Team

Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $1,000

Since 2005, they've been known as the Washington Nationals, but in 1969, the team initially debuted as the Montreal Expos.

The Expos suffered ten-straight losing seasons until finishing second in the NL East on the 1979 season with an impressive 95-65 record, missing the pennant by two games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates.

By then, they had guys like Andre Dawson, Gary Carter, and Tony Perez to help.

But, in 1971, the team didn't have nearly the amount of firepower and finished 71-90 and 25.5 games out of first place.

Sometimes a team card will make a list like this because of a significant milestone or performance in a particular year.

However, that's not the case with the Expos team card, as this card gets its value for being rare in high grade, with only seventeen examples appearing in PSA 9 holders as of this writing.

1972 Topps #582 Expos Team Baseball Card

1972 Topps #655 Jerry Grote

Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $1,000

Jerry Grote spent sixteen seasons in the Majors behind home plate for four different ball clubs.

He is most remembered, though, for spending the majority of his career (twelve seasons) with the New York Mets, where he made two All-Star appearances and helped lead them to the 1969 World Series title.

Grote played in just 64 games during the 1972 season because of injuries and eventually required surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow.

Only twelve examples of his 1972 Topps card have earned PSA 9 status, making this one of the toughest base cards of any player in the set to find in top shape.

1972 Topps #655 Jerry Grote Baseball Card

1972 Topps #150 Willie Mays In Action

Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $900

Mays set a career-high for on-base percentage with a .425 OBP during the 1971 season, his twentieth in MLB.

His 112 walks were also the most in his career and a big reason his OBP was so impressive.

Both marks paced the league.

Given how often he appeared on the base paths that year, the imagery used on his "In Action" card is one of the more relevant action sequences captured on any of the cards in the subset.

1972 Topps #50 Willie Mays In Action Baseball Card

1972 Topps #559 Pete Rose

Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $900

Never one to shy away from controversy, all-time hit king Pete Rose took aim at Oakland Athletics ace Catfish Hunter before Game 5 of the 1972 World Series.

With the A's leading three games to one, the Cincinnati Reds legend riled up the press by insisting that Hunter wasn't as great as others made him out to be.

He backed up his trash talk with a lead-off home run off Hunter to open up the contest.

To make matters even more interesting, Rose's RBI single off ace Oakland closer Rollie Fingers proved the difference in a 5-4 Cincinnati win.

The Reds forced a decisive seventh game.

But, it was Hunter and the Athletics who had the last laugh.

As for the regular season, Rose led the Majors in plate appearances (731), at-bats (645), and hits (198).

He finished the year with a .307/.382/.417 line, six home runs, and 57 RBI.

Rose was not selected as an All-Star in 1972, breaking a five-year streak of appearances.

However, he did finish 12th in the National League's MVP balloting.

1972 Topps #559 Pete Rose Baseball Card

1972 Topps #433 Johnny Bench

Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $800

After a disappointing 1971 season for himself and the entire Cincinnati Reds franchise, future Hall-of-Fame catcher Johnny Bench had a new lease on life in 1972.

It helped that the Reds acquired fellow Hall-of-Famer Joe Morgan and other key pieces before the season, bolstering the lineup and giving Bench some needed protection.

He responded with his second National League MVP season in three years.

In 653 plate appearances (538 at-bats), Bench hit .270 with an MLB-best 40 home runs and 125 RBI.

To top it off, he led all of baseball in sacrifice flies (12) and intentional walks (23).

Bench's production at the plate was otherworldly.

But, it was yet another Gold Glove season behind the dish that served as the real key for the Reds' run to a 95-59 record and an NL West title.

In the fifth-and-deciding game of the National League Championship Series against the Pirates, Bench led off the bottom of the ninth inning with a game-tying home run off of Dave Guisti.

And after Hal McRae scored the winning run after a wild pitch later in the inning, it was off to the World Series for Cincinnati and the league MVP.

1972 Topps #433 Johnny Bench Baseball Card

1972 Topps #435 Reggie Jackson

Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $800

If you compare this card to Jackson's 1971 Topps issue, you'll notice that he showed up to Spring Training in 1972 with a mustache.

Apparently, A's owner Charlie Finley loved Jackson's new look so much that he offered a few hundred bucks to each player on the team who grew one as well.

Who knows? Maybe the mustaches brought them extra luck that season and ultimately helped them beat the Reds in the World Series.

And maybe it helped bring more discipline to Jackson's swing.

After leading the AL in strikeouts the previous four years in a row, Reggie Jackson let someone else have a turn in 1972 as Bobby Darwin's 145 whiffs were well above Jackson's 125.

Jackson continued to produce at the plate all season long, earning his third trip to the All-Star Game, helping to lead Oakland to another AL West Division title and a World Series showdown against Cincinnati after defeating the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS.

Unfortunately, Jackson suffered a torn hamstring when he stole home to tie Game 5 of the ALCS and couldn't play in the World Series at all.

1972 Topps #435 Reggie Jackson Baseball Card

1972 Topps #445 Tom Seaver

Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $800

The New York Mets' organization was shaken in 1972 when manager Gil Hodges died of a sudden heart attack on April 2, 1972, following a round of golf with members of the Mets' coaching staff.

Future Hall-of-Fame pitcher Tom Seaver was close with Hodges, and the skipper's passing hit him hard.

Shortly after, he paid tribute to Hodges with an eloquent address to teammates, coaches, and the media.

"Gil is here inside each man, and he will be here all season," Seaver said. "The man made a terrific impact on this ballclub."

Under new manager Yogi Berra, Seaver continued his career arc of nearly unparalleled mound dominance.

He started 35 games in 1972, finishing 21-12 with a 2.92 ERA.

Seaver finished first in the National League in strikeouts per 9 innings (8.6), second in strikeouts (249), third in strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.234), and seventh in pitching WAR (5.2), among other top-ten finishes.

The Mets missed the playoffs at 83-73 yet, Seaver's individual performance earned him an All-Star, a fifth-place finish in NL Cy Young voting, and a 25th-place finish in NL MVP balloting.

1972 Topps #445 Tom Seaver Baseball Card

1972 Topps #170 Vida Blue In Action

Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $750

Vida Blue's AL Cy Young-winning season in 1971 was brilliant, so it would've been nice to see a better action picture of him on this "In Action" card.

His performance in 1971 also led to a bitter contract standoff between his representation and Oakland Athletics owner Charlie Finley.

His attorney, Bob Gerst, opened talks with Finley, but neither side budged, and the holdout lasted into spring training.

Blue and Gerst even held a televised press conference on March 15th to announce Blue's intention to leave baseball to work at the Dura Steel Products Company.

Finley responded by placing him on the team's restricted list, taking him out of action for at least 30 days to start the season.

The saga ended in late April when Commissioner Bowie Kuhn set up a meeting between Blue, Gerst, and Finley, with both sides agreeing to a $62,000 contract.

Out of playing shape, Blue didn't make his first appearance until May 24th.

He finished the 1972 season with a disappointing 6-10 record but did post an impressive 2.80 ERA and 1.093 WHIP in 25 appearances (23 starts).

And he helped Oakland end the year with a World Series ring, so all's well that ends well.

1972 Topps #170 Vida Blue In Action Baseball Card

1972 Topps #695 Rod Carew

Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $750

After back-to-back division titles in 1969 and 1970, the Minnesota Twins began a frustrating sixteen-season playoff drought.

For half of that drought (1971-1978), they had one of the most strikingly consistent hitters in baseball history around to make things feel a little better.

Rod Carew hit .305 or better for fifteen straight seasons from 1969-1983, and in 1972, he slashed .318/.369/.379 with no home runs and 51 RBI.

His .318 batting average earned him his second American League batting title (1969).

Even more impressively, it marked the first of four straight batting titles for the Panama native.

He'd end up winning seven American League batting crowns to finish his time in the Twin Cities.

Carew was primarily a singles hitter in 1972, although he hit 21 doubles and six triples during the campaign.

Yet, his table-setting in 1972 was more than enough to earn him his sixth-straight All-Star selection to start his career and a 14th-place finish in the American League's MVP balloting.

The Twins finished a mediocre 71-71, but Carew was anything but.

1972 Topps #695 Rod Carew Baseball Card

1972 Topps Baseball Cards In Review

With its huge 787-card checklist, the 1972 Topps set was the largest baseball card set Topps had produced to that point.

However, Topps reduced the number of series from seven to six for this set, with the last series (#657 - 787) being the priciest to collect in high grade.

The 1972 Red Sox Rookie Stars card featuring Carlton Fisk, Cecil Cooper, and Mike Garman is the clear front-runner in terms of rookie cards, but the Ron Cey rookie is also a good one to grab.

There's no shortage of stars and Hall of Famers in this set, and many of them appear multiple times on both base cards and subset cards.

Speaking of subsets, this set had several, including:

  • League Leaders (#85 - 96)
  • Playoff Highlights (#221 - 222)
  • World Series Highlights (#223 - 230)
  • Boyhood Photos (#341 - 348; #491 - 498)
  • Traded Cards (#751 - 757)
  • In Action (Scattered throughout the set)

While the hobby may have mixed opinions on the aesthetic appeal of this set, there's no doubting that it contains a lot of star power and great value overall.

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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