13 Most Valuable 1972 Topps Football Cards
When I stop and think about the 1972 Topps football card set, a few things always instantly come to mind:
- great color and design
- lots of star power
- several Hall of Fame rookie cards
This set would mark the last time Topps printed a football card set in multiple series, adding a nice bit of hobby trivia to the mix.
For all these reasons, this is easily one of my personal favorite vintage football sets.
And in this guide, I'll run through the 13 most valuable.
Let's jump right in!
1972 Topps #200 Roger Staubach Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $10,500
For most of the 1971 season, the future NFL Hall of Famer battled neck-and-neck with Craig Morton for the Dallas Cowboys’ starting quarterback job.
Staubach eventually beat out Morton for the job, ultimately leading the Cowboys to victory over the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VI.
Entrenched as the team’s starter heading into 1972, Staubach suffered a separated right shoulder that derailed things in the team’s third preseason game.
By the time he was ready to return, the Cowboys were 7-2 with Morton as the starter so Staubach found himself back on the bench.
He never complained, though, and waited for the team to call on him.
And they did.
In the NFC Divisional round of the 1972 playoffs, coach Tom Landry brought Staubach in to replace Morton with the team down 15 in the fourth quarter to the San Francisco 49ers.
Staubach was electric, completing 12 of 20 pass attempts for 174 yards and two touchdowns, the biggest of those scores being a game-winning connection with Ron Sellers with 52 seconds remaining.
The Cowboys won 30-28.
They were ousted in the next round by a stacked Washington Redskins squad, but Staubach’s “Captain Comeback” performance against the 49ers locked him into the Cowboys’ starting role for seven legendary seasons to come.
Staubach's rookie card is one of the most iconic football cards in the entire hobby.
1972 Topps #150 Terry Bradshaw
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $1,300
It’s hard to believe that the Pittsburgh Steelers faced a decade-long postseason drought heading into the 1972 NFL season.
However, that was the case when Bradshaw suited up as the team’s
starting quarterback for his third NFL season.
Bradshaw was erratic and underwhelmed during the regular season, completing just 147 of 308 passes (a dismal 47.7% completion percentage) for 1,887 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions.
However, the team’s rushing attack and developing “Steel Curtain” defense led the team to an 11-3 record and its first AFC Central title.
Bradshaw would have his moment in the AFC Divisional round, completing the “Immaculate Reception” to Franco Harris to shock the Oakland Raiders, 13-7.
However, the Steelers were unable to get past the undefeated Miami Dolphins in the AFC Championship game.
Still, Bradshaw’s fabled connection with Harris was the lingering memory from an up-and-down, yet promising season.
1972 Topps #291 Steve Spurrier Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $700
After being drafted third by the San Francisco 49ers in the 1967 NFL/AFL Draft, the 1966 Heisman Trophy winner Steve Spurrier spent nine underwhelming seasons there before playing his tenth and final season in Tampa Bay.
However, he'd spend much of his time with the 49ers as the punter and backup to quarterback John Brodie.
In fact, in four separate seasons, Spurrier attempted no more than four passes.
Spurrier finally got a chance to shine during the 1972 season when Brodie missed extended time due to injury, going 6-2 with 18 touchdown passes, but eventually found himself at backup again.
Traded to the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers before the 1976 season, Spurrier worked himself into the starting quarterback role but unfortunately had to endure an 0-14 record, the first winless season in NFL history.
Although his professional football career may never have panned out the way he would've liked, Spurrier went on to find a tremendous amount of success in college football.
The winningest coach in the history of both the University of Florida and the University of South Carolina, "Head Ball Coach" is considered one of the best college coaches of all time.
1972 Topps #230 Joe Greene
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $675
By 1972, the Pittsburgh Steelers defensive line was beginning to solidify itself as the "Steel Curtain" as rookie defensive tackle Ernie Holmes joined Dwight White, L.C. Greenwood, and "Mean" Joe Greene in the trenches.
But, it was clearly Greene who terrorized opposing offensive lines the most throughout the season, tallying 11 sacks and 42 solo tackles, making him the top choice for the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Greene's leadership of the Steelers defense that year helped lead Pittsburgh to its first playoff appearance of the 1970s, a decade they would dominate with four Super Bowl championships along the way.
Many consider Greene to be the best all-around player of the 1970s and his four Super Bowl rings, ten Pro Bowls, eight All-Pro selections, and two Defensive Player of the Year Awards place him high on the list of the greatest defenders of all time.
1972 Topps #316 Rayfield Wright Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $650
In 1972, there's no doubt that the right tackle position was the most critical position for any team's offensive line.
Right tackles had to balance effective run blocking while functioning as the team's go-to guy against the opposing team's top pass rusher.
So, since many considered Dallas Cowboys' right tackle Rayfield Wright as arguably the best right tackle in the NFL in 1972, it comes with added weight.
Wright earned his second of three-straight first-team All-Pro selections and second of six consecutive Pro Bowl appearances in 1972, wrecking opposing pass rushers and run stoppers with controlled abandon.
With Wright anchoring their offensive line, the Cowboys finished in the top ten in rushing, passing, and total offense en route to an NFC Championship game appearance.
1972 Topps #351 Ken Willard All-Pro
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $600
The 1972 NFL season marked the beginning of the end of the four-time Pro Bowler's career, as Willard went from being the 49ers feature back to a member of a three-back committee with Vic Washington Larry Schreiber.
During the team's surge to the 1971 NFC West title, Willard shouldered the majority of the team's rushing load, as he had for six seasons before that.
However, he fumbled a career-high eight times and looked out of gas at points.
In 1972, the 49ers repeated as NFC West champions, but Willard's role was reduced to 100 carries for 345 yards and four touchdowns.
After an even more reduced role in 1973, he'd be out of the league after a one-year stint with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1974.
Willard was an exceptional back throughout his career, but there are arguably much better backs whose cards you won't find on this list, like O.J. Simpson, Gale Sayers, and Larry Csonka, to name a few.
So why is Willard's card so expensive?
Because it was the last card in the set checklist, kids who usually organized stacks of cards in numerical order had this one at the bottom where it was far more susceptible to damage.
Therefore, finding them in high grade (there are only fourteen PSA 9 examples of this card as of this writing) can be challenging and pricey.
Notice the players' helmets on this card: without the rights to use team logos, you gotta love the airbrush job Topps did.
1972 Topps #13 John Riggins Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $450
Selected sixth overall by the New York Jets in the 1971 NFL Draft, the former All American Kansas Jayhawks running back became an immediate star.
In his rookie campaign with the Jets in 1971, Riggins became the first player in franchise history to lead the team in both receiving yards and rushing yards.
He followed his fantastic rookie year with an even better showing in 1972.
Riggins helped the Jets set a franchise record with 333 rushing yards in a 41-13 annihilation of the New England Patriots on October 15, 1972.
He (168 yards) and teammate Emerson Boozer (150 yards) became the first running back tandem in team history to reach at least 150 rushing yards apiece in a single game.
Riggins’ season ended early due to a knee injury.
Despite missing the team’s last two games, he came up just four yards shy of Matt Snell’s franchise rushing record with 944 yards on the season.
He ended his brilliant sophomore campaign with seven rushing TDs and caught 21 balls for 230 yards and a score.
1972 Topps #93 Ted Hendricks Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $425
The towering 6-foot-7 Baltimore Colts outside linebacker entered the 1972 NFL season on the heels of his first All-Pro selection in 1971.
While he didn’t repeat with first-team honors in 1972, there’s an argument to be made that he should have.
The Colts may have underwhelmed en route to a 5-9 record, but Hendricks was a wrecking ball, recording a career-high 99 tackles while adding six sacks, seven pass deflections, two interceptions, and two blocked field goals.
It was arguably Hendricks’ most prolific season in terms of sheer numbers, but the team’s poor showing and a stacked league talent pool meant he’d have to settle for a second-team All-Pro selection.
1972 Topps #100 Joe Namath
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $400
The final Pro Bowl season of Broadway Joe’s storied NFL career, 1972 was a mixed bag for the New York Jets’ future Hall of Famer.
While the Jets finished just 7-7 and missed the playoffs, the veteran starting QB had a fantastic statistical season.
Namath led the NFL in passing yards (2,816), touchdown passes (19), yards gained per passing attempt (8.7), yards gained per pass completion (17.4), and passing yards per game (216.6).
With Namath at the helm, the Jets finished second in the league in total offense and first in passing offense, making him an easy selection as a second-team All-Pro for his efforts.
The defense couldn’t stop anybody and Namath did throw 21 interceptions, but the raw production was still quite impressive.
1972 Topps #343 Joe Namath Pro Action
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $400
Part of the elusive third series in this set, Namath's Pro Action card features the legendary quarterback lined up under center and ready to take the snap.
Any Namath card is highly desirable in top grade but the fact that the third series cards (#264 - 351) in the set are relatively more difficult to find than cards in the other two series gives this card some extra boost in value.
1972 Topps #248 Lance Alworth
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $400
Lance Alworth's professional football career got off to an interesting start after being selected eighth overall by the San Francisco 49ers in the 1962 NFL draft and ninth overall in the 1962 AFL draft by the Oakland Raiders.
However, he never played for either team.
Instead, he started his Hall of Fame career as a San Diego Charger after the Raiders traded their draft rights to the Chargers as part of a multi-player deal.
After a slow debut during the 1962 season in which he played just four games, scoring three touchdowns on ten receptions, Alworth ripped off seven straight AFL All-Star seasons, picking up the 1963 AFL Player of the Year award along the way.
Alworth spent the final two years of his career as a Dallas Cowboy where he caught two passes, one for the first touchdown of the game, in the Cowboys' 24-3 Super Bowl VI victory over the Miami Dolphins.
1972 Topps #1 AFC Rushing Leaders
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $375
Much like Ken Willard's card earlier on this list, the "AFC Rushing Leaders" card gets most of its value from its position in the checklist.
Again, kids used to organize their cards in stacks, often bound by rubber bands, so finding high grade examples of first or last cards in most vintage sets can be quite difficult.
And set builders looking to complete an entire checklist will pay much higher prices as a result.
1972 Topps #186 Gene Upshaw Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $350
Drafted 17th by the Oakland Raiders in the 1967 AFL Draft, “Uptown Gene” had his best season since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger in 1972, earning his first of six-straight NFL Pro Bowl appearances and the second of three consecutive second-team All-Pro selections.
The massive 27-year-old left guard was virtually impenetrable and a vital centerpiece of a Raiders offensive attack that finished seventh in the NFL in passing, third in rushing, and third overall in total offense.
While the Raiders would fall to the Steelers via the miraculous “Immaculate Reception” in the AFC Divisional round, Upshaw’s work as a dominant run blocker and talented pass protector turned heads around the league.
His ascent to NFL Hall of Fame status was just beginning, and 1972 was a catalyst for bigger and better things to come.
1972 Topps #20 Carl Eller
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $350
During the late 1960s and well into the 1970s, Hall of Fame defensive end Carl Eller lined up alongside Alan Page, Jim Marshall and Gary Larsen to form one of the most feared defensive lines in pro football history, the infamous "Purple People Eaters."
Known for his incredible power and speed off the ball, what made Eller particularly terrifying to opposing teams was the fact he rarely missed a game, sitting out only three times over his sixteen-year career.
A six-time Pro Bowler, seven-time All-Pro, and 1971 NFL Defensive Player, Eller helped lead the Vikings to the playoffs seemingly every year.
He'd pick up an NFL Championship in 1969 but disappointingly lost out on a Super Bowl ring after four tries in Super Bowls IV, VIII, IX, XI.
The Vikings haven't appeared in a Super Bowl since.
Nicknamed "Moose," the 6'6" North Carolina native is still the Minnesota Vikings all-time sacks leader with 130 to his credit.
1972 Topps Football Cards In Review
There is so much to love about this set in terms of design and content, making it highly desirable among football card collectors.
The group of nine different Hall of Fame rookie cards, headlined by Roger Staubach, is the most of any Topps set in the 1970s.
Action cards of multiple players add a nice touch of variety.
And there are so many stars and Hall of Famers packed within, leaving no shortage of star power.
Within the checklist, there were also several different subsets, including:
- Conference Leaders (#1 - 8)
- Playoffs (#133 - 139)
- All-Pro (#264 - 287)
- Pro Action / In Action (scattered throughout)
As you can see, if you're a fan of vintage football cards or a collector of Hall of Famers, there is plenty to keep you interested within this iconic set.