20 Most Valuable 1973 Topps Baseball Cards
The 1973 Topps baseball card set scaled things back from the company's previous release in a couple of ways.
First, they trimmed 127 cards from the set to settle on a checklist comprised of 660 cards, making it their smallest baseball card set from the 1970s.
Second, they drastically toned down the design format...
In contrast to their 1972 set release that featured bright, vivid design features that screamed "1970s", this set is much more conservative in its appearance.
And, that design leaves many collectors with mixed feelings about it.
Many like the more straightforward appearance but others think Topps may have gone too far in cooling things down.
But whether you love or hate them, this set did pack a lot of star power and rookie cards.
And in this guide, I'll run through the 20 most valuable.
Let's jump right in!
1973 Topps #615 Mike Schmidt Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $10,000
After a cup of coffee with the big club in 1972, future Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt entered his rookie year with the Philadelphia Phillies penciled in as an everyday player.
However, Schmidt soon showed he wasn't ready for the Philly limelight as his aggressive approach in the batter's box cost him more often than not, leading to strikeouts in over 37% of his at-bats.
He hit just .196 for the 71-win Phillies, ending his maiden MLB campaign in a disheartening 0-for-26 slump.
Philadelphia general manager Paul Owens and scouting director Dallas Green approached manager Danny Ozark multiple times about sending Schmidt back down to the minors.
However, Ozark was adamant that Schmidt take his lumps and learn his craft at the MLB level.
As a result, the 1973 MLB season wasn't all bad for the 23-year-old former first-round pick as he did show his raw power potential throughout the year, hitting a home run every 20 at-bats or so.
And following the season's conclusion, Schmidt made his second trip to Puerto Rico and received valuable advice about his swing from Phillies coach Bobby Wine.
Wine urged the slugging wunderkind not to swing so hard, letting his form and instincts take over.
The following season, a retooled Schmidt made a gigantic leap from disappointing top prospect to legit MVP candidate.
1973 Topps #1 All Time Home Run Leaders
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $3,000
There's really not much that needs to be said about this card.
With three of the biggest icons in the history of the sport shown on one card, what's not to love?
Entering the 1973 season, Babe Ruth stood atop the all-time home run leaders list with 714 while both Hank Aaron and Willie Mays weren't too far behind with 673 and 654, respectively.
A 42-year old Willie Mays hit six home runs and retired after the 1973 season with 660.
And a 39-year old Hank Aaron proceeded to smash another 40 long balls to finish the season just one shy of Ruth's record with 713.
During a home game on April 8, 1974, early the following season against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Aaron sent one of Al Downing's pitches over the outfield wall to break the record with home run 715 in front of 53,775 fans and countless more on television.
1973 Topps #220 Nolan Ryan
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $2,500
Nolan Ryan's 1973 season was a six-month-long exercise in extremes. And it was the cause of a surge of "Ryanitis" cases across the American League.
At the peak of both his on-mound dominance and wildness, the California Angels ace often faced opposing bench players making one-day cameos at the top of the depth chart.
Many top players refused to face him for fear of getting drilled or embarrassed by Ryan's roller-coaster fastball.
"Ryanitis" was a real affliction.
And it swept over the AL in an unprecedented barrage of walks and strikeouts.
As his Angels teammates struggled to string base hits together, Ryan felt like every start was shutout-or-bust.
With that approach, Ryan walked a hitter every two innings to lead the Majors in total walks with 162 free passes.
And in the last game of the regular season, Ryan pitched eleven innings and notched his 383rd strikeout in his final frame, breaking Sandy Koufax's 1965 single-season record of 382 Ks at the very last moment.
It was, undoubtedly, one of the most entertaining seasons for a pitcher in history.
Ultimately, Ryan finished second to Baltimore Orioles ace Jim Palmer in the American League's Cy Young balloting.
1973 Topps #100 Hank Aaron
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $1,600
It is nearly impossible to try and sum up how significant Hank Aaron's 1973 season was.
The statistical particulars of Hammerin' Hank's 1973 campaign come up secondary to the story, but man, were they impressive.
Aaron posted massive OPS (1.045) and slugging percentage (.643) totals, both good for the second-best marks of his 23-year career.
He hit 40 home runs pushing forty years of age, making it the eighth and final time he'd hit that slugging plateau.
Aaron had entered the season 41 shy of Babe Ruth's tally of 714 career home runs leaving him one short of tying Ruth.
He might very well have matched or eclipsed Ruth's mark in 1973 if not for a loss of eight games in 1973 due to a work stoppage.
Such awful luck added months of fuel to a divisive firestorm already centered on Aaron's chase.
He received thousands of letters a week, some heaping praise upon him and some lobbing grotesque slurs and even death threats.
To Aaron's eternal credit, the aging superstar held his ground and kept composure in the public eye.
One swing shy of immortality, history was coming for Hank Aaron the following season and the baseball world would be better for it.
1973 Topps #50 Roberto Clemente
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $1,500
On December 23, 1972, a massive earthquake struck the city of Managua, Nicaragua, leaving residents in desperate need of aid and assistance.
On December 31, 1972, Roberto Clemente boarded a small plane loaded with relief packages as he set out to deliver the assistance directly himself.
Sadly, the plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean immediately after takeoff, killing Clemente and the rest of the people on board.
To honor Clemente, the Pittsburgh Pirates retired his number 21 the following season while Major League Baseball renamed the annual Commissioner's Award to the Roberto Clemente Award.
The award honors the player who "best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team."
Over his 18-year Hall of Fame career, Clemente finished with 3,000 hits, four batting titles, one MVP, one World Series MVP, eight Gold Gloves and fifteen All-Star appearances.
Clemente was one of the most gifted baseball players ever to play the game and his cards will forever remain among the most desirable in the hobby.
1973 Topps #305 Willie Mays
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $1,500
Battling through numerous injuries and reckoning with a body well past its athletic prime, Willie Mays was unsure of whether or not to give it one more go in 1973.
And while his box score impact was undeniably muted during his farewell tour, his real-life impact on the team’s ascent to championship contention was even more undeniable.
Mays kept plugging away all season, shooing away the distractions of imminent retirement away for one last run.
And while New York finished with just 82 wins, it was enough to carry them past a mediocre NL East field and into the playoffs.
In October, Mays played in just four of the Mets’ twelve postseason contests, going 3-for-10 with two runs scored and two RBI, including the go-ahead RBI knock in the team’s 12-inning victory over Oakland A’s in Game 2 of the 1973 World Series.
Many remember Mays misjudging and misplaying two balls in the outfield earlier in that game, pointing to those moments as proof that he’d stayed too long.
But, Mays put those mistakes behind him and contributed when the team needed him most.
It was a testament to a career that had proven naysayers wrong time and time again.
New York lost to Oakland in seven, denying Mays of a second World Series ring.
But, losses fade, and the legend of Willie Mays will last forever.
1973 Topps #247 Del Unser
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $1,450
While he was never exactly a star or an All-Star, for that matter, Del Unser's fifteen-year career in the Majors was distinguished by its longevity and stretches of brilliance.
He was, by every account, a serviceable centerfielder capable of getting hot for weeks at a time, but he was also frustratingly inconsistent and struggled with confidence issues.
Traded to the Philadelphia Phillies from the Cleveland Indians before the 1973 MLB season, Unser experienced a brief renaissance of sorts.
He had felt "forgotten" in his one year in Cleveland, considering the entire ordeal as a "dehumanizing experience."
The deal that brought him to Philly brought him new life and another chance to prove himself.
He responded in kind early on in the 1973 campaign, moving near the top of the National League leaderboards at the end of June with a .345 batting average.
And then, his inconsistency reared its ugly head once again as his average dipped below .290 by the season's end.
And after just one more year in Philly, he'd be traded again and continue what would turn out to be a decade-and-a-half-long MLB odyssey.
Unser's card is one of the most difficult in the set to find in top condition, with just twelve examples having received a PSA 9 grade with none higher, forcing set builders pay up for it in this shape.
1973 Topps #245 Carl Yastrzemski
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $1,400
After missing out on the 1972 MLB Playoffs by a half-game in 1972, the Boston Red Sox and former AL MVP Carl Yastrzemski felt like they had unfinished business in 1973.
Yet rather than taking the top spot in the American League East for the first time in the Divisional Era, the Red Sox once again finished second in the standings, eight games behind the 97-win Baltimore Orioles.
It was another gut punch for the beleaguered, perhaps cursed franchise.
But, it was still a fantastic individual year for their star first baseman.
Posting his best numbers since his torrid stretch from 1965-70, Yastrzemski was both the starting point and a punctuation mark for Boston's offensive attack in 1973.
Yastrzemski's power had faded, but he got on base over 40% of the time for the fifth time in his career, walked over 100 times, and drove in nearly 100 runs, among others solid statistical exploits.
While no one number jumped off the newspaper page for his 1973 campaign, Yastrzemski's value to the Red Sox was much more than the sum of its parts.
A perennial All-Star and the face of the franchise, Yastrzemski's was the steadying shoulder for a franchise always looking to next year.
1973 Topps #230 Joe Morgan
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $1,250
For the second-straight year, Cincinnati Reds second baseman Joe Morgan had a regular-season worthy of an All-Star appearance and a top-four finish in the National League’s MVP balloting.
And for the second-straight year, Morgan followed up a banner regular season with an extremely disappointing postseason performance.
Morgan did everything for the Reds during their march to a third-straight NL West crown, finishing second in the National League in steals (67), second in runs scored (116), and fourth in on-base percentage (.406).
He also led all NL position players in total WAR (9.3) and offensive WAR (8.0), putting together an elite advanced statistical season that may have secured the NL MVP award for him in this current era.
In short, Morgan was the engine that made the Big Red Machine go from April to September.
However, he once again fell into disrepair in October.
After hitting .186 in the 1972 Playoffs, Morgan put together an even bigger disappearing act a year later, going just 2-for-20 (.100) with an RBI and a run scored in the team’s five-game NLCS loss to the New York Mets.
As it was, Morgan received ample criticism for yet another playoff failure.
Two years later, though, it would be virtually erased from the annals of Reds playoff history.
1973 Topps #130 Pete Rose
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $1,100
If you were to point to a single campaign in Pete Rose's unparalleled 24-year MLB career and call it his peak, his 1973 National League MVP season is likely the way to go.
While the Big Red Machine was still working its postseason kinks out, Rose was a finished product.
Using his legendary eye and malleable approach in the batter's box, Charlie Hustle used the entire field to befuddle opposing pitchers.
He won his third batting title, led the Majors in hits for the second-straight year (and fourth time in six seasons), scored over 100 runs for the fourth time in five years, and posted an on-base percentage north of .400 for the second time in his career.
And after six top-ten finishes in the National League's MVP balloting over the previous eight seasons, Rose finally got his due, edging Pittsburgh Pirates legend Willie Stargell by just 24 votes for the award.
He was just as good in the postseason, too, hitting .381 with a jaw-dropping 1.149 OPS in the team's National League Championship Series tilt with the New York Mets.
Unfortunately, the Mets took the deciding fifth game by a 7-2 score to end the Reds' shot at a trip to the World Series.
1973 Topps #449 Indians Manager/Coaches
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $1,000
There are several manager/coaches cards in this set that can be exceedingly difficult to find in top grade but, for some reason, this one stands out as being a bit more expensive than the rest.
These manager/coaches cards are strange because they come in variations that usually have something to do with one of the coach's ears or with the coloration of the background behind them.
For example, the Indians manager/coaches card can be found in two variations: one where Warren Sphan's ears appear rounded (as they should) and another where a printing error caused one of them to look pointed.
There doesn't seem to be much of a large premium in price for either variation as both are tough to find in top grade to begin with.
Several of these manager/coaches cards with variations can cost hundreds of dollars in high grade.
Spahn's Ears Rounded
Spahn's Ears Pointed
1973 Topps #255 Reggie Jackson
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $900
The 1972-74 Oakland A's are undoubtedly one of the greatest baseball dynasties of the modern era, if not one of the most entertaining.
And while many key contributors made back-to-back-to-back World Series titles possible for the Swingin' A's, the heart of the lineup was Reggie Jackson.
The future Mr. October provided indispensable All-Star production and loads of swagger to all three title runs.
Yet, his 1973 American League MVP campaign stands out as his defining moment by the Bay.
Jackson led the American League in home runs (32), RBI (117), runs scored (99), slugging percentage (.531), OPS (.914), and OPS+ (161).
He also hit a crisp .292 and stole over 20 bases, proving himself a constant threat both at the plate and on the base paths.
Jackson became the sixth player in league history to win the MVP award unanimously for his efforts.
After hitting just .143 in the ALCS against the Orioles, the mercurial power hitter got on track on the game's biggest stage.
Jackson ultimately took home World Series MVP honors after going 9-for-29 (.310) with a Game 7 home run, three doubles, three runs scored, and six RBI to push Oakland's repeat bid over the top.
1973 Topps #380 Johnny Bench
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $850
While the 1973 season wasn’t the benchmark moment of Cincinnati Reds backstop Johnny Bench’s illustrious career (pun intended), it was yet another highly productive season from arguably the best all-around catcher in MLB history.
In truth, Bench’s 1973 statistical output paled in comparison to his MVP seasons in 1970 and 1972.
Yet, 80% of peak Johnny Bench still placed him at the pinnacle of the catching position in both leagues.
Helping lead the 99-win Reds to their third-straight NL West crown, Bench once again balanced all-world defensive play, game-planning, and a flair for the big hit.
Bench’s reputation as a fearsome power hitter and sharpshooting defensive catcher forced opposing players and managers to account for him at all times.
But, it still wasn’t enough to get them over the hump once October rolled around.
After bringing home National League pennants in the previous two postseasons, the Reds were bounced a round earlier in 1973.
Bench went 5-for-19 (.263) with a solo home run, two doubles, and two walks against the Mets.
It was a predictably solid performance, but it wasn’t the cure to Cincinnati’s ills.
1973 Topps #473 All-Time Total Base Leader
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $750
Topps released a small "All-Time Leaders" subset with cards #471 - 478 that featured some of the most celebrated record holders in the game's history at that time.
Hank Aaron was the only living player who was also still actively playing to be included in the subset alongside legendary names like Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Cy Young and Walter Johnson.
For that reason, his card stands out a bit more than the others in this subset because Hank Aaron kept going for four more seasons.
When he entered the 1973 season, he already had the record for most total bases with an eye-popping 6,172.
But, four more seasons of play allowed him to pile on another 684 total bases to finish his Hall of Fame career with 6,856.
That number now seems untouchable.
1973 Topps #614 Dwight Evans Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $700
After appearing in 18 games for the Red Sox late in the 1972 season, Dwight Evans made his rookie debut as their everyday right fielder during the 1973 campaign.
And he would remain in right field for Boston for the remainder of his career, though he did spend significant time at first base and designated hitter from 1988-1991.
In 282 at-bats his rookie year, Evans batted just .223 with ten home runs, 32 RBI, and 46 runs scored.
His hitting stats remained more or less average until he reached his 30s in 1982, when he transformed into a guy capable of hitting 30 home runs and 100 RBI any given season.
By the time his 20-year career had finished, Evans had 2,446 hits, 385 home runs, 1,384 RBI, eight Gold Gloves, two Silver Sluggers, and three All-Star appearances on his resumé.
Those numbers were impressive but not quite good enough to get him across the Cooperstown finish line.
Had he been more productive in his 20s, there would have been a good chance of him making the Hall of Fame as many consider him one of the most consistent and underrated players of his era.
1973 Topps #477 All-Time Victory Leader
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $600
Some of the cards in this subset featured records that have since been broken.
For example, Hank Aaron eventually surpassed Babe Ruth's 2,214 RBI (for some reason, his card says 2,209), Alex Rodriguez later bested Lou Gehrig's 23 career grand slams, and Pete Rose broke Ty Cobb's record of 4,191 hits.
But some in this subset will likely never be broken.
Walter Johnson's 113 shutouts seem safe, Ty Cobb's .367 career batting average is probably a lock, and Cy Young's 511 career wins are about as untouchable as any record in any sport.
The game has changed so much since Young's era, and pitchers aren't used the same way anymore.
These days, starting pitchers will be lucky if they ever get to 300 career wins.
1973 Topps #174 Goose Gossage Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $550
A nine-time All-Star and four-time top-five Cy Young finisher, Hall of Fame relief pitcher Goose Gossage had the kind of stuff that buckled opposing hitters' knees and haunted their dreams.
However, it took the mustachioed hurler a few years at the Big League level to temper his natural gifts and make good on his potential.
After struggling with his control for most of his rookie season in 1972, things nearly went off the rails in 1973.
When Gossage did find the strike zone in his 20 games with the Chicago White Sox, hitters regularly made him pay for catching too much of the plate.
His ugly 7.43 ERA and awful 1.893 WHIP attest to that.
Gossage's erratic play got him sent down to Triple-A Iowa by the end of July.
He was solid in his return to the Minors and returned to Chicago for the last few weeks of the regular season in September.
In need of work and refinement, Gossage accepted an assignment to play in Puerto Rico during the winter.
And within two years, the work paid off and the frustrations of his 1973 letdown would mean little as the soon-to-be-iconic reliever rounded into All-Star form.
1973 Topps #350 Tom Seaver
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $550
Four years removed from winning his first Cy Young Award, Tom Seaver did it again in 1973 despite brutally lousy run support.
The first National League pitcher to take home the Cy Young with under 20 wins to his credit, Seaver led all of baseball in ERA (2.08) and WHIP (0.976).
He also paced the National League in strikeouts (251) and hits per 9 innings (6.8), confounding hitters with pinpoint control and wipeout secondary stuff.
And after carrying the team through a maddening first five months, the rest of the Mets caught fire in September, winning 21 of 29 to end the regular season and win the division by 1.5 games over the 81-81 St. Louis Cardinals.
Despite experiencing major discomfort in his throwing shoulder, Seaver was cleared two days before the NLCS opener and delivered a breathtaking 13-strikeout performance with zero walks in Game 1.
Unluckily enough, New York's offense sputtered once again in a 2-1 loss decided by Johnny Bench's ninth-inning solo home run.
A back-and-forth five-game NLCS ended with Seaver tossing 8.1 innings of scintillating one-run ball in Game 5 to help send the Mets to their second-ever World Series appearance.
Sadly, the improbable joy of the Mets' underdog story wasn't to last as the Oakland A's won their third World Series title in a row.
1973 Topps #142 Thurman Munson
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $450
Let’s not bury the real story here.
New York Yankees catcher Thurman Munson had a fantastic year as a two-way threat in 1973, securing his first Gold Glove, his second All-Star appearance, and a top-twelve finish in the American League MVP race.
He was a formidable offensive powerhouse with a gun for an arm, and he provided a needed bright spot during an otherwise forgettable 80-win season for the Bronx Bombers.
However, the most memorable moment of Munson’s 1973 campaign had little to do with swinging a bat and more to do with throwing punches.
A year before, a storied rivalry began in the heat of an even-more-storied rivalry.
In a 1972 regular season game between the Yankees and Boston Red Sox, Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk collided into Munson with a violent slide.
It sparked an arms race of sorts for the rest of the decade between the two backstops on opposite sides of the New York/Boston divide.
1973 Topps #193 Carlton Fisk
Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $400
Whereas their 1972 confrontation between Fisk and Munson might have started it all, the real show began on August 1st, 1973.
Munson paid Fisk back with a collision on a botched suicide squeeze attempt, and heated words became an all-out benches-clearing brawl.
Both Munson and Fisk got their blows in on each other, and the ensuing videotape of the entire melee has become canonized as proof positive of the disdain that runs deep between the Yankees and Red Sox clubhouses.
Munson’s on-field performance was reason enough for optimism for a moribund Yankees franchise nine years removed from the postseason.
But, it was his grit and toughness that helped lift them from their doldrums just a few years later and reestablish their championship pedigree.
Feuding aside, Fisk kept things going with the bat during the 1973 season as he belted 26 home runs and drove in 71 RBI while earning his second trip to the All-Star Game along the way.
And after unanimously winning American League Rookie of the Year honors, Topps featured him as part of their much-celebrated "All-Star Rookie Team," easily noted by the golden cup in the lower-left corner.
1973 Topps Baseball Cards In Review
Despite having the smallest checklist of any Topps baseball card set in the 1970s, there is a lot to love about this 660-card set.
The Mike Schmidt rookie card is one of the most iconic of the decade and in the vintage segment of the hobby in general.
Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente would both appear on a Topps base card for the last time.
And so many other great stars of the era, from Hank Aaron, Nolan Ryan, Pete Rose, and Reggie Jackson give collectors so much to enjoy.
Within the set were also several great subsets, including:
- League Leaders (#61 - 68)
- Playoff / World Series Highlights (#201 - 210)
- Boyhood Photos (#341 - 346)
- All-Time Leaders (#471 - 478)
- Rookie Stars (#601 - 616)
While the hobby may have mixed opinions on the aesthetic appeal of this set, there's no doubting that it contains huge star power and great value overall.