15 Most Valuable 1973 Topps Football Cards

Most Valuable 1973 Topps Football Cards

As you look through the 1973 Topps football cards checklist, one thing becomes immediately clear:

There are several fantastic rookie cards to be found within it.

Not only that, there are many big-name stars and Hall of Famers as well.

And for the first time in the hobby, Topps decided to release all 528 cards at once rather than in series, so collectors no longer had to wait to find their favorite players.

Add in some excellent color photography and a simple yet classic design, and this set quickly showed it had plenty to offer.

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

Let's jump right in!

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1973 Topps #89 Franco Harris Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $2,200

The 1973 NFL season was a statistical outlier for Pittsburgh Steelers running back/fullback Franco Harris, although it did end with the second of nine-straight Pro Bowl selections to start his Hall-of-Fame career.

After becoming just the fourth rookie to rush for at least 1,000 yards in 1972 (1,055), Harris struggled to gain separation in 1973, rushing for two-thirds of his 1972 total on the same amount of carries (698 yards, 188 attempts).

He also rushed for just three touchdowns in 1973, the lowest total of his career until the 1982 season.

His receiving totals decreased considerably, too, from 21 catches for 180 yards and a score to 10 receptions for 69 yards and no scores.

A big reason for the drop in Harris’ production was the timeshare arrangement in the Pittsburgh backfield.

Harris, Preston Pearson, and John Fuqua each logged over 100 rushes in 1973, while Steve Davis added 67 of his own.

It was a simple case of a sophomore slump for Harris, though, and it wasn’t to last.

After helping Pittsburgh to a playoff berth in 1973, Harris posted six consecutive 1,000-yard rushing campaigns from 1974 to 1979.

1973 Topps #89 Franco Harris Rookie Card

1973 Topps #487 Ken Stabler Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $1,600

In 1970, Ken Stabler graduated from the Oakland Raiders' reserve squad to a backup quarterback role behind All-Pro gunslinger Daryle Lamonica.

And after a talented Raiders squad dropped two of their first three games in 1973, he was finally given the keys as the team's starting quarterback.

No one knew at the time, but it was the beginning of one of the most successful stretches in Raiders franchise history.

In 14 games (11 starts) for Oakland in 1973, Stabler put on an accuracy clinic, leading the NFL with a 62.7% completion percentage and throwing for 1,997 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions.

As a starter, Stabler went 8-2-1 and led the Oakland Raiders to an AFC West title and the first of five straight AFC Championship Game appearances.

The Raiders fell to the Miami Dolphins, 27-10, but the loss was more of a jumping-off point than anything else.

With Stabler at the helm, the Raiders put together seven consecutive winning campaigns from 1973 to 1979 and captured a Super Bowl title following the 1976 season.

"The Snake" slithered his way into the hearts of Raiders fans everywhere to close out the 1970s and solidified his standing as a future Hall-of-Fame inductee.

1973 Topps #487 Ken Stabler Rookie Card

1973 Topps #115 Jack Ham Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $500

Joe Greene may have been the key to the Pittsburgh Steelers' Steel Curtain and the best left side of any NFL defense in the 1970s, but linebacker Jack Ham was its brainy wrecking ball.

Ham started all 28 regular-season games for the Steelers during his first two seasons in 1971 and 1972, but 1973 was his coming-out party.

Ham was an absolute force both as a sack artist and pass defender in 1973, using his exceptional athletic ability and uncanny positioning to disrupt opposing offenses week after week.

Blessed with excellent mobility for his size and a singular skill for diagnosing play calls and getting in the right position to counter, Ham blew up running play after running play while also exhibiting elite coverage skills when dropping back.

The entire football world noticed in 1973, and Ham earned his first of eight consecutive Pro Bowl trips and his first All-AFC team.

1973 Topps #115 Jack Ham Rookie Card

1973 Topps #475 Roger Staubach

Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $500

After winning back his starting quarterback job from Craig Morton during the 1972 playoffs, Roger Staubach came into the 1973 NFL season with something to prove.

A determined Staubach anchored the league's seventh-best passing offense in 1973, completing a career-high 62.6% of his passes for 2,428 yards, an NFL-best 23 passing touchdowns, and 15 interceptions.

He also led the NFL in passer rating (94.6) and passing yards per attempt (8.5).

Staubach showed off his mobility with regularity as well, carrying the ball 46 times for 250 yards and three touchdowns, his first of five straight seasons with at least three rushing touchdowns.

With Captain Comeback at the helm, the Dallas Cowboys won their third division title in four years, finishing 10-4 to capture the NFC East.

The future Hall-of-Fame inductee was solid if erratic, spearheading a balanced attack in the team's 27-16 victory over the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Divisional round.

Things went sour, though, during the team's 27-10 NFC Championship loss to the Minnesota Vikings as they pressured him all game long.

He finished with a dismal 89 yards on 10-of-21 passing, throwing four interceptions and taking three sacks.

1973 Topps #475 Roger Staubach Football Card

1973 Topps #15 Terry Bradshaw

Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $450

Starting quarterback and future Hall-of-Famer Terry Bradshaw remained a divisive, all-or-nothing proposition in his fourth season with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

And things almost derailed in 1973 in the team’s 20-13 Week 7 win over the Cincinnati Bengals when Bradshaw sustained a partial shoulder separation and was replaced by Terry Hanratty.

Some feared that Bradshaw could be lost for the season, but the injury proved much less severe.

The Blonde Bomber missed just four weeks of action, returning in Week 12 in the team’s riveting 30-26 loss to the defending Super Bowl champion Miami Dolphins.

He finished the regular season with an 8-1 record as a starter but completed just 49.4% of his passes for 1,183 yards, 10 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions.

Still, Pittsburgh secured a Wild Card berth and a date in the AFC Divisional Round against the Oakland Raiders.

And in a microcosm of his erratic play over the first four years of his career, Bradshaw was all over the place against Oakland, completing just 12 of 25 passes for 167 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions.

With the team’s running game nowhere to be found, the team fell to the Raiders on the road by 19.

1973 Topps #15 Terry Bradshaw Football Card

1973 Topps #34 Ken Anderson Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $425

Under the tutelage of Cincinnati Bengals quarterbacks coach and West Coast Offense architect Bill Walsh, Bengals starting quarterback Ken Anderson began to come into his own in his third NFL season.

Anderson earned a reputation as one of the most effective short-range passers in the league in 1973, completing 54.4% of his passes for 2,428 yards, a career-high 18 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions.

With Anderson leading the offense in a manner beyond his years and a capable, opportunistic defense, the Cincinnati Bengals finished with a 10-4 regular-season record to capture the franchise's second AFC Central title.

Anderson was ineffective against the eventual Super Bowl champion Miami Dolphins in the AFC Divisional round, though, taking three sacks and completing just 14 of 27 pass attempts for a paltry 113 yards and an interception in a 34-16 loss.

Despite the rough ending, Anderson's future was bright. Come 1974, he'd unquestionably become one of the best passers in the league.

1973 Topps #34 Ken Anderson Rookie Card

1973 Topps #343 Jack Youngblood Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $400

In his third NFL season, Los Angeles Rams defensive end Jack Youngblood followed up a very productive sophomore campaign by announcing himself as one of the best defensive linemen in all of football.

And oddly enough, he did so with his entire first and last name across the back of his jersey.

The Rams added Jim Youngblood (no relation to Jack) to the roster in 1973, and for the sake of differentiation, their given names were placed above their last name on their uniforms.

However, no one could mistake what Jack Youngblood perpetrated on opposing quarterbacks in 1973.

He led the Los Angeles Rams with 16.5 sacks, terrorizing passers en route to his first of seven Pro Bowls and a second-team All-Pro selection.

The future NFL Hall-of-Famer was named the Los Angeles Rams’ defensive lineman of the year by the Rams Alumni Association, no small feat considering that the 12-2 NFC West champions led the NFL in total defense.

Los Angeles bowed out in the NFC Divisional playoffs with a 27-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, but Jack Youngblood’s ascent to stardom was undeniable.

1973 Topps #343 Jack Youngblood Rookie Card

1973 Topps #377 Art Shell Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $350

The Oakland Raiders were known for many things in the 1970s, with fantastic offensive line play being one of them.

And of the great offensive linemen who donned the Silver and Black during the decade, left tackle Art Shell towered above the rest.

Shell was one of the most versatile and multifaceted offensive tackles of his era, performing at the highest levels in both pass protection and as a run blocker.

In 1973, Shell was a pivotal contributor for a Raiders offense that finished in the top ten in the NFL for passing offense (9th) and rushing offense (4th).

He was named to his second of seven straight Pro Bowls and helped lead Oakland to a 9-4-1 record, an AFC West title, and a berth in the AFC Championship Game.

1973 was also the fourth year of a nine-year streak in which Shell started every regular season and playoff game for the Raiders.

From 1970 through 1978, Shell was like clockwork.

Hall-of-Fame clockwork, to be precise.

1973 Topps #377 Art Shell Rookie Card

1973 Topps #400 Joe Namath

Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $350

After a brief clearing of good health in 1972 and the final Pro Bowl selection of his storied career, New York Jets starting quarterback Joe Namath suffered yet another major injury setback early in the 1973 NFL campaign.

In Week 2 against the Baltimore Colts, rookie linebacker Stan White came through on a blitz unaccounted for and hammered Namath to the turf, separating his shoulder in the process.

The injury didn't require surgery, but Namath was out of commission for seven weeks.

He returned during the team's Week 10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals but was not exactly back to his previous Pro Bowl-caliber self.

In just six games for the Jets during their 7-7 campaign in 1973, the 30-year-old future Hall-of-Famer threw for 966 yards with a 51.1% completion rate, five touchdowns, and six interceptions.

Lucky for Broadway Joe and the Jets, Namath would finally have some good injury luck in 1974 and 1975.

He started all 28 regular-season contests in those two seasons, although the team went just a combined 10-18 during that stretch.

1973 Topps #400 Joe Namath Football Card

1973 Topps #322 Dan Dierdorf Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $350

Though he would eventually find success as a sportscaster covering both NFL and NCAA Football, Dan Dierdorf originally made a name for himself as one of the game's top offensive linemen.

From 1971 to 1983, Dierdorf helped spearhead the St. Louis Cardinals' offensive efforts with his tremendous abilities in the trenches.

After settling in as the team's starting left tackle in 1973, Dierdorf moved over to right tackle, where he thrived and carved out his road to Canton.

From 1974 to the early 80s, Dierdorf earned Pro Bowl honors six times.

His three-year stretch from 1976 to 1978 was particularly dominant when, for three consecutive seasons, he was a First-Team All-Pro and the Offensive Lineman of the Year as determined by the NFLPA.

Incredibly, Dierdorf didn't allow any sacks throughout the 1976 and 1977 seasons.

1973 Topps #322 Dan Dierdorf Rookie Card

1973 Topps #100 Larry Csonka

Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $150

1973 was the year of Larry Csonka: Renaissance Man, Super Bowl MVP, and Super Athlete of the Year.

With his partner in crime, Miami Dolphins teammate and backfield trench mate Jim Kiick, along with sportswriter Dave Anderson, Csonka wrote a book entitled Always on the Run. And on the field, Csonka’s star never shined brighter.

He posted the final of three straight 1,000 yard rushing seasons, carrying the ball 219 times for 1,003 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.

And while the Dolphins were unable to duplicate their perfect 1972 campaign, they rode Csonka to a sterling 12-2 regular-season record, AFC East title, and a successful Super Bowl defense.

Csonka brought home Super Bowl VIII MVP honors in the team’s 24-7 whooping of the Minnesota Vikings, rushing for 145 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries.

In large part due to Csonka’s Herculean efforts, quarterback Bob Griese threw only seven passes on the day.

To cap things off, Csonka was voted Super Athlete of the Year by the Professional Football Writers Association.

1973 Topps #100 Larry Csonka Football Card

1973 Topps #280 Joe Greene

Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $150

With the arrival of defensive tackle Ernie Holmes in 1972, the final piece of the Pittsburgh Steelers' vaunted "Steel Curtain" defensive line was officially in place.

However, it was 1973 which marked Holmes' first full season as a starter and the year where the true Steel Curtain really started dropping down on opposing offenses.

The heart and soul of the Steel Curtain was defensive tackle "Mean" Joe Greene, and 1973 was another standout year in a decade full of them for the future NFL Hall-of-Famer.

Greene was a kinetic pass rusher and run stopper throughout 1973, earning his fifth-straight Pro Bowl appearance and second-straight selection to the NFL All-Pro first team.

His leadership on the field keyed the Steelers' run to a 10-4 record and Wild Card berth in the AFC.

Just one year later, Greene would become the first player in NFL history to win the AP Defensive Player of the Year multiple times during Pittsburgh's run to their first Super Bowl championship.

1973 Topps #280 Joe Greene Football Card

1973 Topps #500 O.J. Simpson

Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $150

The Juice officially got loose during the 1972 NFL season, but 1973 was even juicier for the Buffalo Bills' star running back and the "Electric Company" offense around him.

In 1973, O.J. Simpson became the first NFL running back to rush for 2,000 yards.

For perspective, only seven other running backs have eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark in the nearly five decades since Simpson's historic campaign.

Simpson earned the running back Triple Crown in 1973, leading the NFL in rushing yards (2,003), rushing touchdowns (12), and carries (332).

He rushed for at least 200 yards three times, including an even 200 to pass the 2,000-yard mark in Week 17.

As you might expect, Simpson's trophy case became a lot more crowded following the 1973 NFL season as he was named the NFL's MVP, the NFL Offensive Player of the Year, the Bert Bell Player of the Year, and the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year.

Add in a Pro Bowl selection and first-team All-Pro honors, and Simpson's stellar 1973 campaign is undoubtedly one of the greatest seasons by any running back in the league's history.

1973 Topps #500 O.J. Simpson Football Card

1973 Topps #60 Fran Tarkenton

Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $100

Following five seasons and four Pro Bowl selections with the New York Giants, Fran Tarkenton was traded back to the Minnesota Vikings before the 1972 season.

With the trade, the Vikings' ownership signaled their desire to field a perennial Super Bowl contender.

And in 1973, the 33-year-old Virginia native turned those dreams into a reality, posting the best completion percentage of his career to date (61.7%), throwing for 2,113 yards with 15 touchdowns during Minnesota's impressive 12-2 run to an NFC Central title.

Tarkenton played the role of game manager quite well in the team's first two playoff games, helping spell the team's dynamic rushing attack in victories over the Washington Redskins (27-20) and Dallas Cowboys (27-10).

However, the running game failed the Vikings in Super Bowl VIII with just 72 yards on 24 carries.

Tarkenton looked okay (18-for-28, 182 yards, one costly interception, and a late rushing TD), but the Vikings were no match for the defending champs and fell quietly to the Miami Dolphins.

He would lead the Vikings to two more Super Bowl appearances over the next three seasons but unfortunately never brought a trophy home to Minneapolis in three tries.

1973 Topps #60 Fran Tarkenton Football Card

1973 Topps #455 Johnny Unitas

Estimated PSA 9 Mint Value: $100

After seventeen seasons with the Baltimore Colts, Johnny Unitas signed a two-year deal to play for the San Diego Chargers on June 8, 1973.

At 40 years old, though, Unitas was a shell of his former self with dwindling arm strength.

And it was immediately apparent in a 38-0 blowout loss at the hands of the Washington Redskins in Week 1 of the 1973 season that his time as a Charger was going to be rough.

On the day, Unitas threw just 55 yards on six completions with three interceptions.

Unitas would regroup in Week 2, throwing for 175 yards and two touchdowns to help lead the team to a decisive 34-7 against the Buffalo Bills.

But, it was all downhill from there, and after starting Week 4 on the road at Pittsburgh, going 2-for-9 with two interceptions, the Chargers replaced Unitas with Dan Fouts, who would eventually become a legend in San Diego.

During the preseason in 1974, Unitas decided to hang up his cleats for good and retired as one of the game's greatest quarterbacks of all time.

1973 Topps #455 Johnny Unitas Football Card

1973 Topps Football Cards In Review

As you can see, this set packs plenty of rookie cards and star power within its 528-card checklist.

And for the first time, Topps dropped the practice of printing their football card sets in different series so kids and collectors could pursue the entire checklist all at once.

To go along with the great lineup of stars and rookie cards, there were also several different subsets, including:

  • Conference Leaderss (#1 - 7)
  • 1972 Playoff Highlights (#133 - 139)
  • Kid Pictures (#265 - 267)

However, the 1973 set still seems somewhat underappreciated compared to other vintage football sets of the era.

Time will tell if the hobby's opinion will increase, but for now, it remains a fantastic set with tons of great names that's far easier on the wallet to put together in high grade compared to the sets from 1970-1972.

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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