15 Most Valuable 1982 Topps Football Cards

Most Valuable 1982 Topps Football Cards

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One of the first things you'll notice about the 1982 Topps football card set is the appearance of NFL team logos.

Finally, with a licensing deal in hand, Topps could use the logos instead of airbrushing over them...

In addition to an improved design, there is also a trio of must-have Hall of Fame rookie cards in Lawrence Taylor, Anthony Muñoz and Ronnie Lott.

How can you go wrong with a set that features rookies of three guys who were arguably the best at their respective positions to ever play in the NFL?

The 1982 NFL season may have been disappointing because of the strike, but this set certainly wasn't.

Still, somehow, this set seems like it's overlooked by many in the hobby.

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

Let's jump right in!

1982 Topps #443 Lawrence Taylor Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $5,500

Leading up to the 1981 NFL Draft, nearly every one of the 28 general managers had said if they had the first pick, they would select Lawrence Taylor.

After a standout collegiate career at the University of North Carolina, many anticipated he could go down in history as one of the greatest linebackers in NFL history.

However, despite having the league's worst defense during the 1980 season, the New Orleans Saints used the number one overall pick to draft running back George Rogers, the Heisman Trophy winner out of the University of South Carolina.

The New York Giants were ecstatic that Taylor fell to them with the number two pick because they, too, had a terrible defense in 1980 and looked to him to reverse course.

And, boy, did Taylor deliver.

After allowing 425 points (26.6/game) in 1980, the second-most behind only the New Orleans Saints, the New York Giants defense vaulted to number three in the league in 1981 by allowing only 257 points (16.6/game).

Because of his menacing presence and tenacity, Taylor earned Defensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors, making him the only player in NFL history to be named the top defender in his rookie season.

1982 Topps #443 Lawrence Taylor Rookie Card

1982 Topps #486 Ronnie Lott Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $1,500

Taylor wasn't the only rookie defender to immediately impact his team with his phenomenal defensive skill.

After taking him with the eighth pick of the 1981 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers looked to USC stud cornerback Ronnie Lott for much-needed defensive help.

During the 1980 NFL season, the 49ers struggled to contain opposing offenses, allowing 415 points (25.9/game), the third-highest in the league and barely better than the New York Giants.

But, like the Giants, with their new standout rookie defender in the mix, the 49ers' defense turned things around drastically in 1981, allowing 250 points (15.6/game) to become the second-best defense in the league.

By season's end, Lott's seven interceptions, three pick-sixes, two fumble recoveries and 89 tackles were enough to earn him a second-place vote for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Taylor may have bested him for the award, but Lott still found a nice consolation prize in a Super Bowl ring after helping the 49ers to a 26-21 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

And the fact that the 49ers defeated Taylor and the Giants 38-24 in the NFC Divisional Round game to make it to the Super Bowl made it just a bit sweeter.

1982 Topps #486 Ronnie Lott Rookie Card

1982 Topps #51 Anthony Muñoz Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $1,100

From 1977 to 1980, Anthony Muñoz and Ronnie Lott were teammates at USC and helped lead the Trojans to a national title in 1978, depending on who you ask, as some argued Alabama were the champs that year.

After graduating, Muñoz left Lott behind at USC and joined the Cincinnati Bengals when they selected him third overall in the 1980 NFL Draft.

And for thirteen seasons, the 6'6" left tackle became a fixture on their offensive line, earning eleven trips to the Pro Bowl and nine First-Team All-Pro selections during his career.

With Muñoz providing incredible run blocking and pass protection, the Cincinnati Bengals made it to two Super Bowls during the 1980s but lost both of them to Ronnie Lott and the San Francisco 49ers.

Despite not getting a Super Bowl ring, Muñoz left a legacy as arguably the greatest offensive lineman in NFL history.

It's no surprise that his rookie card is one of the keys to this set and can carry a hefty price tag in top grade.

1982 Topps #51 Anthony Munoz Rookie Card

1982 Topps #435 Lawrence Taylor In Action

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $1,000

During his ten years with the Dallas Cowboys, three-time Pro Bowl tight end Doug Cosbie had many successes and saw plenty of playoff action.

But, from 1981 until he retired after the 1988 season, things didn't get any easier by having to face the New York Giants and Lawrence Taylor twice a year.

I can only imagine how much he dreaded trying to pick up a rush from LT like he's shown doing on this card.

And he was probably amazed in 1981 that Taylor was playing at that high of a level as a rookie.

Topps celebrated several players' accomplishments from the 1981 season in this set with "In Action" cards that followed their base cards in the set sequence.

I always found it interesting that Topps neglected to mention Taylor winning the 1981 Defensive Player of the Year on the card's reverse.

The rest of his accomplishments were impressive, but since he was and still is the only rookie ever to capture Defensive Player of the Year honors, it would've been good to highlight it.

1982 Topps #435 Lawrence Taylor In Action Football Card
1982 Topps #435 Lawrence Taylor In Action Football Card Reverse Side

1982 Topps #488 Joe Montana

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $850

Coming off a breakout 1981 campaign that saw him throw for 3,565 yards and 19 touchdowns en route to his first Super Bowl ring, Joe Montana looked to keep the momentum going into the 1982 season.

Unfortunately, the 49ers just couldn't seem to get into a rhythm.

After losing their first two games by slim margins, Montana went off when play resumed in Week 11, throwing for 448 yards and three touchdowns to get the victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

He continued to play lights out the rest of the season, but the team struggled on defense, and San Francisco went 2-4 over the season's final six games.

Four of the team's six losses were by four points or less, so they certainly had a fighting chance most of the time.

But, with a 3-6 record and a third-place finish in the NFC West, the San Francisco 49ers were a far cry from the team that had one the Super Bowl the year before.

Montana paced the league in passing attempts (346) and touchdowns (17) while his 2,613 passing yards trailed only Dan Fouts' 2,883 yards, but there would be no Pro Bowl or All-Pro honors for Joe Cool.

Because they missed the playoffs, Bill Walsh nearly traded Montana for John Elway in the 1983 NFL Draft but eventually refrained.

1982 Topps #488 Joe Montana Football Card

1982 Topps #302 Walter Payton

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $750

The 1982 season wasn't so sweet for "Sweetness," as he struggled to get things going on the ground all season long.

Payton ran for just 26 and 20 yards during the first two games of the season and wouldn't break the 100+ yard mark nor score his first rushing touchdown until Week 16 against the Rams.

However, that was the only rushing touchdown Payton would turn in all year.

Outside of his rookie and final years in the NFL, his 66.2 rushing yards were a career-low.

On the flip side, the Bears looked to him more frequently in the passing attack than in any other year as he established a career-high of 3.6 receptions per game.

It just wasn't a great year for Payton and the Bears struggled overall under new head coach, Mike Ditka.

Payton would get things back on track the following season, eclipsing the 2000 mark for total yards from scrimmage for the second time in his career.

And, by 1985, he and Ditka would reap the rewards of building a dominant squad by winning a Super Bowl together.

1982 Topps #302 Walter Payton Football Card

1982 Topps #487 Ronnie Lott In Action

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $350

In any other season that Lawrence Taylor didn't make his debut, Ronnie Lott could've made a serious run for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

With 89 tackles, seven interceptions, three pick-sixes, and two fumble recoveries, Lott was absolutely brilliant during his rookie campaign, bringing a much-needed boost to a 49ers defense that struggled the season before.

I've always loved the imagery on this card.

You have to wonder whether he had just come up with one of his two fumble recoveries or seven interceptions in this picture.

Or, maybe he was hoisting the ball over his head in celebration after taking one of his interceptions in for a score.

Whatever the situation, the image is purely symbolic of Lott's entire career in the NFL in that the ball simply wasn't safe with him on the field.

1982 Topps #487 Ronnie Lott In Action Football Card
1982 Topps #487 Ronnie Lott In Action Football Card Reverse Side

1982 Topps #489 Joe Montana In Action

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $350

While Ronnie Lott was holding things down for the San Francisco 49ers defense, legendary quarterback Joe Montana was at the helm of their high-powered offense.

San Francisco 49ers head coach Bill Walsh probably never rested easy during the 1981 season, but at least he could be confident week in and week out with those two guys on his team.

However, the team got off to a slow start, losing the first game of the season at Detroit and then their third game on the road against the division rival Atlanta Falcons.

On this card, Montana looks to throw downfield to a 49er receiver during the team's 34-17 loss at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium that day.

He'd end up throwing for 274 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions but Atlanta's Steve Bartkowski bested him for 208 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Falcons to victory.

Still, Montana and the 49ers had the last laugh that season, as they'd lose only one other regular-season game before steamrolling their way to victory in Super Bowl XVI over the Cincinnati Bengals.

1982 Topps #489 Joe Montana In Action Football Card
1982 Topps #489 Joe Montana In Action Football Card Reverse Side

1982 Topps #297 Dan Hampton

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $300

After needing a full sixteen games in 1981 to tally nine sacks, it took Chicago's Dan Hampton just nine games to do so during the strike-shortened 1982 campaign.

And he did so after a position change.

For the first three years of his career, Hampton played left defensive end for the Bears and made it to the Pro Bowl for the first time during his sophomore season in 1980.

But, in 1982, the team moved him to right defensive tackle to provide more firepower in the interior.

Hampton adjusted well to his new position and, in addition to those nine sacks, the Hall of Famer earned Pro Bowl and Second-Team All-Pro honors.

The Bears had seemingly unlocked a hidden talent within Hampton, his incredible versatility, that helped transform their defensive units into some of the toughest year after year for the rest of the 1980s.

As a sign of just how versatile he was, Hampton made the 1986 Pro Bowl as an alternate at both the defensive tackle and defensive end positions.

After turning in 82 sacks over twelve seasons with the Bears, Hampton retired after the 1990 campaign and was later elected to Canton in 2002.

1982 Topps #297 Dan Hampton Football Card

1982 Topps #303 Walter Payton In Action

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $300

As fantastic as the image on Ronnie Lott's "In Action" card is, the one that Topps chose for Walter Payton might somehow be just a bit better.

Down 17-3 in the fourth quarter against Tampa Bay in Week 9 of the 1981 season, Payton lept over the line for a one-yard score to put the Bears within a touchdown.

You may have even seen this play re-run by sports networks or in an NFL Films production.

Unfortunately for Payton and the Bears, Tampa would hang on to win that game 20-10 to bring Chicago's record to 2-7.

Things wouldn't get much better for the Bears the rest of the year as they'd finish in last place of the NFC Central with a 6-10 record.

Still, moments like this gave Bears fans plenty of excitement and hope.

1982 Topps #303 Walter Payton In Action Football Card
1982 Topps #303 Walter Payton In Action Football Card Reverse Side

1982 Topps #204 Terry Bradshaw

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $250

Heading into the 1982 season, Terry Bradshaw and the Pittsburgh Steelers had not been to the playoffs since winning Super Bowl XIV in 1979.

But after winning a Wild Card spot after a second-place finish in the AFC Central with a 6-3 record, Bradshaw would get another crack at winning a fifth Super Bowl.

Facing the San Diego Chargers at home, things looked promising for the Steelers, and the hometown crowd packed into Three Rivers Stadium with Pittsburgh up 28-17 in the fourth quarter.

But after a couple of touchdown passes from Dan Fouts to stud tight end Kellen Winslow, the Chargers went up 31-28 and never looked back, advancing to the Divisional Game and leaving Pittsburgh fans in shock.

Given the pain that Bradshaw played through all season long, it was incredible that they made the playoffs in 1982 at all.

Before every game, Bradshaw needed a cortisone shot in his elbow just to make it through the day.

Harnassing a grit and toughness that isn't commonly seen these days, Bradshaw still managed to lead the NLF in touchdown passes (17) and touchdowns.

1982 Topps #204 Terry Bradshaw Football Card

1982 Topps #311 Tony Dorsett

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $200

Since his rookie debut in 1977, Hall of Fame running back Tony Dorsett had never failed to break the 1000-yard rushing mark in his first five seasons.

With only nine regular-season games on the books during the strike-shortened season, it would've taken some incredible running for him to keep that streak alive in 1982.

Yet, at 28 years old, Dorsett did manage to have one of his most efficient seasons on a per-game average as his 82.8 yards rushing per contest tied for his second-highest average in his twelve-year career.

The 1982 season also marked the only time that Dorsett led the NFL in carries as the Cowboys put the ball in his hands 177 times that year.

That strategy worked, as Dallas finished second in the NFC East at 6-3 to secure a Wild Card spot.

After defeating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Green Bay Packers in the Wild Card and Divisional games, Dorsett and the Cowboys would square off against the Washington Redskins in the NFC Championship game.

Washington's stout defense held Dorsett to just 57 yards on 15 carries with no touchdowns and a fumble to win the game 31-17 to advance to the Super Bowl.

1982 Topps #311 Tony Dorsett Football Card

1982 Topps #213 Jack Lambert

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $175

Besides having a reputation for being one of the sharpest, fastest, and most agile linebackers of his era, Jack Lambert was also known for being incredibly durable.

During the first ten seasons of his career, Lambert missed only six games, which is impressive considering how physically he played the game.

In 1982, Lambert would suit up for the Steelers in eight of their nine games, and when he was on the field, he was as menacing as ever.

After losing a couple of key cogs on their defensive line in Joe Green and L.C. Greenwood and with NFL offenses becoming more aggressive, Chuck Knoll changed the defensive scheme from a 4-3 to a 3-4.

For eight years, Lambert had roamed the center of the field as Pittsburgh's middle linebacker but had no problem settling into his new role as their right inside linebacker.

Lambert set a career-high for sacks (4) while also adding an interception and fumble recovery to his resume, a performance that earned him a seventh-place finish for Defensive Player of the Year.

He also made the Pro Bowl for the ninth-straight season while earning his fifth First-Team All-Pro selection.

1982 Topps #213 Jack Lambert Football Card

1982 Topps #249 Steve Largent

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $175

Over a fourteen-year career with the Seattle Seahawks, Steve Largent capitalized on his incredible route-running abilities to become the greatest wide receiver in franchise history.

In 200 games from 1976 to 1989, Largent caught 819 passes for 13,089 and 100 touchdowns.

During the 1982 season, Largent played in eight of the team's nine games, and while his totals were obviously lower than usual, so were his averages.

For example, his 14.5 yards per catch and 61.6 receiving yards per game were among the lowest of his career.

Much of Largent's dip in production was due to a Seattle Seahawks offense that finished second to last in the NFL with 127 points scored (14.1/game).

Nobody from Seattle's offensive unit would make the Pro Bowl that year and the offensive line, in particular, was dreadful in the running game, leaving defenders freer to key in on Largent.

At 4-5, the Seahawks would miss the playoffs for the seventh year to start Largent's career, but by the following season, the team would finally crack the playoff code to make a run to the AFC Championship game.

1982 Topps #249 Steve Largent Football Card

1982 Topps #520 John Riggins

Estimated PSA 10 Gem Mint Value: $175

After his first five seasons with the New York Jets and another five with the Washington Redskins, 33-year-old John Riggins was in for one of the biggest seasons of his career in 1982.

Riggins suited up for Washington for eight games that season and led the league in carries (177) for the only time in his career.

Still, he seemed to struggle to do much with those carries, as his 3.1 yards per carry was the second-lowest of his career and his three rushing touchdowns were not indicative of his scoring ability.

But, in the playoffs, Riggins blew up.

In four postseason games, Riggins carried the ball 136 times for 610 yards and four touchdowns.

His 4.5 rushing yards per carry and 152.5 yards per game were a tremendous improvement over his regular-season numbers.

And in the Super Bowl, the Redskins gave the ball to Riggins 38 times as he churned out 166 rushing yards and a 43-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that put the team ahead of the Miami Dolphins for good.

After a performance like that, Riggins was an easy choice for Super Bowl XVII MVP.

1982 Topps #520 John Riggins Football Card

1982 Topps Football Cards In Review

Though it may not get the attention that the 1981, 1984 and 1986 Topps sets do, I believe the 1982 Topps set is among the best of the decade.

The design is simple yet features excellent imagery.

And, the addition of team logos was a significant improvement.

Aside from the look and feel, you can't go wrong with a set that features rookie cards of Hall of Famers Lawrence Taylor, Ronnie Lott, and Anthony Muñoz.

All three were arguably the greatest players ever at their respective positions.

Unopened Box of 1982 Topps Football Cards

Besides that fantastic trio of rookie cards, there are plenty of other stars in the set to keep things fun.

Within the 528-card checklist, there are also some decent subsets, including:

  • Record Breakers (#1 - 6)
  • Playoffs (#7 - 9)
  • League Leaders (#257 - 262)
  • Brothers (#263 - 270)

This is such a great set that any football card collector should enjoy.

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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