15 Most Valuable 1983 Topps Football Cards
One thing is clear about the 1983 Topps football set: it's often overlooked.
Rarely will you hear anyone in this hobby state that it's one of their favorite football sets of the 1980s, let alone of any era...
The iconic Joe Montana rookie headlined the 1981 Topps set, and the 1982 Topps set featured Lawrence Taylor's rookie card.
With the 1984 Topps set came rookie cards of John Elway, Dan Marino, and Eric Dickerson.
And just a couple of years after that came the 1986 Topps set packed with rookies of Jerry Rice, Steve Young, Reggie White and Bruce Smith.
With so many hobby icons spread across those sets from 1981 to 1986, the 1983 Topps set often flies under the radar.
But it's worth a second look...
With three Hall of Fame rookies of its own, this set packs many more great cards than most will remember.
And in this guide, we'll take a look at the 15 most valuable in the checklist.
Let's jump right in!
Ross Uitts - Owner
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1983 Topps #38 Mike Singletary Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 10 Value: $1,000
Middle linebacker Mike Singletary started a ten-year run of consecutive Pro Bowl and All-NFC selections with a fantastic 1983 season.
And in the process, his intimidating defensive presence laid the foundation for his name to become synonymous with the Bears' rise to prominence during the mid-1980s.
Playing all sixteen regular season games for Chicago, Singletary led the team in tackles and added 3.5 sacks, an interception, and four fumble recoveries.
Singletary, a fierce hitter who was always in the mix when the ball was involved, helped transform a middle-of-the-road defensive unit in 1982 into one of the league's best in 1983.
Already well known for his on-field intensity and how he commanded respect from players and coaches alike, Singletary carried himself like a veteran even though it was only his third professional year.
Under new head coach Mike Ditka, Singletary emerged as the quarterback of a defensive unit that finished no worse than fifth in points allowed in any season from 1983-88.
He was yet to become a household name and a Hall of Fame shoo-in, but Singletary's 1983 season was his first step towards taking over the football world.
1983 Topps #294 Marcus Allen Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 10 Value: $1,000
By winning 1982 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, Los Angeles Raiders halfback Marcus Allen created a hard act for himself to follow with an incredible first year.
So, while his first 1,000-yard rushing campaign was cause for celebration, Allen’s inconsistent regular season in 1983 left plenty to be desired.
The positives were hard to ignore.
Allen rushed 266 times for 1,014 yards and nine scores and caught 68 passes for 590 yards and two receiving touchdowns.
However, Allen’s negatives were also hard to bypass.
The second-year back fumbled the ball an NFL-worst 14 times in his sixteen regular season starts.
Fumbling nearly once every game, Allen’s struggles holding onto the ball would have been devastating for a less-talented team.
Lucky for Allen and the Raiders, the playoffs happened, wiping away all negativity with a Super Bowl run to remember.
In three playoff games for the eventual Super Bowl champs, Allen coughed the ball up just once as he rushed 58 times for 466 yards and four scores, tacking on 14 receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown.
And in Los Angeles’ 38-9 dismantling of Washington in Super Bowl XVIII, Allen won MVP honors with 191 rushing yards and two touchdowns, one of which was a breathtaking Super Bowl record 74-yarder that stood for 22 years.
Who said anything about fumbles?
1983 Topps #36 Walter Payton
Estimated PSA 10 Value: $850
The Bears' ascent from afterthoughts to legit contenders wasn't a one-person job.
However, Walter Payton's continued brilliance and late-career boom sure helped.
After missing the Pro Bowl for consecutive seasons for the first and only time in his career, Payton earned his sixth trip in 1983 thanks to a vintage performance on par with his late 70s output.
"Sweetness" started all 16 games at halfback for Chicago in 1983, logging 314 rushing attempts for 1,421 yards and six touchdowns.
He was also Jim McMahon's top target in total receptions, snagging 53 balls for 607 yards and two scores.
Payton's 2,028 yards from scrimmage were good for third-best in the NFL and marked the first time since his 1977 NFL MVP campaign that he'd crossed the 2,000-yard threshold.
It was just the start of a prolific stretch in which he would break 2,000 yards in three consecutive seasons.
From January couch watchers to the Super Bowl Shuffle, the Bears' big-time championship turn had much to do with Payton's push toward football immortality.
1983 Topps #169 Joe Montana
Estimated PSA 10 Value: $850
Montana strapped the Niners to his shoulders for large chunks of the 1983 season, outduelling opposing QBs and willing San Francisco to a playoff berth in search of a second Super Bowl ring.
Starting all sixteen regular season games, Montana completed a career-high 332 passes on 515 attempts for 3,910 yards and 26 touchdowns against 12 interceptions.
Finishing fifth in both the NFL MVP and NFL Offensive Player of the Year races, Montana earned his second trip to the Pro Bowl for his efforts.
As always, though, Montana saved his best for the postseason.
In San Francisco’s thrilling 24-23 NFC Divisional Round win over Detroit, Joe Cool connected with wideout Freddie Solomon with 1:23 left to erase a six-point deficit and send the Niners to the NFC Championship Game.
The following week, Montana and a ticked-off Niners defense brought the team back from the dead in an epic fourth quarter.
Down 21-0, Montana threw three touchdown passes as the Niners D kept feeding him the ball to improbably tie the game.
A 25-yard field goal by Washington’s Mark Moseley ultimately dashed the 49ers’ dreams of a second Super Bowl berth in three years.
Still, Montana went down slinging with another legendary playoff performance.
1983 Topps #384 Kenny Easley Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 10 Value: $800
Dubbed the "backbone" of new head coach Chuck Knox's defense, Kenny Easley relished his opportunity as one of the faces of a rejuvenated Seattle Seahawks franchise.
Despite playing for a defensive unit that finished near the bottom of the NFL in several key categories, Easley dished out more than his fair share of punishment in 1983.
A first-time First-Team All-Pro selection and two-time Pro Bowler, Easley intercepted seven passes, recovered three fumbles, and recorded three sacks.
Later named the AFC Defensive Player of the Year, Easley bolstered his reputation as "The Enforcer" with a highlight reel of brutal hits, stellar route reads, and fantastic clutch plays.
Often saddled with a talent deficit next to him during the 1983 campaign, Easley overperformed to stuff opposing offenses and keep the Seahawks in games they had no right to be in.
With Easley holding the defense together and a new-look offense headlined by QB Dave Krieg, the Seahawks turned their first playoff appearance into an unlikely trip to the AFC title game.
Easley would only get better from there, earning his spot in Canton and on the NFL's All-Decade team of the 1980s.
1983 Topps #33 Jim McMahon Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 10 Value: $500
In his second pro year and second season as the Chicago Bears starting quarterback, Jim McMahon found his footing and increased his confidence.
Named the NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1982, McMahon had a gift for reading game situations and adjusting plays accordingly.
And while his penchant for improvisation often angered head coach Mike Ditka, McMahon's success rate at in-huddle audibles led Ditka to look the other way more often than not.
During the 1983 season, McMahon completed 59.3% of his passes for 2,184 yards and twelve touchdowns against thirteen interceptions.
While he was by no means a flawless finished product for the 8-8 Bears, his growing confidence and innate leadership qualities made his shortcomings easier to accept.
On a tip from Bears owner George Halas before his passing on October 31, 1983, Ditka leaned on McMahon with various quarterback sneaks.
The second-year QB produced when his number was called, rushing 55 times for 307 yards and two scores.
Chicago's .500 finish marked the franchise's first non-losing campaign since 1979.
It was the start of something magical for a Bears squad that had made the playoffs just twice since winning the NFL Championship in 1963.
1983 Topps #358 Terry Bradshaw
Estimated PSA 10 Value: $400
Terry Bradshaw and the Pittsburgh Steelers faithful received quite a scare before the 1982 regular season when the legendary quarterback injured his throwing elbow during training camp.
Still, the tough-nosed Louisiana native decided to play every game of the strike-shortened season with the help of a cortisone shot before each game.
You wouldn't have known he was in much pain, though, as he tied Joe Montana and Dan Fouts for the NFL lead in passing touchdowns with 17 strikes.
After the season, Bradshaw opted to have surgery on his elbow and would miss the first 14 games of the 1983 regular season.
In his absence, Cliff Stoudt stepped in to lead the Steelers to a 9-5 record before Bradshaw returned in Week 15 for a road game against the New York Jets.
Things seemed normal enough for Bradshaw as he started the game 4-8 with a touchdown before disaster struck in the second quarter.
While connecting with Calvin Sweeney on a ten-yard touchdown pass to put the Steelers up 14-0, Bradshaw re-injured his elbow and Stoudt replaced him as QB once again.
This time, Bradshaw would never return to action for the Pittsburgh Steelers as he officially retired on July 24, 1984, before the 1984 regular season.
1983 Topps #133 Lawrence Taylor
Estimated PSA 10 Value: $300
There has never been a better example of a "great player, awful team" than Lawrence Taylor's 1983 odyssey with the New York Giants.
A two-time defending Defensive Player of the Year heading into '83, Taylor's first two NFL seasons stand the test of time as the best opening salvo of any player in league history.
Conversely, the Giants organization was at a crossroads.
Head coach Ray Perkins left the team after the 1982 campaign to take over the lead role at the University of Alabama.
His defensive coordinator, Bill Parcells, took over the head coaching duties in New York and inherited a roster in flux.
What transpired from there nearly ripped a championship team apart before it started.
The Giants found plenty of new and interesting ways to lose in 1983, ending the year with a pitiful 3-12-1 mark.
On the other hand, Taylor made the most of a bad situation, even when called to play inside linebacker instead of his normal outside spot.
Taylor was a superstar-caliber standout in both roles, becoming the first player in NFL history to earn First-Team All-Pro honors at two different positions in the same season.
1983 Topps #158 Ronnie Lott
Estimated PSA 10 Value: $225
An all-world defensive back with a nose for the ball, Ronnie Lott earned ten Pro Bowl nominations at three different positions during his Hall of Fame career: cornerback, free safety, and strong safety.
No matter where the San Francisco 49ers slotted him, Lott excelled in coverage and as a tackler in space.
And in no season was that more evident than Lott's third pro year in 1983.
San Francisco's starting left corner registered 108 combined tackles, four interceptions, one fumble recovery, and one sack.
It was enough to get him to the Pro Bowl for the third-straight year and earn him a 13th-place finish in the AP's Defensive Player of the Year vote.
Lott's clutch picks and hits helped propel the 10-6 NFC West champs to a fourth-place finish in scoring defense in 1983.
His success continued in the NFC Divisional Round when Lott registered one of San Francisco's five interceptions in a nail-biting 24-23 home win over the Detroit Lions.
The 49ers' season ended the next week with a 24-21 NFC title game loss to Washington, but not without a fight from Lott and San Francisco's opportunistic D.
1983 Topps #190 Joe Jacoby Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 10 Value: $175
Joe Jacoby took a massive leap in his third season as the Washington Redskins’ starting left tackle to finish as a first-time Pro Bowler and First-Team All-Pro.
With two years of experience and lumps behind him, Jacoby evolved from a dependable starter to perhaps the most essential offensive lineman in the game in 1983.
Rushing outside left tackle over and over, the defending Super Bowl champs improved from one of the league's worst scoring offenses on the ground in 1982 (5 touchdowns) to the best in 1983 (30 touchdowns).
Part of that credit goes to a veteran mix of skill-position players hitting their stride.
But, a big part of that should also go to Jacoby and an improved offensive line.
With Jacoby controlling the action at the point of attack, Washington earned their second-straight division title at 14-2 and second-straight Super Bowl berth with postseason wins over the Los Angeles Rams (51-7) and San Francisco 49ers (24-21).
An embarrassing 38-9 loss to the LA Raiders in Super Bowl XVIII put a damper on things, but it couldn't erase just how crucial Jacoby's efforts were to getting Washington back to football's biggest stage.
1983 Topps #389 Steve Largent
Estimated PSA 10 Value: $175
An original Seahawk, Steve Largent had been through the wringer with the expansion franchise by the time the 1983 NFL season got underway.
Traded to Seattle before their inaugural season in 1976, Largent emerged as a Pro Bowl-caliber wideout as the Seahawks struggled to find their collective identity.
By 1983, new head coach Chuck Knox looked to vault Largent and the Seahawks to the playoff promised land for the first time.
Largent did his part by posting his fifth 1,000-yard season in six tries, catching 72 balls for 1,074 yards and a new career-high 11 touchdowns.
And he did so with two different quarterbacks at the helm.
Jim Zorn led Seattle to an up-and-down 4-4 start with a lackluster performance that ended up costing him his job.
With backup Dave Krieg as the new starter, the Seahawks rallied to a 5-3 finish to earn their first playoff berth at 9-7.
The Cinderella Seahawks didn't stop there.
Largent caught the first postseason touchdown in Seattle history in a 31-7 AFC Wild Card Round beatdown of the Denver Broncos.
And in a tight 27-20 win over the Miami Dolphins in the Divisional Round, Largent provided two key receptions, including a game-high 40-yard catch and scamper.
However, Seattle was no match for the LA Raiders in the AFC Championship Game, falling 30-14, bringing their exhilarating season to a close.
1983 Topps #302 Ted Hendricks
Estimated PSA 10 Value: $150
One of his generation's most versatile and disruptive defensive players, Ted Hendricks' 1983 swan song was as perfect as it possibly could be.
Starting all 16 regular season games for the Los Angeles Raiders at left outside linebacker, Hendricks finished his career with an applause-worthy streak of 215 consecutive starts.
Battling through injury and fatigue week in and week out, Hendricks kept his foot to the pedal for nearly a decade-and-a-half straight.
And despite playing fewer total minutes for the Raiders in '83, he earned his fourth straight Pro Bowl appearance (and eighth overall) along with a 13th-place finish in the AP's Defensive Player of the Year balloting.
A Second-Team All-AFC performer, Hendricks ended the regular season with 41 tackles, four pass deflections, two sacks, and a blocked kick.
With Hendricks doing it all, the Raiders finished tied for second in sacks, fifth in total defense, and fourth in the NFL against the run.
At 36 years of age, the toll of an extraordinary 15-year career was visible when watching Hendricks play.
Yet despite a noticeable drop-off in explosiveness and athleticism, Hendricks remained an essential cog in a 12-win Raiders machine that ripped through the AFC West and the playoffs en route to the franchise's third Super Bowl win.
1983 Topps #4 Joe Montana Record Breaker
Estimated PSA 10 Value: $125
There have been several quarterbacks, especially in recent years, who have thrown for 300 or more yards in consecutive games.
Drew Brees holds the record for most consecutive games (9) in which he threw for 300 or more yards, a streak he accomplished twice in his career.
Many years before that, Joe Montana raised eyebrows when he threw for 300 or more yards in five consecutive games during the 1982 season to break Dan Fouts' previous record of four-straight games.
Again, the game has changed since 1982, and many players have since passed for 300 or more yards in five-straight games.
But back then, this was a huge deal.
To commemorate Montana's accomplishment, Topps produced this card to honor the new record.
1983 Topps #46 Tony Dorsett
Estimated PSA 10 Value: $125
The only thing that could stop Dorsett's career-opening streak of five-straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons was a players' strike.
And though he was limited to just nine regular season games in 1982 because of the work stoppage, the Dallas Cowboys halfback did his best to keep it alive, leading the NFL with 177 rushing attempts.
However, he finished the year well short of the 1,000-yard plateau with 745 yards on the ground.
Come 1983, it was like the streak never ended.
Dorsett was once again one of the NFL's most explosive and dependable running backs, rushing 289 times for 1,321 yards and eight touchdowns.
A Pro Bowler and Second-Team All-Pro for the second straight year, Dorsett was a top contributor for a Cowboys offense that finished 1983 second in the NFL in total scoring, third in rushing touchdowns, and fifth in total yardage.
The 12-4 Cowboys easily snatched a Wild Card berth and a date with the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Wild Card Round, but it proved to be a bad matchup for Dallas.
Dorsett was stifled all game long on his home turf, gaining just over 3.5 yards per carry with no rush exceeding 11 yards.
The Rams held off the Cowboys late in a back-and-forth brawl, ending Dallas' season with a deflating 24-17 defeat.
1983 Topps #51 Drew Pearson
Estimated PSA 10 Value: $125
Speaking of Dorsett, his legacy will forever be intertwined with that of teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Drew Pearson.
After all, they played seven years together, and it was the veteran Cowboys wide receiver who threw the most memorable block of Dorsett's historic 99-yard TD run in 1982.
For Pearson, the 1983 NFL season was a culmination of everything he'd achieved and the right time to call it quits on an 11-year playing career.
At 32 years of age, Pearson still had the hands of an All-Pro level wideout.
However, his lack of burst and limited ability to separate from defensive backs relegated him to the role of a possession receiver.
Playing 14 regular season games and starting 13, Pearson caught 47 balls in 1983 for 545 yards and five touchdowns.
In the team's one-and-done postseason loss to the Rams, Pearson ripped off a 30-yard reception and ended the game with two catches for 49 yards.
But, the writing remained on the wall for one of the NFL's most gifted pass catchers.
The offensive captain of the Cowboys in 1982 and 1983, Pearson hung up his cleats for good following the team's first-round loss.
1983 Topps Football Cards In Review
While the 1983 Topps football checklist may be small by today's standards at 396 cards, there is a lot to love about it.
Rookie cards of Hall of Famers Marcus Allen, Kenny Easley and Mike Singletary headline a list of several great players of the era who made their cardboard debuts in this set.
Big names like Joe Montana, Lawrence Taylor and Terry Bradshaw are also signs of how much star power resides within the checklist.
There were also a few of interesting subsets, including:
- Record Breakers (#1 - 9)
- Playoff Highlights (#10 -12)
- League Leaders (#202 - 207)
As I mentioned in the opening, this set is often overshadowed by the 1981, 1984 and 1986 Topps sets.
But, as you can see, there are plenty of cards inside this set that make it worthy of a second look.