Sunday, December 22, 2019

All in on '71T Football

Putting the 1969 Topps football set to bed didn't stop my interest in sets of that era. I had considered completing one of the Philly Gum sets that I have starter lots of but something else came along. I was sorting through some boxes as part of my hobby 'clean-up' and found a few stars from this '71 Topps set including the only high dollar card, the Terry Bradshaw rookie.

I've always liked the design of this thing. It's colorful and has that goofy cartoon 'position guy' on it. The fact that my Baltimore Colts were coming off a Super Bowl win probably helped. At 263 cards and only a couple of noteworthy rookies (Bradshaw and Joe Greene), it's not hard to complete.

When a Net54 member offered up a decently priced lot I bought it and committed to building the thing. The same guy offered me a second lot later and I nabbed that as well. Between the cards I already owned and the two lots I bought I was at about 100 cards.

Last Saturday's hotel card show netted me over 100 more. Show promoter/friend Darryl had promised to bring a box of them for me to browse, and he didn't disappoint. The cards he had were in great condition and I found almost 100 more that I needed. I found some others at another dealer's table and have since nabbed more on COMC. So just like that, I'm within striking distance of finishing it.

The cards I'm posting are a mix of those I already had and those I've nabbed in the last month. Starting off with one of my favorites, Gene Washington of the Vikes.

Washington as an alum of the school I taught at for much of my career. He came to speak to our kids a couple of times. I got him to sign one of these cards for me but it's part of a display at the school. When I retired I didn't want to take it with me. Here is part of a previous blog post I wrote about Gene Washington in 2017:

His is a pretty remarkable story of growing up as an athlete in Texas. His home town had no high school that would allow blacks so he took a bus to Baytown, across under the Houston Ship Channel, to all black G. W. Carver High School. He played football and ran track and set records against other black high schools in the Prairie View Interscholastic League. 
He went on to become an All American for the Spartans and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. As for's still there in Baytown. It's no longer a 'stepchild' and no longer a high school. I've taught and coached there for nearly 29 years. Gene has visited a few times and is a gracious, soft-spoken gentleman. When I look up from my door at school every day I see a fantastic framed nearly life-sized photo of him in posed action for Michigan State. Next to that are framed banner listing the football, hoops and track state titles the Gene Washington and his schoolmates won while at Carver.
Washington played seven NFL seasons, all for the Vikings. There is a neat video on the Vikings site. It's part of a documentary done by Gene Washington's daughter chronicling his 'road' to Michigan State and the pros. It's well worth the 10 minutes. 
This is the photo I mentioned in that post. It was hard to take a glare-free pic.

And now back to the '71s!

When I was a high school freshman our locker room was so small we shared lockers. My locker mate was a running back whose favorite player was this guy:

The two NFL Conferences were separated by card frame color in 1971. NFC cards were blue. AFC guys got red cards. All-Stars got fancier cards, both red and blue! These bear a strong resemblance to the '75 baseball design. Here's Alan Page.

As great a player as Page was (and trust me, he was terrific!) his accomplishments during his post-playing days dwarf anything he did to gain the Hall of Fame. Page obtained a law degree and went on to serve on the State Supreme Court of Minnesota.

Fran Tarkington made his name with the Vikings, but he still had that scrambling ability that made him famous when he played for the Giants.

The ageless George Blanda. Classic practice field photo on this one. Mis-cuts are a big issue with the '71 football set. Left-to-right, top-to-bottom, it is an equal opportunity challenge. These don't bother me as long as the cut doesn't run through the picture or text. I'd rather have decent corners if given a choice. Wrong backs and severely mis-cut backs are fairly common as well.

Mercury Morris! An electrifying kick return guy and he had his moments as a running back as well. The NFL has changed the rules so that kick returns are no longer much of a factor in games but back in Morris's day, he was a threat to do his 95-yard-momentum-changing thing every time.

Bonus points if you knew his given name is Eugene.

I can't post a group of football cards without a Baltimore Colt in the mix.

And here is my chance to show the back of one of these. Mackey's card has a cartoon that references his role as the Players Association president. It doesn't mention that the same role would influence the closed good ol' boy network of clowns who kept him from induction in Canton until it was almost too late.

Gale Gillingham's card brings to mind Ray Scott, Packer (and CBS) play-by-play man, who I have always considered the best I've ever heard. "Starr............. this is Dowler.......... Touchdown".

Spider Lockhart, a favorite of my Dad.

Charlie Krueger was 33 years old or younger when this shot was taken. I'm serious.

Jackie Smith was a Hall of Fame tight end for the Cardinals and later, the Cowboys. He had a fine career but is mostly remembered for his drop in the end zone in Super Bowl XIII. Another classic practice field card photo. "That's right, hold it up like you just caught it." It was a popular pose back then.


Oh, and I have a better cut Moses waiting for me in my COMC queue.

I included this Don Hermann card because I think he resembles Eli Manning. 🤷

I think all the Raiders were photographed on this field. The photographer had Biletnikoff stand a little closer.

Preston Pearson is shown on a Steelers card but he was photographed when he was with the Colts. (which, BTW, hadn't been the case since May 1970).

Whoever was assigned to take the Colts' pics lined most of them up against that blue brick wall and snapped away. I pulled this page from my Baltimore Colts collection binder:

Check out the two different fonts Topps used for the team name. Lower card numbers have that wider font. Without digging into it I'll assume that corresponds to the two series, 1-131 and 132-263. Once I get my cards sorted I'll check other teams.

The 1970 set used a bunch of these shots as well:

We'll end this with another All-Star, Bob Griese...with an electrical or phone wire running through the pic behind him.

The last dozen or so cards I need for this set are listed over in the sidebar. I've got a nice stack of dupes if you are interested and have something to swap.

If you are not building it but have been thinking of going after a vintage football set... you could do worse than this one.


  1. Hi Commish,

    The 1971 Topps set is a great set.

    I got most of them back in '71 but completed the set a few years ago. (I think Charlie Smith was the last one I needed.)

    After you complete the set, you may be interested in the extension sets that has for sale. For the 1971 cards, I think they only have Cowboys and Bears so far. I have the '71 Cowboys, but the blue borders are lighter than the regular Topps set.

    1. BTW, they have extra Colts cards for 1963 and 1966.

    2. Usually, their team sets are 15 to 20 cards. But they have a 48-card set of 1962 Houston Colt .45s.

    3. Thanks Jim, I will check that out

  2. Great post about Gene Washington. I remember him and the Vikings playing the Rams tough at the L.A. Coliseum every time they were in town. In fact, I saw the Rams play a charity basketball game vs. the Vikings in the early 70's at the now-gone L.A. Sports Arena.

    I'm also building this set too but you're closer to completing it than I am. Your cards are in better shape than mine--I used to look at my cards a lot when I was a kid and it shows. I'm still 24 cards away from completing the set. I have only one duplicate of a card you need (#200 Bart Starr) but it's not in the best condition. It's yours if you like.

    1. Much appreciated! How about emailing me your needs at commishbob AT gmail DOT com

      I'll see if I have anything.

  3. Hahaha I was confused for a bit since I only knew of the other Gene Washington as a Stanford/49ers guy.

    1. 'My' Gene had some stories about being confused for the other one.

  4. Love the stuff about Mr. Washington. Like Nick V, the first guy who popped into my head was the 49er guy. I don't think any famous athletes have ever attended the schools I've taught at... although Dustin Diamond (aka Screetch from Saved By the Bell) did attend the elementary school I started at (albeit a few years before I started teaching there).

  5. Such a great set, and I never knew that about the All-Stars getting two-tone borders! I think I like the cards with one border color better (what's that say about my beloved '75 Topps????). Quite a step up between 1970 and 1971 if you ask me.

  6. This will teach me to read blog posts out of order. "Why on Earth would Bob be looking for a Joe Greene rookie?" :-D

    For some reason, when I was a kid I came across older football cards more than older baseball cards, and I have a few cards from this set, including Preston Pearson. Normally for any vintage Football set I would attack the Steelers first... but with those Bradshaw and Mean Joe rookies... well.... It's no coincidence that, for the longest time, my Steelers collection started with 1972.

    I had a comment to make on George Blanda, but I think it might make for a decent blog post, so stay tuned!

  7. I forgot to mention that, as a kid I thought that Spider Lockhart had THE COOLEST NAME in the NFL. Imagine my disappointment when I found that his Philadelphia cards listed him as the mundane "Carl Lockhart". :-D

  8. I was watching the final episode (the quarterbacks) of the NFL 100 All-Time Team on the NFL Network last night.

    Each episide was hosted by Rich Eisen, along with Chris Collinsworth and Bill Bellichick. (Then they have rotating guests per episode, such as Roger Staubach, Tom Brady, Jim Brown, Emmitt Smith, Joe Greene, Lawrence Taylor, etc.)

    Belicheck handled the descriptions of the pre-1960 players, using a telestrator.

    At the end of the last episode, the 3 hosts were verbally patting each other's back, and Eisen asked Bellicheck how he became so familiar with the old-time players. He said " from my football card collection" ( which he still has).