The saying “Go big or go home,” comes to mind when thinking about certain 1970 Topps Baseball offerings where the card maker really showed up. For one, the company produced its largest regular issue set to date: 720 cards, up from their then-record 664 the year before. But what stands out in other respects even more that season is their 42-card Topps Super set.
The 1970 Super packs came with three cards and a slab of gum for a dime. At 3 1/8 x 5 1/4 the cards stand a lot taller and wider than the regular pasteboards — and the Super issue is about six times thicker than a normal trading card.
“The cards have a pure design, a picture of the player with an autograph,” said Mark Wagner, who, at nine years old, “first started collecting heavily in 1970.”
Wagner also noted the complete statistics on the back, with a cartoon, as well, just like the regular Topps issue that season.
“I love the set,” said the Chicago-area native, who ranks No. 3 on the Current Finest for the issue on the PSA Set Registry.
Joe Mancino also collected the ’70 Super Baseball set when it debuted. Mancino grew up in Long Island, New York and he and other kids from his neighborhood helped each other work on their respective sets.
“As I recall, they came out late in the season, August and September,” Mancino said of the offering with the rounded corners. “Some are really tough cards.”
The now Arizona resident said among the most difficult Super cards to find included Joe Horlen, Tony Oliva and Boog Powell. Powell (#38), then the Baltimore Orioles first baseman, who earned 1970 A.L. MVP honors, is often mentioned as the most challenging of the handful of the issue’s short prints. Maybe that is true in general terms, but at least from a PSA Population Report standpoint, the numbers say otherwise, to a convincing degree.
At press time the Powell, one of eight short prints, appears 85 times without qualifiers. Only the Tom Seaver (#5, with 98 examples) and Frank Robinson (#37/101 in PSA holders) are easier to find. The two hardest to locate 1970 Super Baseballers are set-starter Claude Osteen (46 samples) and the card that follows the Dodger pitcher, Sal Bando (48 slabbed).
Wagner picked the Powell and the Osteen as a pair of the more difficult cards for him to track down. His set, by the way, contains a high demand card in supreme grade, a PSA 10 Willie Mays.
“I bought that card many years ago at a show,” Wagner recalled. “When I bought it the guy said ‘that’s the nicest Mays card of any kind I’ve ever had.’ And I paid $20 for it.”
Wagner estimated his PSA 10 Mays would bring upwards of $700 today.
“This set is loaded with Hall of Famers,” Wagner said, and with about 40 percent of them having plaques in Cooperstown most would agree with the collector’s statement. In the first ten Supers, for instance, you get Twins’ slugger Harmon Killebrew (the 1969 A.L. MVP), superstar Reds’ catcher Johnny Bench (the 1970 N.L. MVP) and Tom Seaver, the New York Mets’ standout pitcher, who led his team to an upset victory over Baltimore in the 1969 World Series.
The key to the issue, star wise, in many eyes, shows up in the 12th slot: Pirates’ legend Roberto Clemente.
“He is one of my favorites in the set,” Mancino said of the famous Pittsburgh outfielder, “and I also like the Reggie Jackson, Pete Rose and Lou Brock images.”
Wagner, meantime, picked Rose, Mays and Billy Williams (since the collector is a Cubs fan), among his top choices in the issue.
Other all-time greats not already mentioned that make an appearance in this giant card format include Hank Aaron, Carl Yastrzemski and Bob Gibson.
Toss in other stars, like Willie McCovey and Willie Stargell, and some semi-stars of the time, such as Oliva, Frank Howard and Denny McLain, to name a handful, and this set looks even better.
Krause Publications’ Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards lists the set in Near-Mint, raw, condition for $250 with Powell at $60 and Clemente, Frank Robinson and Rose at $35 each.
In 1971 Topps produced a 63-card Super Baseball set with the same basic design and roster of superstars. Like the ’70 Super issue, the ’71s have the identical back design as that year’s regular collection.
1970 Super 2.0
When the 1970 football season rumbled in Topps trotted out its gridiron Super issue, at 35 cards, slightly smaller set-wise than their Baseball counterparts but otherwise essentially identical in the design area.
Mancino said he did not see the ’70 Football Super cards in his area growing up, but years later found the issue. The veteran sports card enthusiast eventually assembled a complete run that still ranks among the finer examples (No. 12, Current Finest) on the Set Registry.
“I like both sets, they have good eye-appeal,” Mancino said of the ’70 Baseball and Football Super issues. “A lot of the PSA 8s in the Football set can be found for under $30,” he noted.
“Some of my favorites in the Football set are the Bart Starr, Gale Sayers, Deacon Jones, Dick Butkus, Johnny Unitas and Bob Hayes,” he said.
The Hayes (#30), is the second of the seven short prints, the issue’s only SPs, which round out the collection. The biggest names in the SP cluster include Hall of Famers Bob Griese, Fred Biletnikoff and the key to the set, Joe Namath.
Krause Publications’ Standard Catalog of Vintage Football Cards lists the set in Near-Mint, raw, condition for $300 with Namath at $65 and O.J. Simpson at $50 to lead the issue.
Mancino sees a solid future for the 1970 Topps Super sets.
“They are small, affordable and have a lot of stars,” he said. “And the short prints are not that tough or expensive, unless you want PSA 9s and 10s, so they are pretty collectible.”
Wagner called the ’70 BB Super set beautiful, “I like to think it would appreciate (in value). People should appreciate the cards more, I think they are a little tougher than they realize.”
Many collectors wish they could go back in time and stock up on the cards and related experiences of their younger days, but, as the saying goes, “you can’t go home again,” since it’s impossible to thoroughly relive one’s youth. Yet, when collecting 1970 Topps Super issues, even when to “go home” again is not an option, you can always “go big.”