By Doug Koztoski
Forty-four years ago January 14, the Miami Dolphins did what many considered unthinkable, slogging through an NFL season undefeated. The 1972 Dolphins won 14 games in their regular schedule, three in the postseason, and beat Washington in the Super Bowl. A few teams have come close to matching that feat, even with longer schedules, but none have succeeded.
While the “17 and 0” Miami squad, with players such as Bob Griese, Larry Csonka, Earl Morrall, Paul Warfield and Nick Buoniconti, deservedly captured much of the season’s NFL spotlight, many football collectors had two key choices to help remember the year.
Topps produced a solid set, for most that meant two series of cards, 263 total pasteboards. A relatively rare 88-card third series in 1972 was only test-marketed in a few areas and still keeps many collectors scrambling, especially for high condition samples.
But the Sun Oil Company rolled out a football stamp promotion that season which, for some, shines brighter than the Topps issue. Available at Sunoco and DX brand gasoline stations, the stamps mostly came in unopened packs of nine.
Some collectors, like Mike Klotz, assembled pieces of the offering by applying the gift of gab. For Klotz that meant tagging along with his dad on ’72 fall Sundays and stopping at a nearby Sunoco in New York.
“I was nine and I would schmooze the guy (Sunoco employee) into giving me some packs of stamps for my collection, which I literally still have to this day. I have great memories of that,” the financial planner said.
In other cases, one bought gas to get a few packs in a single visit. Clipping a football shaped newspaper coupon and presenting it at the time of purchase garnered extra packs.
All 26 NFL teams had 24 stamps, some came as a “starter collection” in the “saver” albums. Most players were photographed during game play, and, unlike the Topps cards that year, the stamps showed helmets with team logos. So although the stamps are about half the size of a trading card they usually display significantly better overall eye-appeal.
“The stamps are just different from the regular cards,” Klotz said, “and that’s one of the aspects of the set I like, too.”
Just about every player of the season, from Dan Abramowicz to John Zook, are included in the 624 stamps, with Terry Bradshaw, Dick Butkus, Len Dawson, Joe Namath, O.J. Simpson, Bart Starr and Johnny Unitas, among others, leading the way.
The rookie selection is above average: Ted Hendricks (Colts), Larry Little (Dolphins), Archie Manning (Saints), Jim Plunkett (Patriots), John Riggins (Jets) and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach, who just happens to resemble one of the stamp pack “generic” cover illustrations. The Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Jets also get comparable pack front treatment. Dallas beat Miami in the previous year’s Super Bowl, so perhaps that played a significant role in those teams “making the cover” for the ’72 Sunoco campaign.
After reentering the hobby around 2005, after a two-decade break, Klotz bought and sold Sunoco packs for a while as part of his new chapter in the pastime.
“Unopened Sunoco packs then sold for about $1.30, now they are about $2 apiece,” he said.
Those numbers are for “bulk” purchases of packs, such as 20 or more. A recent eBay scan showed single packs selling for about $5, maybe mostly to team collectors of the franchises featured on the covers.
After doing little with his Sunoco stamps for years, Klotz decided last summer to get several stamps graded. Many came back PSA 6s and 7s and he is “holding on to some for nostalgia purposes.”
Two types of Sunoco stamp albums exist: the 56-page version and the 128-page Deluxe size, containing much more text and images. Empty regular albums often sell for around $15-$20; the Deluxe style is normally $30-$35 in the original shrink wrap. But keep in mind even fresh out-of-the-case examples can have issues, such as the pages/stamp sheets sticking together.
Six 24-stamp sheets came with each album, mostly commons, but Hall of Fame types and other stars of the time were also included: Carl Eller, Jim Otto, Bubba Smith and Herb Adderley, the Hall of Famer who owns the distinction of playing in four of the first six Super Bowls (two each with Green Bay and Dallas).
Although stamp lots can be found online or at shows, often in a dime to 50 cents each price range, individual commons have been selling around a dollar apiece, in Excellent or better condition. Raw or graded, this issue is available in strong numbers.
Sunoco NLF Stamps cruise control
Whether collecting certain players, a particular team or the entire set, Klotz anticipates a smooth ride ahead for ’72 Sunoco stamps. Some assurance comes from the PSA Population Report.
“Five to seven years ago, my guess is, maybe there were 100 to 200 total Sunoco stamps ever graded,” he said. “Now you can go on there (PSAcard.com) and find star players, like a Staubach, that probably have 50 to 70 graded just of that one stamp alone.”
At press time there were 67 PSA graded Staubachs with no qualifiers.
“There is no question more people are familiar with these (’72 Sunoco stamps in general), therefore demand is higher than it ever was,” Klotz added.
And Klotz projects that trend continuing along the sports hobby highway for years to come. Your mileage, of course, may vary.
(Doug Koztoski is a frequent contributor to SCD. He welcomes comments related to this article at firstname.lastname@example.org)