Vintage Spotlight: The Best Rookie And Star 1976 Topps Baseball Cards
The 1970s were a wild ride and that extended to the baseball diamond.
The year 1976 saw the United States celebrate its bicentennial. Apple Computer and Microsoft both were incorporated. Tigers’ flamethrower Mark Fidrych took the baseball world by storm with his excellent pitching and amusing antics. Also, your author made his debut on the planet.
Topps produced some classic sets in the 1970s, with some amazing rookie cards. Less modern production and quality assurance processes, plus the ravages of time have made some of these cards challenging and valuable in top condition.
In this series, we’ll look at the top cards for each set, including key rookie cards and other valuable cards, with info on their PSA populations and recent values. Come hop in the way back machine and relive the glory that was 1970s Topps baseball.
We’ll look today at the 1976 Topps baseball cards.
Topps 1976 baseball cards – By the numbers
The 1976 Topps set consists of 660 cards, all released in one series.
Wax boxes contained 36 packs of 10 cards each plus one stick of gum. They sold for 15 cents. Mini wax boxes contained 36 packs of 7 cards each plus stick of gum, which they sold for 10 cents.
Cello boxes contained 24 packs per box, with 24 cards and a stick of gum. They sold for 25 cents. Rack packs contained 42 cards and sold for 49 cents. 500 card vending cases were also available.
PSA has graded 163,139 1976 Topps cards. Of those, there are only 9,137 PSA 10s, or roughly 5.6% of the total. Even PSA 9s are fairly hard to find and command a premium.
1976 O-Pee-Chee has the same checklist as the 1976 Topps, along with the same design other than the fact that it was produced on a whiter stock and had both English and French text on the back.
OPC wax boxes contained 48 packs, each containing 8 cards plus one stick of gum. They sold for 10 cents. The 1976 O-Pee-Chee set had centering issues, which makes finding high-grade copies difficult. PSA has graded only 4,450 cards from the set, with only 220 PSA 10s and 1,249 PSA 9.
Topps 1976 Baseball cards – The design
After the colorful 1975 Topps, the 1976 Topps design is a bit more understated. The white-bordered cards feature a player photo inside a red frame. Two colored bars at the bottom of the card include the player name, position, and team name. A small caricature of a player appears in the lower left corner.
The card back features gray card stock, with brown and green areas and brown ink for the text and statistical information.
Subsets include Record Breakers (1-6), Father and Son (66-70), League Leaders (191-205), All Time All Stars (341-350), Post Season (461-462), and Rookie Prospects (589-599).
One highlight on the subsets is card #564, which is the Kurt Bevacqua Bubble Gum Champ. If you’re aware of a card that features a larger bubble gum bubble, please let us know!
Topps 1976 baseball cards – Key rookies
There is one Hall of Fame rookie card in the 1976 Topps set. Beyond that one player, there are not a lot of exciting rookies to be had, although there is one other worth calling out.
In his 24 years in the major leagues, Dennis Eckersley was also an All-Star starting pitcher and a top closer. He finished his career with 197 wins, 390 saves, and 62.1 career WAR.
PSA has graded 4,374 copies of the 1976 Topps Dennis Eckersley #98 rookie card. Of those, only 173 copies are in PSA 9 slabs, and only 9 PSA 10s. PSA 9 copies sell in the $1,400-2,500 range, while a PSA 7 is a much more affordable buy, in the neighborhood of $60-100.
While Ron Guidry isn’t a Hall of Famer, and isn’t likely to become one, he had a great career. He went 170-91 with a 3.29 ERA in his career and racked up 47.8 WAR. He won a Cy Young Award, and finished in the top 5 in the voting three other times. Guidry appears on card #599, 1976 Rookie Pitchers.
PSA has graded 1,306 copies of the card, with 129 PSA 9’s and only 4 PSA 10s. PSA 9s will set you back around $300, while a PSA 7 will cost in the $25-45 range.
|Card||Total PSA Pop||PSA Comp Pop||Recent Sale Price|
|1976 Topps Dennis Eckersley #98||4,374||PSA 9 = 173||PSA 9 = $1,400-2,500|
|1976 Topps 1976 Rookie Pitchers (Ron Guidry) #599||1,306||PSA 9 = 129||PSA 9 = $300|
1976 Topps Baseball cards – Other Key Cards
What the 1976 Topps set may lack in rookie card power, it makes up for by being chocked full of vintage Hall of Fame cards. Below are a few of the most desirable.
Hank Aaron #1
Card #1 of the 1976 Topps set celebrates Hank Aaron breaking the all-time record for career RBI. PSA has graded close to 2,000 copies, with 165 PSA 9’s and a scant 15 PSA 10’s.
Being the first card in the set back in the days before card collecting supplies became the norm typically means a card took a bit of a beating and is today condition sensitive. Even in PSA 8 condition, these can command up to $100.
George Brett #19
This is Brett’s second year card, which is enough reason to make it desirable. But this card is incredibly difficult to find well centered. A PSA example will cost from $350-600.
Johnny Bench #300
On most lists of the greatest catchers of all time, Bench occupies the #1 spot. In 1976 Bench was on his way to leading his Big Red Machine Reds to their second straight championship. PSA has graded fewer than 2,500 copies of the card, but it sells for a very reasonable $125-150 in a PSA 8 slab.
Nolan Ryan #330
With close to 6,000 copies graded by PSA, this is the most graded card in the set. This is a testament to Ryan’s unwavering popularity among collectors. Despite a higher population than any other card in the set, the Ryan still sells strongly in the $1,100-$1,200 in a PSA 9 slab.
Reggie Jackson #500
Still a year away from being bestowed with his “Mr. October” nickname, and years from slugging his 500th career home run, this card captures a Jackson inspecting the bat that would leave him to October glory and the Hall of Fame. PSA has graded just over 1,800 copies of the card, with 233 PSA 9’s and 10 PSA 10’s. In PSA 7, prices are a more affordable $20-50.
Hank Aaron #550
Aaron’s final Topps card produced during his playing days, this card has a great portrait of Aaron, and would be a great addition to any vintage collection. In a PSA 9 slab, these command $1,500-1,800. Even in a PSA 7, it’d command around $150.
1976 Topps Baseball Cards most valuable (star cards)
|Card||Total PSA Pop||PSA Comp Pop||Recent Sale Price|
|1976 Topps Hank Aaron #1||1,975||PSA 8 = 703||PSA 8 = $70-100|
|1976 Topps George Brett #19||3,291||PSA 8 = 427||PSA 8 = $350-600|
|1976 Topps Jonny Bench #300||2,450||PSA 8 = 863||PSA 8 = $125-150|
|1976 Topps Nolan Ryan #330||5,944||PSA 9 = 272||PSA 9 = $1,100-1,200|
|1976 Topps Reggie Jackson #500||1,803||PSA 9 = 233||PSA 9 = $350-550|
|1976 Topps Hank Aaron #550||3,465||PSA 9 = 109||PSA 9 = $1,500-1,800|
Final thoughts on Topps Baseball cards 1976
Calling any set produced the year you were born “vintage” stings a bit, admittedly. But 1976 Topps is solidly vintage, and a classic. The set had to wait 28 years to get its first Hall of Fame rookie card, and like the other late 1970’s Topps sets it took it a little time to get the respect of collectors.
But the set is getting the love nowadays. With over 10% of the cards featuring Hall of Famers, and some fun subsets and cards. Whether you’re a builder of vintage sets or a collector of high grade Hall of Fame rookie cards, there’s something for everyone in 1976 Topps.