Revisiting the 1973 Set – The Ugliest Topps Baseball Set Ever

In my last blog post about the 1973 set I stated that I was 50 cards shy of a complete set. Over the past two years I have picked up all but one of the cards needed to complete my set.

With the recent release of the 2022 Topps Heritage cards that are patterned after the 1973 set, I felt it would be a good time to share some additional thoughts about the set.

The Good

With the election of Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat earlier this year the total number of Hall of Famers pictured on base cards and manger cards is an impressive 40. Hall of Fame coaches with chopped off ears are not included in my total.

The Terry Crowley card was one of the missing 50 that I purchased. I feel that the photo would have been a much better choice than the one Topps used on the 1973 card of Thurman Munson.

One of the major problems that I have with this set – the lack brightness and pop with regards to the photos of the players – is actually a benefit for Through The Mail (TTM) autograph collectors like myself – since just about every card is a good one to send to players to sign if you are a fan of nice, visible signatures.

The Bad

In this section I am going to just focus on some of the 50 cards that I acquired to complete my set.

For the Jim Fregosi card we have another photo of a player popping up. It is a bad photo – but not as bad as the memories it brings back of how bad the Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi trade really was.

Picked up a few more “could be anyone” cards due to the afternoon action shots created by high contrast situations that shaded the faces of the player or action shots with too little player information (no uniform numbers, no names on jerseys).

The Ugly

The Checklists are terrible. These ugly cards looked like they were designed in under 5 minutes. For comparison purposes I have included below what I feel is one of best checklist cards produced by Topps.

Two Great Cards

There are two great cards in this set. The Roberto Clemente card (which I mentioned in my first blog post about this set) and the Pat Corrales Card.

The current Topps management team thought so highly of the Clemente card that they included a reprint of the 1973 card in the base 2022 Heritage set.

There have been numerous blog posts and twitter mentions about the Pat Corrales card since the action shot features Hall of Fame pitcher – Ferguson Jenkins – sliding into home and upending Corrales. Jenkins was called out on the play, but if you watch the replay it looks like Corrales missed the tag.

1973 was not the last time that Corrales and Jenkins were on a Topps card together. Pat Corrales was the manager of the Texas Rangers from 1978 to 1980. Corrales and Jenkins appeared together again on the 1979 and 1980 Texas Rangers Team cards.

A Nice 1973 Tribute Card

One of the nicest cards from the Project 70 set was the Roberto Clemente card by Mimsbandz. The card utilizes the 1973 design and features four embroidered scenes from Roberto’s September 30, 1972, game where he collected hit number 3,000.

The Last Card

So, what is the last card I need to finish the set? It is not the Mike Schmidt rookie card. It is the 5th Series Checklist card – number 588. If you include shipping charges unmarked examples of this card are going for over $50 on eBay currently. Slabbed examples range in price from $90 to $339. I refuse to spend over $50 for a checklist – especially an ugly one.

While we are talking checklists, does anyone else think it is crazy that people are sending in checklists to get slabbed?

12 thoughts on “Revisiting the 1973 Set – The Ugliest Topps Baseball Set Ever”

  1. I saw someone selling this set at a card show outside Philly around 1997 or so for maybe $350. I had only a few star cards from it, so it was going to be a lot cheaper to just buy the set, but I didn’t have enough cash. The seller separately had a Schmidt rookie for $225, IIRC. Being a student at the time in a law school negotiations class, I asked what he sold more of, the Schmidt rookie or the set. He said the Schmidt rookie, by far. He said he could move them all day. I asked if he would sell me the set without the Schmidt rookie for $350 minus $225, or $125, since I’d be taking the hard-to-move item off his hands. He paused, then said “I wish I hadn’t answered your question there,” but then agreed to do it. A few years later I picked up a Schmidt rookie in a poorly-described auction on eBay for about $100. All in all, getting that 1973 set was one of my best deals!

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  2. Forgot to mention, great post! I agree with your assessment about the ugliness of it—and in fact this is the first year since the start of Heritage that I have decided not to collect it, although that is based on Topps taking the already unattractive design and then dumbing it down with unimaginative photos. I like grouping the action cards together where you can tell they were all taken at the same game! Despite its ugliness, I do enjoy this set a lot.

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  3. i didn’t buy a lot of 1973 Topps packs that year but even so i don’t think the 1973 set is the worst set of them all. i just recently became interested in purchasing the action cards in the set. From what i’ve heard there are 98 of them. i was wondering if Sabr could post a list of all 98 of those action cards. or if there are more or less than that.

    much thanks to Sabr for your great posts!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Checklists get slabbed, IMHO, because PSA credits them as if they are HOFers on its Set registry. To a lesser extent, especially in older sets, because they were less likely to be saved or unmarked., and thus less available. But in either case, not much of an addition for a collection.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I went to the Wilmington, MA and the Fenway Park card shows this year. The number of slabbed cards for sale at these shows was a shocker to me. I am basing this on going to card shows pre-Covid.

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  5. Check out the Dime Boxes blog post – A Hopeless Heritage Fan. It has some comparisons of action shots from 1973 and the 2022 Heritage set. Not sure – how many action shots there are in the 1973 set.

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  6. My story is like Steve F –

    I bought a mint set from a card store in the mid 1980s. The dealer said he would sell me the set for $125 minus Schmidt – he would sell me the Schmidt for $25. For $150, I got the whole set – Those crazy shred card dealers.

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  7. Really enjoyed this post(!) and all the varied insights. Had no idea about the “Pat Corrales” card – it’s a beauty! Love how Corrales looks like he’s in such agony, probably because he knows he missed the tag. Agree on the Clemente card too – it’s nice. The Fred Norman card, pitching with no one whatsoever in the stands is hilarious. I actually found a (way left-centered) rookie Schmidt card in my boyhood collection and have to say it’s not all that pretty. Where are you now, John Hilton? And I’m with you on Checklists – always hated ’em, though the one you show on the right is decent. Like folks have said, they’re not that interesting, but rare to find in good shape.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. That set was not one of Topps’ best efforts. Not sure what your parameters are for card condition, but there is a gentleman on sportlots.com who has 3 of those checklist cards in GOOD condition for $18/each. He has a picture enclosed. It’s what you would think, but no coloration/checkmarks in the boxes.

    RE: Checklists. Crazy, indeed. Surprising, no. Especially given how many collectors want 8s/9s/10s. From a TTM standpoint, I know a few baseball set collectors who got them autographed by living umpires, Sy Berger, or even notable historical figures of that era. – just so there would be a signature.

    Great post. I understand the importance of safety in MLB, but I miss the days of home-plate collisions.

    Liked by 1 person

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