The decade was owned by the Pittsburgh Steelers, plain and simple. Therefore, to list the top 5 football rookie cards of the 1970s, we are going to cheat a little bit, and group the great Steeler RC's together as one.
1971 Topps Terry Bradshaw RC
1971 Topps Joe Greene RC
1973 Topps Franco Harris RC
1975 Topps Lynn Swann RC
A case could be made that John Stallworth, Mike Webster and Jack Lambert among others deserve to be included in this group of RC's, but that wouldn't be fair to the rest of the league.
'Mean Joe Greene' isn't so shabby himself, as very few are listed in pristine condition, with a PSA Gem Mint 10 selling for $5,500 in 2008. If you aren't lucky enough to own either one of them, you could always settle for Franco Harris, PSA 8's can be had for a reasonable $80, while 9's and 10's are more rare. A PSA Gem Mt 10 Lynn Swann sold for $2,800 in 2007 and $1,767 in 2009. The Steelers were definitely the team of the decade, and a plethora of RC's are floating around as proof of their dominance. Click here to see what's up for bid now on eBay.
In no particular order and next up, the 1970 Topps O.J. Simpson RC. Well, history is history. On the gridiron, he was the most talked about player for much of the decade. The first man to rush for 2,000 yards--and in a 14-game season. His card remains the key to the 1970 Topps football set. A PSA 9 Simpson will sell between $500 and $700.
There were a few other 70's rookie cards at the QB position that nearly made the list, but there's no question that the QB of America's team is here. The 1972 Topps Roger Staubach is a must-have for 70's and Cowboys fans alike. Winner of the 1963 Heisman Trophy and two-time Super Bowl Champion, Staubach was an All-American hero. His card values reflect just that, as a PSA Gem Mint (a Pop 1 at the time) sold for $22,033 in 2005, and only one other has entered the market according to PSA since then. There's a certain mystique about quarterbacking the Dallas Cowboys, and Staubach is one of the players that created that mystique along the way.
For our last two, we'll stay away from the signal callers for once. Wide receivers rarely get their due without mention of their QB, but Steve Largent was a bigger name on and off the field than his quarterbacks. It wasn't preordained though, as Largent was drafted by the Oilers in the 1976 draft, but during the preseason was traded to the expansion Seattle Seahawks for an 8th round selection. He would turn out to a be a steal of a deal, and go on to have a stellar 14-year career, making Oilers fans wishing they'd given him more time.
Upon retirement, Largent held the NFL record for most receptions (819), receiving yards (13,089), andtouchdown receptions (100) in a career. While Jerry Rice would shatter those numbers in the years to come, Largent's accomplishments make his a more than worthy hall of famer. Following his days on the field, he would enter politics, and served in the House of Representatives from 1994-2002.
Never a flashy player, Largent was one of the best possession receivers around. His 1977 Topps RC has never been the most sought after, but is still a valuable commodity, as a PSA Gem Mint 10 Largent rookie sold for $5,800 in 2008. A PSA 9 can be found in the more reasonable $150 range.
Sweet...ness. Not just one of the greatest running backs, but one of the best football players of all-time, Walter Payton was an exemplary teammate and champion. An unrelenting player, Payton had an unbelievable determination on the field that made him virtually impossible to tackle at times. While his numbers are staggering, he is still one of the few greats where numbers can't tell the whole story. Merely watching Payton play was enough to make so many kids to grow up wanting to play football, and that's just one reason why he has been a collectors favorite for years.
The late Payton's 1976 Topps RC is rock solid in the marketplace, with PSA 4's, 5's and 6's even trading in the $75-$125 range. Obviously the prices increase from there, with a PSA 10 selling in 2012 at auction for just under $3,900. But just as he somehow made running over a linebacker a 'beautiful' display of athleticism, even a PSA 4 Payton rookie is a beautiful card to own, and why his lowered grade cards are still cherished. He's one of the best ever, and the condition is secondary to a true collector.