Walter Payton played for the Chicago Bears for 13 seasons, during which he would dominate the league and become one of the greatest running backs in NFL history. He won both a NFL MVP award and a Super Bowl during his career. Those memories are just some of the reasons why the 1976 Topps Walter Payton rookie card is very popular among collectors. In fact, it's not a stretch to say it's among the top five most in-demand cards of the modern era.
Payton was a hot prospect out of Jackson State but few could have predicted the greatness to come. His debut came in 1975 but unlike today, Topps didn't produce a player's first trading card until the year following his debut.
Because football cards weren’t extremely popular in 1976, they weren't printed in massive quantities like cards often were in the 1980s and 90s. High grade Payton rookie cards aren't difficult to locate but his popularity with fans and collectors keeps prices strong and the card has been trending upward fairly dramatically.
In October 2014, a PSA 10 1976 Topps Payton sold for more than $10,000 on eBay. Those graded at PSA 9 have been bringing $700-$1,000 at auction, while NM/MT 8 examples are more readily available and sell for $300-400. More than ten times as many Payton rookies have received the PSA grade of 9 than 10, which accounts for the extreme disparity.
Centering is sometimes an issue with pre-1990s football cards but generally that isn't a problem with most Payton rookies.
There are some ungraded examples, especially in lower grades, and those can often be purchased for under $100. If you're in it for the long haul, however, an authenticated, graded Walter Payton rookie card is your best bet for eventual re-sale, not to mention the security it provides.
The Payton rookie card was issued in an era when collectors occasionally saved boxes or even cases or discovered them in old stores or dealer stock and unopened 1976 Topps cello packs can be found on eBay with some featuring Payton on the front. These often sell for hundreds of dollars depending on grade with packs that show Payton bringing much more.
The 1976 Topps Walter Payton is a great potential investment but still within reach of collectors who simply want the peace of mind that goes with owning a graded card. Check the live links below to find professionally graded Payton rookie cards at a level that's best for your budget.