If you were a gridiron collector in the 1950s, you had to be pretty stoked — and relieved — when 1957 Topps football cards appeared on the scene.

After a decade of fits and starts following World War II, it was never a given that there would be any football cards at all.

Not considering that Bowman had vanished from the scene between 1955 and 1956, and not considering that no one yet had a good handle on what Topps was all about.

But after a colorful, vertical 120-card issue in 1956, Topps busted back onto the fall landscape in 1957 with a horizontal format featuring two images of each player — a portrait and an action shot.

And the set was humongous by the standards of the day, checking in at 154 cards.

In retrospect, this issue was also a landmark in the hobby (along with the 1957 Topps baseball set) because it was the first issued in the now-standard 2-1/2″ x 3-1/2″ format.

But this set grew even more significant over the years as the first cardboard home of three legendary quarterbacks — Bart Starr, Johnny Unitas, and Paul Hornung (who played QB in college … as well as a host of other positions) all have rookie card in this colorful issue.

No surprise, then, that those three lead off our list of the ten most valuable 1957 Topps football cards, as ranked by prices for copies graded at PSA 7 (according to the PSA Sports Market Report Price Guide).

1957 Topps Bart Starr Rookie Card (#119)

1957 Topps Bart Starr Rookie Card

It took Starr and his Green Bay Packers a few seasons to hit their full stride, but by the time the Packers won the 1961 NFL Championship, Starr was the starting quarterback … and a star(r).

Four more titles followed, including the first two Super Bowl trophies in 1966 and 1967, and that run of success forever tied Starr to Vince Lombardi as one of the greatest coach-QB combos of all-time.

Though Starr retired from the NFL in 1971, he never really lost that luster of those great Green Bay teams, and he even returned to Titletown to coach the Pack from 1975 through 1983.

The 1957 Topps Starr rookie card is a key to the set, and one of the hobby’s big prizes, checking in at around $1500 in PSA 7 condition.

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1957 Topps Johnny Unitas Rookie Card (#138)

1957 Topps Johnny Unitas Rookie Card

Unitas got off to a faster start in the NFL than did Starr, leading the Baltimore Colts to a title in 1958, his third season in the league.

Johnny U. also helped usher in the modern era of quarterback play, unleashing a barrage of passes, yardage, and touchdowns that the league had never before witnessed.

In 1957, while this card was still available in “live” wax packs, Unitas blew the doors off opposing teams to the tune of 2550 yards and 24 touchdowns. Three years later, he’d become the first signal-caller to pass for more than 3000 yards in a season.

By then, the Colts had two titles under their belts, and Unitas was a legend.

Today, his rookie card pushes two grand in graded NM condition.

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1957 Topps Paul Hornung Rookie Card (#151)

1957 Topps Paul Hornung Rookie Card

Hornung could do pretty much anything on the football field, and he played just about everywhere at Notre Dame en route to the 1956 Heisman Trophy.

With the Packers, Hornung narrowed his focus to running, catching, and returning the ball (for the most part) and quickly developed into one of the Pack’s most versatile weapons as they set about building their dynasty.

Hornung’s career was relatively short at eight seasons over nine years, but that was enough to help Green Bay win three titles … and to punch Hornung’s Canton ticket.

The Hall of Famer’s rookie card sells for more than $500 in slabbed “7” condition these days.

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1957 Topps Raymond Berry Rookie Card (#94)

1957 Topps Raymond Berry Rookie Card

By the time Berry’s 1957 Topps rookie card found its way into collectors’ hands, the end from SMU had established himself as Unitas’ favorite target (though halfback Lenny Moore combined for well over 1000 yards that season).

In his 13-year career, all with Baltimore, Berry led the NFL in receiving yards three times and helped to Colts to those two titles in 1958 and 1959.

He finished his run in 1967 with nearly 9300 yards and 68 TDs, a resume that landed him a bust in Canton in 1973.

And, also, a rookie card that hauls in $300 or more in PSA 7.

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1957 Topps Fred Morrison (#154)

1957 Topps Fred Morrison

The life of an NFL running back is a punishing one, and you often hear the old rub about how age 30 is pretty much the limit for most mere mortals toiling at the position.

It’s possible that Fred Morrison was the original exemplar for that rule of thumb.

From 1950 through 1956, Morrison racked up 2400+ yards on 578 carries for the Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns before hanging up his cleats … yeah, he was 30 years old.

Still, as a Pro Bowler (1955) who starred for two of the NFL’s staple franchises in the 1950s, Morrison maintained a certain degree of popularity after he stopped playing, partly because he stayed in the game in a variety of executive capacities.

Today, his last football card fetches in the neighborhood of $100 when graded in NM condition.

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1957 Topps Night Train Lane Rookie Card (#85)

1957 Topps Dick Lane Rookie Card

Dick “Night Train” Lane’s story reads like a movie script …

A standout high school athlete (basketball and football) who played briefly in baseball’s Negro Leagues, Lane then starred on the gridiron at Scottsbluff Junior College before enlisting in the Army. He made his mark on the football field during four years of service, too, named to All-Army squads in 1949 (second team) and 1951 (first team).

After his discharge, Lane worked at a Los Angeles aircraft plant, where his bus route took him past the Rams’ offices.

A drop-by in 1952 led to a tryout and a contract.

That fall, at age 24, Night Train Lane lined up at defensive end and intercepted 14 opposing passes in just 12 games — a record that still stands today.

And that was just the beginning, as Lane picked off 68 passes in a 14-year career with the Rams, Chicago Cardinals, and Detroit Lions.

Unbelievably, that’s a total that still ranks fourth all-time going on six decades later.

Thanks to the sporadic nature of the football card market when he debuted, Lane’s RC didn’t come until 1957.

Today, that first Night Train card will set you back about $100 in PSA 7.

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1957 Topps Earl Morrall Rookie Card (#104)

1957 Topps Earl Morrall Rookie Card

It took Morrall three stops before he really got his feet under him in the NFL, with trades after the 1957 and 1958 season sending him from the San Francisco 49ers to the Pittsburgh Steelers to the Detroit Lions.

Six years in Motown were followed by three with the New York Giants before Morrall landed with the Colts in 1968. That season, filling in for an injured Unitas, Morrall led Baltimore to Super Bowl III (where they lost to Joe Namath and the New York Jets).

After backing up Johnny U. during the Colts’ championship run in 1970, Morrall resumed his role of super sub when he took over for the injured Bob Griese and helped lead the 1972 Miami Dolphins to the game’s only perfect season.

Morrall stayed with the Fins through 1976, when he finally retired at age 42.

With all the high-profile work he did during his career, it’s little wonder Morrall’s rookie card checks in here at about $100 in graded NM condition.

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1957 Topps Tom McDonald Rookie Card (#124)

1957 Topps Tom McDonald Rookie Card

Tommy McDonald had a nose for the end zone, scoring 84 touchdowns during a 12-year NFL career that included stops with the Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, L.A. Rams, Atlanta Falcons, and Cleveland Browns.

When he retired in 1969, that tally ranked second all-time among NFL receivers.

A six-time Pro-Bowler, McDonald was part of Philly’s 1950 championship team and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1998.

Today, his 1957 Topps rookie card trades for close to $100 in graded NM condition.

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1957 Topps Leon Hart (#118)

1958 Topps Leon Hart

Leon Hart got a head start on NFL fame by winning the Heisman Trophy at Notre Dame in 1949.

With the Detroit Lions, Hart did a little bit of (almost) everything — catching the ball, running the ball, and playing defensive end.

His versatility helped the Lions win three titles during his eight seasons in Detroit, including 1957, his final campaign.

Hart’s final football card sells for $75+ in slabbed NM condition most of the time.

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1957 Topps Zeke Bratkowski (#140)

1959 Topps Zeke Bratkowski

The last quarterback on our list (and the last card), Bratkowski won three titles as a backup with the Packers from 1965 through 1967 after serving as a starter with the Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Rams earlier in his career.

After he hung up his cleats in 1968, Bratkowski began a long coaching career but suited up for the Pack again in 1971 as an emergency backup. Two years after that, the Bears activated Bratkowski for eight games, but he never took the field.

Zeke’s son, Bob, spent several seasons as an assistant coach in the NFL from the 1990s through 2010.

These days, Zeke Bratkowski’s 1957 Topps football card usually sells for more than $50 in PSA 7 condition.

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