The 1971 Topps baseball card set is pretty much a love-it-or-hate-it proposition.

Ever since I can remember, collectors I know think the black borders are either 1) tres cool or 2) an abomination on the order of Pete Rose in a Montreal Expos uniform.

And everyone agrees that the black borders make this thing a condition nightmare … what fading and chipping don’t take away, a scammer’s black magic marker just might.

Still, 1971 Topps is a hobby classic loaded with Hall of Famers and a couple of big rookie cards (including Steve Garvey, who won’t appear below).

And with photos on card backs (gasp!) and a checklist that numbers to a gargantuan 752 cards, nearly everyone can find something to like here. Even if they are loathe to admit it.

1971 Topps Vida Blue (back)

All of that adds up to a set with plenty of valuable pieces, which makes picking out the top money cards a little tricky.

The black-border-condition-pit throws even more turmoil into the storm.

That’s why, for the list of the 12 most valuable 1971 Topps baseball cards listed below, I’ve settled on looking at PSA 7 copies.

That gets us away from the scarce 8s, the super-rare 9s, and the worm’s-teeth rare 10s, and into territory that we might at least hope to trod sometime during our lifetimes.

As for the rankings themselves, those are based on the values listed in the PSA SMR Price Guide.

Now, with our warm-up pitches in the bag, let’s play ball!

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1971 Topps Thurman Munson (#5)

1971 Topps Thurman  Munson

All of the things I said about Munson in my post on 1970 Topps baseball cards apply here as well …

New York Yankees legend …

Gone way too soon …

Strong Hall of Fame support to this day.

Of course, this card is not Munson’s rookie, like the 1970 Topps card is.

But this one is a bona fide beauty and features one of the great action shots of the 1970s.

It’s horizontal format is eye-catching, and it’s Munson’s first standalone card.

All of which adds up to a highly desired hunk of cardboard that typically trades for $200+ in PSA 7.

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1971 Topps Roberto Clemente (#630)

1971 Topps Roberto  Clemente

Clemente is another legend of the game — and of the hobby — who died much too young.

Unlike Munson, though, Clemente is already in the Hall of Fame. This is a great shot of Roberto swinging the lumber in an empty (and new) Three Rivers Stadium.

And it’s a semi-high number. Score!

Nearly as valuable as the Munson card, this one checks in at around $200 in graded NM condition.

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1971 Topps Reggie Jackson (#20)

1971 Topps Reggie  Jackson

This card was issued a few years before Reggie firmly cemented his legend as Mr. October, but he was already pulverizing baseballs for the Oakland A’s when the 1971 Topps cards hit store shelves.

In this one, a kneeling young (and muscular) Reggie totes a couple of bats, on his left shoulder, and you get the idea he probably could hit two homers at once.

This has been a super popular card for decades and today fetches around $150 in PSA 7 condition.

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1971 Topps Nolan Ryan (#513)

1971 topps nolan ryan

It’s no surprise to see a Nolan Ryan pasteboard on a list of most valuable cards from any given set.

And that goes double for an early-career issue that shows The Ryan Express with his original team, the New York Mets.

It doesn’t hurt that the visuals of this one have become somewhat iconic, owing to Ryan exploding out of the Royal Crown sign in the outfield.

Like Reggie, 1971 Topps Nolan comes in around $150.

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1971 Topps Pete Rose (#100)

1971-Topps-Pete-Rose

Charlie Hustle was right in his prime on this card, standing in his right-handed pose against a gorgeous blue sky and teeming stadium in the background.

While Pete has not yet reached the Hall of Fame, his fire and ongoing exile make him a popular target for collectors.

This classic card sells for nearly $150 in PSA 7 most of the time.

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1971 Topps Johnny Bench (#250)

1971 Topps Johnny  Bench

Johnny Bench took a one-year hiatus from winning National League MVP awards in 1971, you know, just to give mortals like Joe Torre a shot at some hardware.

That step back was no great heartbreak for collectors, though, as they were treated to a smiling JB against a dream-away blue sky.

And besides … he’d get back on the MVP train in 1972.

All that hardware, plus the World Series trophies with the Big Red Machine in 1975 and 1976, plus the stunning visuals leave this a $100 card today.

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1971 Topps Willie Mays (#600)

1971 Topps Willie  Mays

Willie Mays enjoyed a bounce back in power (28 home runs) in 1970 and a in speed (23 stolen bases) in 1971.

Not bad for a guy who was 39 and 40 years old at the time, huh?

Sure, the Say Hey Kid faded quickly from that point on, but we still had solid cards like this semi-high number close-up to fall back on .

Even though Willie isn’t smiling here, his card is still a $100 item these days.

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1971 Topps Bert Blyleven Rookie Card (#26)

1971 Topps Bert  Blyleven

It took Blyleven forever and a day to get his due among baseball fans and experts, and he still has detractors even years after his Cooperstown enshrinement.

The main knock on Blyleven is that he was an accumulator rather than a dominant force during his career, but his 20-17, 2.52 ERA, 9.7 WAR in 1973 tell a different story.

So do his 60 career shutouts, 3701 strikeouts, and 1.198 WHIP.

Regardless of the knocks against him, all of the above and his 287 victories add up to a rookie card that pushes $100 in PSA 7.

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1971 Topps Brooks Robinson (#300)

1971 Topps Brooks  Robinson

When this card made its debut, Brooks Robinson was coming off a 1970 World Series where he pretty much humiliated the Cincinnati Reds with his glove and with his bat.

After the Baltimore Orioles ran over the Reds in five games B. Robby was named Series MVP.

Of course, he already owned the 1964 AL MVP award and was in the midst of a 15-year run of Gold Gloves at third base.

And then, Topps dropped this dramatic swinging masterpiece on us.

I mean , who could resist Brooks following through with full effort in front of a throng of fans?

Hardly anyone, which is why this card is moving toward $100 in PSA 7.

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1971 Topps Don Baylor/Tom Paciorek/Dusty Baker Rookie Card (#709)

1971 Topps Don  Baylor Dusty  Baker Tom  Paciorek

Don Baylor was a successful Major League ballplayer who won the 1979 AL MVO. He later became a Major League manager.

Dusty Baker was a successful MLB player who played at an All-Star level for years and then enjoyed a long run a s a successful Major League manager.

Tom Paciorek was not in Baylor’s or Baker’s class as a player, but he stuck around for 18 years and is a solid addition to any rookie card.

Rookie card?

Oh, yeah. These three guys share an RC in 1971 Topps, and their combined talents — plus being #700 — are enough to push it above $75 most of the time.

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1971 Topps Hank Aaron (#400)

1971 Topps Hank  Aaron

By 1971, Hank Aaron was staring down the barrel of 600 home runs and showing no sign of slowing down — dude hit 38 bombs at age 36 for the Atlanta Braves in 1970.

Another 47 in 1971 made it crystal clear that Henry was coming for Babe Ruth.

And, of course, the Hammer achieved his goal.

Aaron’s 1971 Topps card is just a simple head shot, but each hunk of Hank cardboard from this era has to be considered a piece of history at this point.

And this one is a $75 piece of history.

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1971 Topps Ernie Banks (#525)

1971 Topps Ernie  Banks

Forty-year-old Ernie Banks was trying to find a place to latch onto with the 1971 Chicago Cubs, but the slide in playing time he saw in 1970 only got worse as the new decade plodded on.

After 12 homers in 72 games the year before, Mr. Cub managed just three in 39 games in 1971 before bowing out in late September.

While it would have been nice to have a career-capper card, that just wasn’t done, at least not in those days. And so we’re left with this parting shot of Banks, apparently jawing to a teammate or the photographer, as our last Topps card of a legend.

Because of that last-card status, this one is popular among high-end collectors and can fetch more than $6000 in PSA 9.

In PSA 7, though, it’s a much more affordable $75 (or so).

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1971 Topps Set Break #544 Vida Blue VG-VGEX *GMCARDS*

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1971 Topps Set Break #580 Tony Perez VG-VGEX *GMCARDS*

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1971 Topps Set Break #605 Orlando Cepeda EX-EXMINT *GMCARDS*

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