If you want a set that will challenge you with tough Hall of Fame rookie cards and even tougher condition scarcities, 1971 Topps football cards have you covered.

Featuring colorful borders that have always been a love-hate proposition for collectors, the 1971s have become harder and harder to find in top shape over the years.

Like their black-bordered 1971 Topps baseball cousins, the 1971 gridiron cards seem to chip and fade if you breathe on them or look at the wrong!

1971 topps football cards unopened wax pack box

All up and down the two-series issue, then, you can expect to pay more than you would for other sets of the era.

And that’s especially true for these 12 most valuable 1971 Topps football cards (as determined by prices in the PSA Sports Market Report Price Guide) — especially for the PSA 8 copies we’re running down here.

Let’s dig in …

1971 Topps Terry Bradshaw (#156)

1971 Topps Terry Bradshaw

The Pittsburgh Steelers undoubtedly expected big things out of quarterback Terry Bradshaw when they took him with the first overall pick in the 1970 NFL Draft.

But you have to wonder if even the Rooney family could have foreseen what would unfold.

After all, even though the Steelers had been around since 1933, they had finished first in their division only once (1947) and never even sniffed an NFL title.

Within two years of that 1970 Draft, though, Bradshaw (along with coach Chuck Noll and other standout young players) had Pittsburgh in the playoffs.

And two years after that?

They won their first Super Bowl.

By 1979, Bradshaw had led the team to three more Lombardi Trophies and was a lock for the Hall of Fame.

Little wonder, then, that the Bradshaw rookie card sits at the top of the 1971 Topps value list, checking in at nearly $1200 in PSA 8 condition.

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1971 Topps O.J. Simpson (#260)

1971 Topps O.J. Simpson

O.J. was already a legend when he made it to the NFL, by virtue of the Heisman Trophy and National Championship he won at USC.

Two years into his pro career, though, Simpson was having a bit of trouble after rushing for less than 700 yards as a rookie in 1969 and less than 500 in 1970.

Things would swing upward a bit in 1971, when this card was issued, as O.J. checked in with 742 yards for the Buffalo Bills.

And things were about to get a whole lot more interesting from there.

Simpson led the NFL in rushing with 1251 yards in 1972, then set a single-season record with 2003 yards (under the old 14-game schedule, mind you).

Suddenly, those early Canton predictions were back on the table, and O.J. set off on a run toward immortality.

No one could have known then, of course, that the white Bronco leg of the run would change everything for Simpson, but he maintains enough hobby clout for his second-year card to bring in $500+ in PSA 8 condition these days.

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1971 Topps Joe Namath (#250)

1971 Topps Joe Namath

Like Simpson, Namath hit a bit of a rough patch in the early 1970s, and he hit rock bottom in 1971 — out of a measly four games he played for the Jets, only three of them were starts.

Broadway Joe would rebound to lead The League in passing yards and touchdowns in 1972, though.

And that “promise” legacy of his, and the Super Bowl III victory with the New York Jets, never let Namath fall too far from the limelight.

These days, this 1971 classic sells for around $500 in PSA 8 condition.

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1971 Topps Joe Greene (#245)

1971 Topps Joe Greene

One of those “other standout young players” who helped the 1970s Steelers get off the snide was a quiet, unassuming, diminutive defensive tackle named Joe Greene.

Yeah, right!

As Pittsburgh’s first-round pick (fourth overall) in 1969, Greene had only slightly less pressure on him to perform than did Bradshaw, and Joe stepped up in similar fashion.

Nabbing his first Pro Bowl selection in 1969 and his first All-Pro honor in 1972, Greene quickly established himself as one of the toughest and, on the field, meanest dudes in the NFL.

And, thus, Mean Joe Greene was born, and he smashed mouths from his spot on the D-line all through the Steel Curtain’s historic run.

Today, this Hall of Fame rookie card pushes $500 in graded NM-MT condition.

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1971 Topps Ray Nitschke (#133)

1971 Topps Ray Nitschke

At the other end of the line from the youngsters on this list, Green Bay Packers legend Ray Nitschke was down to just a couple of seasons left to play in the NFL when this card first popped out of wax packs.

No worries for old man Nitschke, though, as his place in history as the guiding force in the middle of the Pack’s linebacker corps during their glory years had long since been cemented.

This five-time NFL champion and Hall of Famer lines up at about $350 in PSA 8 condition here.

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1971 Topps Gus Otto (#258)

1971 Topps Gus Otto

Like Nitschke, Otto had just a couple of seasons in the NFL sun left when this card debuted.

And, like Nitschke, the Oakland Raiders standout was an All-Pro performer at linebacker (the right side, in this case).

That’s where their careers diverge, though, because, when Otto hung up his cleats at just 29 in 1972, he did so without a ring.

Nevertheless, Otto maintains enough of a hobby base to push his 1971 card into the $300 range in PSA 8 these days.

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1971 Topps Kent McCloughan (#137)

1971 Topps Kent McCloughan

Otto’s teammate McCloughan had an even more abbreviated career, lasting just six seasons in the NFL.

That last go-round came in 1970, which means McCloughan’s 1971 Topps card is a career-capper — a rarity in Topps’ early decades.

That 1971 card of this two-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro at cornerback sells for around $250 in PSA 8 today.

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1971 Topps Ken Ellis (#224)

1971 Topps Ken Ellis

Another standout cornerback, Ellis made most of his hay with the Packers in the early part of the 1970s before finishing with a four-year tour that took him to the Browns, Lions, and Dolphins.

Though Ellis may not be a household name, his strong performances and a tough rookie card, conditionwise, have him at about $225 on this list.

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1971 Topps Errol Mann (#247)

1971 Topps Errol Mann

Errol Mann didn’t make the NFL cut until he appeared in two games for the 1968 Green Bay Packers at age 27.

Despite missing his one field goal attempt and picking up just four extra points, Mann caught on with the Detroit Lions in 1969 and stayed in the Motor City into the 1976 season.

He finished out that year with the Raiders, which netted him a ring and enough national exposure to catch collector interest.

Today, his rookie card lands at around $180 in PSA 8 condition.

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1971 Topps Paul Warfield (#261)

1971 Topps Paul Warfield

Paul Warfield came out of Ohio State as the 11th overall pick in the 1964 NFL Draft and helped the Cleveland Browns win their last championship (ever?).

During his rookie season, the split end grabbed 52 catches for 920 yards and nine touchdowns, leading the team in both categories as quarterback Frank Ryan‘s favorite target.

Quite a worthy complement to Jim Brown in the Cleveland backfield!

After six season by the lake, Warfield moved on to the friendlier climes of Miami just in time to win two Super Bowls, after the 1972 and 1973 season.

Gone from football in 1975, Warfield finished up where he started, with a two-year return stint in Cleveland in 1976 and 1977.

All told, the Hall of Fame receiver recorded 427 catches for 8565 yards and 85 touchdowns.

Oh, and this $200 rookie card in the 1971 Topps set.

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1971 Topps Ed Sharockman (#253)

1971 Topps Ed Sharockman

Another standout cornerback, Sharockman starred with the Minnesota Vikings from 1961 through 1972.

In 1969, he helped the Vikes defeat the Browns for Minnesota’s only NFL Championship ever.

Today, Sharockman’s 1971 Topps issue is a $160 card in slabbed NM-MT condition.

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1971 Topps Jerry Logan (#134)

1971 Topps Jerry Logan

Spending his entire 10-year career with the Baltimore Colts, Logan helped the franchise win an NFL Championship (1968) and a Super Bowl (Super Bowl V, in January 1971).

Along the way, Logan picked up three Pro Bowl honors as a standout safety.

His 1971 Topps card is a $150+ buy in PSA 8 condition.

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