Has there ever been a better cardboard representation of an era than the psychedelic funk 1972 Topps baseball cards dropped on collectors way back when?

I mean, here you had wild colors … starburst team names … arched borders … mutton chops and handlebars and fu manchus and long hair and afros and chest hair like shag carpet even if you couldn’t really see it.

You knew it was there.

Add in superstars and rookies and Hall of Famers and a huge checklist and scarce high numbers, and you have a set that’s stoked collectors for decades.

So which of these classic cards are the most valuable?

Glad you asked …

What follows are the most valuable 1972 Topps baseball cards, as listed in the PSA Sports Market Report Price Guide for PSA 8 copies.

(Note: The following sections contain affiliate links to eBay and Amazon listings for the cards being discussed.)

1972 Topps Nolan Ryan (#595)

1972 Topps Nolan Ryan

Ryan and Carlton Fisk (below) both retired after the 1993 season, but Ryan started his Big League career a couple seasons before Pudge did.

And Ryan was dominant just about all along the way, save for some wild early years with the New York Mets. A December 1971 trade to the California Angels ended all that and set Ryan on his way to legend status.

By the time this semi-high series card was issued, Topps knew it had to show The Ryan Express with his new team, so they airbrushed on the Halos’ garb.

Not an artistic masterpiece, but not bad enough to keep Ryan from taking top honors here, either.

Value: $500-550

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1972 Topps Hank Aaron (#299)

1972 Topps Hank Aaron

As the 1972 season dawned, so did a realization for fans who hadn’t been following Hank Aaron closely for the previous 18 seasons … this was the man who would make a serious run at Babe Ruth‘s all-time home run record.

After all, Mickey Mantle was three years in the rearview mirror, and Willie Mays was fading fast.

But not Hammering Hank, who clubbed 47 homers in 1971 to sail into ’72 with 639 to his credit, less than 80 shy of the Bambino.

This card shows Hank doing what he did best — holding a bat — against a blue sky. It’s a posed shot, but you get the feeling Henry still may tie into one somehow.

Value: $375-450

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1972 Topps Willie Mays In Action (#50)

1972 Topps Willie Mays In Action

Mays was trotting toward the finish line of his storied career by 1972, but he had somehow coaxed 23 stolen bases out of his 40-year-old legs in 1971. That was his highest steal total since 1960, and it seemed to have caught Topps’ attention, as evidenced by this dusty, sunny In Action card of Say Hey sliding in the dirt.

Value: $350-375

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1972 Topps Roberto Clemente (#309)

1972 Topps Roberto Clemente

This is Clemente’s last regular Topps card issued before his death in the winter of 1972 (more on “lasts” later), and it’s a straight-up beauty.

In fact, this shot of a contemplative legend tossing a baseball against a backdrop of the Pittsburgh faithful, all swaddled in that 1972 powder blue and accentuated by the “PIRATES” starburst usually scores high on “best card of all-time” lists.

Value: $325-360

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1972 Topps Hank Aaron In Action (#300)

1972 Topps Hank Aaron In Action

As Aaron entered his mid 30s, his game shifted from one of all-around excellence to more of a focus on hitting, and hitting for power in particular.

Gone were the days of league-leading doubles, double-digit triples, and regualr visits to the 20-20 club (with one trip to 30-30 Land). In were the days of big bombs and scant few other extra-base hits, coupled with a handful of stolen base attempts most years.

So it’s not too surprising to see Hammer looking a bit hitchy, maybe even gimpy, as he navigates the bases on this In Action card … which is still a pretty cooll hunk of cardboard.

Value: $300-350

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1972 Topps Johnny Bench (#433)

1972 Topps Johnny Bench

Bench, of course, remains a beloved figure in the game even though he’s had his curmudgeonly moments.

See, dude was the first member of The Big Red Machine not named “Pete Rose” to really skyrocket to superstardom, and this beauty was issued during Bench’s monster 1972 season, after which he won his second National League MVP award in three years.

This one always sits right above or right below the Pete Rose card, pricewise, so don’t be surprised if you find them flip-flopped from time to time.

Value: $300-325

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1972 Topps Willie Mays (#49)

1972 Topps Willie Mays

The Say Hey Kid may have been nearing the end of the line in 1972, but fans still loved him.

We still do today, especially the “collector” type of fan, like you and me.

And this Topps card is extra special for long-time Mays followers because it’s the last base issue from T.C.G. to feature Mays with the San Francisco Giants.

Because, by the time this baby was issued, Mays was back in New York, with the Mets, and starting to look feeble.

But this shining moment in cardboard can still fetch a hefty sum.

Value: $300-325

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1972 Topps Rod Carew (#695)

1972 Topps Rod Carew

So here you have the perfect storm — the greatest pure hitter of his generation on a scarce high-number card that just happens to look spectacular, too.

Before the rookie card craze grabbed hold of the hobby in earnest in the mid-1980s, this was just the sort of card that sat at the top of the market. Everybody loved Carew, and nobody could find this pasteboard.

Voila! Cardboard gold!!

Much of that glow remains, and this card usually still sells in heady territory today.

Value: $275-300

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1972 Topps Carlton Fisk Rookie Card (#79)

1972 Topps Carlton Fisk Cecil Cooper Rookie Card

Who was the greatest catcher of the 1970s? Yeah, Johnny Bench.

How about the greatest catcher of the 1980s? Can I get a Gary Carter?

Um … the 90s? Probably Ivan Rodriguez, right?

Ah, but how about the greatest catcher who played in big chunks of all three decades … who would that be? Dude doesn’t even exist you say?

Au contraire!

Carlton Fisk was smashing baseballs and gunning down runners for the Boston Red Sox when I was just a baby, and he was doing the same for the Chicago White Sox when I was finishing up college.

Absolutely amazing, and little wonder that his rookie card scores a slot on our list.

Of course, sharing your RC with Mike Garman — not to mention Cecil Cooper — never hurt anyone’s cardboard values, either.

Value: $275-300

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1972 Topps Pete Rose (#559)

1972-Topps-Pete-Rose

Love him or hate him, Pete Rose was pretty much the most exciting player in the game during the 1970s, and much of the 1960s and 1980s, too.

And, there was a time when Rose’s cards were just about the most valuable cardboard in every set they graced.

It helps things a lot — value-wise — that this 1972 issue is a sorta high number and that it looks so darn good, especially if you’re a fan of the Cincinnati Reds.

For all his warts and all the bad blood surrounding Rose over the last thirty years or so, this is still a popular card with collectors.

Value: $275-300

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1972 Topps Reggie Jackson (#435)

1972 Topps Reggie Jackson

Ho, hum … another early 1970s Topps set, another great card of Reggie Jackson. This one shows his powerful left-handed stance and focused eyes to great effect.

Not to mention his A’s-green longsleeves, gray-white vest with gold piping, and A’s hard hat shining in the sun.

Oh, and the first cardboard appearance for Reginald Martinez’s mustache.

An awesome early 70s tableau of a man who was in the midst of building his legend.

Value: $225-300

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1972 Topps Expos Team (#582)

1972 Topps Montreal Expos Team Card

By 1972, the Expos were veterans of the expansion wars, having managed to survive three full seasons in their original location (nothing against the Seattle Pilots, you understand).

Of course, the Expos would develop into one of the most star-studded teams in the game by the early 1980s, and the fact they never won anything continues to confound. Their ultimate move to D.C. to become the Washington Nationals has left a sort of mystical mist around the original club and given their cards a new boost.

Add in a general paucity of graded copies and a particularly stingy supply of top-grade specimens, and you have a team card for the ages … if you’re willing to shell out for it.

Value: $225-275

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1972 Topps Tom Seaver (#445)

1972 Topps Tom Seaver

In 2019, baseball fans were shocked and saddened to learn that Tom Seaver had been stricken by dementia, and that he was retiring from all public appearances.

It only got worse when he passed away in 2020.

The reality of Tom Terrific’s departure is all the harder to swallow when you see him as he appears on his 1972 Topps baseball card …

Following through on a toss, peering at you with determination, wearing his shiny blue Mets warmup jacket. All under a perfect blue sky that makes you think everything will always be OK, that every day will be spring.

Everything won’t always be OK, of course, but this card makes things OK enough in the here and now to carry a hefty price tag.

Value: $225-275

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1972 Topps Paul Schaal In Action (#178)

1972 Topps Paul Schaal In Action (#310)

Ah, yes, the immortal Paul Schaal, an original Kansas City Royal who had the poor fortune of being traded a year before K.C. started winning.

Truth is, though it’s been mostly lost to history, Schaal was a solid-to-really-good third baseman early in his career, and he turned in an offensive season in 1971 that could have yielded an All-Star selection: .274 batting average, 11 home runs, 63 RBI, 80 runs scored, 103 walks, 129 OPS+.

Alas, there were no Midsummer Classic honors for Schaal, but he did land a coveted “In Action” slot in the following year’s Topps set. Yeah, that’s this card, in case you were wondering.

And it’s also one of the toughest in the entire set to find in top-shelf conditions, with only about half of all submissions yielding a grade of PSA 8 or better.

Value: $240-250

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1972 Topps Johnny Bench In Action (#434)

1972 Topps Johnny Bench In Action (#434)

Maybe catchers are just easy pickings when it comes to action shots, but Topps has always had a knack for making backstops look amazing.

This card may not be quite as iconic as Bench’s scorching 1976 Topps issue, but the young Reds superstar graces us with a primetime play in the sun that shines through the dingy 1970s tinting.

Value: $200-225

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1972 Topps Roberto Clemente In Action (#310)

1972 Topps Roberto Clemente In Action

Even the greatest of the great have moments when things don’t work out quite as planned. Here we see such a moment for the inimitable Clemente, who either disagrees with an ump’s call or just wishes he could have a mulligan on that last pitch.

This card isn’t quite as iconic as the Hall of Famer’s base card, but it is the final Topps card of Clemente issued before his death on New Year’s Eve that year (by virtue of card numbering).

Value: $200-225

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1972 Topps Joe Morgan Traded (#752)

1972 Topps Traded Joe Morgan

What was the worst trade ever?

Was it Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio?

Jeff Bagwell for Larry Andersen?

John Smoltz for Doyle Alexander?

They all have their detractors, but there were few deals with consequences more far-reaching than the November 1971 pact in which the Houston Astros sent Joe Morgan, Ed Armbrister, Jack Billingham, Cesar Geronimo, and Denis Menke to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for Tommy Helms, Lee May, and Jimmy Stewart.

It was both the beginning of Morgan’s march to the Hall of Fame and maybe the final stroke of construction on the aforementioned Big Red Machine that would win World Series titles in 1975 and 1976.

Of course, the swap came too late for Topps to get the players in their new uniforms for 1972, but they did manage to issue a second card of Little Joe late in the season. It showed him in his rightful Reds togs and featured a big rubber-stamp TRADED across the front.

Today, this is a monumental card, and a hobby landmark.

Value: $175-225

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