Life must have been easy for 1980 Topps football cards.

I mean, they were pretty much the only game in town for collectors who wanted to see their gridiron heroes on little swaths of cardboard.

(Unless you count the Fleer team issue, which were sort of cool, but not really — at least not at the time.)

And there were a lot of the 1980 Topps cards to collect, too, with a checklist 528 players strong.

1980 Topps Football cards wax pack unopened box

These things must have sold themselves!

Yet, they aren’t so plentiful today that they fall into the abyss of mass overproduction that plague pretty much every set from the late 1980s and well into the 1990s.

So, while these cards may never scale the heights of the priciest baseball cards, they are still plenty desirable to collectors.

That’s especially true for these 12 — the most valuable 1980 Topps football cards, as determined from PSA 9 prices listed in the PSA Sports Market Report Price Guide.

Start the clock!

1980 Topps Lester Hayes Rookie Card (#195)

1980 Topps Lester Hayes

Hayes was a main cog in the Oakland Raiders defensive backfield for a full decade (even when they moved to Los Angeles).

From 1977 through 1986, Hayes perturbed opposing receivers with his aggressive, high-contact bump-and-run style of coverage that netted him 39 interceptions an four touchdowns in his career.

(He also recovered a fumble for another TD.)

For his efforts, Hayes owns two Super Bowl rings and a $75 rookie card (in PSA 9).

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1980 Topps Jack Lambert (#280)

1980 Topps Jack Lambert

Jack Lambert first took the field as a Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker in 1974. That was the first season for a young Lynn Swann, too.

The year before, they had gone 10-3 but lost in the divisional round of the playoffs to the Raiders.

But with the youngsters in tow, the Steelers became THE STEELERS in 1974, and took home their first Lombardi Trophy.

Three more followed by the end of the decade, with Lambert backing up the famed Steel Curtain line and nabbing nine Pro Bowl and six All-Pro selections along the way.

Canton came calling in 1990, ensuring that Lambert’s cardboard would remain among collector favorites for decades.

Today, his 1980 Topps card sells for about $50 in PSA 9.

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1980 Topps Walter Payton (#160)

1980 Topps Walter Payton

For Chicago Bears fans and anyone who loves the underdog, Payton was the man to root for in the 1970s and early 1980s.

The man was the greatest running back many of us had every seen, he seemed humble, and he ran behind a series of offensive lines that were holier than a hunk of Vatican-blessed Swiss cheese.

Yet Sweetness kept plugging along with mediocre Bears teams until everything gelled under Mike Ditka in 1985.

By then, Payton was turning the corner on a legendary career and had long since cemented his legacy in the game, and in the hobby.

Today, his 1980 Topps card hammers down for around $40 in PSA 9.

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1980 Topps Phil Simms Rookie Card (#225)

1980 Topps Phil Simms

Phil Simms had a lot of pressure on him coming out of Morehead State as the first-round pick of the New York Giants in 1979.

I mean, what “kid” can be expected to lead a once-proud football powerhouse back to prominence, especially under the glare of the New York spotlight?

Well, Phil Simms, apparently.

After struggling for a few years, and after a 1983 season in which he played in just two games, Simms put together a monster 4000-yard effort in 1984.

Two years, he and linebacker Lawrence Taylor led the completed turnaround as the Giants won the Super Bowl.

That forever marked Simms as a star, and his rookie card is a $30+ buy in PSA 9 today.

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1980 Topps Clay Matthews Rookie Card (#418)

1980 Topps Clay Matthews

Modern fans may think of the Green Bay Packers standout when they hear the name “Clay Matthews,” but that guy is actually the third in a line of defensive Clay Matthews(es?).

No, not that kind of defensive. The football kind.

Grandpa played as a DE/DT for the San Francicso 49ers for four years in the 1950s.

Then, Dad inserted himself into the Cleveland Browns linebacking corps in 1978 and didn’t step out until 1993 … at which point he stepped into the fray for the Atlanta Falcons.

When the middle Clay Matthews finally retired in 1996 at age 40, he was a four-time Pro Bowler and a linebacking legend.

For all that, his 1980 Topps rookie card generally snags around $30 in PSA 9.

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1980 Topps Jack Ham (#10)

1980 Topps Jack Ham

Ham was already in the midfield of the Steelers’ defense when Lambert arrived, and the former Penn State standout was a key part of Chuck Noll’s plan to build out a championship team in the early 1970s.

That all went to plan, of course, and Ham developed into an eight-time Pro Bowler and six-time All-Pro who landed in the Hall of Fame in 1988.

Today, his 1980 Topps card sells for north of $30 in PSA 9 most of the time.

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1980 Topps Steve Largent (#450)

1980 Topps Steve Largent

For awhile there in the late 1980s, Steve Largent was considered by many to be the greatest receiver of all-time.

Certainly, he had the numbers to back up that claim, what with having hauled in the most receiving yards and touchdowns ever.

Of course, even then, Largent could hear the footsteps of young wolves like Cris Carter and Jerry Rice stalking his marks. Others, like James Lofton, Marvin Harrison, Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, and more would also surpass the Seahawks great.

But Largent was a ground-breaker whose gridiron exploits pushed his cards to the forefront of the hobby, and his 1980 Topps second-year card remains strong at around $30 in graded MINT condition.

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1980 Topps Bob Griese (#35)

1980 Topps Bob Griese

By 1980, Bob Griese was an aging superstar who missed out on most of the Dolphins’ perfect 1972 season due to a broken ankle but who still had the reputation for winning most every time he touched a football.

Was a lot of that success due to the team around him?

Probably, but Griese was a Miami celebrity back for one more go-round with a team that was already in transition.

To wit, young David Woodley started 11 games at quaterback that season, relegating Griese to just five appearances and three starts.

The 1980 Topps card that greeted collectors all through what must have been a long (8-8) season in southern Florida is a $25 item in PSA 9 these days.

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1980 Topps Rocky Bleier (#61)

1980 Topps Rocky Bleier

Rockey Bleier once had a promising career ahead of him as a halfback for the Steelers.

That was back in 1968, before he was drafted over the winter.

Bleier then spent most of 1969 in Vietnam as a grenadier, an assignment that put him in harm’s way and specifically into the path of a sniper’s bullet and a nearby landmine.

That combination inflicted serious injuries to both of his legs and put an end to his NFL career.

Except … Bleier wasn’t done.

Instead of quitting, he went to Steelers camp in 1970 and pushed on through several years of cuts and non-starts to finally land a full-time role with the team in 1974.

Right … another 1974 influx of talent.

From there, Bleier rode his legendary grit to a 1000-yard season in 1976, making him one of two Steelers (Franco Harris being the other) to crash that barrier in the Bicentennial year.

Though he’s not in the Hall of Fame, Bleier’s compelling story is tough to resist, and his 1980 Topps card checks in here at $20+ in graded MINT condition.

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1980 Topps Terry Bradshaw (#200)

1980 Topps Terry Bradshaw

Before he became maybe the most colorful color guy in the game, Bradshaw was the gritty QB who led the Steelers to those four Super Bowl championships in the 1970s.

He fit right into the smash-mouth image of that team and forged his Canton bust in the fire of the old AFC Central division.

Today, Bradshaw is as popular as ever, and his 1980 Topps card is a $20 item in PSA 9.

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1980 Topps Tony Dorsett (#330)

1980 Topps Tony Dorsett

By 1980, Tony Dorsett was a household name across the nation.

That tends to happen when a former Heisman Tropy winner (with Pitt in 1976) assumes the mantle as the highest-profile player on the most beloved/hated team in the land — the Dallas Cowboys.

Dorsett rode those wheels of his to more than 16,000 all-purpose yards, 90 touchdowns, and an enduring place in collectors’ hearts.

Today, his 1980 Topps card sells for around $20 in PSA 9.

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1980 Topps Carl Eller (#189)

1980 Topps Carl Eller

There aren’t a ton of stats available from the 1960s and 1970s to tell us about the defensive stars of the day.

But we have other things …

Like nicknames.

The Purple People Eaters, for instance, were the Minnesota Vikings defensive unit that helped the team win ten division titles in 11 seasons from 1968-78.

Carl Eller was the defensive end for that group, and he was feared across the land.

We have other indicators, too, like All-Pro and Pro Bowl selections — Eller picked up five of the former, six of the latter.

So, yeah, dude was a Hall of Famer in the making, and that’s been an official designation since 2004 … even without a Super Bowl ring.

Today, Eller’s 1980 Topps card sells for about $20 in slabbed MINT condition.

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