Walter Payton (1954-1999) retired in 1987 as the leading rusher in the history of the National Football League (NFL), which was a record he held until 2002.
Here’s an excerpt from his entry in the Hall of Fame;
“The records he held at the time of his retirement included 16,726 total yards, 10 seasons with 1,000 or more yards rushing, 275 yards rushing in one game against Minnesota (1977), 77 games with more than 100 yards rushing, and 110 rushing touchdowns. Payton had 4,368 combined net attempts and accounted for 21,803 combined net yards. He also scored an impressive 750 points on 125 touchdowns.”
A special player, Payton died at the age of 45 after complications stemming from a rare liver disease.
If you’re looking for RC options, you’re not exactly spoiled for choice, as there’s a sole Walter Payton rookie card that was released by Topps back in 1976.
Here’s everything you need to know about the card, including values and key stats.
The Best Walter Payton Rookie Cards
Released as part of 1976 Topps Football, Walter Payton’s RC is a popular collectible. But what makes it so valuable?
1. 1976 Topps Walter Payton RC #148 (eBay)
1976 Topps Football features a simple profile shot of Payton as he smiles at the camera.
Nicknamed ‘Sweetness’, it came from practice for a college all-star team. While eluding a would-be tackler, he yelled out to the defender, “Your sweetness is your weakness!”
His name and position are printed in plain text at the bottom, along with a yellow borderline.
It was actually his second year in the NFL, as he got used to life with the Bears. It’s still his sole RC, which is why it’s so valuable.
The reverse features the usual range of stats, alongside a clue to identify a ‘Mystery Bear’.
The 1976 Topps Walter Payton rookie card is always going to come with a premium price tag, especially when collectors became clued in to the rarity. (At the current time of writing, there are only 53 Gem Mint copies, with a further 687 PSA 9 graded versions.)
The most recent price for a PSA 10 copy is $114,098.40, while a PSA 9 went for $6,400. As with most vintage cards, there’s a major drop-off the lower you go.
As his only recognized rookie card, it was always going to be one of the more valuable cards from the era.
Walter Payton Rookie Cards: Buyers Guide
What do we think of the current market for the 1976 Topps Walter Payton RC?
You won’t find a legit Walter Payton rookie card at a lower price point. There are numerous reprints if you’d like a cheaper option, but that’s about it.
Even the 1977 Topps Walter Payton release will sell for a significant amount if it has been graded by a service like PSA, BGS, or SGC. Take a look at a few graded sales below:
(Be wary of reprints featuring the 1976 RC.)
With only one card to choose from, it’s obvious that the 1976 Topps card is the one to collect. It sells for the highest fee, it’s vintage, and it’s not like there are any others to chase. (There are a few discs and tabs from 1975 featuring Payton’s image, but they’re especially tough to locate.)
Walter Payton Rookie Cards: Final Thoughts
Payton is one of greatest running backs of all-time, with a legacy that was secured back in the 1980’s. Many of his records still stand today, and he’s fondly remembered by Bears fans.
As a nine-time Pro Bowl selectee, the stats hardly do him justice, while he was known for his sunny personality.
Payton was also inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1993.
With only one RC to chase; the overall condition of the card is more important than ever.
The 1976 Topps Payton rookie has to be seen as one of the more important football cards from the era.