1970 BASEBALL TRADING CARDS

The 1970 baseball card season marked the beginning of a new decade and brought many changes to the baseball card landscape. After 1960s years of record card production, the 1970s saw the industry start to consolidate as fewer companies printed sets each year. 1970 Topps and 1970 Fleer were the only successful major league card issues that season, though smaller regional sets from printers like TCMA also emerged.

1970 Topps issued its standard design for the year, essentially an updated version of 1960s Topps cards. While retaining the familiar design elements fans knew, the 1970 set saw photographs become noticeably larger than in previous years, increasing the focus on player images. Topps used action shots for most cards, showcasing players mid-swing or throw. Rookies like Sparky Lyle made their Topps debuts in 1970 at the start of promising big league careers.

Topps expanded its set size to 664 cards, up from the previous standard of 518-532 found in 1960s sets. This larger card count allowed Topps to feature more minor leaguers, future stars, and veteran players towards the end of their careers who may have been left out of shorter sets previously. Notable rookies like Bobby Grich, George Brett and Rickey Henderson first appeared on 1970 Topps cards early in Hall of Fame careers.

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Fleer continued its printed card run in 1970, issuing a modest 132 card set that focused solely on starring active players. Fleer cards were much smaller in size compared to Topps cards of the period, often making the player photos significantly smaller and reducing statistical info on the backs. Still, Fleer cards provided an alternate to Topps and featured many of the same high profile players in a different design. The 1970 set marked the final season Fleer would produce cards before exiting the baseball market.

While 1970 Topps and Fleer maintained familiar aesthetic designs from the previous decade, behind-the-scenes the baseball card industry started undergoing rapid changes. The sport’s reserve clause was challenged in court by Curt Flood in 1970, raising questions about future player contract and collective bargaining negotiations. As the 1960s boom in card collecting faded, printers consolidated operations to remain profitable during a transitional period in the industry.

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After a decade of unparalleled growth, baseball cards faced hurdles in the turbulent early 1970s. Oil shortages led to paper and plastic shortages, driving up production costs. Younger collectors became more selective, focusing on star players and preferring the vivid color photos of the 1970s over old black-and-white images. Meanwhile, increased competition from non-sports cards like Cabbage Patch dolls and Star Wars figures drew entertainment dollars away.

Despite facing headwinds, the 1970 season still featured iconic stars and their cards remain highly collectible today. Top stars in their primes like Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente and Johnny Bench appeared prominently in 1970 sets in the midst of Hall of Fame careers. Rookie cards of Don Sutton, Carlton Fisk, and Thurman Munson also debuted that year from players who went on to stellar careers.

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Though not the most coveted vintage set compared to the classic 1950s and 1960s issues, 1970 Topps and Fleer cards provide a snapshot into the sport during a period of cultural change. Featuring stars at the tail end of one era and the start for future legends, 1970 cards illustrate baseball’s continual evolution while honoring timeless players. For collectors and fans, 1970 remains an interesting transition year marking the close of one chapter in card history and the start of new developments still shaping the hobby today.

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