The 1981 Topps baseball card set was the 60th series issued by Topps and featured cards of players from both the American and National Leagues. Some of the notable rookies included in the set were Fernando Valenzuela, Keith Hernandez, Steve Sax, and Dave Righetti. The 1981 Topps set contained 792 total cards with 660 player cards and 132 non-player cards such as managers, umpires, league leaders, and World Series highlights cards.

When it comes to the pricing and valuation of cards from the 1981 Topps set, there are a number of factors that influence their current market value. Some of the most important determinants of price include the player featured, the player’s performance and accomplishments, the overall condition and grade of the specific card, and certain variations and short prints that are more scarce. Let’s take a closer look at estimates for some key 1981 Topps baseball cards based on recent sales data and market trends:

Fernando Valenzuela (#660) – As one of the top rookie cards from the set, Fernando Valenzuela’s rapidly gained popularity after his electrifying rookie season where he won both the NL Cy Young Award and Rookie of the Year Award. In PSA 10 Gem Mint condition, this card has recently sold for prices ranging from $500-700. In lower grades of PSA 8 or PSA 9, it still commands $150-300.


Keith Hernandez (#455) – Another popular rookie, Keith Hernandez had a distinguished 19-year MLB career including two World Series titles. PSA 10 examples have sold for around $150-250 while PSA 8s go for $50-80.

Steve Sax (#512) – Sax made his MLB debut in 1981 and went on to have a solid career at second base, though not quite living up to rookie hype. Still a desirable rookie card, PSA 10s sell around $70-100 and PSA 8s go for $25-40.

Dave Righetti (#662) – “Rags” was the top rookie pitcher in 1981 and had a long career mostly with the Yankees. He threw a no-hitter in 1983. PSA 10s have traded hands for $120-150, PSA 8s go for $50-70.

Nolan Ryan (#1) – One of the most iconic cards in the set, featuring a shirtless Nolan Ryan. Even in lower grades of PSA 6 or 7, examples have sold for $100-150 due to scarcity and buyer demand for “The Ryan Express”. Mint condition 10s command $300-500.


George Brett (#34) – Brett was one of the game’s top active stars in 1981 and won the AL batting title that year. Higher grade copies in PSA 8-10 condition have sold in the $70-100 range.

Robin Yount (#234) – Yount collected his 3rd career All-Star selection in ’81 and achieved 3,000 hits later in his HOF career. Near mint to mint 9-10 copies sell for $50-75.

Cal Ripken Jr. (#502) – Ripken’s rookie season was in 1981 and the future HOFer is one of the most enduring players of his era. PSA 8-10 examples have sold between $60-90.

Some of the more valuable short prints and variations from the 1981 Topps set that command premiums include:

#1 Nolan Ryan (Red unnumbered back) – The true “short print” variation of the base Nolan Ryan card, very scarce. Has sold in the $450-700 range in NM-MT condition.

#25 George Brett (Blue unnumbered back) – Another scarce short print variation. Recent sales of high grades in the $250-400 range.


#67 Ron Guidry (Reversed image) – Mistakenly printed with a reverse negative image. Highly sought after error card, with PSA 8s bringing $200-300.

#117 Mike Schmidt (Reversed image) – Schmidt error card like Guidry’s. High grades around $150-250.

#141 Ozzie Smith (Green back) – One of the more common short prints but still desirable. PSA 8s about $75-100.

#171 Mike Schmidt (Orange unnumbered back) – Harder to obtain Schmidt variation card. Mid grades around $125-175.

There is still strong collector demand for key rookie cards and stars from the 1981 Topps set in high grades. Although not quite as valuable as some earlier or more iconic years, condition sensitive examples priced in the $150-700 range remain liquid and obtainable for vintage baseball collectors on a budget. With the current vintage sports card market still booming, prices for 1981 Topps are likely to stabilize or potentially increase further for classic cardboard from the early 1980s.

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