The Walter Payton Rookie Card and Other Vintage Cards

Walter Payton Rookie Cards

The 1976 Topps Walter Payton Rookie card #148 is the card most collectors think of as Walter Payton’s rookie. However, in 1976 there were several other oddball and obscure Walter Payton issues that can fairly be considered rookies. One of them is far rarer than the 1976 Topps rookie card. In this article, I’ll discuss all of the 1976 Walter Payton rookies.

1976 Topps Walter Payton - The Best Walter Payton Rookie
1976 Topps Walter Payton – The Best Walter Payton Rookie

1976 Topps Walter Payton Rookie Card #148

The 1976 Topps Walter Payton Rookie Card, #148, ranks right up there with Ken Griffey Jr’s 1989 Upper Deck as one of the greatest ‘portrait’ rookie cards of all time. The card features a very clear up-close picture of Walter’s face with his famous smile. This card, more than most, captures the essence of a man who became so well respected that the NFL named its “man of the year” award after him. The award goes to one player every year for exhibiting excellence on and off the field. Like the recipients of his award, Walter Payton was excellent both on and off the field, and his rookie card makes an excellent addition to any collection.

Walter Payton’s greatness is not questioned; he is found on any list of greatest running backs ever, but there are other factors that make his 1976 Topps rookie card so sought after by collectors – especially when it’s in near perfect condition:

Other Factors:

  • Walter Payton was as universally liked as any player in any sport: There was not much to dislike about Walter Payton. He had an incredible reputation among fans, coaches, and fellow players. His work ethic was legendary and he had incredible success on the field. But, despite all of his success, he was humble and soft-spoken, always carrying himself like a true gentleman. He was very charismatic and always had a smile on his face that allowed fans to “feel” his love for the game of football. When a football player is this well-liked, it certainly helps the collectability (and the value) of his cards.

  • 1976 Topps Football was not very high quality: As with any old key card, the condition is key. The quality of Topps cards in the mid-1970s was generally poor. It was common to get cards directly out of packs with issues such as poor print quality or bad centering. This is good news if you’re hoping to pick an imperfect Walter Payton rookie up for your collection at a discount, but it’s bad news if you have your heart set on a high-grade example of the card because you’ll be paying top dollar.

1976 Topps Football Set Details

The 1976 Topps football set is from the “airbrush era” where team logos are not licensed to appear because Topps only had NFLPA licensing. The set has a simple and clean design and was the first Topps set to have expansion team players from the Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Walter Payton rookie is by far the most valuable card in the set, but it also has rookie cards for Hall of Famers Jack Lambert (#220) and Randy White (#159) as well as Dallas Cowboy’s star defensive end Ed “Too Tall” Jones (#427).

  • Year: 1976
  • Manufacturer: Topps
  • Number of Cards: 528
  • Subsets
    • Record Breakers (#1-8)
    • Conference Leaders (#201-206)
    • 1975 Postseason Highlights (#331-333)
    • Checklists (not sequential)

1976 Topps Walter Payton Card #148 Details

  • Card no: #148 of 528
  • Team: Chicago Bears
  • Position: RB
  • Weight: 5′ 10 1/2″
  • Weight: 200
  • College: Jackson State
  • Drafted: Bears #1-1975
  • Acquired: Via Draft
  • Birthdate: 7-25-54
  • Home: Jackson, Mississippi

Front of the card

Design: The front of the 1976 Topps Walter Payton rookie card (#148) is a vertical layout that features a close-up photo of a young Walter Payton who was 22 years old in the photo. He isn’t wearing a helmet and you can’t see his number or any logos on his jersey. The card has a white border and the photo is framed by a green stripe that goes around a green football in the lower-left corner. The team name, “Bears”, is spelled on the football. Incidentally, Walter played for the Bears all 13 seasons of his career. On the lower right side of the card is his position “Running Back”, with his name below in Green letters. While the manufacturing quality of the 1976 Topps set left something to be desired, the design is a classic.

1976 Topps Walter Payton Rookie Card Front
1976 Topps Walter Payton Rookie Card Front

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Back of the card

The back of the 1976 Topps Walter Payton rookie card (#148) has a horizontal layout. The card number can be found in the upper left corner inside an orange football helmet. The team name “Chicago Bears” is at the top and a “Guess the mystery bear” game is on the right side. This card has the first clue ten and the remaining clues can be found on other Bears cards from this set.

Below the team name you’ll find Walter Payton’s size, weight, college, draft position, birthdate and home. The card features a short write up about Walter’s 1975 season and stats from his rookie year and NCAA career.

1976 Topps Walter Payton Rookie Card Back
1976 Topps Walter Payton Rookie Card Back #148

Walter Capped an outstanding rookie season in 1975 by leading the Bears and rushing and touchdowns & winning the NFL kickoff return crown with 444 yards on 14 tries for a 31.7 average. The leading scorer in NCAA history with 464 points, he led the nation in scoring as a junior. Walter has great speed.

1976 Topps Football Card #148

Walter Payton Rookie Card Value

The Walter Payton rookie card is one of the most valuable football cards of the 1970s. The chart below is from the popular card grading site, PSA. It shows prices for the Walter Payton rookie card in various conditions.

1976 Topps Walter Payton Rookie Price Guide
1976 Topps Walter Payton Rookie Price Guide

Keep in mind that prices fluctuate. While PSA is a great way to find out the value of a card, we recommend going to eBay to see what cards are currently selling for on the world’s most popular auction site. Click here to view current auctions for the 1976 Topps Walter Payton Rookie card.

Other Relevant Walter Payton Cards

The 1976 Topps Walter Payton rookie card (#148) card is the only card in the hobby that is widely considered a Walter Payton Rookie. It’s not uncommon for a player to only have one Rookie card in this era, but there are a few other cards that warrant discussion in this post.

1976 Disc Cards (Coca-Cola, Saga, Crane)

In 1976, the same years as Walter Payton’s Topps rookie card, he was featured on three different disc cards. All three discs had the same photo of Walter, but the designs of the discs are somewhat different. The photo used on these discs looks similar to the photo on Payton’s Topps rookie card, but it is not the same photo. If you’re looking to add a rookie-year card to your collection and you’re OK with these novelty sets, you can find them in great condition at a much cheaper price than the 1976 Topps #148 card. Here’s a photo and a bit of information about each:

1976 Walter Payton Coca-Cola Disc

The 1976 Walter Payton Coke (or Coca-Cola) Disc was distributed with Coca-Cola products. It can be found both with and without the tab. If you want a disc that hasn’t had the tab torn off, you can expect to pay significantly more money.

1976 Walter Payton Coca-Cola Disc
1976 Walter Payton Coca-Cola Disc

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1976 Walter Payton Saga Disc

The 1976 Sega disc is the rarest Walter Payton Disc of the three discs. This regional set was only distributed in Philadelphia with school lunches, and, as you might guess many of these were damaged, lost, or discarded. This makes the card both rare and expensive. It’s much rarer than the 1976 Topps Walter Payton #148 rookie card.

1976 Walter Payton Saga Disc
1976 Walter Payton Saga Disc

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1976 Walter Payton Crane Disc

The Crane Discs were distributed nationally by Crane’s Potato Chip Company. Walter Payton was one of 30 stars included in the set of 3 3/8″ discs.

1976 Walter Payton Crane Disc
1976 Walter Payton Crane Disc

Shop for the Walter Payton Crane Disc on eBay (affiliate link)

Walter Payton’s Legacy

Walter Payton was one of the NFL’s greatest running backs. He was nicknamed “Sweetness” because of his smooth and fluid running style. Watch his highlights on YouTube and you’ll see that he wasn’t just smooth and fluid, he also ran with great power and had a seemingly superhuman ability to bounce off a defender at contact and keep going. As great as Walter Payton was on the field, he also built a great reputation for himself off of the field. Then NFL’s Man of the Year award is named after him and is awarded to one player each year for excellence on and off the field. Unfortunately, Walter Payton died at the early age of 45 from liver disease. He spent the last months of his life promoting the importance of being an organ donor. Here are some of Walter Payton’s career accomplishments:

  • NFL Most Valuable Player for the 1977 season
  • NFL Offensive Player of the Year for the 1977 season
  • 5 times named First-team All-Pro
  • 3 times Second-team All-Pro
  • 9 time Pro Bowler
  • NFL rushing yards leader in 1977
  • NFL rushing touchdowns leader in 1977
  • Named to NFL 1970s All-Decade Team, NFL1980s All-Decade Team, NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team
  • Chicago Bears No. 34 retired
  • Elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993

Is Walter Payton the greatest running back in NFL history? Maybe or maybe not, but he belongs in the conversation with the likes of Barry Sanders, Jim Brown, Emmitt Smith, and the other Bears great…Gayle Sayers.

Get a Walter Payton Rookie for Your Collection

Do you want to own a 1976 Topps Walter Payton Rookie (#148)? If so, we recommend starting your search on eBay – the world’s #1 card trading place. Even if you’re not planning to buy one just yet, it’s fun to look at all the great cards currently for sale.

Want Walter Payton Merch? is the world’s largest eCommerce marketplace. They have Walter Payton books, memorabilia, and so much more. See what you can find today.

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All About Walter Payton Rookies Infographic

Walter Payton Rookie Cards Infographic
Walter Payton Rookie Cards Infographic

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