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1977 Topps Mexican Test Issue Football Cards

"Estampas de Jugadores Profesionales"

Countdown to Set Completion: COMPLETE!!!
Countdown to Set #2:  Pending total


 

Topps chose to test the waters of Mexico in 1977 by releasing an American football set manufactured and issued in Mexico with the text written in Spanish.  While the exact details of the printing and distribution have been and remain somewhat a mystery, it is known that the production of this issue was quite miniscule in comparison to the regular issue 1977 Topps Football set issued in the States.

The 1977 Topps Mexican Football set resembles the standard issue in many ways, but it is the subtle (and very distinct) differences that make it unique, mysterious, extremely collectible, and almost a cult-like obsession for those that collect and are trying tediously to complete the set.

Featuring the exact same 528 cards as its American counterpart, the Mexican set was printed with Spanish team names and position abbreviations on the obverse of the card.  The reverse was printed entirely in Spanish.  Player's weights and measures are listed using the Metric Standard.  The cards were cut much differently than standard issue cards.  The Mexican cards were cut utilizing a perforated system (has ANYONE actually seen a full, intact sheet???) that left remnants of the perforations at each corner as well as three additional perfs across each the top and bottom of the card and two perfs on each side of the card.  That's 14 perforations on each card.  Some of the perfs are much more evident than others and vary from card to card.  In fact, there are some cards that appear to be virtually void of the perforations.

Although no one has been able to confirm the existence of an uncut sheet, portions of sheets have been seen from time to time. Often referred to as "panels," two, three, four, and six card panels have been offered for sale over the past few years.

The packaging of the cards may be one of the zaniest oddities of the issue.  The cards were packed in both two card 1977 Topps Mexican Wax Box Caseand four card packs with 36 packs per box, and a very unusual number of 54 boxes in a 2 card per pack case.  The two card packs included a piece of banana and grape flavored gum that was flat on one side and had a railroad tie appearance on the other.  There also have been reports of some two card packs without gum.  The packs that included the gum almost always caused one of the cards to have either a gum stain (which vary greatly in degree) or other damage associated with the gum. This resulted because of the humidity and storage which caused the gum to dampen and subsequently flaw the card it was in contact with. The other card was usually gum stain free, but was subject to wax stains.  The four card packs did not include the stick of gum and are highly coveted as they typically yield at least three stain-free cards. I do not have any information on how many boxes were in a case of this type. Additionally, the packages were manufactured with 5 different and equally distributed wrappers.  The wrappers featured O.J. Simpson, Bob Griese, Steve Bartowski, Mike Boryla, and Brian Sipe.

Collation of the cards within the boxes is nothing short of a nightmare.  It is not uncommon to open a box and get numerous duplicates.  I have heard of boxes yielding as few as 9 different players with as many as 17 of the same player in the box including packs with two of the same player.  From a set builder's standpoint, that would be horrible, but if one of the duplicated cards was a Walter Payton or Steve Largent, I doubt that many would complain.  Also, of the 72 cards from the packs, half will probably be damaged by the gum.  And given the horrible quality control (was there really any such thing???) that appears to have been practiced during the production, many other cards suffer from factory creases, roller marks, miscuts, ink stains and printing flaws, wrong or missing backs, and a myriad of other detrimental characteristics.

The most interesting, 1977 Topps Mexican #528 Super Bowlas well as the most frustrating aspect of this set is the scarcity of more than two dozen cards within the set.  The scarcest of them, often referred to as the "Dirty Dozen," frequent almost every want list and command significant premiums when offered for sale, regardless of condition.  Additionally, there are several other levels of scarcity within the guise of the shorts in this set.  There is no definitive list that will identify the exact scarcities and their relationship to other cards in the set.  Several dealers have set up websites and have listed several levels of short prints.  Keep in mind that some of the short prints these folks list are predicated as much by their current inventory as they are by their actual scarcity. For the sake of sanity and to eliminate argument, we will avoid referring to any card in this set as an SP, short print, short print plus, or a super short print. However, the prices we quote, report, or use as trade value will be representative of the difficulty in locating them.

The "Dirty Dozen:"**
          
  • #    8 Rick Volk - Giants
  • #  21 Lawrence Gaines - Lions
  • #  89 John McDaniel - Bengals
  • #  98 Ray Rhodes - Giants
  • #231 Eddie Brown - Redskins
  • #269 Archie Griffin - Bengals
                       
  • #276 Wilbur Jackson - 49ers
  • #404 Ray Jarvis - Lions
  • #434 Eric Torkelson - Packers
  • #444 Mike Pruitt - Browns
  • #488 Rich Sowells - Jets
  • #528 Super Bowl

This list is based upon evaluating numerous want lists and discussion with other collectors.

**There are also some that suggest card numbers 3, 147, 295, 332, 374, 417, 453 and/or 474 are equally difficult to locate and are worthy of similar consideration as, or could be substituted for the above.

More on the "Dirty Dozen"

1977 Topps Football Cards Sheet - Same Sheet as the Mexican 'Dirty Dozen'

After additional research, it appears that there is a basis for understanding the scarcity of certain cards within the issue. Given the assumption that the cards were printed from the same metallic printing plates as the American version of the set (see sheet pictured above) after the plates were remastered with the Spanish text, it appears that many of the so-called short prints actually are border cards in the printing process. This would lead one to rationalize, based upon the fact that printing plates deteriorate during use, that many of the outlying cards on these sheets were damaged or poorly printed and subsequently destroyed without making it into circulation. If you note this specific sheet, you will find most of the "Dirty Dozen" are included here. Additionally, on several other sheets, the outer edge cards tend to be the tougher cards to locate. As I gain further insight upon this theory, I will amend or augment my findings.

Bear in mind that there are also some cards in the set, that while not exactly scarce, are extremely difficult to find without specific flaws (stains, ink errors, centering, etc). As a result, there are some "common" cards that command surprisingly high prices when found without flaws. Why? The answer is simple. A small segment of the collector base for this set are working on graded sets, typically PSA (Professional Sports Authenticators), and are trying to obtain the cards in the highest grade and/or upgrade their existing cards. While building a PSA Set Registry set, qualifiers (notations of specific flaws) tend to be frowned upon as most Registry Set builders would prefer their graded cards to be "qualifier-free."

In part because of the limited production of the issue and the virtual impossibility of locating the "Dirty Dozen," its not difficult to understand why there are less than 15 known complete sets that exist in the hobby. From time to time, some of the tougher cards show up, usually in G to VG condition. And recently, a few partial sets have changed hands, but all-in-all, there is nothing to suggest that there is much of this product that will suddenly surface.

Production numbers are unknown.  Topps has no records that they can provide, claiming the records were lost when the Mexican plant was closed.  A limited amount of the product was discovered nearly a decade after manufacture and shortly before scheduled disposal. This small find was brought to the States by a New Jersey collector.  Estimates suggest the quantity may have been as few as 20 cases, all of which were opened prior to entering the US by customs agents, so there are no "sealed" cases.  The collector/importer eventually sold off the inventory, and at this time, it is believed that only a very limited amount of unopened boxes exist and it is suspected that there are no longer any complete or original cases.  

There are several pricing sources for this issue on the Internet, but none are very realistic, so after exhaustive research and compilation of private sales, auctions, and communique with other Topps Mexican traders, buyers, and sellers, I have compiled a representative price list of the entire 528 card set, commons, minor stars, 2 card and 4 card wax packs, and complete unopened 2 card wax boxes. Please feel free to visit the PRICE GUIDE by clicking here or using the navigational button on the upper left of each page of the website.  Keep in mind, that while most common cards will typically sell at or around the common price, there are some that due to certain characteristics may have very high demand in strict NM-MT condition and subsequently command very significant premiums.

As more information surfaces, I will add it to the site.  Thanks for visiting and feel free to contact me if you have any additional information, questions, can offer additional input or stories about this great set, or wish to buy, sell, or trade this great set.

I will be compiling additional information with regard to sales, trades, and want list to formulate an accurate and representative price guide for this issue. As I near completion of this task, I will add the price guide to the website on a new page. As always, I welcome any input or information that anyone can provide.

Collecting is never a solitary action and without the help of other collectors, this site and my Topps Mexican Football collection would be only a fraction of what they are now.  Therefore, I offer my sincere thanks to several that have been great aids in helping me gather information or filling the holes in my set(s): Don, Tom, Andy, Al, Leighton, Jim, Wes, Luis and many others!


Happy Collecting,
Scott



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