Walter Payton Rookie Card Market Guide

Posted on 2/1/2023

Want to learn more about the best Walter Payton rookie cards? Our market guide has everything you need to know.

Walter Payton made a name for himself as one of the most fearsome running backs in NFL history. As such, there is a lot of interest in his rookie cards. Although there are only a few available, there are some fascinating ones to pick up. If you want to learn more about Payton's rookie cards, this guide will show you the best cards to search for and give you plenty of information about their value.

Who Is Walter Payton?

Walter Payton, also known as 'Sweetness,' is considered one of the best running backs to ever set foot on an NFL field. While many backs tried to avoid getting hit, Payton took a different approach. He faced any defender head-on and ran straight through them. In his own words, "If I'm going to get hit, why let the guy who's going to hit me get the easiest and best shot? I explode into the guy who's trying to tackle me."

This aggressive play style made him one of the most exciting players to watch and earned him the NFL's all-time rushing record, which he held for two decades until he was knocked into second place by Emmit Smith in 2002.

Although he predicted he would only last five years, he enjoyed 13 seasons as the toughest running back in the league. In fact, Payton only missed a single game during his Hall of Fame career playing for the Chicago Bears. His rookie season started strong with a running total of 679 yards and his best season was soon to follow in 1977. After finally earning a Super Bowl ring in 1985, Payton announced his retirement in 1987. Tragically, he died in 1999, aged 45.

What Makes Walter Payton's Cards So Valuable?

A few key things make Walter Payton's cards so valuable. First, his reputation and his unique playstyle. He is a memorable player who had a massive presence on the field as he powered through defenders, and many football fans still regard him as one of the greats. It is common for rookie cards of legendary players like this to be sought after.

Additionally, the 1970s was a popular decade for football cards. Topps was expanding their offerings, and many new sets were created around this time. There was a strong interest in football cards, but the Junk Wax era was still a few years away, so the market isn't oversaturated with cards from this period. Usually, rarer cards are likely to be worth more, which is a good sign.

Modern players have many different rookie cards, but in the past, most players only had one or two produced. Walter Payton only has one traditional rookie card from a Topps set. There are also some unique disc cards, but these are few and far between. The scarcity may push the value of his cards up too.

The Investment Potential of Walter Payton Rookie Cards

Walter Payton rookie cards have the potential to be a good choice for investors. He is a fan favorite, and even though his records have been broken, he remains one of the best running backs ever. When a player has his iconic status, their rookie cards tend to retain their value quite well. This is true of Payton, and his Topps rookie card is seen as a must-have by many vintage collectors. In terms of value, it is on the higher end. It won't top the list of most valuable cards, but it is certainly up there.

His other cards are less traditional, potentially making them interesting for collectors in the future. They are also more difficult to find in Mint condition because they were included as free gifts and often owned by young children. As a result, many were damaged over the years. So, if you can find them in good condition, there is a chance they may be worth good money.

If you want to purchase a Walter Payton rookie card as an investment, you should pick the right moment to buy. Keep a close eye on the price and average value over the years and wait until there are a lot of cards on sale to get a reduced price. This will maximize the potential for increased value in the future.

The Best Walter Payton Rookie Cards on the Market

1976 Topps #148 Walter Payton ($45,800)

The Walter Payton rookie card from the Topps 1976 set is his only mainstream rookie card. This is usually the most sought-after card for collectors.

The 1976 Topps set has some great cards, but they are often overshadowed because Walter Payton steals the show. His rookie card is more valuable than other cards in the set, even those belonging to popular players like Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw.

The card has a simple vertical design, typical of Topps cards from this era. The back features Payton's stats as well as some clues to a trivia question. This is a nice feature of this Topps set, as you had to collect different cards to get all the clues to guess the player. Simple things like this can make a card stand out, making it more attractive to collectors. 

SportsCardsPro values this card at over $45,000 if it is in Mint condition. In fact, according toPriceGuide.Cards, a copy of this card sold for $103,500 in 2022. Although this price is uncharacteristically high, this Walter Payton rookie card consistently sells for a lot of money.

1976 Coke Bears Discs [With Tab] Walter Payton ($1,067)

This card was part of a promotion that Coca-Cola ran in 1976. The 22-card set only featured members of the Chicago Bears, which were found attached to Coke cans with a tear-away tab. It is a simple, circular card with a portrait of Walter Payton, looking more serious than he does on his Topps card.

These cards were only circulated in the Chicago area, and therefore are very rare. As such, they can be relatively valuable. There's two different versions of this disc card, including one with a tab and one without the tab. SportsCardsPro shows one being sold in Mint condition for $1,067.

However, the discs without the tab are usually a bit cheaper. SportsCardsPro has recorded sales of a Mint condition version of this card selling for around $643, with two cards sold per year on average.

1976 Saga Discs Walter Payton ($520)

The Philadelphia school district distributed the Saga discs set in school lunches in 1976. The card looks similar to the Coke discs and uses the same portrait. The main design difference is that the border is green on the Saga discs and pink on the Coke disc. The Coke disc also features a small helmet icon, which is missing on the Crane discs. Finally, the Saga discs have four stars above the portrait, while the Coke disc does not. 

The fact that it was only released locally in one area, and most of the cards went to young children, means that many were destroyed, so this is another rare card. But the value doesn't necessarily reflect that rarity, perhaps because collectors don't have much interest in this card.

According to SportsCardsPro, a mint condition Walter Payton Saga Disc sold for $520 in 2021, but they don't have many other sales listed. An ungraded card has an average value of around $250. So, this one will not be top of the list for investors looking for a valuable Walter Payton rookie card.

1976 Crane Discs Walter Payton ($356)

Crane was a potato chip company that included a set of football cards in their products in 1976. Walter Payton was one of 30 players with a card in this promotional set. These looked almost identical to the Saga discs, but they don't have the stars above the portrait. The tab is the same as the Coke discs, and this is not a particularly valuable card.

Even in Mint condition, it is only valued at around $356. In less than Mint condition, it is worth clower to $100. So, if you are an investor, this card may not be of interest to you. But it is a nice one for a personal collection because these disc cards change from the traditional card design.

2001 Topps Chrome Rookie Reprints Refractors #WPR Walter Payton #'d/75 ($249)

Reprints can be a good option if you want a Payton rookie card in your collection but want to avoid paying the high price for the original. This one from the 2001 Topps Chrome set has the same design as his 1976 Topps card with an updated chromium background, like all modern Topps Chrome cards.

It is valued at around $249 in unknown graded condition on PriceGuide.Cards, so it's likely to be a mediocre investment card. In fact, average sales of the card float around just $70. So, this is an affordable way to add a version of a Walter Payton rookie card to your collection.

Where Can I Purchase Walter Payton Rookie Cards?

Once you know which Walter Payton rookie cards are worth buying, you can create a wish list of cards to add to your collection. The next question is, where can you buy the cards? Specialist hobby shops and stalls at conventions can sometimes be a good option, but you are limited to the stock they hold. Shopping online at auction sites is the best way to search for specific cards. The best sites include:

In addition, it's a good idea to track prices on sites like SportsCardsPro and PriceGuide.Cards, so you can determine whether you are getting a good deal or not.

How Are Walter Payton Rookie Cards Graded?

Grading gives you vital information about the condition of your Walter Payton rookie cards, which may impact their value. Professional grading bodies like Certified Sports Guaranty (CSG) can assess the card and give it a grade based on several factors. Those factors include:

  • The centering of the image
  • The sharpness of the corners
  • The condition of the edges
  • The clarity and condition of the surface

Once each of these areas has been checked, a grade is calculated. Usually, cards with better grades will be worth more money. Buyers must check the grade of cards before purchasing, and sellers should have cards graded to prove that they are in good condition. Every card that CSG grades has a certificate of authenticity and is placed in a protective plastic slab. Not only does this maintain the card's condition, but it also improves the clarity, so all of the card's features can be seen clearly.


The Topps 1976 Walter Payton rookie card is quite an iconic card that many collectors are aware of. In Mint condition, it regularly sells for tens of thousands of dollars, and the price has grown over the years. Even in less than Mint condition, it is still a very valuable card.

The price sometimes jumps but rarely dips that much, so this could be a safe card for investors. It does require a sizeable initial investment, though. The other Walter Payton rookie cards are less likely to make a good investment as they are not worth as much, especially the Saga and Crane discs.

The Coke disc is worth a little more, but only in the right condition. Unless you can find a Mint condition example with the tab still attached, it is not likely to increase in value by a lot. So, focus on the Topps 1976 rookie card for investment purposes, and consider the disc cards for a personal collection.

*Any mention of "investment potential" is for entertainment only and should not be construed as investment advice. The Certified Collectibles Group does not provide investment advice and is not liable for any buy, sell or trade decisions made by any parties.

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