The 1982 Topps football set is a little ordinary and often overlooked. But Topps did pull off one significant thing that year. 1982 was the first time since 1969 the NFL allowed Topps to put official team logos on cards.
First, some 1982 Topps football set basics. It has 528 standard-sized cards. There are a bunch of subsets (record breakers, playoffs, league leaders, and brothers), and the key established players in the set are Walter Payton and Joe Montana. The key rookies are three of the greatest ever to play their positions; Anthony Munoz, Lawrence Taylor, and Ronnie Lott. But, the set never had a chance at popularity right out of the gate because of the strike that wiped out seven weeks of the NFL season.
From a design perspective, the front of the 1982 Topps football cards is similar to the 1981 design. You can see that below on the Vince Evans cards from each year. Both of Evans’ cards have white borders with the Topps emblem in the upper right and a blue line wrapping around the photo.
But the 1982 version shows a Chicago Bears helmet in the lower left corner (instead of a printed team name), and his action shot doesn’t show an airbrushed helmet; Topps had permission from the NFL to use licensed material on cards. As I said, Topps went through most of the 70s having to airbrush logos off player photos. Additionally, Topps moved the player’s name and position into a wavy pennant in 1982, another subtle improvement.
Topps must have been really excited to have licensing rights back because they even put photos of the cards showcasing team logos on the front of the box.
So while the 1982 Topps football design is just an incremental update and doesn’t garner the attention of the decade’s more popular Topps sets (1981, 1984, and 1986) today, the set was transformational for hobbyists because of the Topps/NFL licensing agreement. Can you imagine cards today without team logos?!
PS: If you’re interested in collecting 1982 Topps football cards, PSA’s article about that adventure is pretty great.