A Legendary Debut: Walter Payton’s Crane, Bears Coke, and Saga Rookie Card Discs

When it comes to football legends, few names shine brighter than Walter Payton. His 1976 Topps rookie card is a well-known collector’s gem, but Payton’s rookie legacy goes beyond traditional cards to the often-overlooked world of discs. While the Topps card garners the most attention, this article shifts the spotlight to Payton’s lesser-known rookie discs in the 1976 Crane, 1976 Chicago Bears Coca-Cola, and the elusive 1976 Saga disc sets.

1976 Football Disc Sets

Near Mint Cards describes 1976 as the year of the disc since there were five sets of football discs printed that year: Buckmans Discs, Coca-Cola Chicago Bears Discs, Crane (Potato Chip) Discs, Pepsi Discs, and Saga Discs. However, only the Bears, Crane, and Saga include Walter Payton. I won’t cover either the Buckmans or Pepsi sets in detail in the article since neither includes a Payton disc, but here’s an example of each, just so you know what they look like.

1976 Buckmans Discs Terry Bradshaw
1976 Pepsi Discs Jack Lambert

1976 Crane Discs Set Overview

The 1976 Crane Potato Chips discs football set has 30 items and was available via an offer on wrappers of Crane Potato Chips and are widely available today, so Michael Schechter Associates (MSA) must have seen to a huge print run. Since Crane was based in Decatur, Illinois, most players were from Midwest teams, with four each from the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Cardinals.

The discs each feature a black-and-white player photo surrounded by a colored border with some basic player information. The backs have a colorful Crane Potato Chips advertisement. They’re 3-3/8″ in diameter.

1976 Crane Discs Roger Staubach

Because they were a mail-in offer and not inserted into bags of chips, most remain in great condition today; plus, discs are also tougher to damage than rectangular cards. Of the 3029 Crane Discs graded by PSA, almost 2500 are PSA 9s and 10s. Besides Payton, the other key discs belong to Terry Bradshaw and Roger Staubach. 

1976 Crane Discs Walter Payton

1976 Crane Discs Walter Payton – PSA 8

The 1976 Grand Discs Walter Payton is his most common rookie disc. The disc shared that he was 5’11” tall, weighed 211 pounds, and was born on July 25, 1954. He attended Jackson State and was born in Columbia, Mississippi. 

PSA has graded 1125 1976 Crane Walter Payton Discs, including 286 as Gem Mint 10s.

The 10s aren’t as pricey as you’d think; a few recent sales were for $314 in December 2022, $307 in January 2022, $230 in December 2021, and $168 in August 2021. 9s commonly sell for around $60.

1976 Chicago Bears Coca-Cola Discs Set Overview

There are 22 items in the 1976 Chicago Bears Coca-Cola Discs set and two variations (two different colored Plank and Clemons discs) for 24 discs in a master set. The design is similar to the Crane Discs set, but on release, they had tabs attached with holes so they could be hung on Coke bottles, but those were occasionally detached, so surviving copies with tabs are more valuable today. 

The 22-player disc set mirrored the Bears’ starting lineup and was released as a partnership by the Bears, with Coke, in the Chicago area. 

The discs are the usual 3-3/8 diameter that most MSA discs were, but with the tab, they ended up being 5-1/4″ long. The fronts have the same information as the Crane Disc sets but feature Coca-Cola along the top middle instead of CRANE and include a Bears helmet. The backs have an “Enjoy Coca-Cola” logo and the line “Coke ads life to…halftime fun.”

1976 Chicago Bears Coca-Cola Discs Ron Shanklin

PSA has only graded 329 1976 Coke Bears Discs; 144 are Gem Mint 10s. Other key discs, besides Payton, include Bob Avellini, Roland Harper, Noah Jackson, and Doug Plank.

1976 Chicago Bears Coca-Cola Discs Walter Payton

The front of the 1976 Bears Coke Payton Disc shares the same image as his Crane rookie disc but has a different colored border (Red) and includes a Bears helmet. 

1976 Bears Coke Discs Walter Payton

PSA has graded 60 Walter Payton Coke discs that have a “with tab” designation and 37 without the designation, but when you dig into them, you’ll see that a bunch of them that don’t have a tag designation on the flip actually include one, so the Pop Report is a little off. PSA 10 Payton 1976 Bears Coke discs have been selling for between $600 and $800 the last few years, though they’re pretty illiquid. 

1976 Bears Coke Discs Walter Payton With Tab

Lelands sold this 1976 Coke Bears Discs Walter Payton With Tab PSA 10 for $854 in August 2022.

1976 Coke Bears Discs Walter Payton PSA 10 With Tab – Lelands

1976 Saga Discs Set Overview

The 1976 Saga Disc set parallels the Crane release, but rather than having a Crane sponsor logo on the back, each has a note from the Philadelphia School District, where they were released, that the discs are “A Collectors and Traders Item!” and that “Nutrition is Body Ecology” since they were distributed with school lunches—the front feature four black stars where the Crane and Coca-Cola words appear on the other sets.

1976 Saga Discs Roger Staubach

Between the Crane, Bears Coke, and Saga discs, the Saga’s are by far the rarest, and PSA has only graded 228 of them, primarily 9s and 10s. Since the set mirrors the Crane release, the other key cards are also the same, Terry Bradshaw (13 PSA-graded copies) and Roger Staubach (11 PSA-graded copies). 

1976 Saga Discs Terry Bradshaw

1976 Saga Discs Walter Payton

The 1976 Saga Walter Payton Disc is his most desirable “rookie card” disc. PSA has graded 34 of them, including 13 PSA 10s, and they’re starting to command pretty high prices since they’re incredibly illiquid. Goldin sold this PSA 10 for $1476 in October 2021.

1976 Saga Discs Walter Payton Goldin PSA 10

PWCC sold a 10 for less than half of Goldin’s; $661 a few years earlier in May 2018.

1976 Saga Discs Walter Payton PWCC PSA 10

Other historical PSA 10 sales include a copy for $306 in July 2018 and another for $520 in February 2021. More recently, a PSA 7 changed hands on eBay in January 2023 for $117.

1976 Football Discs Wrap Up

I’ve always been a little surprised that disc sets aren’t more popular with today’s collectors, but that sentiment seems to be shifting as prices increase, particularly for Hall of Fame players like Walter Payton. And since these three discs were issued the same year as his Topps rookie card, they’re must-have items for Payton collectors. However, the Coke and Saga copies will take time to track down. I just did an eBay search (on August 12, 2023) for “1976 Payton Disc,” it returned 42 results, including a single ungraded 1976 Bears Coke Payton disc and 41 Crane Discs (a raw Saga sold as a Best offer for $490 on August 3, 2023).

If you’re interested in disc sets, I’ve highlighted four baseball sets on the site. The 1977 Triple Play Funmeal cards in a dedicated article, and the 1978 Bit T Tastee Freeze, 1978 Papa Ginos, and 1988 Jiffy Pop sets on the Oddball Archive. I’ve also shared details about a few basketball sets, including the 1971 Mattel Instant Play, 1975 Carvel Ice Cream, and 1976 Buckmans discs. 

Happy collecting! 

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