By Doug Koztoski
The Miami Dolphins debuted with the American Football League in the 1966 season, posting a modest three wins, a minnow in a sea of established sharks. By the early 1970s, however, they had jumped over many of their seasoned rivals and began a rare run of three straight Super Bowl appearances, and winning the two after the 1972 and 1973 seasons.
As the 1973 NFL season began, many eyes closely watched Miami as they were coming off one of the most notable years in the league’s history, going 17-0, capping the undefeated campaign with a Super Bowl victory over Washington. After winning their ’73 season opener, the Dolphins received their first “L” in a couple years, at the hands of the Oakland Raiders, the second week of the season. The Phins lost only one more game that season and then handled Minnesota in the Super Bowl.
Like the Dolphins in 1972 and 1973, 7-Eleven delivered for football fans their second straight year of plastic gridiron Slurpee cups, standing about 6 inches tall and available at the convenience store as a freebie/container for the nearly ice-cold slushy beverage. Depending on the region prices varied, but most cup/Slurpee combos of the era sold for about a quarter.
With essentially the same design as their 1972 football issue, in 1973 7-Eleven bumped up their Slurpee cup collection from 60 players to 80, all featuring color illustrations with detailed artwork. Four Dolphins appeared in the set with the biggest Miami name being future Hall of Fame offensive lineman Larry Little, along with Marlin Briscoe, Ron Sellers and Doug Swift.
But where were Little’s other well known Miami teammates in the issue: quarterback Bob Griese, fullback Larry Csonka and wide receiver Paul Warfield, who all ended up with a bust in Canton? Maybe they were not approached by the convenience store or could not agree to a compensation amount to appear in the set. Either way, they certainly would have not only added star power to the cup collection, but helped represent one of the era’s most memorable teams in a higher profile fashion.
The Juice is on the loose
While the 1973 Dolphins dominated, Buffalo Bills running back O.J. Simpson captivated fans that year as he dashed and darted and often moved like a sports car while racking up the first 2,000 yard rushing season in NFL history—and he did it in 14 games. Nowadays, with a 16-game season, most backs do not even come close to 2,000 yards on the ground. Demand for Simpson’s 1973 7-Eleven cup ranks in the issue’s top tier.
Other Hall of Famers in the collection included: Dick Butkus, Chris Hanburger, Franco Harris, Bob Lilly and Don Maynard.
While Simpson’s cup is not a chore to find, the four players immediately to his right on the ’73 7-Eleven cup checklist are among the most difficult to locate: Otis Taylor (Chiefs), “Spider” Lockhart (Giants), Larry Smith (Rams) and Larry Carwell (Patriots).
Mike Mosier of Columbia City Collectibles said the ’73 7-Eleven football set is more difficult to hunt down than the ’72 gridiron issue.
A couple of the more pesky ’73 cups, Mosier said, “are the Steelers’ Frank Lewis and Jack Ham.” Add Dan Abramowicz (Saints) to that group, as well. In fact, the Abramowicz is one of the few I need to complete my set. Compared to their baseball counterparts, the 7-Eleven football cups, from either year are seen much less often. Both of these 7-Eleven football sets are unnumbered and undated. What is the easiest way to tell them apart? The ’73s have a much larger type size on the fronts.
Based on recent eBay auction results and some perusing at the July Chantilly, Virginia CSA show, most ’73 7-Eleven football cups in solid shape sell for affordable amounts: $4-$6 for commons and $15-$20 for stars.
The checklists, however, are another matter. They were tear-off freebies back in the day, but finding one, much less a good condition example, today is like getting Patriots’ QB Tom Brady to eat gobs of junk food.
Watch out for counterfeit 1970s sports and non-sports 7-Eleven cup checklists, Mosier warned. Real examples in finer shape can go for at least $75. The faux checklists normally “are missing the green and red,” the Indiana-based dealer noted.
Sometimes the fake checklists can be detected by the heavier paper, it’s a feel thing, but if looking at one online, ask a few questions before buying or bidding. The best you will likely find is a real one showing at least some wear.
Like the 1973 7-Eleven baseball Slurpee cups issue, the ’73 Slurpee football cup set was the end of the line for drink containers representing each sport with that design by 7-Eleven. Some other baseball and football cups by the convenience store chain came out later in the decade but, overall, have met with less collector interest. Mosier said in his experience collectors of the 1972 and 1973 football cup offerings usually go for certain players or teams and not the full set.
So here it is some four and a half decades after the Dolphins' perfect season and back-to-back Super Bowl wins and, as we ramp up even more into this year’s NFL schedule, if any teams remain unbeaten come the middle part of the 2017 campaign or in coming years, the early ’70s Phins will once again be in the news. Can another team match their unbeaten record—and in an even longer season? We’ll see.
But if an unbeaten team then gets plowed under like Larry Csonka bruising a defender, many of the ’72 Miami Dolphins, as they have done for years, will once again toast to their record. Some fans of that ’72 team might even toast along with the ballclub; let’s just hope they do it with various early 1970s 7-Eleven Slurpee cups, maybe even a duplicate of a decent condition 1973 Dan Abramowicz example that they might want to part with. Just sayin’.
Doug Koztoski is a frequent contributor to Sports Collectors Digest. He welcomes comments and questions related to this article at firstname.lastname@example.org.