Sports trading cards from giants like Babe Ruth and Joe Jackson have sold for millions of dollars, and football card values are steadily creeping up to match baseball. With decades worth of colorful cards from legendary players across the United States, there are far too many chances to strike gold on a random card you found in a vintage shop or in a family member's collection to put off looking through the old stacks.
Football Card Values That'll Make a Touchdown
|10 Valuable Football Cards||Recent Sales Price|
|2017 Patrick Mahomes Rookie Card||$4.3 million|
|2000 Tom Brady Autographed Rookie Card||$2.4 million|
|1971 Terry Bradshaw Rookie Card||$430,500|
|1958 Jim Brown Rookie Card||$358,500|
|1957 Bart Starr Rookie Card||$288,000|
|1965 Joe Namath Rookie Card||$264,000|
|2005 Aaron Rodgers Shield Patch Card||$229,200|
|1935 Bronko Nagurski Rookie Card||$174,000|
|1976 Walter Payton Rookie Card||$124,230|
|1981 Joe Montana Rookie Card||$87,000|
Between baseball and football, America's got it covered when it comes to original sports. While America's favorite pastime for decades was baseball, the heavy hitters in the 1960s and 1970s sent football soaring into the top spot in America's hearts and homes. After all, the Super Bowl is one of the most watched sporting events in America every year.
Even if you're not a football fan, you probably feel personally attached to the team from your home state and might even have a jersey or hoodie to rep them with pride. Well, licensed apparel isn't the only things football fans collect; football cards have been some of the most popular sports trading cards for years, with values that'll blow your mind.
1935 Bronko Nagurksi Rookie Card
It might surprise you, but American football has been around for over a hundred years, and the NFL was founded in 1920. This means that there are a lot of cards out there to collect, but only a few of these cards from the early days are worth more than their 'old' factor. Famous linebacker and fullback for the Bears Bronko Nagurski is a football legend. Of course, it only makes sense that his rare rookie card would pull in over a hundred thousand at auction.
His best rookie cards are in high-quality condition, and given an 8-10 on the grading scale by a professional grading company like PSA. For instance, one of his rookie cards sold in 2019 for $174,000 because it's hard to find and an impressive 8.5 on the condition scale.
1957 Bart Starr Rookie Card
If you had parents that grew up in the 1960s, then chances are they were at least marginally fans of the massively popular and successful team, the Green Bay Packers. Bart Starr lived up to his name and led the team to the Super Bowl for two consecutive seasons. His rookie card itself is rare, but not impossible to find. Though cards are really difficult to find in almost-perfect condition, the ones that are sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. The most recent big sale was a rookie card with an almost perfect grade (9) that sold for $288,000 in 2017.
1958 Jim Brown Rookie Card
Aside from sharing a name, it was kismet for Jim Brown to make his way onto the Cleveland Browns as a fullback and running back in the 1950s. So far, only five of his rookie cards have ever been given a professional grade as high as a 9, making them super valuable. One of these sold for $358,500 in 2016.
1965 Joe Namath Rookie Card
Joe Namath had it all - talent, looks, and a valuable rookie card to boot. Starting his career as a quarterback for the New York Jets, 'Broadway Joe' ascended to fame. The rookie card commemorating an early moment in his long-lasting tenure has a low population, making it hard to find, and only five cards have earned a condition grade of a 9 or higher. If you can find one of these rare pristine rookie cards, you can definitely sell it for a few hundred thousand. Take this one that sold in 2018 for $264,000, for example.
1971 Terry Bradshaw Rookie Card
Blonde and boisterous, Terry Bradshaw led the Steelers as a quarterback well into the 1970s. His public persona didn't die with his retirement, though, and he's made a name for himself as a sportscaster and reality TV show personality. Long before any of that, only one kind of rookie card was released for his rookie year, and only 110 of these rookie cards have been given a gem mint 10 grade (the highest any card can be given in terms of condition). Generally, these cards sell in the tens of thousands, but a rare sale happened in 2021 where a gem mint card sold for $430,500 through Goldin Auctions.
1976 Walter Payton Rookie Card
Topps might be the most prolific sports trading card manufacturer, but their volume of cards doesn't mean they haven't released some seriously valuable ones over the years. For instance, Walter Payton's rookie card from his 1976 year with the Chicago Bears frequently sells for over $100,000 when it's in the best condition possible. That's because a pristine card is hard to find for any player, let alone possibly the greatest running back the sport has ever seen.
1981 Joe Montana Rookie Card
Joe Montana started his football career as the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers and ended his career as one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game. Anyone with a serious passion for football would want his rookie card from 1981, and while near-mint cards easily sell for about $1,000, it's the coveted gem mint 10s that you should be on the lookout for. These pristine rookies are worth almost $100,000 because they're hard to find and of a beloved player. For example, one gem mint 10 card sold in 2022 for $87,000 at a Robert Edward Auctions sale.
2000 Tom Brady Autographed Rookie Card
Whether you love him or love to hate him, Tom Brady is the biggest name in football today. A career that's spanned all the 2000s and 2010s, Brady got his start with the New England Patriots in 2000. His Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket rookie card from 2000 is notoriously the most valuable card in football card history. Other solo cards with only one ever made might sell for more, but Brady's signed rookie cards consistently sell for millions of dollars.
The most recent card with gem mint grade sold for a whopping $2.4 million in a public auction in 2022. Why does anyone spend that kind of money on a card, you might ask? Well, only 100 of them were ever made, and with Brady's legendary career in the history books, these cards are only expected to increase in value in the coming years.
2005 Aaron Rodgers Shield Patch Card
Occasionally, trading card manufacturers will make rare 1-of-1 cards, which means that only one card of that kind exists. This was the case for an Aaron Rodgers's 2005 rookie card. Not only did the card represent his debut with the Green Bay Packers, but it also included a patch from his jersey and a perfect 10 quality autograph, making it one special find. Unfortunately for us, we're not likely to find this card anytime soon since it sold at a Goldin Auctions sale for $229,200.
2017 Patrick Mahomes Rookie Card
The most expensive football trading card ever sold might be an unusual one to casual football fans. It wasn't from a big name like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, but rather from the Kansas City Chiefs QB, Patrick Mahomes. This 2017 card comes from the Panini National Treasures set, which is another 1-of-1 rookie card that features a patch from his jersey. With a high quality autograph and an 8.5 condition grade, this card broke records when it sold for $4.3 million in a private sale.
What Makes Some Football Cards So Valuable?
Selling trading cards isn't an exact science, and some people are more willing to shell out loads of cash for a player's card that's special to them, but not so special to the game as a whole. That being said, there are some things you can look for that can help add zeros to that final price.
- Rookie cards - All the most valuable football cards are rookie cards, and that's because they have a special mythos surrounding them. It's the player's first foray into the sport before anyone knows if they'll turn out to be a legend, and people want a piece of that early action.
- Cards of famous players - Popular players have a bigger audience because they're in the news and kick up more of a fuss in the game, so naturally there's a greater demand to have a card from their career. So, the more people who want it, the higher the final price in a bidding war can be.
- Cards in a mint condition - Mint condition is this term that people throw around loosely, but it actually refers to a grade on a grading system that professionals use to describe how well preserved a card is. Gem mint 10s are the highest and most valuable on that scale, and they sell for the most amount of money.
- Cards from Tom Brady's career - Currently, Tom Brady is the most valuable player in the football trading card world. His rookie cards and others consistently sell for tens of thousands of dollars, if not millions. So, be on the lookout for a young Brady.
Track Your Collection and Connect With Others Online
If you've already got a small collection of cards going and you want to keep track of them, browse potential cards to add to it, or connect with other people who love card collecting, then signing up for a PSA Set Registry is a great idea. Although this service is only applicable for PSA graded cards, it lets you build an online inventory, compete with other people's collections, and share your interests with others just like you.
There's No Penalty When You're Collecting What You Love
While some people are only in the trading card game because they're interested in making the highest profits they can, far more of you like having things connected to the stuff you love. You never have to sell a single card to be a successful sports card collector, and the only number you really need to worry about is how happy your cards make you on a scale of one to ten.