If you have never collected football cards before but are thinking about getting into it, I must warn you that there are certain things you should know about the hobby of collecting football cards. These things aren’t meant to discourage you but to better help you understand that there is a difference in collecting football cards and collecting baseball cards.
The first thing you should understand is that baseball card collecting still tends to be far more popular than football card collecting. It is estimated that for every single football card collector out there, there are around 50 baseball collectors. Probably the main reason for this is because baseball has been around a lot longer and baseball card collecting started a lot earlier than football card collecting. Also the baseball season is a lot longer so that keeps the interest in collecting during the year last a lot longer.
In football collecting there really isn’t a “Holy Grail” of cards like in baseball and that “Holy Grail” would be Honus Wagner. It was part of some tobacco company card series of cards. In the end, Wagner didn’t want to be part of this series of cards so it ended up with a very limited supply of his cards. Because of this the card’s value shot through the roof with one recently selling for $2 million. Trust me, you won’t find that in football cards. In fact, the most expensive card ever sold in football would be a 1935 Bronco Nagurski that sold for $250,000.
Condition, condition, condition! That’s the name of the game. In order to sell your football cards, they need to be in pristine condition. Collectors are only looking for cards that really sharp corners, perfectly centered images and no bubble gum residue on them. They also want true colors in them too. You can pay to have your cards grade by various independent services and their grading scale is 1 to 10, 10 being in “Mint” condition. Understand that even the littlest of imperfections are going to bring down the score of your card. So, it can be disappointing, especially if you think your card is in really good condition.
You won’t find a “Mickey Mantle” in football cards. When it comes to baseball cards and collecting them it’s Mickey Mantle that is one of the top commodities and everyone wants one. In football however, probably the only player that might come close would be Joe Namath.
No matter what the most common rule you will come across when it comes to collecting football cards is that it all depends upon supply and demand. Any football card with a star on it is going to sell ten times faster than what’s known as a common card. Also remember that when a card is low in supply it’s always going to be high in demand and the price will rise immensely.
If you are looking for a hot set of football cards, the hottest set right now would be the 1955 Topps All-American set. This set was created by Topps and contains 100 cards that feature Heisman Trophy winners along with Hall of Fame players. Bowman a competing company had a pro football contract, so this was Topps way of having their own football card offering. This set includes such players as: Jim Thorpe, Knute Rockne, Otto Graham, Sammy Baugh, the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame and a lot of other vintage players. This set is extremely popular with hardcore collectors and you’ll find they will do anything to keep and protect this set.
With football cards there are not as many print series as there are with baseball cards. This is because baseball has the longer season so card companies offered many retailers card series. Sometimes in baseball there might be seven different series of cards in one single season. This also gives them a chance to correct any errors there might have been in an earlier series by correcting a newer series. However, when they do this, that makes error cards very popular and worth money if it’s an error card because they are in limited supply. In the early days of football cards you will only find one series of cards made because in the 50’s and 60’s their season was only 13 weeks long. 12 regular season games and one championship game.
When collecting football cards try to look for cards that might increase in value for different reasons. For example the success Jack Kemp had in politics has made the value of his cards rise. After Gayle Sayers’ book and the movie “Brian’s Song” drove the value of Brian Piccolo cards up. Even Ernie Davis who never played a single down of professional football because of leukemia had his cards go up in value. Believe it or not, those checklist cards that were once used just to check off the cards you got and then were tossed out, are now becoming valuable because they are hard to find.
Stay away from players with bad reps. O.J. Simpson is a prime example. Even though he was acquitted, it didn’t matter. Collectors did a total about face with the once Hall of Famer and his card values took a a nose dive and crashed and burned.
With baseball cards, every player gets at least one card made of them. However, with football cards that’s not always the case. Not all football players get their own cards. Football cards are more focused on the specialty positions and fan favorites.
Football cards are fun because you can actually see the evolution of the game of football through the cards. In the 50’s and 60’s you would see cards having players playing different positions because that’s what they did. You’ll also notice that the players are a lot bigger now than they were back then as well. There is also more specialization and all kinds of rule changes, equipment changes and so on. All of which you can see through the football cards.
Football cards can truly tell the story of football and even if you don’t make any money, there’s a lot of history and learning to obtain by collecting football cards.