The 50th anniversary of the first Super Bowl is just a few years away. As such, much of the focus in the near future will be on Vince Lombardi and his legendary Packers – and rightly so. Lombardi crafted a dynasty the likes of which has not been seen since. Five NFL championships and two Super Bowl victories are difficult to top.
Still, being the AFL fan that I am, I tend to look back at the great Kansas City Chiefs team that represented “The Other League” in the first great interleague match-up. Though they came out on the short end in the big game, you just can’t knock a team loaded with stars like Len Dawson, Bobby Bell, Otis Taylor, Buck Buchanan, Johnny Robinson and Fred Arbanas.
There isn’t a plethora lot of collectible material pertaining to the early Super Bowls. Ticket stubs, game programs and photographs are out there for most collectors, while the occasional game jersey, team-signed ball or Super Bowl ring become available for those with exceedingly deep pockets. Beyond that, a collector needs to be a bit creative to acquire meaningful, period items to their collections.
I have a game program from Super Bowl I, several photographs, and I’ve had ticket stubs at times as well. But the thing that I enjoy the most is my autographed 1966 Topps Kansas City Chiefs team set. These players all contributed to the Chiefs legendary season, and will go down in history as having played in the “Big Game.” Surprisingly, while historically-significant, this autographed subset is not impossible to complete, and should not drain your bank account.
The following cards make up the 1966 Topps Chiefs team set, and I will give you a little insight in the challenges inherent in obtaining signed versions. Fortunately, many of the players still sign autographs through the mail (TTM), and several others can be obtained for a nominal fee.
THE TTM GROUP – Many AFL players sign cards and other things sent to them in the mail. The Super Bowl I Chiefs are no different. From the 1966 Topps team set, Fred Arbanas, Pete Beathard, Ed Budde, Chris Burford, Jon Gilliam, E.J. Holub, Bobby Hunt, Curtis McClinton and Johnny Robinson are all willing TTM signers. A nice letter with polite request and SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope) is likely all it will take to get these cards signed for your collection.
BOBBY BELL – Bobby Bell is one of the greatest athletes to play in the AFL. His former coach, Hank Stram, said that Bell was the only man he knew that could excel at any position on the field. A Hall of Fame inductee in 1983, Bell will sign cards TTM for a nominal $15 fee.
LEN DAWSON – Len Dawson does not typically sign fan mail. Still, he is usually available via national shows a couple of times each year. The going rate to get a card signed is usually in the $35-$45 range, and many of the major show promoters will accept mail-in items.
OTIS TAYLOR – One of the first, great big men to play receiver, Taylor is an AFL legend. Sadly, he is now battling several health issues, and is no longer able to sign autographs. While signed Taylor cards aren’t too difficult to obtain, the 1966 Topps was his rookie card, and does seem to be considerably more challenging to find already autographed.
SHERRILL HEADRICK – Nicknamed “Psycho” by his teammates, Sherrill Headrick was one of the toughest men to play in the AFL. He was also very fan-friendly, and a willing TTM signer up until his death from cancer in 2008. There are plenty of Headrick-signed cards in the hobby, and it shouldn’t take too long to locate one.
JERRY MAYS – Like Arbanas, Budde, Robinson and Bell, Jerry Mays holds a position on the AFL’s All-Time First Team. Sadly, Mays lost his battle with cancer in 1994. His signed cards are available, and fall somewhere between Headrick and Taylor in terms of difficulty.
With just 132 cards in the entire set, none of the 1966 Topps team sets are very extensive. At just 14 cards, collecting the Chiefs in autographed format is very manageable, and once finished, will be a fantastic addition to any Super Bowl, Chiefs or AFL collection. Click here to see Topps 1966 Chiefs AFL cards on eBay.
Todd Tobias is an American Football League author, historian and collector. You can read more about this historic league, and view Todd’s collection of autographed cards on his blog and website, Tales from the American Football League. You can also view more of his display work at www.tobiassportsprojects.com.