Just as it is in 2014, the NFL’s focus 45 years ago was on New York. On Super Bowl Sunday, 1969, the New York Jets made history. Super Bowl III memorabilia is among the most popular from any of the 44 games that have been played since.
In terms of historical significance, there are not many games that are more important or had a greater influence on the NFL than the game played in Miami January 12, 1969. The AFL and NFL were three years into their four-year merger plan when the contest was played. Vince Lombardi and his Packers had defeated the best that the AFL had to offer in Super Bowls I & II, and NFL dominance over “The Other League” was on most people’s minds when the heavily-favored Baltimore Colts lined up against the New York Jets for the third interleague championship.
Most of America, however, did not give proper respect to the Jets, and when Joe Namath gave his now-famous guarantee, his audacity made headlines across the country. The AFL’ers made news again just three days later when the Jets in fact stunned the world by beating the Colts by a score of 16-7. The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Minnesota Vikings the following year in Super Bowl IV, and so the leagues merged with two Super Bowl victories each; total parity.
Just in its infancy 50 years ago, the Super Bowl was not like it is today. There were not any commemorative football card sets, limited edition lithographs, pennants, and every other trinket imaginable for fans to collect. In fact, in comparison there is very little for standard collectors (re: collectors without limitless budgets) to acquire that would be contemporary to the actual game, and not a collectable made decades later as some sort of “throwback” piece.
Fortunately, for those interested there does not seem to be much difficulty in locating game programs and ticket stubs. A quick run through eBay shows several programs in a variety of conditions, ranging from roughly $200-$600 (the game day cost was a buck, by the way!). Ticket stubs, while somewhat rarer, are also available. PSA authenticated examples seem to be in the $1,000-range.
With Philadelphia Gum out of the picture by the 1968 season, Topps was the exclusive producer of NFL football cards and the Jets cards from that season are popular with fans of the teams and those putting together collections of Super Bowl teams. Prices vary, of course, according to condition. A near mint 1968 Topps Namath will cost around $50-60 while a graded NM/MT example can push close to $200. Most of the other Jets cost less than $5 even for near mint-mint examples and are quite easy to find. There are also later cards that recognize Super Bowl III in the 1977 Sportscaster, several of the 1970s/1980s Fleer Action, Pro Set and Upper Deck sets. All of the cards are attractive, and can be found for less than $5 each.
I am a fan of vintage photography, and this is one area where potential display pieces can be purchased at affordable prices (click here to see what's available). There are contemporary color prints of classic photographs--both signed and unsigned. Wire service photos can vary in price; from $50 and up for original Type I photos to just a few dollars for prints.
Publications are another avenue in which affordable, vintage material is available. Sports Illustrated featured Joe Namath on two covers that pertained to Super Bowl III, including the 'Super Hero, Super Joe' cover. Either magazine is often for sale in the $20-$30 range but at last check, there weren't many available. Newspapers, though even more difficult to find, run about the same or a little higher, depending on quality.
Fanatics.com offers some nice 1969 Jets and Namath autographed memorabilia as well as Namath replica jerseys.
As with most themes in our hobby, quality pieces pertaining to early Super Bowl games can be collected in a variety of price ranges. The challenge is placed upon the collector to be creative and diligent in their searches. And isn’t that what makes it fun to begin with?
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.