by Greg Maxwell
Although Ernie Davis never played a single game in the NFL, he is one of the most memorable players in football history. A college superstar at Syracuse and drafted first overall by the Washington Redskins in 1962, Davis was then traded to the Cleveland Browns. He seemed poised for an excellent NFL career, creating a dream backfield with the great Jim Brown, but in the summer, he was diagnosed with leukemia. By May of 1963, he would be dead at the age of 23. It was an incalculably sad story for his family and for fans who appreciated his skill as a player and his goodness as a person. Even after being diagnosed, Davis was determined to play for the Browns but never got the chance.
Despite his nonexistent NFL career, his 1962 Topps rookie card, the only Ernie Davis Topps card ever produced, is fairly valuable. As an iconic card and as an important piece of football history, the 1962 Topps Ernie Davis rookie card is a great piece to own. Davis also appears on the 1961 Fleer set of college players and it's also a good one to own, but it is the Topps rookie card that is most sought after.
Professionally graded NM/MT examples usually sell at auction for between $350 and $450. While you may think that these prices are low for a vintage card, you have to take into account that he never played a single game in his career, so the value is derived solely from the story of Ernie Davis and the inherent qualities of the 1962 Topps set. Davis rookies graded near mint often sell for anywhere between $200 and $300. There is not a huge price disparity between the two high grades because so few have received high grades, with less than 150 graded at PSA 7 and PSA 8 combined.
There have been just over 300 examples of this card graded by the PSA, so it is fairly scarce, especially in high grade. The black borders on the 1962 Topps set make it one of the toughest sets to find at near mint or better levels. Davis rookie cards also cost very little in comparison to many other vintage cards, so they carry a smaller risk as well. They can be a strong investment because they are likely to increase in value over time like most vintage cards. Also, with the release of a movie that tells his story in 2011, he has become better known, and this has caused his cards to become slightly more popular. Click here to check prices of Davis rookie cards being offered on eBay now.