Any TV broadcast documenting the aura of the Super Bowl invariably uses a few setup shots of people tailgating and then walking into the stadium. It’s standard operating procedure. And that one audio clip is always used to help set the scene, just outside the front entrance to the stadium of a vendor: “GET YOUR PROGRAM
It’s been customary over time, that a program sets the stage for any performance, whether it be in the theater or on the gridiron. Looking back through the years, the front cover and ensuing pages really etch in stone the moments prior to the game. The last few minutes before kickoff… with suspense in the air, and a time when everyone was geared up with anticipation, wondering who would come out victorious. A quick flip through these books can give a passionate fan goosebumps, bringing back vivid memories of some of the greatest moments in sports history.
Since everything involving the Super Bowl seems to be a collected now, the program would have to be considered the grandfather of Super Bowl memorabilia. They’re not tremendously difficult to find (well, at least most of them aren’t), are easily stored, look good and are somewhat interactive as a collectible.
The covers of the first two programs make no mention of the words “Super Bowl”. At the time, it was called the “AFL/NFL World Championship Game”. A Super Bowl I program without significant wear usually sells for $350-500. Super Bowl II programs bring $250-350.
The first three programs are the most popular; the first two featuring Vince Lombardi’s Packers and the third is known for commemorating the game in which the AFL grew up and Joe Namath grew into a legend. They generally sell for $200-300.
One of the most unique stories comes from Super Bowl V, when only a few thousand copies reportedly made it to the game because the delivery truck had an accident on the way. The story is told with most of the programs supposedly going into a swamp area en route to Miami during the crash, making this among the most rare Super Bowl program of all and worth almost the same as a Super Bowl II or III with most copies bringing $200 and up on eBay.
Programs are so popular now, that they are released to the public in early January for viewing, well before the teams are decided. Each year, this nationally distributed version has a bar code on the front, whereas the stadium version is printed after the Conference Championships and includes additional information on the two teams
Of course ticket stubs are also a hot commodity these days, but there is something special about the program.
During the buildup to Super Bowl XLVIII, at least four Super Bowl I programs joined the list of the ‘most watched’ sports memorabilia items on eBay, which could mean average fans are starting to realize that they’re probably underpriced considering what they represent and the relatively small number that are still around in good condition today. Many have stayed in one family collections for years and aren’t likely to be sold.
For the most part, programs from the 1970’s to the 80’s can demand above $50 and up to a few hundred if kept from harm over time. More recent editions can be found for $10-$25, as many are printed causing them to be much less rare than the vintage versions.
It is more likely to find value in an autographed program, as that is one trend that tends to keep these traded widely on eBay and in other collector circles. Some may come with a single autograph, and others with the entire team.
A collector at last year’s National Sports Collectors Convention was selling an entire run of MVP-signed Super Bowl programs.
A collage or framed picturesque display is another option for the fan that wants to show off the piece of history in a public manner, such as the Eli Manning one pictured here to the right (Patriot fans, avert your eyes).
The first two decades saw Super Bowl programs of relatively normal size but that, too, has changed. There are more advertisements, more info and more photos. The Super Bowl XLVII program was a whopping 264 pages.
Of course, as with any collectible or artwork, the beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Over the years there have been some beautiful pieces of artwork, and also some that have been subject to scrutiny as could be expected.