Like their baseball counterparts, the prices for higher grade vintage football rookie cards can be tough manage for collectors who aren’t blessed with a big budget. That doesn’t mean you can’t own some high quality early career issues of some of the most memorable names in NFL history.
We’ve identified eight second year cards of some of the most popular Hall of Famers from the mid-1950s to the mid-1980s that offer strong value compared to the cost and population of the same player’s rookie cards. For cards from the 1950s-70s, we used PSA 8 or better for the measuring stick. Since the population of cards in NM/MT 8 is relatively high and values are pretty low, we used MINT 9.
1963 Topps Fran Tarkenton #98
Tarkenton’s 1962 Topps rookie card is a tough one in high-grade but here’s something you may not realize: his 1963 Topps card is even tougher– but the price is just 5% of the rookie card. With only 73 rating 8 or better and average selling prices for an 8 at around $130, the colorful ’63 is one to buy and hold.
1963 Topps Mike Ditka #62
Ditka’s 1963 Topps card costs only 7.5% as much as his 1962 rookie card in NM/MT and while only 57 rookie cards rate 8 or better, there are only 100 ’63s in 8 or better. And…it’s a much better looking card in our opinion.
1967 Philadelphia Dick Butkus #28
Buy a ’67 Philly Butkus at the going rate of around $225 and you’ll own one of the best in existence. As of this writing only 58 ’67s have rated 8 or better–a remarkably small number. Considering the price of his rookie card is up to nearly $1,600 it’s pretty hard to resist. The only problem is finding one for sale.
1972 Topps Terry Bradshaw #120
1972 Topps football is pretty plentiful and you’d think there would be more high-grade examples of Bradshaw’s second year card but as of now, there are only 264 in 8 or better–compared to 484 of his 1971 rookie card. The price of the ’72 in an 8 holder averages less than 8% of the ’71. One or two high-grade examples are usually found on eBay.
1973 Topps Roger Staubach #475
The 1973 Topps Staubach is plentiful in high-grade with over 460 graded 8-10 on PSA’s pop report alone, but prices still seem too low considering the age of the card, its aesthetic quality and the popularity of the player and his team. On average, it sells for just 4.3% of his rookie card. It’s ticked up slightly in recent weeks, but we’ll take PSA 8s all day for $40 or less.
1974 Topps Ken Stabler #451
Stabler’s rookie card is pretty easy to find in higher grades but the ’74 is not. Poor centering has plagued this card and PSA has graded fewer than 100 at the 8-10 level, yet the average price is under $60 for an 8. It’s sad the Snake isn’t around anymore but he’s still cool and his second year card is one you should grab. A few have sold on eBay in recent months.
1977 Topps Walter Payton #360
Why everyone isn’t grading their nice second year Payton cards is hard to figure but as of now, it’s far less plentiful in top condition than his always popular rookie card from ’76. Only 8.7% of all graded 1977 Payton cards have reached the 8-10 level, so it’s proven a little tough to land a high-grade but values remain low. Walter’s second year card costs just under 17% of his rookie with several a few recently selling below the average price, making it an even better buy.
1982 Topps Joe Montana #488
Also worth noting: Jim Brown’s 1959 Topps card is relatively inexpensive at the moment with PSA 8 examples averaging around $410 but there are over 320 at that level–far more than any other icon’s second year card from the mid-50s to the early 70s. There are a relatively small number of Johnny Unitas 8s but at $843, it’s priced accordingly–and about double the rate for Bart Starr’s far more plentiful second year issue.
John Elway’s 1985 Topps card could be one to keep an eye on. It’s a tough card in top grades and still at well under $100. The 1987 Topps Jerry Rice is dirt cheap even in PSA 9 at around $10 (2.1% of the price of his rookie card). They’re fairly plentiful and demand is low, keeping prices down but over time, it’s certainly possible this one will grow.