Football cards have been underrated for years. Even a price surge in the early 1990s that brought them up from the ridiculously cheap to the ‘respectable’ level hasn’t bridged what is sometimes a sizable gap between the greatest football cards and their baseball cousins. Don’t get the idea that the best of the best are dirt cheap, though. If you’re fascinated by the game’s history and it’s great players, rookie cards are often the way to go. We’ve got a list of ten all-time great football cards that should one day be in your collection.
If money is no object, a pair of cards from the 1933 Goudey Sport Kings set would be an impressive addition. The rookie cards of Hall of Fame legendary figures Red Grange (#4) and Jim Thorpe (#6) are keys in this early set, which featured athletes from several different sports, including Babe Ruth.
Grange, nicknamed “The Galloping Ghost,” can arguably be called football’s first “superstar.” After an incredible high school career in Wheaton,Ill., Grange enrolled at the University of Illinois where he led the Fighting Illini to the national championship in 1923. A three-time All-American, Grange was named by ESPN as the greatest college football player of all time in 2008.
Thorpe, one of America’s most versatile athletes of all time, won gold medals in the 1912 Olympics in the decathlon and pentathlon, played college football, and later played both professional baseball and football. Born on an Indian reservation in Oklahoma, Thorpe was voted the greatest American athlete of the first half of the 20th century.
Bowman set also featured other notable rookies such as Bob Waterfield, Johnny Lujack and Sid Luckman.
(#148) is the gem of Topps 1976 set. After a sterling career at small-college Jackson State, the legendary Chicago Bear became one of the most popular Chicago athletes ever, ranking alongside Michael Jordan, Ernie Banks and Frank Thomas.
Joe Montana will go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. Known for his cool, unflappable on field demeanor, Montana led the San Francisco 49ers to four Super Bowls and won all four of them. His Topps 1981 rookie card (#216) is highly sought after by collectors who grew up in the ’80s and early 90s.
Topps’ 1984 set will always be one of their most popular modern issu (#123). Elway, the undisputed King of the Comeback Victory, played his entire star-studded career with the Denver Broncos, and is still revered in the Mile High City. Marino, who held nearly every passing record until Brett Favre came along, will unfortunately be remembered as never having won a Super Bowl while with the Miami Dolphins, but few quarterbacks possessed the incredible arm or passing accuracy of Number 13.