Some of his teammates weren’t old enough to ride a bike when Tony Gonzalez was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs back in the last millennium. He was the 13th player picked in the draft in 1997 and a Hall of Fame career unfolded. It was only fitting, but a long time coming, that his catch Sunday set up the game-winning field goal as the Atlanta Falcons beat Seattle to earn a spot in the NFC Championship. It’s hard to believe, but it was the first time in his 16 pro seasons that the University of California product has tasted a playoff victory. That could be the reason Tony Gonzalez rookie cards still don’t capture the love they probably should.
Gonzalez is on a short list of the greatest tight ends in history. In fact, his athletic ability really re-defined the position. His career record is one of remarkable durability. He’s number two on the NFL’s all-time reception list behind Jerry Rice. Playing on some bad teams in Kansas City for a dozen years also hurt his long term hobby stature, but how highly he’s revered inside the game and his inevitable march to Canton, it seems absurd that you can buy some of the better Gonzalez rookie cards for a minimal investment.
The best Tony Gonzalez rookie card is probably the 1997 Bowman’s Best Atomic Refractor. A PSA 10 sold for $169.99 recently. Mint, but ungraded copies bring $100-125. A Pinnacle Totally Certified Red Auto, also graded 10, brought $129. A 1/1 Classic Pro Line (yes, Gonzalez was playing when Classic was still cranking out cards) Printing Plate sold for $179.
There are many other lower end Gonzo rookies that sell for much less. A 1997 Topps Chrome Refractor graded PSA 9 sold for $46 and you can buy unopened boxes for around that same price. There are a few autographed Gonzalez rookies like the Pro Line that sold for $39.95 recently on eBay and included an autograph that you could actually read. A lot of two on card Upper Deck Sign of the Times autographed cards sold for a rather pedestrian $125, again including a nice-looking signature.
Many, many other lower end rookies sell for just a few dollars.
At 36, this may be his last season. If the Falcons can win next weekend, maybe Gonzalez rookie cards will get some long overdue respect. It might not be a bad time to buy a couple either way since he’ll be a Hall of Famer before long. Here’s a list of the most watched Gonzalez cards on eBay right now and as you can see, competition is pretty limited.