Touchdown: Everything You Need to Know About Football Cards

Who doesn’t love Autumn? Not only does it mean the changing of the leaves and cooler weather, but of course, it means that it's time for football season to start soon too!

American football was first introduced in the United States in the late 1800s. Yale player, Walter Camp, is credited with writing many of the rules of the sport that are still used today.

Like many popular American sports, it inspired trading cards to be produced. Companies released football cards shortly after the sport became popular here in the United States.

What exactly are they? Are football cards worth money? Which ones are the best football cards to collect?

The most important thing is that football fans will enjoy collecting these items. Searching for the ones you want is a big part of the thrill of collecting anything.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about these popular pieces of sports history and how to collect football cards.


Trading cards are a long-standing tradition amongst sports enthusiasts. They were originally created as promotional items by tobacco and gum companies in an attempt to increase sales. The first football cards link back to the early days of the game's popularity in the United States.

The very first football card is credited to Goodwin and Company. It was made in 1888 and featured Yale's team captain, Henry Beecher. The company distributed it with the purchase of their cigarettes.

Other companies soon followed Goodwin and Company's example. P.H. Mayo Tobacco Company released a set of thirty-five cards that all featured players from Ivy League schools in 1894. In the 1930s, chewing gum companies Goudey and National Chicle started issuing new cards with sticks of gum.

National Chicle's cards were the first to feature professional players rather than college. And any of these early cards are among some of the best football cards to collect that will fetch a high-price today, especially if they are in good condition. 

These cards will feature photographs or portraits of notable players. They might also include some information about the player, such as where they're from and their stats from teams they've played for. 


If you're looking to make a little cash off collecting, then you need to know how much your cards are worth when you first start learning how to collect football cards. This ensures that you can get the most value for your cards as possible. These are the ways you can tell how much your football cards are worth right now.


The age of the card is the first thing that you need to know when looking for some of the best football cards to collect.

Scarcity of football cards can vary greatly depending on the year. Supply and demand control the price, so knowing the year and the supply is essential. 

This is especially true for older cards. Because many cards will be victims of some sort of damage over many years, they become harder and harder to find. That's why collectors will pay good money for vintage cards in exceptional condition. 


The football player portrayed on the card will be one of the most important contributors to its value.

Oftentimes, this has to do with the player's stats. A player with better stats is usually going to be more popular than a player with lower stats. The more popular the player, the more popular their football card, making them some of the best football cards to collect.

Meanwhile, if you end up with a card for a player who isn't as well known and doesn't have great stats, then collectors probably aren't going to be looking for these cards as much. Once again, supply and demand.

If you are investing, you should focus on collecting cards for more well-known players who have proven careers and can also mix in some younger prospects and rookies you believe could end up having hall of fame careers. Younger players are riskier investments than proven veterans, but also offer more upside if they have a great career. 


As with all collectibles, the condition of the card is going to be extremely important to collectors. This is especially true of vintage football cards, being that they’re some of the best football cards to collect.

While a vintage card can fetch a very high price, you'll get more money for it if it's in good condition. This means that it is well centered with sharp corners, crisp edges, and the face of the card is clean and without stains, fading, or anything else. 

Grading football cards has become increasingly popular, so much so that the leading grading service, PSA, had to suspend its grading service recently, because they got so overwhelmed with shipments by those learning how to collect football cards. Grading rarer cards of quality players and rookies that are in great condition will usually lead to an increase in the sale price you can get for a particular card.

The best way to stabilize your collection's value right now is to take good care of it. If you use this guide on the best football cards to collect and then neglect them, they can lose value rapidly. Try not to leave it exposed to direct sunlight for long lengths of time. Make sure that it's somewhere that kids and pets won't be able to damage them.

Of course, you should make sure that you keep them somewhere that they won't get anything spilled on them and also sleeve and topload your cards to ensure the edges and corners don’t get damaged with time as they get handled.


A rookie card is going to be the card for the featured player that is printed and distributed their rookie year. Think of this as finding a first edition copy of a book that's been in print for several years now. 

Collectors always pay a premium for a given player’s rookie card compared to subsequent years. This isn’t to say that cards after a player’s rookie year won't fetch a good price, but rookie cards will almost always get you more money if they become among the best football cards to collect. 


There are other types of rare football cards that collectors are always on the lookout for that can fetch big bucks, including autographs, parallels, and memorabilia cards. 

The first kind of special card, often called a “hit” is an autographed card. These were signed by the featured player himself. Autographs can be either on-card or on a hologram sticker that is affixed to the card. Modern cards that are autographed by the player will always command a premium.

A parallel card is going to be a more rare version of a base card, which is why they’ve become some of the best football cards to collect. These are going to offer a visual difference from its "base card." This might be its design, color, or foil stamp. Oftentimes, these parallel football cards will be sequentially numbered, so everyone knows how many cards are printed of a given parallel.

Finally, memorabilia cards are another “hit” that many people enjoy chasing. These are going to contain a piece of equipment used by the featured player, such as a piece of a jersey, helmet, or cleats. The most rare are memorabilia cards that are also autographed. RPA’s (rookie patch autographs) typically carry the highest value of any card for modern players. 


Like all collectibles, football card values have a very wide range, and the best football cards to collect will vary across different types and players. Knowing this can make it easier to hit it big when learning how to collect football cards.There are some ultra-modern cards that are selling for massive amounts, such as a Patrick Mahomes card recently selling for $840,000. Below we will look at a few veterans and hall of famer cards.


This card was first released in 1998. Manning's stats and general popularity are what give this card its value. The card was produced by Playoff Contenders and is now one of the most valuable football cards available today.

As of 2018, this card's value was just over seven thousand dollars. It would be worth putting this card up for auction starting at that price to get the best value for it right now.


Tom Brady is currently one of the most popular players in the NFL and one of the best football cards to collect. He's well known and has ridiculous stats, often being called the GOAT (greatest of all time). It makes sense that the GOAT is also the gold standard and sets the bar for everyone else for his rookie card.

His most highly sought-after rookie card is 2000 Playoff Contenders. There are different parallels of this card, including some autographed ones. A BGS 9 graded autographed card of Brady sold recently for a massive $3,107,132, setting the record for the highest value of a football card ever sold.


Bradshaw's football talents were turning heads in his early college years. This is why he was the first pick of the draft in 1970. Today, he's kept his career around football as a sports analyst and co-host on Fox.

His most valuable card was printed in 1971 by Topps. If you happen to have this card in great condition, then you could get a little more than $50,000 at auction for it.


Bronko Nagurski was one of the most notable players in the early days of the sport. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame when it opened in 1951. 

His card was one of the early ones created by Nation Chicle in 1935. The vintage status of this card also adds to its value. If by some chance you happen to have this card because you knew it would be one of the best football cards to collect, it could be worth as much as $60,000.


Namath was the 1965 rookie of the year. He led the New York Jets to their only current championship victories during his career. He was known for his success on the field as well as his personality in the media.

It makes sense that the popular rookie of the year's rookie card is one of the most valuable cards today. A PSA 9 was sold in 2018 for a whopping $264,000!


Brown has been called the greatest football player of all time. The fullback broke almost every rushing record during his career. Needless to say, he's been granted many honors for football during his lifetime.

Printed in 1958 by Topps, it can be hard to find this card in good condition now. That's why in 2016, a PSA 9 of this card sold for over $358,000.


If you're reading this guide on how to collect football cards and interested in starting your own collection of the best football cards to collect, then you're probably wondering where you can find these football trading cards. The good news is that there are a lot of places that you can start!

You should start by making a list of cards that you want to prioritize – it can be certain years, sets, players, and/or teams. It's impossible to collect every single football card ever printed in a single lifetime. 

Once you've decided which cards to look out for, then you're ready to get serious about collecting. You need an online card shop or marketplace, where you can search a large inventory to find many of the football cards you are looking for at a reasonable price. Local card shops and card shows are also great resources to hunt for the cards you desire. 

If you are interested in how to collect football cards for a certain year or set type, buying factory sealed football boxes and cases can be a great way to collect a large number of those cards, while also giving you the fun and excitement of opening the packs of cards. These offer you the upside potential of pulling a very rare and valuable card from the box. With a little research, it's a fairly easy way to get wholesale football cards at a reasonable price.


When you're ready to find some of the best football cards to collect, then go ahead and search through the wide selection of sports cards that we sell here at Giant Sports Cards. Our online shop has a variety of options from the most popular card manufacturers on the market.

Because we sell wholesale sports cards, you know that you're getting the best prices available. Our cheap football card boxes and cases won't leave you disappointed so go ahead and check out our selection today.