The Green Bay Packers are the San Francisco Giants of professional football. Though not the oldest team in the league, like the Giants the Packers (founded in 1919) were there virtually from the beginning, joining the National Football League in 1921, just one season after the league's founding. Also like the Giants, the Packers are winners, holding the league record for most championships, including nine NFL Championships prior to the Super Bowl era, plus three Super Bowl titles in 1967, '68, and '96.
Unlike the Giants, indeed unlike any team in professional American sports, the Packers are not privately owned. Instead, the team is organized as a non-profit corporation—since 1986, its Green Bay Packers Foundation has distributed more than $2 million to worthy causes, many of them based in Brown County, Wisconsin, where the team is based.
On the field, the Packers roster has featured some of the greatest names in the sport. At its founding, of course, was Curly Lambeau, who learned football from the great Notre Dame coach, Knute Rockne. Lambeau not only coached the team he co-founded (he was working at a meat-packing plant that paid for its uniforms, which is how the team got its name), he threw its first pass, kicked its first field goal, and played halfback for 10 years. Lambeau then went on to coach the team from the sidelines through 1949.
During that time, from 1935 to 1945, an Alabama receiver and future Hall of Famer named Don Hutson led the team to three of its championships. The late 1940s and most of the ’50s were a lost decade for the Packers, but in 1956, quarterback Bart Starr arrived, followed in 1957 by halfback Paul Hornung. When Vince Lombardi signed on as head coach two seasons later, the nucleus of one of the most legendary franchises in professional sports had gelled.
The Packers cemented their place in pro-football history when they won the first two Super Bowls in 1967 (defeating the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10) and ’68 (dominating the Oakland Raiders 33-14). But an even more famous game was the NFC title matchup of 1967, which is known today as the Ice Bowl for the 15-below-zero temperature on the field. The home-team Packers edged the Dallas Cowboys that day 21-17.
For collectors of Green Bay Packers memorabilia, programs and tickets from those games are cornerstones. So are footballs signed by Bart Starr—his Topps rookie card from 1957 is also widely collected. Other famous Packers whose memorabilia is sought include running back Jim Taylor and linebacker Ray Nitschke.
More recently, in the 1990s, the partnership between head coach Mike Holmgren, defensive end Reggie White, and quarterback Brett Farve gave the Packers its third Super Bowl trophy. Farve left the team in 2008 for the New York Jets, and then bolted the following year to the Minnesota Vikings—in the eyes of Packers fans, the only action more traitorous would have been if Favre had agreed to play for the Chicago Bears. Still, jerseys and helmets signed by Favre when he wore number 4 with the Packers continue to be popular with many fans. And while the defection of Farve stung, the subsequent success of Aaron Rodgers in the QB position has more than eased the pain.