The roots of contemporary American football can be traced to the late 19th century, when, in 1875, Harvard lost to Tufts. The first professional football league game followed in 1903—the Massillon Tigers won that year’s all-Ohio championship.

Almost from the beginning, marketers tried to capitalize on the popularity of college football. In 1888, cigarette maker Goodwin & Co. published the first football card, an illustration of Henry Beecher, who was the captain of the Yale Bulldogs.

The Beecher card was part of a set of 50 cards celebrating athletes from a variety of sports. In 1894, chewing-tobacco company Mayo Cut Plug released the first actual set of football cards, each bearing a sepia photograph of one of 35 players from Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. One Princeton player with the last name of Poe is thought to be the nephew of poet Edgar Allen Poe.

The precursor to the National Football League didn’t arrive on the scene until 1920 and football cards were not produced in sets until after World War II when, according to football-card collector Mike Thomas, Leaf and Bowman began making cards for players such as John Nolan and Larry Olsonoski. Topps cards dominated the 1950s (the Johnny Unitas rookie card from 1955 is a much-traded collectible) and 1960s (ditto Joe Namath’s rookie card from 1965). In that decade, Fleer also entered the picture.

Players were not the only things depicted on cards. In 1960, Fleer issued a set of cards with decals of college-team pennants (Nebraska paired with Purdue, Stanford with Navy, etc.), as well as a set of cards bearing decals of American Football League logos (the gun-toting, cowboy-booted Texans player running for a touchdown in his ten-gallon hat is a collectible classic).

Beyond cards, collectors gravitate to just about anything with a player’s signature on it, from jerseys to helmets to footballs. As with music, unused tickets and ticket stubs are also fairly popular. But one of the most collectible football memorabilia categories is the Super Bowl.

For football fans, it doesn’t get any better than the Super Bowl. Football memorabilia collectors feel the same way about the objects and ephemera commemorating any of the Super Bowls that have been played since 1967, when Bart Starr led the Green Bay Packers to victory over the Kansas City Chiefs...

Signed Super Bowl helmets and footballs are particularly prized, as are signed jerseys. Reproductions of Super Bowl rings have become quite popular in recent years, and the card companies have been diligent about making sure that fans can add special Super Bowl cards to their collections—many are auto-signed to replicate the signatures of players.

Rounding out Super Bowl memorabilia are the actual programs and ticket stubs from the games themselves, for those fans not fortunate enough to actually attend. And then there are the patches, lapel pins, snowglobes, and bobblehead caricatures of players standing next to oversized reproductions of the coveted Super Bowl ring.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Vintage Football Card Gallery

Vintage Football Card Gallery

This great database of pro and collegiate football cards from the 1950s and 1960s offers scanned images of cards fo… [read review or visit site]

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

2000 Playoff Contenders Rookie Ticket Tom Brady Rc Auto New England Patriots2015 Panini Immaculate Aaron Rodgers On Card Auto Autograph Moves Packers #4/10 2015 Panini Immaculate Collection John Elway Autograph Auto Card 02/102000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady Autographed Rookie Card Rc Crisp Clean Auto2000 Playoff Contenders Autograph Tom Brady Rookie Rc Auto #144 2015 Immaculate Ink Acetate Tom Brady Auto 1/5 New England Patriots " Rare "1984 Topps Football 63 John Elway Broncos Hof Rookie Rc Psa 10 Gem Mint $8000Michael Schumacher Signed 1998 Suzuka 1/1 Japan F1 Helmet Helm Casque - Ga Coa2015 Bud Light Pro Football Nfl Kickoff Beer Cans 24 Teams Man-cave Collection2000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady Autographed Rookie Card Rc Crisp Clean Auto1997 Skybox Autographics Brett Favre Auto /100 Century Marks Sp Autograph Ssp1986 Topps Football #156 Joe Montana 49ers Hof Psa 10 Gem Mint " Tough Card "2015 Immaculate Premium Jumbo Game Worn Patch Auto Peyton Manning 4/52013 Tim Tebow Game Worn #5 Nike Navy/home New England Patriots Jersey1966 Green Bay Packers Danbury Mint Team Figurine Display Diorama Statue RareAaron Rodgers 2005 Ud Sweet Spot Rookie Signatures Auto /199 Packers2015 Panini Immaculate Signature Moves Joe Namath On-card Auto #09/25 Jets2015 Immaculate Premium Jumbo Game Worn Patch On Card Auto Peyton Manning 3/5 SpBrett Favre Bart Starr Signed Authentic Packers Proline Helmet Brett Favre Coa Danbury Mint 1972 Miami Dolphins 17-0 Nfl Champions Diorama Statue Figurine1986 Topps #161 Jerry Rice 49ers Rc Rookie Hof Psa 9 Mint " Super High End "2014 National Treasures Jerry Rice Steve Young Deion Sanders Trios Auto 5/52015 Immaculate Signature Patches Autograph Joe Montana 2 Color Patch Auto /251991 Stadium Club Super Bowl Xxvi Brett Favre (farve) #94 Psa 10 Rookie PackersVintage Match Worn Barcelona 1981 Away Meyba Football Shirt Camiseta Trikot L/sHuge 300 Card Vintage Rookie Hall Of Fame Baseball Football + Collection Lot $$Dan Marino 2013 Five Star Autographed Jersey Patch Booklet /10 Dolphin Auto BookTom Brady Signed New England Patriots Mini Helmet Mounted Memories Hologram1981 Topps Football #216 Joe Montana 49ers Rc Rookie Hof Psa 9 Mint " High End "1/1 Aaron Rodgers 2014 Topps Chrome Superfractor 1/1 Packers Full Size Mint !!Bart Starr 1957 Topps #119 Packers Rookie Rc Card Psa 6 Ex Mt 2015 Immaculate Fours Mariota, Cooper, Gordon, Coleman 4x Nfl Shield Patch 1/12015 Topps Chrome Marcus Mariota Auto Gold Sepia 92/100 Titans Football On Card1998 Topps Stadium Club Dan Marino/peyton Manning Autograph Rookie Auto Rc2005 Absolute Memorabilia Marks Of Fame - Tom Brady - Jersey & Auto #09/152015 Iowa Hawkeyes Team Autographed Football Helmet Beathard Ferentz 11-0 Big10 2015 Topps Finest Brett Hundley 1/1 Superfractor Patch Auto! Packers!2015 Immaculate Moments Emmitt Smith Auto #08/10 Cowboys1984 Topps #123 Dan Marino Dolphins Rc Rookie Hof Psa 10 " Super Hot Card "2003 Topps Finest Gold Refractor Jason Witten Rc Rookie Auto 4/50 CowboysJohnny Unitas Colts 295/400 Autograph Game Used Jersey Greats Upper Deck Card2000 Bowman Chrome #236 Tom Brady New England Patriots Rc Rookie Psa 10 Gem Mint1986 Topps Jerry Rice #161 Football Card Psa 10 Gem Mint Rookie Rc Hof1998 Stadium Club Co - Signers Peyton Manning Rc Dan Marino Auto Psa 10 Gem Mint1964 Baltimore National Boh Beer Colts Football Cardboard Motion Display As IsNo Reserve 1971 Topps Football Complete Set W/ Bradshaw, Greene, Numerous Rc+1998 Peyton Manning Sp Authentic Rookie #14 Psa Gem Mint 10....1905/2000Derek Carr 2014 Topps Finest Nfl Logoman Shield Rc Auto 1/1 Bgs 9.5/10 Rc Auto2010 Playoff Contenders #229 Rob Gronkowski White Auto Rc (patriots) Psa 10 Hot!Jacksonville Jaguars V Miami Dolphins Game Used Duke Wilson Football 2015 SeasonVintage West Ham 1985 Football Shirt,england☆ 2000 Donruss #gk4 Gridiron Kings Autograph Brett Favre 4 Farve Auto #043/250 ☆New! Nfl 2015 Salute To Service Ko Hoodie- Chicago Bears - Size Xl 2015 Panini Immaculate Dan Marino Autograph Card 4/5Ben Roethlisberger / Jerome Bettis 2014 Ud Exquisite Dual Auto #1/10 Steelers1981 Topps Joe Montana #216 Rookie Card Rc Bgs 9.5 Gem Mint 1986 Topps Football Unopened Rack Box Bbce Wrapped And Authenticated2015 Topps Chrome Football Jameis Winston Sts Camo Ref. Auto On Card R.c. 40/991982 Topps Football All-pro Lawrence Taylor Giants Hof Rc Rookie Psa 10 Gem Mint1980 Topps Football All-pro #160 Walter Payton Bears Hof Psa 10 Gem Mint

Recent News: Football Memorabilia

Source: Google News

One year after the Broadway Avenue fire
6 On Your Side, November 25th

They not only lost all the tools of the trade, but priceless Boise State football memorabilia. Cecil and Karr Raphino who owned the salon were devastated at the time but in retrospect can appreciate that ultimately no one was hurt. In the days...Read more

Cable paints his life in footy
The West Australian, November 25th

He said he would to see the artwork on display with other football memorabilia at the new Perth Stadium once it opens at Burswood. The family was still uncertain about the fate of the Barry Cable Room at Subiaco. “We are not sure what to do with the...Read more

Museum hosts gridiron greats
Lompoc Record, November 23rd

The public is invited to come and see the great football memorabilia and pictures of the many talented athletes who have come out of the valley at the Santa Maria Historical Museum, 616 South Broadway, from Tuesday through Saturday from 12 p.m. until 5 ...Read more

Vintage football photos, Penn State vs. Michigan 1993, November 18th

(Allied Pix archive at the Historical Society of Dauphin County. PennLive readers can receive a 10 percent discount on this photo from the society, Deb Kiner | Print Email · Deb Kiner | dkiner@pennlive...Read more

Vintage football photos, Penn State vs. Pitt in 1973, November 4th

John Cappelletti (22). (Allied Pix archive at the Historical Society of Dauphin County. PennLive readers can receive a 10 percent discount on this photo from the society, Deb Kiner | Print Email...Read more

Frank Beamer's hometown proud of his accomplishments on and off the field
WDBJ7, November 2nd

This plaque sits in the corner of Thompson's office with other Virginia Tech football memorabilia. "It would be neat to give to him," Thompson said. Beamer sent a congratulations note to the Carroll County boys basketball team after it advanced to the...Read more

Vintage football photos, Penn State vs. Illinois in 1993, October 28th

No. 12 is Kerry Collins. No. 29 is Brian O'Neal. (Allied Pix archive at the Historical Society of Dauphin County. PennLive readers can receive a 10 percent discount on this photo from the society, Deb Kiner | dkiner@pennlive...Read more

Highest-Priced Football Memorabilia
Huffington Post, September 9th

Do you enjoy collecting football memorabilia? It does not carry quite as high a price tag as baseball memorabilia, but it is still easy to empty the bank account if you are a collector. Football cards have sold at auction for as high as $240,000 for a...Read more