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 Sp Authentic Tom Brady Rookie Rc /1250 #118 Psa 10 Gem Mint (pwcc)2000 Bowman Chrome Tom Brady Refractor Rookie....beautiful Centering ...read1976 Topps Football Walter Payton Rookie Rc #148 Psa 9 Mint (pwcc)2015 Topps Tom Brady Autograph Auto Sp Bgs 9.5 W/ 10 Auto - Sp To Only 5 Made!2015 Sebastian Vettel 1:2 Half Mini Helmet Ferrari F1 St-f15 Arai1998 Sp Authentic Peyton Manning Rookie Rc /2000 #14 Psa 10 Gem Mint (pwcc)2016 Immaculate Ezekiel Elliott Derrick Henry Rc Dual Nfl Shield Logo Patch 1/11976 Topps Football Walter Payton Rookie Rc #148 Bvg 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)1986 Topps Football Jerry Rice Rookie Rc #161 Psa 9 Mint (pwcc)1958 Topps Football Jim Brown (r) #62 Psa 6 Browns Ex-mt Hof2000 Sp Authentic Tom Brady Rookie Card Rc #118 Psa 9 Mint /1250 Very High End2016 Panini Origins Autographs Gold Ezekiel Elliott Cowboys Rc Rookie Auto 1/52000 Bowman Chrome Tom Brady Rookie Rc #236 Psa 10 Gem Mint (pwcc)Green Bay Packers Nfl Vintage Felt Pennant W/ Post Card Photo Of City Stadium 1976 Topps Set Break #148 Walter Payton Rc Psa 9 Mint C267751888 N162 Goodwin Champions Football Harry Beecher Rookie Rc 2000 Bowman Chrome Tom Brady Rookie Rc #236 Psa 10 Gem Mint (pwcc)1998 Sp Authentic Peyton Manning Rookie Rc /2000 #14 Bgs 9.5 Gem Mint (pwcc)1958 Topps Football #62 Jim Brown Cleveland Browns Rc Rookie Hof Psa 5 ExWalter Payton 1976 Topps #148 Rc Rookie Card Chicago Bears Psa 7 Nm $600+1976 Topps Walter Payton Rookie #148 Psa 7 Nm Rc Sharp Corners- Pack Fresh- Read2000 Leaf Certified 4 Star Mirror Red Tom Brady Rookie Rc Bgs 9.5 Gem Mt (pwcc)1955 Topps All American Football #37 Jim Thorpe Hof Psa 9 Mint " High End " 1967 Nfl Championship Super Bowl I Program - Superbowl Pack Takes 1st One 35-10!2000 Tom Brady Playoff Contenders Rookie Championship Ticket Michigan Jersey #101982 Topps Football Lawrence Taylor Rookie Rc #434 Psa 10 Gem Mint (pwcc)2015 Leaf Q Tom Brady Auto Autograph /202012 Contenders Playoff Ticket Russell Wilson Seahawks Rc Rookie Auto 99/992012 National Treasures Russell Wilson Rpa Rc Seahawks Logo Patch Auto 38/49 2000 Bowman Chrome Tom Brady Rookie Card #236 Graded Psa 9 Mint1986 Topps Football Jerry Rice Rookie Rc #161 Bgs 9 Mint (pwcc)2000 Spx Rookie Stars #130 Tom Brady Rc Rookie 1041/1350 Psa 10 Gem Mint1981 Topps Football Joe Montana Rookie Rc #216 Bgs 9 Mint (pwcc)1979 Topps Football Earl Campbell Rookie Rc #390 Psa 9 Mint (pwcc)1957 Topps Football Johnny Unitas Rookie Rc #138 Psa 7 Nrmt (pwcc)2000 Bowman Chrome Football Factory Sealed Box Tom Brady Rookie- Refractor??? 1982 Topps Football Ronnie Lott Rookie Rc #486 Psa 10 Gem Mint (pwcc)1976 Topps Football Walter Payton Rookie Rc #148 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)Tom Brady 2000 Fleer Showcase Short Print Rc #136, Serial Number 42/20001984 Topps Football Dan Marino Rookie Rc #123 Psa 10 Gem Mint (pwcc)2000 Bowman Chrome Tom Brady Rookie Card #236 Graded Psa 10 Gem Mint1971 Topps Football Joe Greene Rookie Rc #245 Psa 8 Nm-mt (pwcc)Tom Brady 2000 Bowman Chrome Rookie Card #236 New England Patriots Read2000 Fleer Tradition Autographics Tom Brady New England Patriots #17...2015 Topps Chrome Football Jameis Winston Base Auto Ssp Bgs 9.5 10 Very RareEmmitt Smith + Troy Aikman + Michael Irvin Signed Cowboys Helmet Gtsm CoaBeautiful Rare Inscribed Dan Marino Signed Full Size Prosyle Helmet Jsa Witness2000 Leaf Rookies & Stars Tom Brady Rookie Rc /1000 #134 Psa 10 Gem Mint (pwcc)1958 Topps Football #90 Sonny Jurgensen Rc Rookie Hof Psa 9 " Super Hot Card "1999 Drew Bledsoe #11 Game Worn Royal New England Patriots JerseyBgs 9 Tom Brady & Bulger 2000 Playoff Contenders Round Numbers Auto Autograph RcSuper Bowl Xxxi Autographed Brett Favre/reggie White Helmet Riddell No 0914 HofBrett Favre Signed Nfl Green Bay Packers Fs Helmet Favre Coa Sb Insc* Tom Brady 2000 Bowman Chrome Rookie #236 Mint *2016 Panini Plates And Patches Canton On Card Auto #1 Brett Favre 3/10 Packers2000 Fleer Autographics Silver Tom Brady Auto Psa 8 067/250 Pop 92000 Bowman Chrome Tom Brady Rookie Card Rc Bgs 9.5 Goat1998 Topps Stars Walter Payton Rookie Rc Reprint On Card Auto Sp Psa 10 Bears!2007 Ud Premier Stitchings Tom Brady Super Bowl Xxxvii Mvp Patch Auto /252016 Panini Prizm Football Deion Sanders Patented Penmanship Auto # 1/1