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    

1976 Topps #148 Walter Payton Rc Rookie Hof Bears Psa 10 " Super Hot Card " 1986 Topps Football #161 Jerry Rice Rc Rookie Hof Psa 10 " Super Hot Card "1984 Topps Football #63 John Elway Rc Rookie Hof Centered Psa 10 " High End "1958 Topps Football #62 Jim Brown Rookie Rc Hof Browns Psa 8 Nm-mt " High End "1957 Topps #138 John Johnny Unitas Rc Rookie Hof Psa 8.5 Nm-mt+ " High End " 2014 Panini National Treasures Notable Nicknames #9 Jerry Rice Auto 01/25! (1/1)1981 Topps #216 Joe Montana Hof Rc Rookie 49ers Psa 9 Mint " High End " 1980 Topps Football #225 Phil Simms Rc Rookie Hof Psa 10 Gem Mint " Pristine "Vintage 1940s 50s Pennant Green Bay Packers Football2014 National Treasures Auto Tom Brady Notable Nicknames Autograph 22/25 2014 Five Star Emmitt Smith Auto Super Rare Autograph On Card Cowboys Hof /25 Sp2014 Immaculate Collection Marks #32 Tom Brady Auto Autograph 1/2!1981 Topps Football #216 Joe Montana Rookie Rc Hof Psa 9 Mint " Super Hot Card "Walter Payton 1976 Topps Rookie Card Rc Psa Mint 9 *looks Gem* Regrade?1976 Topps Football #148 Walter Payton Bears Rookie Rc Hof Psa 8 Nm-mt Centered2014 Panini National Treasures Joe Montana Notable Nicknames Auto "joe Cool" /25Brett Favre 2014 Panini Flawless Ruby Autograph Dual 2 Color Patch Auto Sp #8/152015 Marcus Mariota Contenders Draft Picks Bowl Ticket Rc Auto 17/992015 Contenders Bowl Ticket Rookie Jameis Winston/auto Modern Original Tampa BayDallas Cowboys Sb Mvp Signed F/s Proline Helmet Emmitt,staubach,aikman Jsa2005 Topps Chrome Aaron Rodgers Rookie Refractor #190 Football CardElfrid Payton 2015 Panini Select Gold Prizm Rc 4 Clr Patch Auto /10 Bgs 9.5 1/1Walter Payton Rookie Card 1976 Original2010 Plates & Patches Aaron Rodgers Green Bay Packers Patch Auto 2/51941 Texas Vs. Texas A & M College Football Game Original Full Size PennantBart Starr #15 Signed Green Bay Packers Jersey Auto Size Xxl Psa/dna Coa HofWalter Payton Signed / Autographed / Framed Chicago Bears 8x10 Wp Hologram CoaBart Starr Autographed Green Bay Packers Riddell Mini Helmet Tristar Rare Insc2014 Absolute Auto Brett Favre Green Bay Packers Autograph Absolute InkEmmitt Smith / Troy Aikman / Michael Irvin Signed Autographed Nfl Game Football1984 Topps Football Unopened Wax Pack Box W 36 Packs Bbce Sealed Elway Marino Rc1957 Topps Football #138 John Johnny Unitas Rookie Rc Colts Hof Psa 7 Nm 1984 Topps Football Unopened Wax Pack Box W 36 Packs Bbce Sealed Elway Marino Rc1990 Score Supplemental Emmitt Smith Rc Rookie Hof Psa 10 Cowboys2000 Donruss Elite Passing The Torch Auto Jerry Rice On Card Auto Bgs 9.5 Pop 4!1957 Topps Football #119 Bart Starr Hof Rc Rookie Green Bay Packers Sgc 84 Nm 72014 Panini Flawless Greats Dual Patch Autograph Ruby John Elway Auto 01/15 1/1!1984 Topps Football #52 Steve Young Hof Express Rc Rookie Psa 9 Mint Centered Deion Sanders Signed/autographed Dallas Cowboys 16x20 Star Photo Jsa 1965 Topps Joe Namath Rookie #122 Walter Payton Framed Autographed Bears Jersey With 5 Inscriptions And Psa Loa1981 Topps Joe Montana #216 San Francisci 49ers Psa 9 Mint 1981 Topps #216 Joe Montana Hof Rc Rookie 49ers Psa 8 Nm-mt " Pack Fresh " Pittsburgh Steelers Hines Ward Signed Stat Jersey W/jsa Coa!!!!Lot Of (4) 1999 Sp Authentic Football Unopened Box W/ 24 Packs = 96 Packs 1981 Topps Fb #216 Joe Montana Psa 8 RcJohnny Unitas Signed White Colts Mitchell & Ness Jersey Psa/dna Steiner Hologram1975 Topps #616 Jim Rice Rookie Rc Hof Boston Red Sox Psa 9 Mint Centered2000 Upper Deck Ud Exclusives Star Rookie Silver Tom Brady Patriots Rc /100Cfl 1995 Baltimore Stallions Game Used Full Size Af-2 Football Helmet1986 Topps #161 Jerry Rice Hof San Francisco 49ers Rc Rookie Psa 8.5 Nm-mt+Tom Brady 2000 Fleer Tradition Rc Rookie Autographics Autograph Sp Auto $600+No Reserve Auction -1981 Topps Football Joe Montana Rc #216 Bgs 9, 9.5 CenteringJerry Rice #80 Signed San Francisco 49ers Jersey Auto Size 52 Psa/dna Coa HofEmmitt Smith Signed/autographed Dallas Cowboys 16x20 Photo JsaBrett Favre Autographed Signed Packers Green Jersey 95, 96, 97 Mvp Farve HoloFramed Le'veon Bell Autographed Signed Pittsburgh Steelers Jersey Jsa CoaVtg Game Used Worn Scott Sekal Michigan State Spartans Sand Knit Jersey 1986-89Walter Payton Signed Chicago Bears Jersey Auto + Inscriptions Psa/dna Loa Hof1984 Topps Football #123 Dan Marino Rookie Rc Hof Dolphins Bgs 9.5 " Flawless "

Recent News: Football Memorabilia

Source: Google News

FIFA Women's World Cup Win kick-off balls from the final four games in Canada!
FIFA.com, June 30th

Japan, England, USA and Germany, these are the final four hopefuls looking to raise the FIFA Women's World Cup trophy on 5 July. While the final four nations push their abilities to the limit in the search for World Cup gold, test your own football...Read more

The Festival of 50s: Fifities glamour comes to Beamish Museum
ChronicleLive, June 29th

The museum created a 1950s town, whicle Cleveland College of Art and Design came up with some fabulous frocks for the catwalk and Durham Amateur Football Trust offered vintage football matches. Live music came from the Tees Valley Jazzmen and ...Read more

'Gridiron Glory' scores with 200 artifacts on display
Topeka Capital Journal, June 27th

The exhibit also features interactive elements: a mini press box that allows visitors to call Chiefs plays and an authentic NFL instant-replay booth that allows them to “make the call” like an NFL referee. Visitors also can try on vintage football gear...Read more

Canada's new generation of footballers set to emulate 2003 vintage
RFI, June 26th

Canada's Josee Belanger (9) holds off the attentions of China defender Liu Shanshan during their Group A clash at the women's World Cup. Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports. By Paul Myers. It couldn't have been better timed. Hosts Canada are achieving at ...Read more

Icons Becomes World's Largest Football Memorabilia Company
F.C. Business, June 26th

Icons Shop Limited, the UK-based signed memorabilia company today announced that it had sold a majority stake to Marka PJSC (DFM: MARKA), the first public joint stock company focused on the UAE's retail sector. Marka acquired a sixty-five per cent...Read more

Steven Gerrard loans his entire football memorabilia collection to Liverpool's ...
Evening Standard, June 22nd

Steven Gerrard loans his entire football memorabilia collection to Liverpool's Anfield museum. Anfield museum: Steven Gerrard's Champions League medal will be on show. Vaishali Bhardwaj. Published: 22 June 2015. Updated: 17:17, 22 June 2015. Steven ...Read more

Steven Gerrard loans football memorabilia collection to Anfield museum
Sports Mole, June 22nd

Former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has loaned his entire collection of football memorabilia to the club's museum at Anfield. The midfielder called an end to his 17-year Liverpool career last month ahead of a move to MLS side Los Angeles Galaxy in...Read more

Is this Tottenham souvenir the weirdest bit of football memorabilia ever?
Irish Mirror, June 4th

A tiny, ant-sized motorbike is a pretty odd way of displaying your love for a team. Have you seen something somewhere that is even stranger? Share; Share; Tweet; +1; LinkedIn. You what, Spurs? When it comes to decking themselves out in the kit of their ...Read more