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 Tom Brady Autographed Rookie Card Rc Crisp Clean Auto2000 Playoff Contenders Rookie Ticket Tom Brady Rc Auto New England Patriots1984 Topps Football 63 John Elway Broncos Hof Rookie Rc Psa 10 Gem Mint $80002000 Playoff Contenders Autograph Tom Brady Rookie Rc Auto #144 Michael Schumacher Signed 1998 Suzuka 1/1 Japan F1 Helmet Helm Casque - Ga Coa1997 Skybox Autographics Brett Favre Auto /100 Century Marks Sp Autograph Ssp2013 Tim Tebow Game Worn #5 Nike Navy/home New England Patriots JerseyAaron Rodgers 2005 Ud Sweet Spot Rookie Signatures Auto /199 PackersBart Starr 1957 Topps #119 Packers Rookie Rc Card Psa 6 Ex Mt *nicely Centered* 2000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady Autographed Rookie Card Rc Crisp Clean Auto1966 Green Bay Packers Danbury Mint Team Figurine Display Diorama Statue Rare2015 Immaculate Premium Jumbo Game Worn Patch Auto Peyton Manning 4/52014 National Treasures Jerry Rice Steve Young Deion Sanders Trios Auto 5/5Vintage Match Worn Barcelona 1981 Away Meyba Football Shirt Camiseta Trikot L/s2015 Immaculate Premium Jumbo Game Worn Patch On Card Auto Peyton Manning 3/5 SpDanbury Mint 1972 Miami Dolphins 17-0 Nfl Champions Diorama Statue Figurine1986 Topps Football #156 Joe Montana 49ers Hof Psa 10 Gem Mint " Tough Card "1986 Topps #161 Jerry Rice 49ers Rc Rookie Hof Psa 9 Mint " Super High End "1/1 Aaron Rodgers 2014 Topps Chrome Superfractor 1/1 Packers Full Size Mint !!2015 Immaculate Signature Patches Autograph Joe Montana 2 Color Patch Auto /252015 Topps Chrome Marcus Mariota Auto Gold Sepia 92/100 Titans Football On Card1981 Topps Football #216 Joe Montana 49ers Rc Rookie Hof Psa 9 Mint " High End "2003 Topps Finest Gold Refractor Jason Witten Rc Rookie Auto 4/50 CowboysJohnny Unitas Colts 295/400 Autograph Game Used Jersey Greats Upper Deck Card2015 Topps Finest Brett Hundley 1/1 Superfractor Patch Auto! Packers!Brock Osweiler 2012 Topps Chrome Auto #/75 Autograph Rc Denver Broncos2005 Absolute Memorabilia Marks Of Fame - Tom Brady - Jersey & Auto #09/151998 Topps Stadium Club Dan Marino/peyton Manning Autograph Rookie Auto Rc1976 Topps #148 Walter Payton Rookie Psa 7 Nm Chicago BearsJacksonville Jaguars V Miami Dolphins Game Used Duke Wilson Football 2015 Season1991 Stadium Club Super Bowl Xxvi Brett Favre (farve) #94 Psa 10 Rookie PackersAmari Cooper Rookie Black Prizm 1/1 2015 Panini Prizm Football Derek Carr 2014 Topps Finest Nfl Logoman Shield Rc Auto 1/1 Bgs 9.5/10 Rc AutoNo Reserve 1971 Topps Football Complete Set W/ Bradshaw, Greene, Numerous Rc+Huge 300 Card Vintage Rookie Hall Of Fame Baseball Football + Collection Lot $$1981 Topps Joe Montana Hof Rc Rookie #216 Psa 9 Mint1964 Baltimore National Boh Beer Colts Football Cardboard Motion Display As IsBarry Sanders Signed Autographed Full Size Detroit Lions Helmet Coa Proof2010 Playoff Contenders #229 Rob Gronkowski White Auto Rc (patriots) Psa 10 Hot!Bo Jackson Signed Auto Auburn Tigers Full Size Helmet Jsa Autographed2000 Bowman Chrome #236 Tom Brady New England Patriots Rc Rookie Psa 10 Gem Mint1998 Stadium Club Co - Signers Peyton Manning Rc Dan Marino Auto Psa 10 Gem MintTom Brady 2000 Final Score #30/32Aaron Rodgers Autographed Greenbay Packers Full Size Helmet Ga CoaVintage West Ham 1985 Football Shirt,england1998 Peyton Manning Sp Authentic Rookie #14 Psa Gem Mint 10....1905/20001984 Topps #123 Dan Marino Dolphins Rc Rookie Hof Psa 10 " Super Hot Card "1962 Topps Mike Ditka Rc #17 Football Card Psa Graded 6 Ex-mt Cond "great Card"New Mens Chicago Bears 2015 Salute To Service Nike Hoodie Nfl XlChicago Bears Nike Salute To Service On Field Hoodie Xl*rare* 1982 Topps Football Unopened Wax Box! No X-out! Lawrence Taylor Rookie!1981 Topps Joe Montana #216 Rookie Card Rc Bgs 9.5 Gem Mint 1965 Topps Football Joe Namath Bvg 6 Sp Rookie Rc #122 Psa 6 Ex Mt1980 Topps Football All-pro #160 Walter Payton Bears Hof Psa 10 Gem Mint2000 Tom Brady Platinum MedallionBrett Favre Bart Starr Signed Authentic Packers Proline Helmet Brett Favre Coa 1971 Topps Football #245 Joe Greene Pittsburgh Steelers Rc Rookie Hof Psa 8Nike 2015 Salute To Service Chicago Bears Hoodie (new, Xl)2000 Metal Rare Metal Emerald #267 Tom Brady Patriots Rc Rookie Psa 10 Gem MintAuthentic Nfl Dallas Cowboys Nike 2015 Salute To Service Hoodie Sweatshirt Xl

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

5 Tips for Throwing Your Best Friendsgiving Ever, November 19th

If you're celebrating Thanksgiving far from home this year — fear not and know that you're not alone. More likely than not, you'll have a friend or two, or three, who's also flying solo on this major holiday. So what to do? Have a friends or...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

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