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.
Interviews & Articles
My dad played for San Jose State from 1946 to '49, and kept every program from all the games that he played in. That’s how I got i… [more]
I have been a football fanatic since I was very little. I can remember sitting next to my dad on Sundays when I was five or six ye… [more]
I collected football cards when I was a kid, back in the late ’60s, early ’70s. Then I set them in the closet for about 15 to 20 y… [more]
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Recent News: Football Memorabilia
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Ongoing exhibits: Weekend of June 20The Herald-Mail, June 19th
A display of football memorabilia from the Waynesboro Tigers football team, active from 1947 to the early 1950s and again from 1965 to 1976, continues through Sunday, June 30. Renfrew Museum and Park, 1010 E. Main St., Waynesboro, Pa. $3.50 to $5...Read more
Trivia night to aid family's mobilitySt George and Sutherland Shire Leader, June 19th
on Saturday, June 22, at Jannali Community Hall to help with the cost of about $85,000. "It will be lots of fun and there are lots of prizes including a $1000 gift box from Estee Lauder, signed football memorabilia, and a signed painting by Jim...Read more
Being 'just English' left me confused in multicultural TorontoTelegraph.co.uk, June 18th
It sells newspapers and sweets like many other shops, but much of its success lies in the sales of Portuguese flags, music and football memorabilia, along with its vast collection of Catholic icons. “Me and my wife went to Portugal for two weeks to...Read more
The National Football Museum proudly announce that another TEN football ...Football Trade Directory, June 15th
The National Football Museum provides a world-class home for the greatest collection of football memorabilia ever assembled, in addition to housing its nationally-recognised Hall of Fame in Manchester. Thanks to Manchester City Council and ERDF funding...Read more
Attraction of 'beautiful game' still a mystery to most AmericansIrish Times, June 14th
The Irish fan was middle-aged and had an accent that could give Joe Pesci a run for his money for undiluted Gotham and he wore a vintage football shirt reminiscent of the era of the late, great Tony Grealish. And it was likely the local was among the...Read more
Legend Carter honouredSunderland AFC, June 14th
Information about ticket prices and sponsorship packages can be found online at www.nationalfootballmuseum.com. The National Football Museum provides a world-class home for the greatest collection of football memorabilia ever assembled, in addition to ...Read more
West Brom legend Willie Johnston in battle to win back football memorabiliaBirmingham Mail, June 9th
WEST Bromwich Albion legend Willie Johnston is fighting to get his treasured football memorabilia returned from a pub his son once ran. Willie Johnston outside the Port Brae. WEST Bromwich Albion legend Willie Johnston is fighting to get his treasured ...Read more
Friday Flashback: 20 Assorted Vintage Football Stickers – Champions League ...Who Ate All The Pies, May 24th
With the big'n just around the corner, we thought we'd use this Friday's Panini Flashback to offer a proverbial doff of the cap to 20 players who have left indelible marks on the Champions League Final over the years. Obviously we couldn't make room...Read more