Football Memorabilia

Written by Jeremy Horelick
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Football memorabilia dates all the way back to the late 19th century, when the sport made its first appearance at colleges and universities. This was the first mainstream embrace the sport had enjoyed, even if its roots date much farther back. It wasn't until the 1930s, however, that the first professional leagues developed, and it wasn't until 30 years after that that football began to rival baseball in national stature.

The happy result for collectors of football memorabilia is that many of the vintage items from the '50s and '60s are more scarce than those of other sports. While the baseball card market flourished in the 1980s, football, like basketball and hockey, was largely relegated to the margins. Hence, it is football cards, autographs, pictures, programs, and paraphernalia that have enjoyed the sharpest rises in valuation, not mementos from the overstocked baseball memorabilia market.

Examples of Football Memorabilia

While cards and posters of today's NFL stars like Brett Favre and Jamal Lewis maintain a steady following, true collectors look to the Golden Era of the gridiron and names like Johnny Unitas, Raymond Berry, Joe Namath, Dick Butkus, and Fran Tarkenton. While most grade-schoolers could tell you all about their Edgerrin James rookie cards, fewer of them could claim to have Joe Montana and Dan Marino rookie cards in their collections. Practically none would have Larry Csonka or Gayle Sayers memorabilia.

Hard-core fans of football memorabilia go after items from the 1972 Miami Dolphins season, the last perfect season in the history of the game, as well as items from the heralded Super Bowl III, when Jets quarterback Joe Namath promised victory (and delivered) against the Baltimore Colts. Items related to the legendary Pittsburgh Steelers teams of the 1970s also command top dollar, as do those of the '80s Bears, Dolphins, and 49ers. Years from now, it will most likely be the '90s' and 2000s' Packers, Patriots, and Cowboys whose paraphernalia garners the highest dollars.


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