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All-Time Best Football Quarterbacks for Sports Card Collecting

Updated on January 29, 2013

Scarcity Leads to High Prices.

I came of age in the 1980s. It was around this time that the sports card collecting craze really hit because some adults found that their old cards could demand a premium. Tons of collectors entered the market, and the card companies ratcheted up production to meet the demand (and then some...........and then some). What most of us that started collecting in the 1980s failed to realize was why the old cards that our parents could sell were worth what they were worth. It was the scarcity of these cards that led to the high price.

No Football Cards Are This Old

One of my old baseball cards from the 1910s. It won't fetch what some of the more valuable quarterback cards will pull.
One of my old baseball cards from the 1910s. It won't fetch what some of the more valuable quarterback cards will pull. | Source

The Best Quarterback Cards Are Rookies

Most kids who are growing up today in the world of niche sports card sets will be focused upon the current stars. This is a good strategy when it comes to buying cards for the most part. Quarterbacks are the players who are usually the most remembered players on the field because they are the ones who control the game. They have to hand the ball off, run, or pass on every single play.

Wide receivers like Jerry Rice or Randy Moss are not that common. Running backs tend to have a useful shelf life of about 3 years. Because of the relatively protected position quarterbacks hold, they can last and play at a very high level for a decade or more.

Peyton Manning just finished up his 15th season. Tom Brady has been a starter for 12 years. Tim Tebow, well, he threw about ten passes this year.

Even cards produced during the over-saturated market of the 1980s can be worth some money. Graded John Elway rookie cards in mint condition can go for well over $100. Dan Marino's rookie card from the same 1984 Topps set can go for slightly less, but still a good price. Both played for a long time, but the rookie card is the most valuable.

Quarterback Cards Dated Prior to the Mid-1980s Are the Best

The latest quarterback rookie from a major set that was not mass-produced and over-saturated is probably the 1981 Joe Montana Rookie. Today, this card can go for up to $400 in mint condition. That is much better than the price commanded by the Hall of Famers listed above who came to the NFL just three years later.

Those who really want to get great early cards should look even farther back. The 1960s and 1970s had some great quarterbacks who may not have cards that are worth as much as the Montana rookie, but they are important for their historic value. Who wouldn't want a 1971 Terry Bradshaw rookie? What about a 1965 Joe Namath rookie that can go for over $1,000 in good condition? A 1957 Topps Johnny Unitas rookie card is a great find and a card graded 9 on the PSA scale fetched $19,000.

Some of the most scarce quarterback cards around come from the 1948 Leaf Collection. Both Sid Luckman and Sammy Baugh rookie cards were in this set, and both were the subject of highly graded cards that sold for over $38,000. One of Luckman's cards sold for nearly $72,000.

The most expensive football card ever was a 1935 National Chicle Bronco Nagurski that went for nearly $250,000. This card came from the first set of football cards ever produced, but Nagurski was not a quarterback.

Today's Stars

Today, card manufacturers are using more limited runs, and cards may get more valuable than the Marino or Elway cards mentioned above. Who knows, an Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, or Russell Wilson from a short run might fetch hundreds of dollars in the future. It would be best to focus on these players over most other skilled position players. They are readily available on sites like eBay, and they may pay off in the end.


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