American football is hands-down the most watched sport in America, and for good measure, the NFL is the highest valued professional sports league in the US. The Dallas Cowboys, valued at $6.5 billion, is the most profitable franchise, with the average NFL team assessed at $3.48 billion.
In light of all this, perhaps it comes as no surprise that interest in the NFL trading card market has remained strong. From the earliest days of the American Professional Football Association to the modern era, here are the most expensive football cards, which embrace the entire history of the NFL.
1. 2017 National Treasures NFL Shield Patrick Mahomes Autographed Rookie Card #161
Sold in July 2021 for $4,300,000 by PWCC Marketplace
On March 21, 2017, Panini released 2017 National Treasures as a premium football card product, highlighting Patrick Mahomes’ NFL Shield Rookie Patch Autograph card as the most valuable football card in the hobby.
The illustrious serial numbered 1/1 card acquired a BGS 8.5 for its condition and a BGS 10 for Mahomes’ signature. After signing the richest contract in NFL history for ten years, $450 million, expectations are high for Mahomes, the Chiefs, and collectors who latch onto his coveted football cards.
2. 2000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady Championship Ticket Autograph Rookie Card #144
Sold in June 2021 for $3,107,372.40 by Lelands Auctions
While currently sitting as the 2nd most expensive football card, when Tom Brady’s 2000 Playoff Contenders Rookie Autograph card sold in June 2021, it set the record for the most valuable football card at the time.
Brady’s ground-breaking rookie card obtained a BGS 9 for condition and a BGS 10 for his autograph, along with a limited serial number of /100. Tom Brady is arguably the greatest player in NFL history behind seven Super Bowl rings and five Super Bowl MVPs, ensuring continued interest in his football cards.
3. 1958 Topps Jim Brown Rookie Card #62
Sold in November 2016 for $358,500 by Heritage Auctions
After nine unparalleled NFL seasons, Jim Brown, recognized as one of the greatest running backs in NFL history, was inducted in 1971 to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. There are 3,619 Jim Brown 1958 Topps rookie cards in PSA’s population report, though only five cards, around .001%, merited a PSA 9, the card’s highest grade.
While fans can only wonder about the potential statistics Jim Brown could have accumulated after abruptly ending his NFL career, the intrinsic value of his rookie card is unmatched by rookie cards of any non-quarterbacks.
4. 2000 SP Authentic Tom Brady Rookie Card #118
Sold in April 2021 for $312,000 by Goldin Auctions
Upper Deck issued the second most valuable Tom Brady rookie card within 2000 SP Authentic. The highly coveted rookie card starring Tom Brady received a BGS 10 and is limited to /1250. As one of the most accomplished players in the game’s history, collectors can expect Tom Brady’s rookie card to consistently rank at the top of any football card list.
5. 2017 Panini Flawless Patrick Mahomes Rookie Card #4
Sold in March 2021 for $312,000 by Goldin Auctions
Issued by Panini, the highlight of 2017 Flawless is without a doubt Patrick Mahomes’ NFL Shield. Like 2017 National Treasures, Mahomes’ rookie patch autograph card from Panini Flawless is limited to 1/1. The condition of the card achieved a BGS 7.5, with the autograph drawing a BGS 10. While Mahomes continues his prowess as an NFL superstar, the price tag of his rookie cards continues to soar.
6. 1957 Topps Bart Starr Rookie Card #119
Sold in February 2017 for $288,000 by Heritage Auctions
Bryan Bartlett Starr led the Green Bay Packers to victories in Super Bowl I and II, becoming one of the most celebrated Packers, and cementing himself in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.
Bart Starr’s most treasured rookie card emerged from 1957 Topps, warranting a PSA 9. According to PSA’s population report, Bart Starr’s 1957 Topps rookie card is highly condition sensitive, as only three of 1,710 cards, roughly 0.001%, warranted a PSA 9, with no card graded higher.
7. 1965 Topps Joe Namath Rookie Card #122
Sold in February 2018 for $264,000 by Heritage Auctions
After leading the New York Jets to their only Super Bowl victory in franchise history in Super Bowl III, “Broadway” Joe Namath is one of the most recognizable NFL players. Namath’s rookie card from 1965 Topps is by far the most coveted card of the set. With a PSA population of 1,402, only five cards, approximately 0.003%, have earned a PSA 9.
8. 2000 Bowman Chrome Tom Brady Rookie Card #236
Sold in March 2021 for $233,700 by Goldin Auctions
Securing his 3rd appearance in the top 10 most valuable football cards, Tom Brady’s 2000 Bowman Chrome refractor rookie card is a true gem. Beckett graded Brady’s monumental rookie card a BGS 9.5, one of only 31 other cards to receive the BGS 9.5 grade.
According to the BGS population report, only one 2000 Bowman Chrome Tom Brady rookie card received a BGS 10. As Brady’s 2000 Bowman Chrome rookie card already holds significant value, if the BGS 10 were to surface, one could potentially see the card surge up this list.
9. 1976 Topps Walter Payton Rookie Card #148
Sold in February 2021 for $228,000 by Heritage Auctions
The only card on the list not graded by PSA or BGS, the late Walter Payton’s 1976 Topps rookie card is a true masterpiece. Payton’s iconic rookie card obtained a Sportscard Guaranty Corporation (SGC) Gold Label 10. Second to only Emmitt Smith in career rushing yards, Walter Payton, was the pioneer of the stiff arm and was also arguably the greatest running back in NFL history.
10. 1935 National Chicle Bronko Nagurski Rookie Card #34
Sold in August 2019 for $174,000 by Heritage Auctions
The 10th most valuable football card is also one of the earliest football cards in history. Bronko Nagurski’s historic football card from 1935 National Chicle received a PSA 8.5, with only one card receiving a higher grade. Nagurski, one of the most intimidating players in NFL history, played both fullback and linebacker for the Chicago Bears in the 1930s. Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963, Nagurski’s rookie card is a true grail of the hobby.