Top 10 Most Expensive Football Cards in History


Top-10-Most-Expensive-Football-Cards

Sports trading cards are highly collectible, and collecting football cards can be very profitable. Football cards are particularly valuable, especially among collectors in the United States. But which of these cards is the most expensive?

The most expensive football card in history is the 2017 National Treasures Platinum Patrick Mahomes II Autographed Rookie Card. This card sold for $4.3 million during a private sale in July 2021, even though it has a BGS grading number of 8.5. Mahomes’s autograph makes this a one-of-a-kind card.

Are you thinking of starting a high-value football card collection? If so, you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled for these costly football trading cards!

Here Are the Top 10 Most Expensive Football Cards in History:

  1. 2017 National Treasures Platinum Patrick Mahomes II Autographed Rookie Card – $4.3 million
  2. 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket Tom Brady Autographed Rookie Card – $3.107 million
  3. 2000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady Autographed Rookie Card – $2.88 million
  4. 2020 National Treasures Platinum NFL Shield Justin Herbert Autographed Rookie Card – $1.8 million
  5. 1935 National Chicle Bronko Nagurski Rookie Card – $750,000
  6. 2017 Panini Prizm Gold Prizms Patrick Mahomes II Rookie Card – $528,000
  7. 2017 Panini Contenders Super Bowl Ticket Patrick Mahomes II Autographed Rookie Card – $456,000
  8. 1958 Topps Jim Brown Rookie Card – $358,000
  9. 1957 Topps Bart Starr Rookie Card – $288,000
  10. 1965 Topps Joe Namath Rookie Card – $264,000

10. 1965 Topps Joe Namath Rookie Card – $264,000

Sold Price: $264,000

Card #: 122

Card Grade: PSA MT 9

Autograph Grade: N/A

1965-Topps-Joe-Namath-Rookie-Card
photo source: Heritage Auctions

Topps sports cards are some of the most common and popular of all sports trading card brands. This makes most Topps cards quite affordable, regardless of age and condition. After all, Topps cards are everywhere!

But some Topps cards, like the 1965 Topps Joe Namath Rookie Card, are worth thousands.

This particular vintage card has sold for $264,000, though it’ll probably sell for much higher prices in the future. After all, this Topps card is the only Joe Namath rookie card ever released, making it a rare find.

Why Is It So Expensive?

Even though Namath retired from the NFL in 1977, he remains a New York hero. Without Namath, the New York Jets probably wouldn’t have won Super Bowl III in 1969.

But few sports trading card companies released Joe Namath rookie cards during his debut year of 1965. For this reason, the iconic Topps Namath Rookie Card is exceptionally valuable.

9. 1957 Topps Bart Starr Rookie Card – $288,000

Sold Price: $288,000

Card #: 119

Card Grade: PSA MT 9

Autograph Grade: N/A

1957-Topps-Bart-Starr-Rookie-Card
photo source: Heritage Auctions

The Green Bay Packers have won four Super Bowls, two of which were consecutive wins. These championship wins occurred back-to-back in 1967 and 1968, the first two Super Bowl events ever held. And the Packers likely wouldn’t have enjoyed these wins if they didn’t have quarterback Bart Starr on their team.

But back in 1957, Starr was starting his NFL career. Those lucky few who found his rookie card in their Topps card pack had no idea they had something that would soon be worth thousands of dollars.

In 2017, one of these old-fashioned Topps football cards sold for $288,000. Of course, the card was in mint condition, which definitely helped it enjoy a higher-than-average auction price.

Why Is It So Expensive?

Condition, age, and rarity are some of the most prevalent factors influencing this card’s value. Starr’s long-lasting reputation and legacy among football fans also make his rookie card quite costly.

8. 1958 Topps Jim Brown Rookie Card – $358,000

Sold Price: $358,500

Card #: 62

Card Grade: PSA MT 9

Autograph Grade: N/A

1958-Topps-Jim-Brown-Rookie-Card
photo source: Heritage Auctions

Jim Brown (also called Jimmy Brown) remains one of the most legendary fullbacks who ever played for the Cleveland Browns. But there’s only one rookie card bearing his name and image; the 1958 Topps Jim Brown Rookie Card.

This card sold for $358,500 in 2016, and it’s undeniably a piece of NFL history thanks to its rarity, condition, and age. But trading card collectors back in the 1950s probably knew they had a treasure on their hands upon finding this card, as Jim Brown had already earned MVP status when this card debuted.

Why Is It So Expensive?

Not only is the card rare (the card reigns as one of five known in PSA Mint 9 condition), but it’s also the only official rookie card for one of the best fullbacks in NFL history, Jim Brown. As a result, it’s one of the most valuable football cards and is bound to become more valuable over time.

7. 2017 Panini Contenders Super Bowl Ticket Patrick Mahomes II Autographed Rookie Card – $456,000

Sold Price: $456,000

Card #: 303

Card Grading: BGS MT 9

Autograph Grading: Beckett 9

2017-Panini-Contenders-Super-Bowl-Ticket-Patrick-Mahomes-II-Autographed-Rookie-Card
photo source: PWCC

There’s no doubt about it; Patrick Mahomes II’s trading cards are some of the most valuable in the world. His 2017 rookie cards are especially valuable.

The 2017 Panini Contenders Super Bowl Ticket Patrick Mahomes II Autographed Rookie Card is one of the priciest of the bunch, selling for an impressive $456,000 at auction in November 2022.

For perspective, this trading card is pricier than the most expensive Super Bowl tickets!

Why Is It So Expensive?

This rookie card is expensive because of Mahomes II’s popularity and autograph. Mahomes is among the most popular NFL players, rivaling Tom Brady’s popularity. As a result, his rookie-year cards are now worth quite a lot of money.

But before you start searching your 2017 football card collection for one of these Mahomes cards, take a moment to explore his other top-selling rookie cards.

6. 2017 Panini Prizm Gold Prizms Patrick Mahomes II Rookie Card – $528,000

Sold Price: $528,000

Card #: 269

Card Grade: PSA GEM-MT 10

Autograph Grade: N/A

2017-Panini-Prizm-Gold-Prizms-Patrick-Mahomes-II-Rookie-Card
photo source: PWCC

While the 2017 Panini Prizm Gold Prizms Patrick Mahomes II Rookie Card only features a few design and image differences from the 2017 Panini Contenders Super Bowl Ticket version, its gem-mint condition makes it more valuable (even despite its lack of autograph).

In August 2021, it sold at auction for a whopping $528,000! Like other Mahomes II rookie cards, this gold-bordered version is primarily valuable thanks to Mahomes’s popularity.

Why Is It So Expensive?

What do you get when you combine player popularity, rookie card status, and gem-mint condition? You get a card that can outsell almost any other!

This combination of factors has helped boost this Mahomes card to incredible values. But, as you’ll soon find out, it’s far from the most expensive Mahomes rookie card.

5. 1935 National Chicle Bronko Nagurski Rookie Card – $750,000

Sold Price: $750,000

Card #: 34

Card Grade: PSA MT 9

Autograph Grade: N/A

1935-National-Chicle-Bronko-Nagurski-Rookie-Card
photo source: OpenSea

Football stars have captivated audiences long before the first Super Bowl, and Bronko Nagurski is an excellent example. This Canadian-born athlete was inducted into the NFL only 10 years after its creation and quickly became one of the most popular players thanks to his speed, power, and tenacity.

His 1935 rookie card is incredibly hard to find, not only because of its age but because of its number (34 out of a set of 36). Even if you’d purchased dozens of packs of football trading cards back in 1935, the chances of you finding this card were slim.

Nowadays, the National Chicle Bronko Nagurski Rookie Card sells for top-dollar prices. In 2021, it was listed online for roughly $750,000 (originally 400ETH).

Why Is It So Expensive?

This card is valuable thanks to its rarity and age. Few football cards from the 1930s are in mint condition, but this Bronko Nagurski card is an exception. Any collector would be happy to own this pre-Super Bowl rookie trading card.

4. 2020 National Treasures Platinum NFL Shield Justin Herbert Autographed Rookie Card – $1.8 Million

Sold Price: $1.8 million

Card #: 158

Card Grade: BGS NM-MT+ 8.5

Autograph Grade: Beckett 10

2020-National-Treasures-Platinum-NFL-Shield-Justin-Herbert-Autographed-Rookie-Card
photo source: Goldin Auctions

Justin Herbert is the most valuable player of the Los Angeles Chargers, making him one of the highest-value quarterbacks in the NFL. Thanks to his talent and popularity, Herbert’s rookie trading cards are worth big bucks, especially if they feature his autograph.

Take the 2020 National Treasures Platinum NFL Shield Justin Herbert Autographed Rookie Card, for example. This card sold for $1.8 million in 2022!

Why Is It So Expensive?

Like other high-value football trading cards, this card benefits from its:

  • Release date (Herbert’s rookie year)
  • Autograph
  • Condition

It’s truly one of the most expensive cards in football history!

3. 2000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady Autographed Rookie Card – $2.88 Million

Sold Price: $2.88 million

Card #: 144

Card Grade: PSA GEM-MT 10

Autograph Grade: PSA/DNA 10

2000-Playoff-Contenders-Tom-Brady-Autographed-Rookie-Card
photo source: PWCC

Even if you’re not a football fan, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Tom Brady. Though Brady hasn’t been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame (yet), he’s one of the most popular NFL stars of the last several decades, in no small part thanks to his multiple Super Bowl wins.

Consequently, Brady’s rookie trading cards are worth a small fortune. After all, no one in 2000 could have foreseen that he would soon become an NFL champion and one of the most valuable athletes of all time.

The 2000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady Autographed Rookie Card is one of the most valuable of Brady’s rookie trading cards, selling for $2.88 million in August 2021.

Why Is It So Expensive?

Tom Brady’s popularity is one of the main reasons why this card is worth millions.

Its age (released when Brady was still a rookie) and autograph also make it incredibly valuable. The fact that it’s in Gem Mint condition (essentially flawless) also makes it a trading card collector’s dream come true.

Still, this multi-million-dollar sports trading card isn’t the most valuable Tom Brady rookie card.

2. 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket Tom Brady Autographed Rookie Card – $3.107 Million

Sold Price: $3.107 million

Card #: 144

Card Grade: BGS MT 9

Autograph Grade: Beckett 10

2000-Playoff-Contenders-Championship-Ticket-Tom-Brady-Autographed-Rookie-Card
photo source: Lelands

When the 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket Tom Brady Autographed Rookie Card went to auction in June 2021, it sold for $3.107 million. For perspective, the starting bid was $750,000, the same as the final sale price of the coveted 1935 National Chicle Bronko Nagurski Rookie Card.

This card is almost identical to the 2000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady Autographed Rookie Card that sold for $2.88 million in August 2021, but it features a gold “championship” designation along its face, along the front side. This card is rarer than its more standard Playoff Contenders counterpart.

Why Is It So Expensive?

This Tom Brady rookie card is expensive due to its autograph, condition, and release year. It’s in mint condition and features a perfect 10 autograph (based on Beckett authentication).

However, this incredibly valuable football card’s record-setting auction price would only last about a month. Another rookie card usurped its position as the most expensive football trading card of all time in July of the same year.

1. 2017 National Treasures Platinum Patrick Mahomes II Autographed Rookie Card – $4.3 Million

Sold Price: $4.3 million

Card #: 161

Card Grade: BGS NM-MT+ 8.5

Autograph Grade: Beckett 10

2017-National-Treasures-Platinum-Patrick-Mahomes-II-Autographed-Rookie-Card
photo source: Beckett

The most expensive football card is the 2017 National Treasures Platinum Patrick Mahomes Autographed Rookie Card. This card sold for $4.3 million in July 2021.

Although this card has a comparatively low grade of 8.5, its front-side signature (coupled with Mahomes’s popularity) makes it a treasure for sports card collectors.

But despite this card’s incredible auction price, it’s nowhere near as valuable or costly as the most expensive NFL stadiums. Of course, you can’t host a Super Bowl on a trading card!

Why Is It So Expensive?

As of 2022, Patrick Mahomes was considered one of the most popular and beloved NFL players.

Consequently, rookie cards featuring Mahomes skyrocketed in value, including this one. The fact that it also features Mahomes’s autograph only makes it even more valuable!

Factors That Impact Football Card Values

Why can you buy a shoebox full of football cards for only a few bucks, but some football trading cards cost millions?

Well, several factors impact football card values, either making a particular card worth a small fortune or only a few pennies. The most crucial of these influential factors include:

  • Condition
  • Rarity
  • Athlete popularity
  • Autographing

Condition

Imagine that you’re shopping for a car, and you can choose between a brand-new vehicle and a beat-up one that’s barely held together with duct tape. Chances are, you’re going to favor the brand-new option, right?

Of course, the brand-new car’s superior condition will probably make it more expensive. It works the same with trading cards, including football cards.

The better a card’s condition, the more likely you are to turn a profit on it. Naturally, this isn’t always the case, as even mint-condition cards can be relatively worthless if they’re exceptionally common.

But the most expensive sports cards are almost always in mint or gem-mint condition.

Rarity

Rarity is one of the top reasons Pokémon cards are so expensive, and the same holds true for football trading cards. Well, you could argue that rarity is responsible for almost any item’s high price.

After all, the lower the supply of an item and the higher the demand, the more prices will rise. As such, nearly all of the world’s most expensive football cards are comparatively rare, either because of time (older cards getting lost or damaged) or a low release number.

Athlete Popularity

Although this isn’t always true, many of the priciest football trading cards tend to feature the most popular players of all time. Consequently, athlete popularity is considered one of the most influential factors impacting sports trading card values.

The multiple Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes cards that have earned spots in this ranking are excellent examples of how popularity contributes to card prices. Trading cards featuring these famous athletes’ autographs are worth even more.

Autographing

Like any other memorabilia, an autograph can significantly boost an item’s price.

For example, some of the most expensive Air Jordans in history feature Michael Jordan’s autograph. The sneakers might be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars less without this autograph.

The same is true of sports trading cards. If a high-quality football card happens to bear the autograph of the person featured on the card, it can sell for millions more than ones without an autograph.

How to Interpret Football Grading Terms

When reading card grade information, there are three things you need to watch for:

  • BGS vs PSA
  • Grading abbreviations
  • Grading numbers

Understanding these terms and what they mean is a fantastic way to ensure you only invest in the most valuable football trading cards.

BGS vs PSA

Most sports trading cards are graded by one of two companies:

  • Beckett Grading Services (BGS), and
  • Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA)

Generally, PSA is preferable for football trading cards, while BGS applies to all trading cards. Still, both are highly respected grading companies.

Grading Abbreviations

Condition is one of the most crucial aspects of valuable football trading cards, which is why most cards feature the following abbreviations:

  • GEM-MT (Gem Mint)
  • MT (Mint)
  • NM-MT (Near Mint)

These grading abbreviations indicate that a card is in like-new or “practically” new condition. This means no fraying along the card edges, no fingerprints along the front or back of the card, and perfect image centering.

But these abbreviations are also accompanied by a number, which refers to an overall grade falling between 0 and 10.

Grading Numbers

The best and most valuable cards almost always have a rating of 9 or higher. Cards with a rating of 9 or higher are essentially flawless, making them more valuable than cards with significant signs of damage or printing mistakes.

Then again, the most expensive football card in history sports a rating of 8.5, making it an exception to the general rule that only cards with a 9 (or higher) rating sell for big bucks.

What’s the Most Expensive Football Card of All Time?

The most expensive football card of all time is the 2017 National Treasures Platinum Patrick Mahomes II Autographed Rookie Card. This card sold for $4.3 million in July 2021.

Although this card has a comparatively low BGS rating of 8.5, it’s in near-mint condition and is considered a one-of-a-kind card due to its autograph. If you’d like to see this incredible trading card for yourself, you can visit LJ’s Card Shop in New Albany, Ohio.

Check out these related articles about the world’s most expensive entertainment items to learn more!

Eric Lyons

Eric is a subject-matter expert on the world's most expensive luxuries and collectibles. He has explored thousands of luxuries and collectibles over the past few years and now brings them to readers around the world.

Recent Posts