Americans have long used pro football trading cards as a way to remember and idolize their favorite players. Millions of people collect cards hoping that one day they will be worth loads of money, and also to remember all of the wonderful times they had watching games with friends and family long ago. The first football cards were sold in the 1890’s as promotional tools for tobacco companies, as they were included with a pack of cigarettes. Because the NFL was not yet existent, the cards featured the 35 best players from the top college football schools of the era, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale.
Pro football cards are similar to those of other sports in that the player’s picture, usually in an action symbolic of his position, is on the front, with the back including their statistics and career achievements. There are several things that contribute to a card’s value, including a player’s popularity, his overall level of success, and the card’s condition. If a player wins a Super Bowl, MVP, is selected for a Pro Bowl, or is in his “rookie” season, the card can become much more valuable.
Pro football trading cards, unlike pro baseball cards, are not nearly as popular among the sport’s fans nor are they collected at as early an age. Thus, it makes sense that the cards are most often bought, sold, and traded in areas in and around those where pro football teams are located. Most individuals do not worry about amassing huge, incredibly valuable collections of cards, but rather focus on obtaining a few of their favorite teams and players, especially during years of unusual or consistent success.
Because card printing technology was not as technologically advanced before 1980, cards produced before that year are significantly more valuable than those made after that date. Because a card’s condition weighs heavily on its value, most collectors keep their cards safe in plastic protectors, ranging from 3 x 3 plastic sheet holders that fit in a binder, to smaller individual holders for more valuable cards.
Because football is more popular than baseball, and less people have pro football trading cards than baseball cards, many people speculate that they have the potential to become much more valuable. However, most cards show the players in action and wearing their helmets, making it difficult for most people to recognize players outside of a select few superstars, thus discouraging cards from becoming incredibly valuable.