1935 National Chicle Football Cards: Investing in the NFL’s early history

Honus Wagner.  It is a name that is well known across all sporting circles.  Yes, he was a hall of fame baseball player, and definitely one of the best from the deadball era.  But even casual fans, and mothers across the country have known the name for years. When you think of trading cards you think of Honus Wagner, due to the rarity and prices that his cards have garnered over the years.  The PSA NM-MT 8 Wagner sold for $2.8 million back in 2007, Bronko Nagurski National Chicle cardand even a PSA VG-3 went for more than $1.2 million in 2012. Clearly, this is the most expensive trading card in history, by a longshot, with fewer than 100 surviving examples today.

In the football world, one card often draws comparisons to the Wagner.  Bronko Nagurski's 1935 National Chicle RC is among the 'holy grails' for collectors of pro football cards.  The 36-card National Chickle production was the first "football only" set ever made, and Nagurski is the clear gem.  The only PSA 9 in existence sold in 2011 for $350,000.  Lower grade examples still bring $5,000 and up.

The back of the cards are unique to the day, with football playing tips instead of statistical information.  Since the back of the cards say 'one of 240 players with playing tips' it is possible that the set was intended to be 240 cards, instead of 36.

The only non-professional player included in the set is legendary Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne.  Many consider Rockne’s issue the second most sought after football card in history, behind Nagurski.  The Rockne is generally traded in the $250-$500 range in low grades, with a PSA 9 on the market in early 2013 for $37,500 (only 3 in existence).These are the two most hallowed cards of the set and possibly all-time, but any of the cards from this set are valuable if found in good condition.  A good few other names pop out, with Clark Hinkle and Cliff Battles listed and fellow Hall of Famers as well.

Hinkle was the versatile leader of the Green Bay Packers, as a fullback/linebacker and was known to challenge Nagurski head-on, even running over him and breaking his nose one occassion.  In addition to his offensive prowess rushing and receiving, he also was a kicker and solid linebacker.  His cards fall between $350-$1,500 depending on condition.

Cliff Battles was also known for his versatility, but in an era of smash mouth football he brought more flash than force.  Although he only played 6 seasons due to contract squabbles, he excelled in rushing (led the league twice), receiving, returning kicks and also on defense, with 15 interceptions.  The value of his cards fluctuate in the $200-$1,2000 spectrum, and like the rest of the set are rare to find in great condition.

There are fewer than 100 MINT 9's listed in PSA's population report for the entire set, and only one PSA 10 (Jim Zyntell) as of 2013.  Overall, the 1935 National Chickle set is legendary, and finding any player found in quality condition is a good investment.

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