Collecting football cards of coaches won’t make you rich nowadays but looking back in cardboard history, there is some great value with the biggest names to ever roam a sideline.
Some coaches were immortalized during their days on the field as players, allowing collectors to merely chase the rookie card from their playing days rather than look for a coaching issue. For those that were not prominent players, a coaching print in their only shot.
Without further adieu, here is our list of the greatest coaches cards of all-time:
1935 National Chicle Knute Rockne
One of the greatest coaches of any sport in history, Knute Rockne might be most famous for his “Win one for the Gipper” speech that inspired Notre Dame to upset Army. He led Notre Dame (1918-1930) to a 105-12-5 record during his tenure, which included 5 undefeated seasons without a tie. While some will offer his 1933 Goudey Sport Kings or 1955 Topps All-American issue, who can argue with a set that includes Bronko Nagurski’s RC that is the most arguably the hobby’s most sought after. Rockne’s not too shabby either, as his ’35 National Chickle was up for auction on Ebay in January 2013 with a listing price of $37,500.00. Pretty good for a coach card, considering his yearly salary was only around $10,000 back in those days.
1965 Philadelphia Gum Vince Lombardi
The next name that immediately comes to mind in the coaching ranks is Vince Lombardi. Anytime a league names their championship trophy after you, there must have been something great involved, right? Green Bay Packers collectors have been forever stymied by the fact that Mr. Lombardi doesn’t have a great card to pine for. His ’64 Philadelphia is considered by some his RC, although contested by others. Despite the lack of a stalwart card, he makes the list here just because he’s Vince Lombardi. A PSA 8 can be found in the $50 range, but as is the case with many coaches, this card doesn’t even come close to representing what Lombardi has meant to the great game he coached.
1950 Topps Felt Back Joe Paterno
Now an enigmatic character in football history, from the day he step foot on the field as Penn State’s head coach in 1966, Paterno was a football coach. He led Penn State to 2 undefeated seasons in 1968 and 1969 and won two national championships, in 1982 and 1986. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, and overall led the Nittany Lions to 37 bowl appearances in his storied career. His 1950 Topps Felt Backs RC make the list because it is quite unique, coming from his playing days as a quarterback and defensive back in college, at Brown University (a PSA 5 sold for over $1,000 in 2012).
It is hard to write a short paragraph to describe what George Halas meant to the game of football. His career amassed 63 years as an owner, 40 as a coach, 324 wins, and 8 NFL titles as a coach or owner. Halas was a captain in the Navy during World War II and was awarded the Bronze Star, and he had a revolutionary impact on the game of football.
As a player he once he stripped Jim Thorpe of the ball, and returned it 98 yards—a league record which would stand until 1972. He also convinced Illinois star player Red Grange to join the Bears, which led to making professional football credible in the country’s eyes. In addition, he is credited with perfecting the T-formation, which was responsible for the Bears 73–0 victory over the Washington Redskins in the 1940 NFL Championship Game.
His coaching and ownership helped build and revolutionize the sport, and his RC still draws a pretty penny, with even a low grade PSA 7 Bowman Large garnering around $400.
With so many coaches in history, it is tough to come up with a quality list of rookie cards. But any coaching list would have to include these four gentlemen, as they are all legends in their own right. Football cards of coaches may not get much attention, but they shouldn’t be overlooked completely in the hobby.