One aspect of card collecting you might have noticed is increased interest in finding undervalued vintage football cards. There is little doubt, for the most part, these sets were not issued in the same quantity as their baseball counterparts so less have survived in any condition.
Some of the older football sets are driven up in price by either some scarce cards such as the 1948 Bowman set in which every card divisible by three is tougher or the 1952 Bowman Large set in which every card divisible by nine is tougher. Those last series 1972 Topps high number football cards remain in demand and are quite a hurdle for people who really want to complete their 1970’s run.
Meanwhile, other sets are not as low priced because there are some expensive rookie cards, including the 1957 Topps with the Bart Starr, Paul Hornung and Johnny Unitas or the 1958 Topps set with Jim Brown.
But there are several football card sets that are undervalued today. We like both the 1959 and the 1960 Topps sets. I remember years ago when 1960 Topps football was so readily available that one dealer friend of mine had three sets for sale at a time when almost no one even carried football cards. 1959 and ’60 Topps include some great players, but quantities have kept prices down.
With no key rookie in the 1960 set and the available nature this set is pretty easy to complete, making it a nice value. While Topps did not release their print runs for the 1960’s baseball sets, it is believed that they did print more 1960’s cards than any other year during the decade. Even when I was collecting old sets back in the day, finishing up the 1960 set was far easier than any other set in that same time frame and was very affordable. And if Topps was cranking out the print run for 1960 baseball, logically the sense would be the same was taking place for 1960 football.
There is the possibility the increased production actually began the year before as the ’59 Topps football set is just as available in the secondary marketplace today. There does seem to be a nice grouping of higher grade cards from that set and there was also a find quite a while back which helped to keep the supply of these cards strong. Again with this set while there are several Hall of Fame rookie cards, none of them are the top tier which makes this set very reasonable to complete.
One other item of note with both the 1959 and the 1960 set is the size of each set is less than 200 cards and gives collectors a shot at collecting full sets. Keep in mind, too, that the ’59 set represents third year cards for Unitas, Starr and Hornung and a nice-looking second year issue of Jim Brown. And despite possibly higher production runs, there are still only about 1/7 the number of football cards from those two years on eBay than their baseball counterparts. They are two old sets that you could try to tackle in high grade and not go broke.
To me, the entire Philadelphia Gum run of 1964 through 1967 sets are also very reasonably priced as the set sizes are again less than 200 cards each and while there are some decent rookie cards, the grouping as a whole is very reasonable and gives us a great record of what some people believe was the golden age of NFL football. This was the time when the legends of the sport played and these sets feature all those players who were the early stars of NFL films and also of the network TV games. As a whole, a nice grouping of cards and many of them have survived in great condition. While there are some expensive cards such as the Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus rookies, very few other cards are really that expensive and the common cards have always been around in good condition at good prices. The Philly sets marked the dawn of the Super Bowl era. They’re colorful, packed with major stars and just tough enough to find that the future looks bright, especially for higher grade examples.
Not all undervalued vintage football cards date to a time before man walked on the moon. While there is no scarcity of 1978 and 1979 Topps in the marketplace as each set only has one key rookie, that makes for easy accessibility and those rookie cards are both Texas legends (Tony Dorsett in 1978 and Earl Campbell in 1979) which means there will always be interest in both those players.
Don’t overlook second year cards of some of those iconic 1980s rookie cards such as Joe Montana (1982), Dan Marino and John Elway (1985 with the tough black borders) and Jerry Rice (1987). While there are plenty in the marketplace, they were not printed in outrageous quantities and as time passes, we suspect demand will too, especially for ultra high-grade examples which are not readily available and still somewhat reasonably priced. In fact, check eBay and you’ll see tons of 1980s football cards–graded 8 and 9–selling for less than the cost of the grading fee. Long term, that would seem to be a logical option for the set collector.