Collecting your favorite players on your favorite teams is still one of the best methods of football card collecting. The storied history of some teams allows for quite a diverse set of options. Dallas Cowboys rookie cards date back to the franchise’s beginnings in the early 1960s–but we wouldn’t fault you for tackling what might be the ‘holy grail’ for Cowboys collectors–the 1951 Bowman Tom Landry rookie card. Landry was a player for the New York Giants in the ’50s and his rookie card is a classic. You can find them easily on eBay with prices ranging from $100-800 depending on condition.
However, if you’re just seeking cards of players actually wearing a Dallas uniform, we’ll start with their first draft pick, defensive lineman Bob Lilly. The Hall of Famer had a terrific career, going to 11 Pro Bowls and was named to the NFL 1960’s and 1970’s All-Decade Teams. Lilly’s 1963 Topps rookie card can be found at a reasonable $40 on the low end, with high graded cards landing in the $800-$1,000 area. However, Lilly’s first football card actually appeared a year earlier. The 1962 Post Cereal Bob Lilly rookie card is among the most valuable in the set. Expect to pay $50 and up for one in respectable condition.
Staying on the defensive side of the ball, no Dallas collection should be without Randy White’s 1976 Topps RC. White came in just as Lilly retired, and after a few years was moved from linebacker to d-line into Lilly’s old position. White would go on to play in 3 Super Bowls, and 6 NFC Championship Games, finishing in the same manner as Lilly, with a plaque at the Hall of fame. His RC is a bit more available and affordable, landing in the $10-$150 spectrum.
For the rest of your Cowboy rookie card collection, you are probably focusing on players that dodged opposing defenses. Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman had the privilege to lead Dallas from under center, with Aikman winning 3 Super Bowls and Staubach 2.
“Roger The Dodger” was very athletic and able to escape pressure and create plays with his legs throughout his hall of fame career. While Aikman was a Hall of Famer in his own right, he was better known as a pocket passer and the orchestrator of the great Cowboy teams of 90’s. On the collecting front, their cards show the drastic difference between era’s, as Staubach’s ’72 Topps only has 2 PSA 10’s registered (one sold for over $22k), while Aikman’s 1989 Score RC has over 585 PSA 10’s on file (trades in the $100 range). Staubach’s rookie card is often off-center and that’s why high grade examples sell for so much. You can see Staubach and Aikman rookie cards for sale on eBay here.
Of course, QB’s need players around them to be successful, and a Hall of Fame running back lined up behind you can’t hurt. In the latter part of Staubach’s career, he had the benefit of handing off to Tony Dorsett, while Aikman of course had Emmitt Smith in his prime.
Smith ended as the NFL’s all-time leader rusher after accumulating 18,355 yards, and Dorsett still sits at a respectable number 8 with 12,739 yards. Same story here with different eras, as only 10 total Gem Mint 10s are listed by PSA for Dorsett’s 1978 Topps rookie card (one sold for $5,384 in 200), while over 350 are listed for Smith’s 1990 Score Supplemental RC ($200-$350 range).
Of course, let us not forget about the wide receiver position, surely Michael Irvin wouldn’t let us if we tried. But long before Irvin was winning Super Bowls as a loud mouth star receiver, Bob Hayes was literally blazing a trail for today’s pass catchers. Before his time in the NFL, Hayes was a two-time gold-medal winning sprinter for the U.S. Olympic team. And while Irvin had more career yards by a longshot, Hayes outdid Irvin in career touchdowns with 71 to 65. Hayes speed revolutionized the position of wide receiver in the mid 60’s, and forced defenses to move to zone and bump-and-run coverages to try to stop him.
Both of these Hall of Famers are worthy of adding to your collection, with Irvin’s 1989 Score RC trading in the $50 realm at PSA 10. Hayes’ 1966 Philadelphia RC is obviously more rare but not expensive.
Many other Dallas Cowboys rookie cards from years past deserve merit, but those above would be considered some of the prime cards to invest in for any collection of ‘America’s Team.’