vintage-football

10 Best Undervalued Vintage Football Rookie Cards To Buy Now

From Ronnie Lott, to Johnny Unitas and Deacon Jones, these 10 NFL Vintage Rookie Cards Are Solid Buys For Any Collector

Updated Oct 19, 2023

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Unlike their baseball or basketball counterparts, vintage football cards haven't always been in high demand.

This has been a boon for collectors, allowing them to acquire legendary players' rookie cards at reasonable prices.

But as interest grows, top-grade PSA vintage football rookie cards are getting snapped up.

Here are my Top 10 undervalued vintage football cards, ripe for consideration as long-term investments

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1. 1972 Topps Roger Staubach Rookie Card #200

staubach-rookie
  • Value (PSA 8): $1600
  • PSA Population (PSA 8): 420  
  • Highest Sale Price (PSA 8): $4515 in May 2021 (source)

Roger Staubach shines as one of the NFL's legendary quarterbacks.

His 1972 Topps rookie card is a collector's gem, especially those that are well-centered.

On eBay, PSA 8 versions, in Near Mint to Mint condition, often fetch around $1,600, and some even exceed $2,000.

Given that only 420 cards boast a PSA 8 grade and a mere 55 have a higher rating, the PSA 8 Staubach rookie card emerges as a promising long-term investment.

Indeed, the Staubach RC stands as a cornerstone of vintage football card collections.

2. 1957 Topps Johnny Unitas RC #134

unitas-rookie
  • Value (PSA 6):  $1000 
  • PSA Population (PSA 6):  903
  • Highest Sale Price (PSA 6): $2247 in Aug 2020 (source)

Johnny Unitas stands out as an elite quarterback who shaped the future of the position in football.

His 1957 Topps rookie card holds a special place, renowned as one of the most sought-after in sports card collecting.

A well-centered card significantly increases its value.

Right now, you can snag a PSA 6 graded Unitas rookie for around $1000 on eBay. But hurry – they're becoming harder to find by the day.

Given the trend, I'm betting the value of the Unitas rookie card is only going up from here.

3.  1955  Don Hutson Topps All-American Rookie #97

hutson-rc
  • Value (PSA 7):  $800 
  • PSA Population (PSA 7):  151
  • Highest Sale Price (PSA 7): $1050 in Aug 2020 (source)

Don Hutson is heralded as a trailblazer of the wide receiver role in football.

His 1955 Topps Rookie Card, to my mind, stands out as one of the most visually stunning vintage football cards ever crafted.

Given Hutson's unparalleled dominance in his time, it's surprising that his rookie card, especially from the 1950s, seems to be undervalued.

Recent transactions saw a PSA 7 graded card fetching close to $800, while well-centered PSA 6 versions have been sold for more than $600.

Considering his impact on the game, investing in Hutson's cards, regardless of grade, promises to be a wise decision for both short and long-term gains.

4. 1963 Topps Deacon Jones Rookie #44

deacon-jones-rc
  • Value (PSA 8):  $800 
  • PSA Population (PSA 8):  157
  • Highest Sale Price (PSA 8): $1863 in April 2021 (source)

Deacon Jones holds a revered place in NFL history, with many experts regarding him as the unparalleled leader in sacks.

A pioneer in his own right, he was instrumental in the conception and popularization of the 'sack' as a recognized statistic.

Interestingly, his 1963 Topps rookie card tags him as Dave Jones, despite his widespread recognition as 'Deacon'.

For collectors, a tip: when scouting for his card on eBay, run searches for both 'Dave Jones' and 'Deacon Jones' to cover all bases.

The card, graded at PSA 8, typically falls in the $800 to $900 price range, with only 157 of them in existence. For those on a tighter budget, the PSA 7 version, valued at around $250, is a commendable choice.

Given its increasing rarity, especially in the PSA 8 grade, an investment in Deacon Jones' rookie card offers promising returns for collectors. 


5. 1982 Topps Ronnie Lott Rookie Card #486

ronnie-lott-psa-flip-one
  • Value (PSA 9):  $200 
  • PSA Population (PSA 9):  589
  • Highest Sale Price (PSA 8): $699 in April 2020 (source)

Ronnie Lott stands tall in the annals of the NFL as one of its most formidable safeties.

He played a pivotal role in the golden era of the San Francisco 49ers.

Given Lott's unparalleled dominance on the field, it's quite surprising that his rookie cards, especially those in top condition, remain undervalued.

A Lott rookie card with a PSA 9 grade currently trades around $200, and there are only 589 such graded cards available.

For collectors and investors alike, acquiring multiple copies of this card and retaining them for an extended period could prove to be a savvy move.

6. 1950 Bowman Elroy Hirsch Rookie Card #52

elroy-hirsch-bowman
  • Value (PSA 6):  $350
  • PSA Population (PSA 6): 108
  • Highest Sale Price (PSA 6): $500 in October, 2022 (source)

Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch, celebrated as a top receiver of his era, broke numerous NFL records with the Rams. Hirsch was also the first player to be used as a wide receiver in the NFL. 

His 1950 Bowman rookie card stands out in a vintage set that also features rookie cards of legends such as Y.A. Tittle and Otto Graham. 

A well-centered version of Hirsch's card can significantly enhance its value.

If you're considering an investment, the PSA 6 graded card is an excellent choice, with only 108 PSA 6 copies known to exist.

Lately, these have been fetching prices of over $350 on eBay.

7. 1952 Bowman Gino Marchetti Rookie Card #23

gino-marchetti-bowman
  • Value (PSA 5):  $150
  • PSA Population (PSA 5): 68
  • Highest Sale Price (PSA 5): $161 in March 2019 (source)

Gino Marchetti is celebrated as one of the premier defensive ends in NFL history, a recognition cemented by his induction into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1972.

He is renowned for his pivotal role in "The Greatest Game Ever Played," the epic 1958 NFL Championship showdown between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants.

His 1952 Bowman rookie card is available in both small and large formats. These cards are increasingly rare on the market, especially those graded by PSA, which are becoming tougher to find.

A large version with a PSA 5 rating recently fetched $150 at an eBay auction, while a superior grade of PSA 7.5 commanded a price of $825.

Remarkably, only 135 of these large versions have been graded above a PSA 5.

For collectors and investors, Marchetti's card presents a compelling acquisition opportunity across all grades if you can find them.

8. 1973 Topps Ken Anderson Rookie Card #34

73-topps-anderson-rc
  • Value (PSA 8):  $200
  • PSA Population (PSA 8): 217
  • Highest Sale Price (PSA 8): $223 in Aug 2023 (source)

Ken Anderson's merits for the Pro Football Hall of Fame have been a topic of discussion for years.

His Hall of Fame Monitor score on Pro Football Reference stands at 82.99, surpassing many quarterbacks already in the Hall. 

Despite this, his 1973 Topps Rookie card, graded PSA 8, remains an underrated asset.

Drawing a comparison, Ken Riley's rookie card, from the same 1973 Topps set, saw a significant price surge, exceeding $200 on eBay auctions in a similar grade, following his Hall of Fame induction.

Currently, Anderson's PSA 8 rookie card is priced between $185-225. 

If and when he secures his Hall of Fame spot, there's a strong potential for its value to climb to the $300-$350 range.

With only 217 of these cards graded PSA 8 in existence, collectors should consider this card as a promising investment, albeit one requiring a bit of patience.

9. 1972 Topps LC Greenwood RC #101

greenwood-rc
  • Value (PSA 8):  $100
  • PSA Population (PSA 8): 367
  • Highest Sale Price (PSA 8): $157 in April 2023 (source)

LC Greenwood was an instrumental force behind the legendary Steel Curtain defense.

It's astonishing that Greenwood hasn't been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame yet. Given his legacy and impact, it's conceivable that he'll receive this honor in the next few years.

Greenwood's rookie card is prominently featured on PSA's Future Hall of Fame Rookie Registry list, underscoring his significant contributions to the game.

Greenwood's rookie card in NM-Mint Condition (PSA 8) is valued at around $100, which, to me, seems significantly undervalued. 

Collectors and investors should seize the chance to acquire this card at its current price point before it's too late.

10. 1977 Topps Steve Largent Rookie Card #177

  • Value (PSA 9):  $500
  • PSA Population (PSA 9): 460
  • Highest Sale Price (PSA 9): $1000 in March 2021 (source)

Steve Largent, a standout wide receiver, set numerous NFL records before Jerry Rice surpassed them

Playing in an era where the run game was dominant, Largent's accomplishments often go unnoticed, making him, in many eyes, an underrated Hall of Famer.

His rookie card in PSA 9 (Mint) grade sells for around $500, representing substantial value. 

Notably, there's a significant price jump to a PSA 10 (Gem-Mint), which fetches around $10K. 

With only 460 Largent Rookies graded a PSA 9, and their increasing rarity, the PSA 9 cards present a compelling purchase option for collectors.

Honorable Mentions 

The following are all Senior Committee Finalists for 2024 and could be inducted next year, leading to the potential for a surge in their rookie card prices.

1976 Topps Randy Gradishar Rookie Card

Gradishar appears to be a lock to be elected through the senior committee vote. His rookie card is featured in the 1976 Topps set. PSA 8’s are trending around $80-100 at recent eBay auctions. These should reach $150+ once he’s announced as the newest member of the Hall of Fame in 2024.

1985 Topps Steve McMichael Rookie Card

McMichael could be inducted as well, his 1985 Topps rookie card is very difficult to find in PSA 8’s and higher. Keep an eye on these in the next couple of months to see if any pop up for sale.

1961 Topps Art Powell Rookie Card

Powell could also be inducted as well, his 1961 Topps rookie card is very difficult to find in higher PSA graded examples. Keep an eye on these to see if any more PSA graded examples become available for sale from now until January 2024 when the HOF announcement takes place.

Vinnie Rullo

About the author

Vinnie Rullo is a passionate sports fan, with a hardcore loyalty to the Yankees, NY Giants and New York Knicks. An avid sports card collector, Vinnie has also worked a collectibles specialist for one of the bigger online auction houses.

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