Top 20 most expensive football cards ever sold: Everything to know

Top 20 most expensive football cards ever sold: Everything to know

Football is one of the most popular sports worldwide, as millions tune in to watch their favourite teams play. Therefore, it is no surprise that interest in the NFL trading card market has remained strong, where some football cards are worth millions of dollars. From the earliest days of the American Professional Football Association, here are the most expensive football cards embracing the entire NFL history.

Rarest NFL cards
Here are the most expensive football cards ever sold. Photo: @heritage_sport on Instagram, @SportsCardKing_, @CardHedge on Twitter (modified by author)
Source: UGC

As an investment, football cards are a solid choice as they have proven to be resilient even during challenging economic times. With proper knowledge and a bit of luck, any collector has the potential to find some valuable pieces.

What are the most valuable football cards?

Several record-breaking sales have occurred recently, with some cards selling for seven digits. Here is a list of the most expensive NFL cards ever sold:

1. 2017 National Treasures NFL Shield Patrick Mahomes Autographed Rookie Card ($4,300,000)

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Patrick Mahomes is an American football quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs of the NFL. Photo: @CardHedge on Twitter, @adidasfballus on Instagram (modified by author)
Source: UGC

This is a one-of-a-kind card released by Panini on 21 March 2017. American football quarterback Mahomes signed it, and it was later sold by PWCC Marketplace in July 2021.

2. 2000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady Championship Ticket Autograph Rookie Card ($3,107,372.40)

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Tom Brady has more than $9 million worth of cards as a player. Photo: @ComicsandCrypto, @tombrady (modified by author)
Source: UGC

Sold in June 2021 by Lelands Auctions, this memorabilia was graded by Beckett Grading Services (BGS). Interestingly, in February 2008, the same card fetched only $4,450.

3. 1935 National Chicle Bronko Nagurski ($750,000)

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Nagurski was a running back for the Chicago Bears from 1930 to 1937. Photo: @LOTGAuctions, @americangiant on Twitter (modified by author)
Source: UGC

This is one of the rarest cards, with only 36 pieces available. It shows legendary Nagurski in his prime before he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1963.

4. 1958 Topps Jim Brown Rookie Card ($358,500)

Most expensive NFL cards
Brown played for nine seasons and was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame in 1971. Photo: @CGCCards on Twitter (modified by author)
Source: UGC

With a Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) rating, this piece was sold in November 2016 by Heritage Auctions. Jim is considered one of the greatest running backs in NFL history.

5. 2000 SP Authentic Tom Brady Rookie Card ($312,000)

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Valuable card
Brady is the only NFL quarterback named to two all-decade teams. Photo: @PSAcard on Twitter, @tombrady on Instagram (modified by author)
Source: UGC

This item received a BGS rating 10 and a 2000 SP Authentic rating from Upper Deck. It was sold in April 2021 by Goldin Auctions.

6. 2017 Panini Flawless Patrick Mahomes Rookie Card ($312,000)

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Mahomes was selected 10th overall by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2017 NFL Draft. Photo: @SportsCardKing_ on Twitter, @patrickmahomes on Instagram (modified by author)
Source: UGC

Goldin Auctions sold this piece in March 2021. It achieved a BGS rating of 7.5, with Patrick’s autograph awarded a BGS of 10.

7. 1957 Topps Bart Starr ($288.000)

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This is Starr's only recognized rookie card. Photo: @SconnEtradition, @luke_mcaoidh on Twitter (modified by author)
Source: UGC

With a population of 1,710, only three cards have achieved a PSA 9 rating. Heritage Auctions sold it in February 2017.

8. 1965 Topps Joe Namath Rookie Card ($264,000)

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Of the 1403 cards in the population, only five have earned a PSA rating of 9, making them very valuable. Photo: @TheMemNetwork, @darrenrovell on Twitter (modified by author)
Source: UGC

After leading the Jets to a Super Bowl victory, Joe is one of the most well-known NFL players. Heritage Auctions sold this highly-coveted piece in February 2018

9. 2000 Bowman Chrome Tom Brady Rookie Card ($233,700)

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Brady is widely regarded as the greatest quarterback of all time. Photo: @dan_lenhart on Twitter, @tombrady on Instagram (modified by author)
Source: UGC

Sold in March 2021 by Goldin Auctions, Beckett graded this item as a BGS 9.5. It was the only one out of 31 to receive this grade.

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10. 2005 SP Authentic 1/1 Aaron Rodgers NFL Shield Patch ($229,000)

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Aaron Rodgers at the 76th Annual Tony Awards in New York City. Photo: Sean Zanni
Source: Getty Images

This card was sold in October 2010 with a 9.5 BGS rating. Aaron led his team to a victory in Super Bowl XLV, earning a Super Bowl MVP.

11. 1976 Topps Walter Payton Rookie Card ($228,000)

Most valuable football cards
Walter was an American professional football player who played for the Chicago Bears of the NFL. Photo: @heritage_sport on Instagram, Bettmann via Getty Images (modified by author)
Source: UGC

Payton’s iconic piece obtained a Sportscard Guaranty Corporation (SGC) label of 10. It was sold in February 2021 by Heritage Auctions.

12. 1957 Topps Johnny Unitas ($167,300)

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Quarterback Johnny Unitas of the Baltimore Colts at an NFL football game circa. Photo: Focus on Sport
Source: Getty Images

With a PSA 9, this memorabilia was sold in November 2016 by Heritage Auctions. This PSA is the highest such a vintage piece can be awarded due to the print quality of the old days.

13. 1933 Sport Kings Jim Thorpe ($138,000)

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American footballer and athlete Jim Thorpe at the Olympic Games in Stockholm. Photo: Topical Press Agency
Source: Getty Images

This PSA 9-rated piece was sold in August 2020 by Heritage Auction. Jim was an all-rounded athlete playing professional basketball, baseball and football.

14. 1986 Topps Jerry Rice ($125,655)

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Jerry Rice at Fox News Channel Studios in New York City. Photo: Steven Ferdman
Source: Getty Images

The legendary 49’ers wide receiver’s PSA 10 card was sold on February 2021 on eBay through PWCC Auctions. The NFL star played for 20 seasons and won three Super Bowls.

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15. 1948 Leaf-Skid Luckman Rookie Card ($46,500)

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Sid Luckman, quarterback for the Chicago Bears. Photo: Bettmann
Source: Getty Images

This piece features bright colouration and an image of Luckman tossing the ball to the receiver. Luckman served as a quarterback for the Chicago Bears of the NFL.

16. 1948 Leaf-Bobby Layne ($45,000)

Rarest NFL cards
Layne was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967. Photo: Bettmann
Source: Getty Images

These are one of the classic football card sets of the post-war era. PSA has graded around 300 copies of them. Layne led the Detroit Lions to three titles and was a six-time pro bowler.

17. 1948 Leaf-Chuck Bednarick ($30,000)

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Chuck has been ranked one of the hardest-hitting tacklers in NFL history. Photo: Sporting News Archive
Source: Getty Images

Around 160 of these cards have been graded by PSA. There are three variations, copies with a white, yellow and orange background.

18. 1894 N302 Mayo’s Cut Plug-John Dunlop ($22,750)

Rarest NFL cards
An NFL football game played at the StubHub Centre. Photo: John Cordes
Source: Getty Images

This is one of the rarest NFL cards, sometimes referred to as the holy grail of football cards. It is hard to find this piece in mint condition, primarily because of the black borders, which are prone to chipping.

19. 1948 Leaf-Sammy Baugh ($17,500)

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Sammy was an American professional football player and coach. Photo: @Sports Collectors Daily on Pinterest, Bettmann via Getty Images (modified by author)
Source: UGC

Sammy is regarded as the best quarterback of all time, having won two championships and six All-Pro nominations. PSA graded only 250 of these vintage pieces.

20. 1935 National Chicle-Knute Rockne ($16,500)

Valuable card
Knute Rockne, American athletic coach of the Notre Dame football team. Photo: Bettmann
Source: Getty Images

This tribute piece was made only four years before Knute died in a plane crash. In 13 years as a head coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, he led his team to three championships, with five undefeated seasons.

What is the most expensive Lionel Messi card?

Messi’s most valuable card is the 2004 Panini Sports Mega Cracks #71-BIS Lionel Messi PSA 10. As of 2023, it is worth $312,000.

What is the most expensive FIFA World Cup card?

The Pelé 1958 Alifabolaget Base #635 PSA 9 is the most valuable FIFA World Cup piece, worth $1,330,000 in 2023. Pelé, a three-time World Cup winner, is regarded by many as the best soccer player in history.

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The most expensive football cards
Photo: canva.com (modified by author)
Source: UGC

This article has everything you need to know about the most expensive football cards ever sold. With decades of cards from legendary players, there are far too many chances to strike gold on a random piece in a vintage shop.

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