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Tim Tebow autographs and game-used items are “must-have” inclusions for NFL card-makers

By Chris Olds | Beckett Sports Card Monthly Editor

When he was in college at the University of Florida, it was clear that Tim Tebow was a cultural icon for football-crazed fans down in The Swamp.

Now, a couple of seasons into his NFL career, he’s been called a “Mile High Messiah.”

But when it comes to football cards, autographs and memorabilia you can give the Denver Broncos quarterback a different name, though — one that sums up his ability to sell merchandise, command top dollar for his autographs and yet keep fans coming back for more without yet being a QB who can throw for 300 yards a week without blinking.

You can call him “Mr. Must-Have.”

“We’ve considered Tim Tebow a ‘must-have’ inclusion since the day he declared he was entering the NFL Draft,” said Panini America VP of Marketing Jason Howarth. “Tim is a truly unique presence who transcends the sport of football and who can take the appeal of football cards to countless new collectors.”

While his on-the-field successes as a traditional quarterback are still developing, his football cards, jerseys and more are selling like those of a No. 1 overall pick (which he wasn’t) and perhaps outselling some of the game’s other big and more legendary names. As Tebow’s wins keep piling up — just like the Saturday Night Live skits — so do the potential number of fans.

That detail is not lost on Topps, either.

“Tebow is very marketable and he’s a great story,” said Clay Luraschi, Topps’ Director of Sports Brands. “His performance and personality brings value to our category.”

And that’s nothing new as Tebow was an in-demand player among last year’s NFL rookie class. Now, after a rookie year left largely on the sidelines and a late start to his sophomore campaign, Tebow is now getting regular playing time and competing for the dollars of collectors with the likes of Cam Newton and Andy Dalton — two other young signal-callers.

“Tebow was a key autograph subject in 2010 and has built some steam lately in 2011,” Luraschi said. “The great thing about this year, is there are not just a ton of great quarterbacks to choose from, but there are a lot of desirable autographed cards being offered.”

According to some hobby insiders, the demand for Tebow’s signatures was so strong last year that he was commanding No. 1 overall draft pick money for every autograph signed — and getting it. Meanwhile, at least one Florida game-used jersey commanded six-figures at auction through his foundation, meaning some manufacturers needed to shift gears for their game-used memorabilia card plans — that included Press Pass, which briefly had an exclusive for Tebow autographs until he appeared on his first NFL cards. Instead, it went with a signing-worn jersey.

And all of that was before he simply starting winning NFL games in dramatic fashion — with the help of his kicker and teammates, of course — things that really influence demands for his time and, in turn, demands for his autographs and game-used items.

According to the Beckett.com database, Tebow presently appears on 450 different certified autograph cards and 666 memorabilia cards as part of his 1,372 unique cards made — so far.

Panini said it has felt the winning ways working with Tebow — and it aims to build upon that relationship, though the NFL does not allow for contracted autograph exclusives.

“We’ve had the tremendous opportunity to work closely with Tim and the folks at his foundation and XV Enterprises on many occasions,” Howarth said. “There are a handful of players in the league that can drive mainstream interest in trading card products and Tebow is certainly in that class. His higher-end autograph and memorabilia cards are bona fide collection makers.”

Look for an extended Q&A with Panini America’s Jason Howarth about Tebow in the upcoming February 2012 issue of Beckett Sports Card Monthly, which will have the Broncos quarterback gracing its cover.

Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Sports Card Monthly magazine. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an email to him at colds@beckett.com. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.

12 Comments

James

I’ve been a Gator fan for 29 years. I’m a Gator through and through. The bad years, The really bad years and Of course the GREAT years. All I can say about this man he’s a natural born leader on and off the field. He has so much passion for the game he loves and there is nothing wrong with that. When I have kids If they grow up to be half the man he is I would consider myself lucky. God Bless you Tebow and your family.
Thank You.

Posted December 24, 2011 at 9:43 pm | Permalink
chris bradley

I think after todays tough game.Nothing of Tebows is “must have”!

Posted December 24, 2011 at 10:59 pm | Permalink
Josh

Yeah, because 1 bad game means no one should collect his stuff anymore. Brilliant!

Posted December 26, 2011 at 1:20 am | Permalink
Mighty Mouse

tebow? seriously? after this season he might be a starter next season. but after that he’ll be a back up for the rest of his career, and he’ll be out of football in 6 seasons. save your money, don’t throw it away on a “flavor of the week” player.

and beckett putting him on the cover? there are many others more deserving to be on there. how about a legends issue? put payton, montana, or unitas on there and discuss the popularity of their autos

Tebow presently appears on 450 different certified autograph cards.. and this is just horrible. this is why i don’t collect modern cards. he has been in the nfl for less than 2 seasons and he has that many auto’d cards, and probably 1000 different rookie/base/insert cards. barry sanders has a total of what, 3 or 4 rookie cards? joe montana had less than 100 different cards made during his playing days. i’d like to see the hobby get back to that and stop mass producing and watering down the market

Posted December 26, 2011 at 6:19 am | Permalink
chrisolds

Mighty, you sure seem to have *all* the answers … so let me ask a question.

Do you think the hobby would have evolved the direction it has if the formula of 1988 still worked?

It certainly didn’t cost the card manufacturers as much then as it does now to make cards … perhaps the majority of collectors’ interests — via their buying habits — have changed.

Oh, and, according to this site, Montana appeared on nearly 900 cards made *during* his playing career. In fact, the timeframes for the players you mentioned (Montana, Sanders) largely came during the time when mass-production was at its worst in the hobby.

As for issue selection and cover choices, a player being “deserving” according to one collector really isn’t one of the criteria for selecting a player. However, we are intending to have some vintage- and retro-focused covers for BSCM in 2012 — just as we had this year.

Posted December 26, 2011 at 11:39 am | Permalink
Mighty Mouse

between 1981-1994 montana had over 900 different cards? considering topps was the only company making football cards from 81-88, i’m assuming most of those cards came from 89-94. so about 850 of those came within a 6 year period. i’m not counting mcdonald’s cards, star cards, or team issue cards

Posted December 26, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Permalink
Mighty Mouse

Do you think the hobby would have evolved the direction it has if the formula of 1988 still worked?

do you mean if card companies would not have become greedy and start producing 20 different products every year? this hobby is in a downward spiral and if card companies continue to produce the crap that they’re putting out today, the hobby will be in the toilets very soon. what would collectors rather have; 100 different tim tebow rc’s or 10 different? (enough with the 1/1′s and the event used memorabilia cards)

but the answer is yes

Posted December 26, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Permalink
Steven

If you are a collector , or are in it for the , ” Money play ” , now is an exiting time in time, in the collectible card market.

Posted December 26, 2011 at 9:19 pm | Permalink
Kevin

Mighty, when you said “do you mean if card companies would not have become greedy…” Were you implying that in the past card companies weren’t in the buisness of making money?

Alos, I never understood collectoirs arguing for less choice in the hobby.

Posted December 27, 2011 at 9:40 am | Permalink
chrisolds

Mighty: Did you forget the arrivals of Score, Pro Set, Action Packed, Playoff, Pro Line, GameDay, Collector’s Edge … ? There were many new companies and brands from 1989 to 1996.

Posted December 27, 2011 at 10:33 am | Permalink
cincy Scott

Collect what you want to collect its all a matter of opinion. I collect Bengals , Reds and White Sox’s cards. Who Dey the game wont be balcked out.

Posted December 28, 2011 at 6:42 pm | Permalink
cincy Scott

Yall need to have Jerome Simpson on the front cover with the sick catch he made last saturday! Who Dey!

Posted December 28, 2011 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

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