What is the best football Rookie Card of all-time?

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By Susan Lulgjuraj | Beckett Football Editor

Football cards have featured different designs over the years. We have seen colorful cards, simple ones, tall boys. We have collected Rookie Cards with memorabilia, autographs, and short-prints that were hard to chase.

But one thing never changed – no matter what year, the player made the card.

Here’s a list of some of the most iconic football Rookie Cards throughout the decades. Check out these cards and let us know your favorites in the poll below.

1933 Sport Kings #4 Red Grange

1933 Sport Kings #6 Jim Thorpe

1948 Leaf #34 Sammy Baugh

1957 Topps #119 Bart Starr

1957 Topps #138 Johnny Unitas

1958 Topps #62 Jim Brown

1965 Topps #122 Joe Namath

1966 Philadelphia #31 Dick Butkus

1970 Topps #90 O.J. Simpson

1971 Topps #156 Terry Bradshaw

1976 Topps #148 Walter Payton

1979 Topps #390 Earl Campbell


1981 Topps #216 Joe Montana


1982 Topps #434 Lawrence Taylor

1984 Topps #63 John Elway

1984 Topps #123 Dan Marino

1986 Topps #161 Jerry Rice

1986 Topps #374 Steve Young

1989 Score #257 Barry Sanders

1990 Score Supplemental #101T Emmitt Smith

1991 Stadium Club #94 Brett Favre

1998 SP Authentic #14 /2000 Peyton Manning

2000 Playoff Contenders #144 Tom Brady

2005 SP Authentic #252 /99 Aaron Rodgers

2007 Exquisite Collection #133 /99 Adrian Peterson

2012 Panini National Treasures #301 /99 Andrew Luck

What are the best football Rookies cards of all-time (pick up to five cards)?

View Results

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Susan Lulgjuraj is an editor at Beckett Media. You can email her here with questions, comments or ideas. Follow her on Twitter here. Follow Beckett Media on Facebook and Twitter.

21 Comments

  1. Mark
    Posted Tuesday April 29th, 2014 at 02:50 PM | Permalink

    1962 Topps Fran Tarkenton

  2. Joseph
    Posted Tuesday April 29th, 2014 at 03:27 PM | Permalink

    Tom Brady’s contenders RC on card auto! A true beauty!

  3. Jason K
    Posted Tuesday April 29th, 2014 at 04:25 PM | Permalink

    Had to go with ’65 Topps Joe Namath. I don’t collect football (as a matter of fact, I REALLY dislike football)… But, even I knew this iconic card.

  4. Richard
    Posted Tuesday April 29th, 2014 at 06:07 PM | Permalink

    How can you have a list like this without Bronko Nagurski?

  5. Steve Wight
    Posted Tuesday April 29th, 2014 at 06:40 PM | Permalink

    Bo knows football!!! Bo Jackson of coarse could be another I’d definetly pick!!

  6. tom waldron
    Posted Tuesday April 29th, 2014 at 09:40 PM | Permalink

    I have to say although not a nfl card Nagurski is one I’d love to have and Red Grange Jim Thorpe slinging Sammy baugh -only qb to have over 300 yrd and 3 interceptions I believe.
    Sometimes we forget so I’m glad to see this perhaps we r headed for a vintage Beckett sports monthy guide theme here.How bought some love for the Snake -Ken Stabler .
    I’m loking to go back in time and begin my collection aknew with vintage in Fb bb and bsktbl.
    Sorry but the new kids Like Luck and others will have to wait to make the list.
    just saying…Tw

  7. Cardfan
    Posted Wednesday April 30th, 2014 at 12:51 AM | Permalink

    Not including the Naguski chicle is a big miss on this
    List… That’s the 2nd best card in the hobby (behind the Dunlop mayo) which I have 2 of

  8. J
    Posted Wednesday April 30th, 2014 at 08:16 AM | Permalink

    1989 score Deion Sanders

  9. michael taylor
    Posted Wednesday April 30th, 2014 at 09:49 AM | Permalink

    I’d like to give some consideration to the Ray Lewis 1996 Bowman’s Best RC.

  10. Bodie
    Posted Wednesday April 30th, 2014 at 10:41 AM | Permalink

    barry sanders 89 score, that set changed the industry and that is the most coveted card in there

  11. upsheez
    Posted Wednesday April 30th, 2014 at 11:52 AM | Permalink

    What about…

    1966 Philadelphia #38 Gale Sayers RC
    1972 Topps #200 Roger Staubach RC

    Tough to put 86 Young, 79 Campbell and 70 OJ before those two!

  12. chrisolds
    Posted Wednesday April 30th, 2014 at 11:54 AM | Permalink

    I voted 1965 Namath — it’s easily king if you ask me.

    One I would have considered would have been the 1955 Topps All-American of the Four Horsemen, though Namath still trumps it easily.

  13. J.R.
    Posted Wednesday April 30th, 2014 at 12:48 PM | Permalink

    I just can’t vote for Namath because of how OVERRATED of a player he is. Yes, he is responsible for one of the benchmark moments in NFL history, but he was a better pop culture icon than a football player. My top 5 were all in the top 6. Thorpe, Unitas, Brown, Payton, Montana… and I wasn’t born before any of the cards came out.

    My #1 is the Montana RC, because to me, it ushered in modern collecting. It’s the first great modern football RC.

    Had Bo’s RC been on the list, I might have had to have left off one of the others…

  14. Rick
    Posted Wednesday April 30th, 2014 at 05:49 PM | Permalink

    1989 SCORE BARRY SANDERS, HANDS DOWN!

  15. Rick
    Posted Thursday May 1st, 2014 at 08:46 PM | Permalink

    I would have to comment that leave the Campbell off and add the 89 Score Aikman.

  16. Brian Huntington
    Posted Monday May 5th, 2014 at 08:57 AM | Permalink

    I love this list of great (and highly coveted) cards. My personal favorite RC, not on this list, is the ’78 Topps #315 Tony Dorsett.

  17. Posted Wednesday May 21st, 2014 at 01:28 PM | Permalink

    Barry Sanders…my friend Anne Flaven started score -after sportsflicks – she also made cracker jack toys – I was responsible for all cracker jack prizes – find a better reason….you can’t

  18. John Watso.
    Posted Thursday May 22nd, 2014 at 12:51 PM | Permalink

    Any rookie card from any player who only had a single card like Ernie Davis, Brian Piccolo, Pat Tillman who had their life ended much too soon.

  19. Bill Krellner
    Posted Thursday May 22nd, 2014 at 02:31 PM | Permalink

    I think the 1965 Joe Namath rookie card is the best rookie card of all time. The large size was rather unique.

  20. Mike
    Posted Thursday January 28th, 2016 at 01:31 AM | Permalink

    Top 5
    1. Joe Namath
    2. Bart Starr
    3. Johnny Unitas
    4. Frank Gifford
    5. Jim brown/ Mike ditka

  21. Jeremy
    Posted Sunday February 14th, 2016 at 01:04 AM | Permalink

    Brady is the greatest QB of all time. He gets my vote in the #1 spot.

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