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.

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21 comments

  1. Jason K 29 April, 2014 at 16:25

    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.

  2. tom waldron 29 April, 2014 at 21:40

    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

  3. Cardfan 30 April, 2014 at 00:51

    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

  4. michael taylor 30 April, 2014 at 09:49

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

  5. Bodie 30 April, 2014 at 10:41

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

  6. upsheez 30 April, 2014 at 11:52

    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!

  7. chrisolds 30 April, 2014 at 11:54

    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.

  8. J.R. 30 April, 2014 at 12:48

    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…

  9. Rick 1 May, 2014 at 20:46

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

  10. Brian Huntington 5 May, 2014 at 08:57

    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.

  11. david stolz 21 May, 2014 at 13:28

    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

  12. John Watso. 22 May, 2014 at 12:51

    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.

  13. Bill Krellner 22 May, 2014 at 14:31

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

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