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Guide to Building a Valuable NFL Memorabilia Collection

NFL memorabilia collection guide includes autographed items

The NFL has produced some of the most iconic and valuable sports memorabilia in history. With NFL sports agents having phones lit up with requests, there is no shortage of memorabilia to choose from. That said, not all autographs, NFL trading cards, or other collectibles hold the same value. Our guide today isn’t about finding every piece of valuable memorabilia; rather, we are looking at some areas that one might look to in building a collection that has serious monetary value, if not intrinsic value.

When asked about how beginners might start collecting memorabilia from their favorite players, sports marketing and booking agent Mark Mayfield suggested: “Attending an autograph signing or event is an easy way to meet and purchase an autograph from some of today’s NFL players. National events include athletes from the NFL, NBA, MLB current and retired legend. ”

Also Read: Guide to the Most Expensive Basketball Cards Ever Sold

Guide to the Most Valuable NFL Memorabilia

NFL Rookie Cards

Like Baseball rookie cards, NFL rookie cards can hold their value. The NFL legend cards below are going to be nearly impossible for most in this hobby. But what is entirely possible is looking to today’s crop of rookies post draft and find those unpolished players before their value skyrockets. It will take more effort, but if you hit now before they are basically unattainable, then you at least have a shot. Keep them safely guarded and, when it comes time, get them properly graded.

Patrick Mahomes  2017 Panini National Treasures Platinum

2017 Panini National Treasures Platinum #161 Patrick Mahomes II NFL Shield Rookie Autograph 1/1 – Sold for $4.3 million in July 2021, making it the most expensive football card ever sold.

Tom Brady 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket

Tom Brady’s rookie cards, especially his 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket autographed card, are among the most coveted NFL collectibles. In 2021, one of these cards sold for a staggering $3.1 million, making it the most expensive NFL card ever sold at the time. The rarity, excellent condition, and Brady’s legendary status contribute to the astronomical value.

Johnny Unitas 1957 Topps Rookie Card

The 1957 Topps Johnny Unitas rookie card is considered the holy grail of football cards. In 2024, a pristine example sold for $1.5 million, setting a new record for the most expensive football card ever. Unitas’ status as one of the greatest quarterbacks and the card’s scarcity make it a prized possession. It’s been beaten twice, by Mahomes and Brady, but its scarcity makes it legendary.

Jim Brown 1958 Topps Rookie Card

Jim Brown’s 1958 Topps rookie card is a coveted item due to his status as one of the greatest running backs in NFL history. In 2016, a high-grade example sold for $358,500, cementing its place among the most valuable football cards.

Autographed Memorabilia

Memorabilia signed by the legendary Walter Payton, such as jerseys, helmets, and footballs, are highly sought after. Payton’s autographs are rare and valuable, with some items fetching tens of thousands of dollars. Other legends have been friendlier with their signatures, but some like Payton are harder to come by, adding incredibly value.

Look for signatures that are clean, written on lighter and more neutral backgrounds. On jerseys, signing on a lighter part of the jersey such as a number or other light-colored area will be important. Nothing is worse than using a black sharpie on a busy or dark background. The more it can pop, the better.

Signatures on game-worn items are also hugely valuable, so long as you can get that authenticated. The number of fakes out there is startling, but finding the legit ones authenticated by professionals is key. For your collection, start with players you enjoy watching first, then once you have a handle on some legit sources of memorabilia you can count on, you can build on that.

Game-Worn Super Bowl Memorabilia

The most expensive game-worn NFL memorabilia item ever sold is the jersey worn by Joe Montana in both the 1989 and 1985 Super Bowl victories with the San Francisco 49ers. This iconic jersey sold for a staggering $1.212 million at auction in 2024.

Tom Brady’s game-worn jersey from his final NFL game in 2023 sold for $1.1 million.

Game-worn jerseys from iconic Super Bowl moments command premium prices. Tom Brady’s jersey from the Patriots’ comeback win in Super Bowl LI sold for $480,000 in 2022, setting a record for the most expensive game-worn NFL jersey up  until that date.

Grabbing that jersey is going to be tough, of course, but any Super Bowl authenticated game-worn anything should be a great part of your collection and hold value long term. The jerseys will be the big ticket items, with helmets and footballs close behind, but there are other pieces that are hard to find but much less expensive. Look to gloves, tape, even chin guards to grab a piece of history. If you don’t care which player, even better!

These are just a few examples of the most valuable NFL memorabilia items. The combination of rarity, historical significance, and player legacy drives the astronomical values in the NFL collectibles market. Unless you have deep pockets, the best collection is the one that brings you joy to collect. It should be comprised of items you are eager to display and share with family and friends, and not put away in a box in the attic.

Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash


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