The 31 Most Valuable Football Cards Ever Sold

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Jason Koeppel // ONE37pm

The sports card market for football has traditionally been viewed as less popular in the hobby compared to sports like baseball and basketball. Until recently, there wasn’t a single football card on the top 10 most expensive sports cards ever sold as the list was split by baseball, basketball, and a Wayne Gretzky rookie card. 

There are many reasons for this perception - football lacks global popularity, player longevity is typically shorter, injury risk is higher, and players are less recognizable due to wearing helmets. 

While it’s important to consider these factors when purchasing football cards, it’s hard to ignore the record sales for cards in the sport throughout 2021. 

We’ll break down the 31 most valuable football cards ever sold from vintage to modern cards. 

1. Tom Brady 2000 Playoff Contenders #144 Championship Ticket Autograph /100 - BGS 9, 10 Auto - $3,107,132

brady
Sports Collectors Daily

On June 5th, 2021, the 2000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady Championship Auto Ticket in a BGS 9 (highest grade for that card) of just a pop 7, sold for a world-record $3.1 million. 

It’s not a surprise that we see the 7-time Super Bowl Champion at the top of this list (and it won’t be the last card of his on the list). No other player in NFL history has accomplished what Brady has. He’s been to 10 Super Bowls in 21 seasons, winning 7 of them. 

The fun part is that this card sold for just $4,450.01 back in February of 2008:

brady1 copy
CardLadder

At that point, he had won 3 Super Bowls! 

The card was sold via Goldin Auctions and crushed its previous sale of $400,100 in February of 2019. 

2. Tom Brady 2000 Playoff Contenders #144 Championship Ticket Autograph /100 - BGS 8.5, 9 Auto - $2,252,854.80

brady2
Lelands Auctions

The previous world record football card sale was the same Championship Ticket Autograph, but in a slightly lower grade. 

At a pop 28, the card is slightly less rare than its BGS 9 counterpart, but still took in a record amount at the time. 

The card was auctioned by Leland Auctions on April 2nd, 2021, but like Brady’s higher graded card, it could have been had in 2016 for $4,901.51: 

bradyCL2
CardLadder

Football has always been viewed as less popular than major sports like MLB and the NBA (the top 5 most expensive sports cards of all time are split between baseball and basketball) but Brady’s cards have officially put football cards on the map. 

3. Tom Brady 2000 Playoff Contenders #144 Championship Ticket Autograph /100 - BGS 8.5, 10 Auto - $1,680,000

brady3
Goldin Auctions

On April 24th, Goldin Auctions sold yet another Tom Brady rookie card for a record price, this time, a BGS 8.5 with a 10 auto for $1.68 million. This is a decline from the previous sale of about $2.2 million that happened a few weeks before. 

While that represents a 23% drop in value, it's hard to point to that dip as weak demand for Brady’s rarest card. 

4. Tom Brady 2000 Playoff Contenders #144 Championship Ticket Autograph /100 - BGS 8, 10 Auto - $1,320,000

brady4
Instagram

It’s worth noting that Brady’s Contenders Championship Tickets sold one after another, with each new sale from a slightly higher grade. With a card of this caliber, there aren’t enough comparable sales to truly estimate its value. Once this sale hit, it likely triggered those holding higher graded Brady Championship Tickets to consider selling. How could they not with million dollar price tags?

This particular sale was privately done, brokered by PWCC to FitBit CEO James Park in early March. 

PWCC, posted on Instagram, celebrating the sale and quoted Park after the purchase:

“I lived in Boston for 10 years and so am a huge fan of Brady . . . I’m incredibly excited to now own 1 of only 100 of Brady’s best rookie card.”

It’s pretty cool to see the CEO of a company get involved in the hobby at this level of investment! 

5. Tom Brady 2000 Playoff Contenders #144 Championship Ticket Autograph /100 - BGS 8, 10 Auto - $1,080,000

brady5
Goldin Auctions

The collective value of these five Brady sales tallies past $9,000,000. It’s incredible that not just one of these cards sold for record numbers, but all five passed the million dollar mark. 

It’s one thing to have a single record sale, and another to have a string of consecutive records with price consistency. 

6. Patrick Mahomes II 2018 National Treasures Rookie Patch Auto Black /5 - BGS 9, 10 Auto - $840,000

mahomes
Goldin Auctions

If I had written a list of the most expensive football cards ever sold on January 1st, it would look a lot different than it does today with the recent string of record sales. 

On January 31st, Goldin Auctions sold this Patrick Mahomes Rookie Patch Auto numbered to 5 for $840,000. At the time, it was the record for any football card sold ever and still remains the highest sale of a Patrick Mahomes football card. 

Mahomes appears numerous times on this list, and for good reason. He’s already won an MVP award, a Super Bowl MVP award and has appeared in 2 out of 3 Super Bowls in his first 3 seasons as a starter. He’s also been recognized as the NFL’s most exciting player

Can he give chase to Brady’s record number of Super Bowl wins? It seems that many are betting he will and going big on his key rookie cards like this one. 

7. Patrick Mahomes II 2017 Panini National Treasures "Stars & Stripes" Rookie Patch Auto /13 – BGS 9.5 Auto 10 - $584,250

mahomes2
Goldin Auctions

On March 7th, Goldin Auctions sold another Patrick Mahomes rookie patch auto and this time for $584,250. While this card is in a higher grade and has nearly an identical patch to the last record sale, there were more copies issued (13) and it is an image variation to the traditional rookie patch auto card. 

8. Tom Brady 2000 Playoff Contenders #144 Rookie Ticket Autograph - PSA 10 - $555,988

brady6
PWCC

On January 26th, 2021, PWCC auctioned off a PSA 10 copy of Brady’s Rookie ticket (not the championship variation) for $555,988. 

On December 22nd, 2019, the card sold for $135,101.99. In PSA 10 condition, the card has a population of 13, likely making it attractive for a collector. 

9. Tom Brady 2000 Playoff Contenders #144 Championship Ticket Autograph /100 - BGS 7.5, 10 Auto - $510,000

brady7
Goldin Auctions

On May 23rd, Goldin Auctions sold another copy of the Brady Championship contenders in a BGS 7.5 grade for $510,000.

Grades do matter, even with bigger cards like this one, but it’s relatively close in sale to the PSA 10 copy of the Contenders Rookie ticket (not numbered and no foil / shine effect on the card). 

10. Patrick Mahomes II 2017 Panini National Treasures Rookie Patch Auto /99 – PSA 10 - $390,000

mahomes3
Goldin Auctions

On January 31st, Goldin Auctions sold a PSA 10 graded copy of Mahomes’ rookie patch autographed card numbered to 99 copies for $390,000. While it is higher serial numbered card than some of the other rookie patch autos we’ve seen on this list, it’s PSA 10 condition is unique amongst the record sales so far.

Brady and Mahomes dominated the top-10 list and Mahomes’ record sales match Brady’s in the sense that there are consistent sales for a high value. 

11. Jim Brown 1958 Topps – PSA 9 - $358,500

brown
Heritage Auctions

This is the first sale on our list that hasn’t occurred in the past 12 months. On November 19th, 2016, the pop 5 Jim Brown 1958 Topps in a PSA 9 grade sold for $358,500. There haven’t been any recent sales of the PSA 9 copy of this card, which might leave some wondering what it would sell for in today’s market. 

Brown was ranked the best college football player of all time and is often discussed as one of the best NFL players of all time.  

There are 197 copies of this card in a PSA 8, and 483 in a PSA 7, making the PSA 9 copy extremely rare with just 5 copies available.

12. Patrick Mahomes 2017 Flawless NFL Shield Auto 1/1 – BGS 7.5 10 auto - $312,000

mahomes4
Goldin Auctions

Goldin Auctions sold this one-of-one Patrick Mahomes Flawless Shield autograph card for $312,000 on April 6th, 2021.

It’s the first appearance of the Flawless set on our list. While many collectors recognize the National Treasures Rookie Autograph as the “true” RPA (Rookie Patch Autograph) the shield patch and print run of just 1 make this card attractive. 

13. Tom Brady 2000 SP Authentic /1250 Tom Brady BGS 10 - $312,000

brady8
Goldin Auctions

This is the first non-autograph Brady rookie that makes our list. Goldin Auctions sold the card on April 6th for $312,000. Its pristine grade sets it apart from other copies of the card as there are just 13 total copies of the card in a BGS 10 grade.

14. Patrick Mahomes II National Treasures Rookie Patch Autograph /99 - BGS 9.5, 10 Auto - $290,400

mahomes5
Goldin Auctions

On March 7th, Goldin Auctions sold this BGS 9.5 Patrick Mahomes rookie patch auto /99. 

Although the card is numbered to 99, it features a beautiful four color patch that likely boosted its value on the market. Two cards can share the same limited print run, but a better, more colorful patch can add value to the card. 

15. Patrick Mahomes II National Treasures Rookie Patch Autograph /25 - BGS 9.5, 10 auto - $289,200

mahomes6
Goldin Auctions

On February 11th, Goldin Auctions sold this Patrick Mahomes rookie patch autograph card numbered to 25 copies for just over $289,000. 

This copy sold for less than the /99 version that ended on Goldin Auctions January 31st. While the card is numbered to 25, it’s patch wasn’t much different than the /99 copy, and it’s in a slightly worse grade (BGS 9.5 versus PSA 10). 

16. Bart Starr 1957 Topps PSA 9 - $288,000

starr
Heritage Auctions

In February of 2017, Heritage Auctions sold a pop 3 Bart Starr PSA 9 for $288,000. Starr was a member of the legendary Green Bay Packers and was the first-ever Quarterback to win a Super Bowl. Not only was Starr the first Quarterback to win a Super Bowl, he was also the first to be named Super Bowl MVP, and did so twice.

17. Joe Namath 1965 Topps PSA 9 - $264,000

namath
Heritage Auctions

In February of 2018, Heritage Auctions sold a pop 5 Joe Namath 1965 Topps PSA 9 for $264,000. As we’ve seen with the other vintage cards that top our most expensive football cards list, there are no PSA 10 copies of this card. Namath and the New York Jets defeated the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III and Namath was elected into the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985.

18. Patrick Mahomes II 2017 National Treasures Rookie Patch Autograph Black /5 - BGS 9, Auto 10 - $236,160

mahomes8
Goldin Auctions

This version of the Patrick Mahomes 2017 National Treasures Rookie Patch Auto Black /5 in BGS 9 grade sold for $236,160 in October of 2020. Just three months later, another /5 with a slightly different patch (but same grade) sold for over $500,000 more than this copy (see card #6 on this list if you need a refresher). 

Despite its rapid growth a few months after this sale, this Mahomes rookie still lands at spot #18 on the most expensive football cards ever sold.

19. Tom Brady 2000 Bowman Chrome Refractors - BGS 9.5 - $233,700

brady10
Goldin Auctions

Goldin Auctions sold a pop 31 BGS 9.5 Bowman Chrome Refractor on April 6th for $233,700. It’s worth noting that there are 7 PSA 10 copies of the card, but the last sale of the card was in September of 2017 for $45,000. If the PSA 10 copy sold today, it would likely be for much more.

20. Aaron Rodgers 2005 SP Authentic 1/1 NFL Shield Patch - BGS 9.5 Auto 10 - $229,200

rodgers
Goldin Auctions

Quite possibly one of the best Aaron Rodgers rookie cards in existence, this patch auto card features a game-worn NFL shield patch in a high-grade with a perfect 10 auto. 

Rodgers won the NFL MVP award last season (he’s won it 3 times) and has 1 Super Bowl victory under his belt. 

This card sold in October 2020.

21. Tom Brady 2000 Contenders Championship Rookie Ticket Auto (Donruss File Copy) PSA/DNA 10 Auto - $204,000

brady11
Goldin Auctions

This Brady Championship ticket makes 21 NFL sports cards that have sold for more than $200,000. This particular copy of the card is unique in that it is a manufacturer copy. Card companies will sometimes create extra copies of a card in case a replacement is needed, but in this case, it made it to a consumer (according to Goldin Auctions, a gift to the consignor from a Donruss executive). 

22. Patrick Mahomes II 2017 National Treasures Rookie Patch Autograph Gold /10 - PSA 10 - $184,500

mahomes10
Goldin Auctions

This copy of a Mahomes’ rookie patch auto numbered to just 10 copies sold via Goldin Auctions on April 6th. This marks the 8th Mahomes rookie patch autograph on our list of most expensive football cards sold so far. 

If you are wondering why there aren’t any Tom Brady rookie patch auto cards on this list, it’s because they didn’t exist when he was a rookie. If those types of cards did exist back then, you might imagine how many of those would make it to our top 31! 

23. Patrick Mahomes II 2017 Flawless Rookie Patch Autograph Emerald /5 - BGS 9.5 Auto 10 - $182,500

mahomes11
Sportscards.com

This is the first card on our list sold by a fractional sports card trading, Collectable. The card was originally IPO’d with a value of $135,000, allowing investors to purchase shares for $15 a piece. 

Collectable then received and voted on a buy-out offer that was approved and returned a 35.13% premium for its shareholders. 

24. Tom Brady 2000 SP Authentic /1250 PSA 10 - $181,200

brady12
Goldin Auctions

The BGS 10 copy of this card sold for $100,000 more, which is evidence that grade matters to those willing to spend large sums of money on sports cards. Goldin Auctions sold this pop 98 PSA 10 copy on March 7th for $181,200. The card has since retreated in value, with its last sale on June 24th at $86,140. 

The market and Brady’s career looks a lot different today than it did in 2004, but this card sold for just $650 that same year! 

25. Johnny Unitas 1957 Topps PSA 9 - $167,300

unitas
Heritage Auctions

Heritage Auctions sold this Johnny Unitas card in November of 2016 for $167,300. There are 8 copies of the card in a PSA 9 grade with no copies graded a 10. Like all of the other vintage cards on this list, a PSA 9 is the highest grade of the card you can find. It’s likely that manufacturing processes weren’t as advanced as they are today and even if you found one “pack-fresh” it may have come off-center or with other issues. 

In February 2021, there were offers for this card as high as $190,000 according to Heritage Auctions

26. Tom Brady 2000 Contenders Championship Rookie Ticket Auto (Missing Serial Number) - BGS 9 - $145,200

brady13
Goldin Auctions

This card sold at Goldin Auctions on April 6th and is unique in that it is missing Brady’s autograph and a serial number. The missing autograph detracts value from the card, but that and the missing serial number makes it more rare. Sometimes, more rare doesn’t always translate to value, but it’s likely that this was an extra copy produced by the card manufacturer in case a replacement needed to be issued. 

27. Jim Thorpe 1933 Sports Kings PSA 9 - $138,000

thorpe
Heritage Auctions

In August of 2020, Heritage Auctions sold a pop 4 Jim Thorpe 1933 Sports Kings PSA 9 for $138,000. There had only been one other recorded sale of the card in that grade in 2016 when it sold for $119,500. 

Thorpe won Gold medals in the olympics, played baseball and football professionally and was co-founder and first President of the National Football League

If it’s not enough that Thorpe won two Gold Medals in the Olympics, he did it with mismatching shoes he found in the trash after his were stolen. He is also considered to be one of the greatest athletes of all-time

28. Patrick Mahomes 2017 Rookie Patch Auto Stars and Stripes /13 - BGS 8.5 Auto 10 - $132,000

mahomes12
Goldin Auctions

Goldin Auctions sold this Mahomes Rookie Patch Auto “Stars and Stripes” numbered to just 13 copies on April 6th. A BGS 9.5 copy of this card sold for $584,250 just a month prior to this sale. 

The card sold for 77% less than its higher grade counterpart, which could be partly due to the lower grade or the market pulling black slightly. Regardless, this is yet another six-figure sale of a Mahomes rookie.

29. Jerry Rice 1986 Topps - PSA 10 - $125,655

rice
PSA

Our most expensive football cards list wouldn’t be complete without the greatest wide receiver of all-time, Jerry Rice. The only wide receiver to make this list, his pop 59 PSA 10 Topps rookie sold for $125,655 on eBay via PWCC Auctions on February 7th, 2021. 

Rice was selected into 13 Pro Bowls, won 3 Super Bowls and holds records in almost every receiving category. In his 20th season, at age 41, he still managed to capture over 400 receiving yards and scored 3 touchdowns

30. Walter Payton 1976 Topps - PSA 10 - $124,230

payton
Goldin Auctions

On March 7th 2021, Goldin Auctions sold a PSA 10 copy of Walter Payton’s 1976 Topps rookie card. It is the first vintage card on this list graded a PSA 10. There are 51 total copies of this card in a PSA 10 grade, so it’s not quite as rare as some of the vintage PSA 9s we’ve seen on this list, but the card is still hard to come by. 

After the record sale in March, the card has lost some value and its last sale was for $72,980. 

In June of 2020, this card sold for $20,000 and even though it declined since its record sale, the card has still increased in value by 264%. 

Payton was selected to 9 Pro Bowls, was selected as NFL MVP twice and won the NFC rushing title five years straight

31. Tom Brady 2000 SPx Spectrum /25 - PSA 10 - $121,200

brady14
Goldin Auctions

The December 13th sale of this Brady rookie via Goldin Auctions makes it the fourth Brady rookie card set to catch a six-figure sale. The card is just a population of 3 in a PSA 10 grade. 

Given Brady’s accomplishments, we may sometimes forget that he was a 6th-round pick. This means a lot in the card world - it’s very likely most people opening card products in 2000 didn’t know much about Brady. 

For example, how many of you have Brad Kaaya rookie cards laying around? He was drafted in 2017 (the same year as Mahomes) as a 6th round pick. If Kaaya was even included in some set checklists, it’s likely many people just threw his cards away or stored them without protection. 

For Brady, this lack of recognition early on helped his cards, as his rookie cards in high grade are rare than players with more anticipated success coming out of the draft.

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