How Football Cards Are Priced?
There are a few basic principles that apply
when determining the value of a sports
card. Was the player depicted on the
card a star? Is the card in pristine condition? How old is the card?
How scarce is the card? These are all important, but more importantly is what determined the
importance of the football card when it was first produced? How was the card rated during
the time it was printed and distributed and what made people want to collect it, preserve it
and value it?
Topps was the major producer of football cards and they developed a numbering system to
rate a player’s card within a set. This was set in stone for many football cards through the
years. This is why it is important for you to know the rating system Topps used.
How football players performed is one of the measures used to determine if they were
deemed important enough to be placed on a Topps football card and how high Topps would rate
them. If a quarterback in 1980 was rated very high by Topps, his football card is very valuable
today. Yet, measuring a players football performance is more difficult than it is for baseball
How Football Stats Were Measured
Football card statistics are not measured the same as baseball stats. Measuring the
performance of football players was much more problematic for Tops rating system than it
was for baseball or basketball players due to the more extreme differences in the roles
demanded of different positions. It would have been fairly simple to compare the performance
of quarterbacks by examining statistics such as completion percentages, touchdowns,
interceptions, and so on. However, to compare a quarterback to other positions are difficult.
Performance statistics for all football team positions have not been consistently recorded, if
they exist at all. For example, quarterback “sacks” by defensive players did not become an
official statistic until 1982 and the evaluation of offensive linemen tends to be based on more
“indirect” measures such as sacks allowed, penalties received, or how well the running backs
Football is a team sport; however, some positions are seen as more important or valuable than
others. Quarterbacks, for example, tend to be team leaders. A quarterback touches the ball
on nearly every offensive play; he calls the play in the huddle, and might change the play at the
line of scrimmage if he sees a defensive alignment that may be exploited.
Even quarterbacks of mediocre talent can be team “stars” and enjoy more notoriety and fame
than very talented teammates at other positions. Since this “star quality” based on player’s
position might affect the placement of players’ cards we included this variable in the analysis.
Topps Numbering System
The interest of many football card collectors goes back to the 1950s when they noticed their
friends trading cards with the images of football players. Some young avid trading card
collectors began to notice there was something “special” or “significant” about the numbers on
the backs of cards. In fact, the card numbers became so important that upon opening a new
pack, they would look at the numbers on the backs of cards before looking to see which players
were pictured on the front.
Why? Topps, the maker of football cards used a numbering system to rank the value of
football cards within a set. This article will tell you how they determined the value of each
football card, which determines the price a collector today will get for his card.
How Important Was a Player’s Position in Determining His Topps Card Set Placement?
First, the advantage in receiving favorable card locations may be a reflection of fan interest
in the positions of quarterback and running back. While there are “purists” who truly
appreciate low-scoring games dominated by outstanding defense, these fans are in the
In football, most fans want scoring, and lots of it, and almost invariably quarterbacks and
running backs generate the most yardage and points on the offensive side of the ball. A
second, related factor is that these two offensive positions “touch” the ball more times per
game than other positions (except for centers).
Quarterbacks touch the ball on nearly every offensive play (whether they hand the ball off or
pass) and the average starting running back gets about 15–20 touches per game (excluding
receptions). Fifteen touches may not sound like a lot, but considering the single season
reception leader, Marvin Harrison, averaged only 9 catches per game (143 total) the year he
shattered the previous record held by Herman Moore (7.7 catches per game, 123 total) 15
opportunities per game to advance the ball and score is indeed a sizable number.
A third factor is that often running backs and quarterbacks are publicized more.
They get the most media attention, thus spurring even more fan interest.
|Collecting Football Cards