Football card collecting is a hobby that young collectors and adults alike have enjoyed for decades. There is a large variety of football card companies that produce football cards on the market today. These range from low-price cards to keep the hobby affordable for the younger collectors and collectors new to the hobby, to sets where packs can cost more than £6 a piece.
Football card collecting is a hobby that is over 100 years old. The early sets saw large gaps in time between production though, with only three sets produced between 1894 and 1948. The first set was the 1894 Mayo set, which included a card so rare that it is believed there are only 10 in existence. This card is the John Dunlap card, and a version of this card in excellent condition is worth £11,700. The second set made was the Goudy Sport Kings, which included players from a variety of sports, including football. Football cards started being produced annually in 1948.
The condition of a football card is a significant factor in its value. A card in excellent or mint condition shows no wear of the card, the corners are perfectly square and the photo is perfectly centred within the border. Good-condition cards might be slightly off centre, but the corners are still sharp, and obvious wear is not visible on the card. Fair-condition cards have corners that are slightly worn, possibly rounded, with minor fading of the card. Poor-condition cards have corners that are clearly rounded and possibly starting to separate at the edges, these cards may have damage to the front of the card as well including bubblegum stains or other stains from wear of the card or exposure to moisture.
Cards that are in excellent or mint condition are valued as 100 per cent to 125 per cent of the top value for the card listed in the Beckett Football Pricing Guide, which is the most commonly used pricing guide in the hobby. Good condition cards are valued at 80 per cent to 90 per cent of the book value. Fair cards are valued between 40 per cent and 60 per cent of the book value in the Beckett Football Pricing Guide. Poor-condition cards range in value from 25 per cent of book value down to having no value, due to the wear and tear on the card.
There are several factors that affect the price of football cards. The first is the year it is produced. A player's card produced in his first season is known as a rookie card. These cards traditionally have the highest value of any card for a player that does not include their autograph or a swatch of material from a uniform, football, or playing field on that player's card. An example of this is Adrian Peterson's 2007 Rookie Card from Topps, which is valued at £16.20. Adrian Peterson's second year card in 2008 from Topps is only valued at 60p.
Other factors that affect prices are if the card includes a swatch of either a uniform, the football field, or the football itself. These cards are usually produced in limited numbers, which combines the attractiveness of that addition of the swatch to the card along with the uniqueness of the card due to the low number produced. An example is the 2008 Tony Gonzalez Donruss Classics "Sunday's Best" Game Used Jersey. There were only 250 produced of this card, and it has a swatch of a game-used jersey on it, making it valued at £7. Other 2008 Tony Gonzalez cards without swatches, signatures, or limited production are valued as well under 60p.
Sometimes a football card producer makes an error when it produces a card. These can affect the value of a card, but will not always have that effect. If a corrected card is produced, then either the error card or the corrected card will have a higher than typical market value for that card, based on which is produced in a more limited supply. An example of an error card with no affect on value is the 1995 Classic Proline football card for Yancy Thigpen. This card has a photo of Yancy Thigpen on the front, but a photo of Rick Miror on the back. It was never corrected and is only worth 40 cents. Meanwhile a 2008 Sam Bradford Pigskin Rookies card has an error on the bottom right corner with lines from the printer; these cards are valued at two to three times the value of the card without the error.
Football cards have value on the open market, and because of this there are also fraudulant versions of cards out there. Some of the most common frauds include autographed cards. There is a way for the buyer to protect themselves from this fraud though. Make sure you ask for a certificate of authenticity for any autographed card. These certificates are sometimes actually part of the card, and are on the back of the card itself. Other times they are separate from the card. Some certificates of authenticity will even include a photo of the player signing the card; these types of certificates with photos are most common with cards that are produced in a quantity of 10 or less.