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The Top 25 Most Valuable NFL Rookie Cards

2021 has been a year of record-setting football rookie card sales. Out of the top 10 most expensive sports cards ever sold, football now claims 2 spots on that list. Football is traditionally viewed as a smaller market in the hobby, but that’s starting to change. 

Below is a list of the top 25 most valuable rookie cards that includes data from the most recent record sales. 

Disclaimer: The football card market is moving fast, so I’ve opted to use predicted price values to develop this list of most valuable rookie cards. There are some cards on this list that haven’t sold in 1+ years due to their rarity, but the lower graded copies of these cards have gone up in value, thus it is anticipated that higher grade copies would have increased as well. The projected values come from Cardladder, which has a detailed white paper on how they derive predicted market value here. Cardladder has developed indexes for particular players to evaluate their market as a whole to help us better understand what certain cards would fetch in the market today. Keep in mind, predictive analysis isn’t 100% accurate, but can still act as guiding data for today’s current market. 

1. Tom Brady 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket /100 #144 $1.02 million – $4.64 million
CardLadder

The Tom Brady Playoff Contenders championship ticket card is limited to just 100 copies making it the most desirable Brady rookie card in existence. In its lowest graded copy, the card still commands a price tag of more than $1 million. 

There are just 7 copies of this card in a BGS 9 (the highest grade received for this card) and is projected to be worth $4.64 million according to Cardladder.com.

Recent Sales: 

BGS 9 $3.1 million

BGS 8.5 $2.25 million

BGS 7.5 $510,000

2. Patrick Mahomes II 2017 National Treasures Shield 1/1 #161 $4.3 million
HypeBeast

This 1/1 Shield Patch autograph Patrick Mahomes is currently the world record holder for the highest sale of any football card of all time with its recent $4.3 million sale. 

Given how the football market has been moving in 2021, this card is still number 2 on this list because it’s believed (with recent sale data0 that if another Brady Championship Contenders Autograph BGS 9 went up for auction, it would fetch an even higher price. 

Both quarterbacks dominate this list of most valuable rookie cards and it’s no surprise as Mahomes has been called the face of the NFL and Brady has more Super Bowl victories than any other NFL franchise. 

Recent Sales: BGS 8.5 $4.3 million

3. Tom Brady 2000 Playoff Contenders Rookie Ticket Autograph #144 $30,958 – $2.88 million
CardLadder

Brady’s 2000 Playoff Contenders rookie ticket isn’t as rare as it’s Championship parallel, but it still commands serious value. 

The lowest entry point for this card are the PSA 6 graded copies (pop 16) which is currently valued at $30,958.  

The PSA 10 version of this card sold for $2.25 million dollars at an auction this past April, and sold for a new record high on 8/22: 

4. Tom Brady 2000 Bowman Chrome Refractor #236 $69,834 – $1.68 million
CardLadder

The Tom Brady Bowman Chrome refractor rookie is Brady’s second most desirable rookie card. There are just 7 copies graded a PSA 10 with a projected current value of $1.68 million. 

The lowest graded copy of the card is a population 12 PSA 7 and is still valued at $69,834.  

Recent Sales: 

BGS 9 $70,100

BGS 8.5 $28,118

BGS 8 $32,322

5. Jim Brown 1958 Topps #62 $600 – $1.34 million
CardLadder

This 1958 Topps Jim Brown is the first vintage card on this list of most valuable rookies. There are no copies graded a PSA 10 and with just 5 copies in a PSA 9, the card is valued at $1.34 million. 

There are 117 copies of this card in a PSA 1 grade that have recently sold for $600.  

Recent Sales: 

PSA 5 $3,050

PSA 4 $1,998.50

PSA 6 $5,800

6. Patrick Mahomes II 2017 National Treasures Rookie Patch Auto Black /5 $840,000
Goldin Auctions

This National Treasures rookie patch auto card is a parallel numbered to just 5 copies and sold at GoldinAuctions for $840,000 in January, up significantly from its previous sale of $236,160 in October of 2020.   

Modern NFL players have a more diverse set of rookie card offerings, which is why Mahomes’ rookie cards show up often on this list. He has multiple rookie patch auto cards across various sets, each with different parallels that have different rarity that significantly impact their market value.  

Recent Sales: 

BGS 9 $840,000

7. Patrick Mahomes II 2017 Panini National Treasures “Stars & Stripes” Rookie Patch Auto /13 $584,250
Goldin Auctions

This Patrick Mahomes rookie is yet another parallel of his National Treasures rookie patch autograph card with just 13 copies in existence. This copy sold at GoldinAuctions for $584,250

Each parallel features different numbering and different design aspects, as well as varying degrees of quality inserted patches. In this case, we have a 4-color patch with a unique design that resembles the American flag. 

Recent Sales: 

BGS 9.5 $584,250

8. Patrick Mahomes 2017 Prizm #269 Black Finite 1/1 $564,058
CardLadder

The 1/1 Black Finite Prizm is Mahomes’ rarest parallel in the Prizm set.  There isn’t a single other copy of this card in existence, making it significantly more rare than the Gold and Gold Vinyl parallels in the set. It also helps that the card is considered to be in good condition as it graded a BGS 9.5. 

Recent Sales: 

This card sold for $76,204 in February of 2020 via PWCC, but has not sold since then.

9. Justin Herbert 2020 National Treasures #158 Shield (One of One) $547,328
CardLadder

Justin Herbert broke records during his rookie season and although he is just entering his second year in the NFL, his one of one Shield Patch Autograph National Treasures rookie card is currently valued at $547,328. 

His National Treasures Rookie Patch Auto card numbered to 99 is currently valued at $13,888 ungraded, placing a significant premium for the 1/1 parallel of this card. 

Recent Sales (Rookie Patch Auto /99): 

BGS 9.5 Listed for $99,999, Best Offer accepted

BGS 8.5 $11,100

Ungraded $14,200

10. Patrick Mahomes 2017 Prizm Gold / 10 #269 $528,000
CardLadder

This population 3, PSA 10 copy of the 2017 Patrick Mahomes Gold Prizm sold for $528,000 at auction on 8/21. In April of 2020, a copy of this card sold for $35,000, meaning it increased in value by over 1,400% in a little over one year. 

Recent Sales 

PSA 10 $528,000

11. Joe Namath 1965 Topps #122 $2,287 – $357,211
CardLadder

There currently aren’t any PSA 10 graded copies of Joe Namath’s 1965 Topps rookie cards and there are just 5 PSA 9 copies in existence. The projected value for the PSA 9 grade is $257,211, which make sense given the rarity of the card in a high-grade condition. 

There are 69 copies of the card in a PSA 1 grade, which are currently valued at $2,287. 

Recent Sales: 

PSA 6.5 $6,200

PSA 5.5  $4,850

PSA 5  $5,690

12. Patrick Mahomes II 2017 National Treasures /99 #161 $343,657
CardLadder

The Patrick Mahomes II rookie patch autograph (RPA) card numbered to 99 copies is considered the “true” RPA of the set. It isn’t as rare as the other copies that made this list of most valuable rookie cards, but it is still valued at $343,657. 

There is currently a PSA 9 copy of this card live on Goldin Auctions with a current bid of $71,000. 

Recent Sales 

PSA 10 $390,000

BGS 9.5 $290,400

PSA 9live auction 

13. Patrick Mahomes 2017 Flawless NFL Shield Auto 1/1 $312,000
Goldin Auctions

Goldin Auctions sold this Patrick Mahomes II Flawless Shield Patch auto for $312,000 in a BGS 7.5 grade. As mentioned previously, modern players have a more diverse set of rookie cards across multiple sets. This shield patch auto comes from Panini’s Flawless set, which isn’t viewed with the same degree of desirability as the National Treasures set. 

Recent Sales 

BGS 7.5 $312,000

14. Patrick Mahomes 2017 National Treasures Silver /25 #161 $289,200
Goldin Auctions

Goldin Auctions sold this /25 Patrick Mahomes II National Treasures rookie patch autograph parallel for $289,200. With rookie patch autograph parallels, numbering isn’t the only aspect of the card that matters for value. In this case, we have a fairly basic 3-color patch with a refracting border. 

In some cases, a higher numbered card with a more visually appealing patch will command more value from the market. 

Recent Sales

BGS 9.5 $289,200

15. Bart Starr 1957 Topps PSA 9 $400 – $288,000
Heritage Auctions

Source: Heritage Auctions 

In 2017, Heritage Auctions sold this pop 3 PSA 9 Bart Starr rookie for $288,000. The football card market has grown since then, so it’s likely if this card hit the market today it would be worth even more. Lower graded copies of this card can be bought for around $400. 

Recent Sales: 

PSA 7 $3,245

PSA 6 $1,615

PSA 3 $877.50

16. Patrick Mahomes II 2017 Prizm Gold Vinyl /5 #269 $244,650
CardLadder

The 2017 Patrick Mahomes Gold Vinyl Prizm card is numbered to just 5 copies, which is 50% of the supply of his Gold Prizm /10. The card hasn’t been sold recently, but there is one copy available on eBay for $900,000

The current projected value of the card is $244,650, but likely would fetch more on the open market given the latest Gold Prizm sale. 

No Recent Sales

17. Tom Brady 2000 SP Authentic /1250 #118 $30,712 – $240,000
CardLadder

The pop 13 BGS 10 graded Tom Brady 2000 SP Authentic is currently valued at $240,000. The total print run of this card is limited to 1,250 copies, and even a PSA 8 (pop 130) is valued at $30,712. 

In January of 2004, a PSA 8 graded copy of this card sold for $202. 

Given that sale from 2004 compared to today’s values, the football market has grown significantly over the years. And while Brady has a number of different rookie cards available for sale, there aren’t many graded in a high condition, as he was a 6th round draft pick and it’s likely his cards were more of an after-thought after they were opened from packs. 

Recent Sales:

PSA 10 $86,178

BGS 9.5 $56,877

BGS 9 $30,099

18. Aaron Rodgers 2005 SP Authentic 1/1 NFL Shield Patch $229,200
Goldin Auctions

GoldinAuctions sold this 1/1 Aaron Rodgers Shield Rookie Auto Patch card for $229,200. The /99 version of this card is currently valued at $49,954 in a BGS 9.5 grade and $29,373 in an ungraded condition. 

Recent Sales 

BGS 9.5 – 1/1 $229,200

BGS 9.5 – /99 $49,999

BGS 9 – /99 $10,100

19. Tom Brady 2000 Fleer Showcase /2000 #136 $4,091 – $195,926
CardLadder

The Tom Brady 200 Fleer Showcase is limited to 2,000 copies and has just 1 graded PSA 10, which is currently valued at $195,926. Lower graded versions of the card are more affordable with an entry point of $4,091 for a pop 38 PSA 6 copy of the card.  

Recent Sales 

BGS 9 $9,288

BGS 8 $3,875

BGS 7.5 $3,099

20. John Unitas 1957 Topps #138 $296 – $186,464
CardLadder

The 1957 Topps John Unitas rookie card has a supply of just 8 copies in its highest grade PSA 9. The PSA 9 copy is currently valued at $186,464, while PSA 1 versions of the card sells for $296. 

Recent Sales 

PSA 8 $12,322

PSA 6 $1,800

PSA 5  $999

21. Patrick Mahomes 2017 Prizm Rookie Autographs Gold /10 #RAPM $124,615
CardLadder

This Patrick Mahomes II Gold Prizm Autograph card has just 5 copies in a BGS 9.5 grade and is currently valued at $124,615. A copy of the card last sold on September 24th, 2020 for $55,100. 

It seems that we have a new record sale for a Patrick Mahomes rookie card every other week, but the reality is that when a specific low population card comes up for sale, it’s likely the last we’ll see of it for a while and this card is a perfect example. 

Despite the eye-popping value this card would bring in, we haven’t seen any copies surface for sale. 

Recent Sales: 

There have been no recent sales of this card. 

23. Roger Staubach 1972 Topps #200 $101 – $108,655
CardLadder

Roger Staubach’s 1972 Topps rookie has just 2 copies graded PSA 10 and is currently valued at $108,655. Lower graded copies of the card can be had for as low was $101.  

Recent Sales 

PSA 8 $4,050

PSA 8 $3,299

PSA 7 $899

23. Steve Young 1986 Topps #374 $6 – $100,747
CardLadder

There are 10 copies of the 1986 Topps Steve Young graded a PSA 10. Those copies are valued at $100,747. The 1986 Topps set was highly printed, meaning there is a large supply of lower graded cards that can be bought for as little as $6, a stark difference in the six-figure price tag on the PSA 10 copy of this card. 

Condition and rarity can drive significant value for a card and Young’s 1986 Topps Rookie is a great example of just how much of a premium that can bring in. 

Recent Sales: 

PSA 9 $1,237

PSA 6 $6

PSA 5  $7

24. Patrick Mahomes II 2017 Contenders Rookie Ticket Autograph #303 – $9,600 – $91,029
CardLadder

The Patrick Mahomes II rookie ticket autograph has 38 copies graded as a PSA 10 and is valued at $91,029. Lower graded copies of the card can be found starting at $9,600.   

It wouldn’t be fair to compare Mahomes’ rookie ticket values to Brady’s, because Brady came into the NFL at a time where rookie patch autographs did not exist. 

There are plenty of other premium Patrick Mahomes rookie cards for collectors to choose from compared to Brady, which puts less of an emphasis on the desirability of Mahomes’ rookie ticket autos. 

Recent Sales

PSA 9 $29,976

PSA 5 $9,600

25. Jerry Rice 1986 Topps #161 $71 – $73,803
CardLadder

The 1986 Topps Jerry Rice rookie has just 60 copies graded a PSA 10. Because of this relative rarity, those cards with a PSA 10 grade command a significantly higher price point than lower graded copies. The PSA 9 grade, for example, has a population of 1,029 and the PSA 8 has 12,222 graded copies. 

Recent Sales: 

PSA 10 $74,600

PSA 9 $3,925

PSA 8 $401

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