If you asked a newcomer to sports memorabilia, “What is the most expensive football card?” they likely wouldn’t expect the answer to be $4.32 million.
While the most expensive football card in the world—a 2017 Patrick Mahomes card—certainly ran its most recent buyer a pretty penny, not every card occupies such a prestigious (and expensive) position in sports memorabilia collecting.
In this guide, we’ll explore the most expensive football card in more detail and highlight the nineteen runner-ups to form a list of the 20 most expensive football cards ever sold. While the NFL hasn’t yet secured the top spot in overall sports card sales, it still represents a multi-million-dollar position in the memorabilia trade.
Most Expensive Football Cards in History
As you peruse this list, you may encounter a few unfamiliar acronyms or seemingly random numbers. So, before we start, let’s explore two major elements of the sports card trading industry—grading and print number.
Four independent grading organizations currently rule the world of sports card trading:
- Hybrid Grading Approach (HGA)
- Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA)
- Beckett Grading Services (BGS)
Each entity assesses the quality of cards on a scale from 1 to 10—the higher the number, the better the condition of the card.
In addition, manufacturers print sports cards in a set. Sets can feature anywhere from one to hundreds of cards, and a specific card’s number in the set is denoted by “#X” or “#X/X.”
Without further ado, let’s break down the 20 most expensive football cards ever sold:
|Patrick Mahomes||2017 National Treasures NFL Shield Autographed Rookie Card #161||$4,300,000.00|
||2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket Autograph Rookie Card #144||$3,107,372.40|
||2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket Autograph Rookie Card #091||$2,040,000.00|
||2020 Panini National Treasures Platinum NFL Shield #158||$1,800,000.00|
||2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket Autograph #025||$1,470,000.00|
|Tom Brady||2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket Autograph #056||$1,410,000.00|
||2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket Autograph #048||$1,309,722.00|
|Tom Brady||2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket Autograph #029||$1,290,000.00|
||2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket Autograph #099||$1,234,843.00|
||2020 Panini Prizm Black Finite Prizms #325||$1,100,000.00|
|Jim Brown||1958 Topps Rookie Card #62||$358,500.00|
|Tom Brady||2000 SP Authentic Rookie Card #118||$312,000.00|
||2017 Panini Flawless Rookie Card #4||$312,000.00|
||1957 Topps Rookie Card #119||$288,000.00|
||1965 Topps Rookie Card #122||$264,000.00|
|Tom Brady||2000 Bowman Chrome Rookie Card #236||$233,700.00|
|Walter Payton||1976 Topps Rookie Card #148||$228,000.00|
|Bronko Nagurski||1935 National Chicle Rookie Card #34||$174,000.00|
||2019 Panini National Treasures RC Auto RPA #06-10 Gold||$29,999.99|
||2000 UD Ionix RC BGS 10 Pristine Gem 10 Autographed||$29,500.00|
#1 Patrick Mahomes 2017 National Treasures NFL Shield Autographed Rookie Card #161
Topping the list is Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, photographed on the 2017 National Treasures NFL Shield Rookie Card that secured $4,300,000 on PWCC Marketplace—a record-breaking private sale that stunned card collectors in July of 2021.
The card scores an impressive 8.5 per BSG’s condition rating system, and it features the signature NFL shield logo patch and Mahomes’s signature. During his first season as starting quarterback in 2018, he became the only person in history to throw for more than 5,000 yards in a single season in both the NFL and college football.
In the 2019-2020 playoff season, Mahomes led the Chiefs to the Super Bowl for the first time in fifty years, where they bested the San Francisco 49ers and Mahomes secured the Super Bowl MVP title.
Mahomes’s impressive play record certainly contributed to the prestige of his rookie card—the most expensive football card ever sold to date.
#2 Tom Brady 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket Autograph Rookie Card #144
Differently numbered 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket Rookie Cards—autographed, of course—hold eight of the twenty spots on this list, including second place. And all Brady cards make up over half of the most expensive football cards.
Considered by many modern football fans to be the “Greatest of All Time,” Tom Brady has enjoyed a long and storied career in the NFL. Playing for the New England Patriots from his rookie season to 2019, Brady ushered the Patriots to six Super Bowl titles (more than any other player).
After joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020, he secured another personal Super Bowl win. His other accolades include:
- The first unanimous NFL MVP vote
- The most Pro Bowl selections for any player
- The only quarterback named to two all-decade teams
- The only quarterback to win Super Bowls across three different decades
Like Mahomes, his sporting achievements inform his cards’ high value and sought-after reputation in card trading. The #144 card secured $3,107,372.40 in a June 2021 auction.
#3 Tom Brady 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket Autograph Rookie Card #091
Representing the second-highest sale for the 2000 Playoff Contenders Rookie Card series is #091, which sold for $2,404,000.
While it currently resides in the top three most expensive football cards ever sold, its sale career likely isn’t over—the card will certainly be sought-after the next time it appears at auction.
#4 Justin Herbert 2020 Panini National Treasures Platinum NFL Shield #158
The Justin Herbert 2020 Panini National Treasures Platinum NFL Shield card recently sold for $1,800,000, making it the fourth most expensive football card ever sold.
During his rookie season as quarterback of the LA Chargers at 22 years old, Herbert secured the prestigious accolade of Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2020. His rookie season was a notable one—crushing existing rookie records for:
- Passing touchdowns (31)
- Passing yards per game (289.1)
- 300-yard passing games (8)
- Most pass completions (396)
A newcomer to the NFL (and, thus, the memorabilia trade), Herbert’s cards show promise for sustained value—especially if his meteoric trajectory continues.
#5 Tom Brady 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket Autograph Rookie Card #025
Tom Brady 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket Autograph Rookie cards represent slots five through nine on the most expensive football cards list.
At number five, card #025 holds strong at its most recent sale—$1,470,000. Like the others of its kind, the card is likely to appear at auction again with a significant price tag.
#6 Tom Brady 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket Autograph Rookie Card #056
Tom Brady 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket Autograph Rookie card #056 most recently sold for $1,410,000, sitting in position six in the most expensive football cards of all time.
While not every card in this run has hit auction recently, auction prices for it in the last three years alone indicate a positive future for cards of its kind.
#7 Tom Brady 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket Autograph Rookie Card #048
Tom Brady 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket Autograph Rookie card #048 sold for $1,309,722 at auction, making it the seventh priciest football card in the world.
But, if the 2021 auction price for card #144 is any indication, this card could be worth millions more.
#8 Tom Brady 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket Autograph Rookie Card #029
Made slightly earlier in the printing run than card #048, Tom Brady 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket Autograph Rookie card #029 sold for slightly less at its most recent sale, garnering $1,290,000 at auction.
#9 Tom Brady 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket Autograph Rookie Card #099
The last of the Tom Brady 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket Autograph Rookie cards on this list (but not the last Tom Brady card we’ll discuss), card #099 sold for $1,234,843 at auction.
If the current top ten most expensive football cards of all time are any indication, this card will continue to make waves in memorabilia trading for the foreseeable future.
#10 Justin Herbert 2020 Panini Prizm Black Finite Prizms #325
Another Herbert card, and the last $1,000,000+ sale on this list, the Justin Herbert 2020 Panini Prizm Finite Prizms card resides at number ten on the list of the most expensive football cards ever sold.
As one of hundreds of its kind, the card isn’t particularly rare—but Herbert's success as a rookie rendered his 2020 cards high-value items for traders.
#11 Jim Brown 1958 Topps Rookie Card #62
Jim Brown was a decorated NFL player during his eight-season run as fullback for the Cleveland Browns. A 1957 first-round draft pick, he collected various accolades on the field, including:
- Three NFL MVP recognitions
- Eight seasons as the NFL rushing yards leader
- A position on the 1960s all-decade team
- Five seasons as the leader in rushing touchdowns
- Nine Pro Bowl appearances
- 1957’s Rookie of the Year
The card sold for $358,500 at auction. Its high value is perhaps due to its near-pristine grade—a PSA 9.
#12 Tom Brady 2000 SP Authentic Rookie Card #118
Another Tom Brady card representing his rookie season, the 2000 SP Rookie card occupies the twelfth spot on the list of the most expensive football cards of all time. While the price pales in comparison to the player’s multi-million dollar cards, its value has likely increased as a result.
#13 Patrick Mahomes 2017 Panini Flawless Rookie Card #4
This list’s number one slot holder also represents spot number thirteen—the Mahomes 2017 Panini Flawless Rookie Card depicts Mahomes in his first season serving as backup quarterback for Alex Smith.
This low-number card has likely increased in value since its last sale and may rise closer to the top spot at its next auction appearance.
#14 Bart Starr 1957 Topps Rookie Card #119
With a fifteen-year career as quarterback of the Green Bay Packers and a nine-year stint on the team’s coaching staff, Bart Starr will be remembered as one of the most successful quarterbacks in NFL history.
He remains the only quarterback in history to lead a team to three league championships in a row (from 1965-1967), including the first two Super Bowls. He was named the MVP of both.
#15 Joe Namath 1965 Topps Rookie Card #122
A staple of the early NFL, Joe Namath is a decorated quarterback and symbol of the New York Jets franchise. His accolades include:
- 1972 passing yards leader
- 1972 passing touchdowns leader
- Super Bowl III MVP
- 1974 NFL Comeback Player of the Year
His number 12 jersey is retired by the New York Jets, where he played from 1965-1976. The 1965 Topps rookie card most recently sold for $264,000 at auction.
#16 Tom Brady 2000 Bowman Chrome Rookie Card #236
Tom Brady’s 2000 Bowman Chrome Rookie Card, while one of hundreds, still secured a high price at auction during its last appearance—$233,700.
Like the other player’s sub-$1M cards, it will likely continue to rise in value as his other cards gain notoriety.
#17 Walter Payton 1976 Topps Rookie Card #149
Walter Payton—a household name for NFL fans—played running back for the Chicago Bears for 12 years. Super Bowl XX champion, 1977 MVP, 1977 NFL Man of the Year and nine-time Pro Bowl player, Payton tragically died at age 46 from cancer.
A strong advocate for organ donation and transplants, Payton’s legacy lives on through his charitable foundation and the national attention he brought to organ donation.
#18 Bronko Nagurski 1935 National Chicle Rookie Card #34
A powerhouse of the early NFL, Bronko Nagurski played for the Chicago Bears from 1930-1937, returning in 1943 to usher his team to the NFL Championship game (the league’s pre-Super Bowl title game).
His number 3 is retired by the Chicago Bears, and he held positions on both the NFL 1930s all-decade team and the NFL 75th anniversary all-time team. The #34 rookie card secured $174,000 at its most recent sale.
#19 Kyler Murray 2019 Panini National Treasures RC Auto RPA #06
Kyler Murray is a rising star in professional sports following a decorated career in college football, college baseball and New England collegiate summer baseball.
After winning the 2018 Heisman Trophy as a junior at Oklahoma, Murray opted out of his senior year to join the Arizona Cardinals as a first-overall 2019 NFL draft pick. In the 2018 MLB draft, he was selected ninth overall by the Oakland As, making him the first player in NFL history to be drafted in the first round of both the MLB and the NFL.
The 2019 Panini card sold for $29,999.99 in 2022.
#20 Tom Brady 2000 UD Iconix RC BGS 10 Pristine Gem Autographed
We return, at last, to the widely-recognized GOAT.
And, as the twentieth most expensive football card ever sold, the 2000 UD Ionix could be an inspiration for memorabilia collectors everywhere. While it didn’t secure a multi-million dollar sale (going instead for $29,500 on eBay in 2022), the BGS 10 Pristine card is a prime example of collecting excellence.
Protect Your Treasured Football Cards
If you’re fortunate enough to encounter any of the above cards in the sports card trade, you’d be one of a lucky few. The twenty cards above represent the cream of the crop in collecting, and the players above will likely live on in infamy.
At Collectible Supplies, we help collectors everywhere store their prized collections, secure new merch and learn about the storied history of memorabilia trading. Our card storage and cases are top-tier—just like the cards in your collection.
When you need to protect your prized memorabilia, look no further than Collectible Supplies.