They grew up 49ers fans trying to be like Joe Montana.
But, unlike most NFL enthusiasts, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, who were raised in northern California, now compete on the professional gridiron at a level rivaling the legendary Joe Cool.
But which one of these Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks is the best?
"I would have to say that Rodgers has surpassed Brady," said James Casper, who owns several of the top Rodgers sets on the PSA Set Registry. "Rodgers just seems to have better control in the pocket. He knows what he wants to do."
Kevin Jacobson, owner of the registry's No. 3 Rodgers' Master Set, concurs.
"If you look at what Aaron Rodgers is doing right now, I'd say that he's better than Brady," he explained. "But overall, you'd have to call Brady a pretty darn good quarterback for what he has done in the past."
But Joe Prizio, who has assembled the registry's top Brady Rookies Set, believes that the Pats' pivot is still superior.
"Everybody is comparing Rodgers' numbers to Brady, when Brady was the same age," he said. "But Rodgers hasn't accomplished the same things that Brady has. He doesn't have the records. He doesn't have the multiple rings. That's not to say that he won't get there one day, but he's not there yet."
Chris Rogers, owner of the No. 3 Brady Basic and Collector Issues set, agrees.
"Rodgers is still young, but to have a career like Brady's, we'll have to wait and see," he said.
While the debates wage on about which one of these superstars is the NFL's best quarterback, it's interesting to note that neither were highly touted prospects out of high school and both had to battle for playing time in college. And when their pro careers began, both had to bide their time behind Pro Bowl quarterbacks. Brady apprenticed behind Drew Bledsoe, while Rodgers' backed up Brett Favre for three seasons.
Six years older than Rodgers, Brady, who attended 49ers games as a youngster, was a standout quarterback at Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, Calif., but he found himself seventh on the quarterback depth chart when he reported to the University of Michigan. The photogenic pivot suited up behind Brian Griese in his first two college seasons, and shared the signal calling with Drew Henson in his last two campaigns. This explains why Brady wasn't selected until the sixth round of 2000 NFL draft, and was the Patriots' fourth-string quarterback when he arrived in New England in 2000.
Like Brady, Rodgers, who was born in Chico, Calif., was also a star quarterback in high school, but his performance didn't attract offers from any Division 1 schools. He would toil at Butte Community College for one season, before being recruited by the University of California, Berkeley.
Heading into the 2005 NFL draft, Rodgers was rated as a first rounder, but the California native was passed over by his beloved 49ers in favor of Alex Smith, and was eventually selected 24th overall by the Packers.
He would spend three seasons in Green Bay as Favre's understudy, before being named the team's starter amidst controversy in 2008 when Favre reconsidered his retirement and was eventually dealt to the New York Jets.
"In 2008, we were at the Packers' training camp and everyone was saying, 'Bring Favre back.' It got quiet and Aaron was in the end zone, probably 40 yards away from us, and my son, Lucas, yells out, 'We love you, Aaron,'" recalled Jacobson. "He turned around and looked at us and waved his hand."
Now in his 12th NFL season, Brady has won three Super Bowls, two Super Bowl MVP awards and was named the NFL MVP in 2007 and 2010. The six-time Pro Bowler also threw a record 50 touchdown passes and led the Patriots to a 16-0 season in 2007.
His intensity, pinpoint accuracy and ability to excel under pressure are his biggest assets. During his career, he has orchestrated over 30 game-winning drives when the Pats were tied or trailing in the fourth quarter.
"You can never count him out," said Prizio. "No matter what the score is or how much time is left on the clock, as long you have Brady behind the center, there's always a chance to win the game."
"Brady is just a winner," he said. "He's the model of what you would want in a quarterback"
In leading the Packers to victory in Super Bowl XLV, Rodgers has also developed a reputation as a winner. He's also the first NFL quarterback to pass for over 4,000 yards in his first two seasons as a starter and he possesses the best career passer rating of anyone with at least 1,500 pass attempts.
More mobile than Brady, Rodgers boasts a strong, accurate arm and remains poised under pressure.
"I like the way he makes decisions," said Jacobson. "I mean Brett (Favre) was really good in that he could win games, but you were always on the edge of your seat when he was out there. I liken Rodgers much more to Montana. He's good under pressure, but he also shows pretty good control."
There are five sets dedicated to each of these quarterbacks on the PSA Set Registry, but it's their rookie cards that command the most interest.
The Holy Grail for Brady collectors is his 2000 SP Authentic rookie (#118). Limited to 1,250 copies, these cards – even ungraded – generally fetch more than $1,000 each. With a glossy finish on their fronts that's prone to scratches, these cards are difficult to find in pristine condition. One of the 48 PSA GEM-MT 10s sold for $2,329 on eBay in September 2011.
Another coveted Brady rookie is his 2000 Playoff Contenders autographed single (#144). With borders that are susceptible to chipping, just 12 of these have been deemed PSA 10s. One PSA 10 garnered $2,700 on eBay in November 2011.
Limited to 100 copies, the 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket autographed single is even more desirable. These can be distinguished from the regular cards by the word "Championship" at the top of the ticket design on the right side of the card front. Card backs are also numbered out of 100. Prizio says ungraded copies are selling for $3,500 to $5,000 each.
One of the more common Brady rookies is his 2000 Bowman Chrome single (#236). Prizio points out that some of these have centering issues. There are 472 PSA 10 examples and one sold for $259.99 on eBay in November 2011.
Another more affordable Brady card that's elusive in top condition is his 2000 Quantum Leaf single (#343).
"There's only one PSA 10," said Prizio, adding that chipping on the borders often hampers this card.
A PSA NM-MT 8 sold for $39.95 on eBay in 2011.
Rodgers also has a number of highly coveted rookies. Limited to 99 copies, his 2005 SP Authentic single (#252) is arguably his most sought-after pasteboard. This card features Rodgers' autograph and a piece of a game-worn jersey. Just two copies have been sent into PSA for grading and they were both deemed PSA MINT 9s.
With just 199 copies available, another coveted Rodgers rookie is his 2005 Upper Deck Exquisite single (#106). This card also showcases a piece of a game-worn jersey and Rodgers' autograph. One of the four PSA 10 examples sold for $2,500 in February 2011.
Similarly, Rodgers' 2005 Bowman Chrome autographed card (#221) was also limited to 199 copies. Just 11 have been submitted to PSA and there are five PSA 10s. One PSA 10 sold for $995 on eBay in October 2011.
"The 2005 Bowman Chrome is just a beautiful card," noted Casper. "It has been climbing in value. That Bowman set has a good feel to it. It has the crisp black borders. It's got the colors. It showcases the player well on it. It's just a great set and great card in general."
Rodgers also has an autographed rookie in the 2005 Playoff Contenders set (#101). Only 530 of these were signed and there are 15 PSA 10s. A PSA NM-MT+ 8.5 garnered $600 on eBay in October 2011.
And competition for Rodgers rookies can be fierce.
"There's just no arguing that Rodgers cards have absolutely taken off," said Casper. "Any autographed card has skyrocketed. It's amazing how much his cards have climbed in value."
Brady rookies also continue to sell at a steady pace.
"It just seems as though the prices for his cards – especially going into the football season – have gone up," said Prizio.
And with both Brady and Rodgers seemingly destined for a bust in Canton alongside Montana, their cards aren't likely to plummet in value.
"With Rodgers cards, I think the price of autographed cards will continue to stay high," said Jacobson. "I don't see his cards dropping off a lot."
"I only see Rodgers cards going up," he said. "This is really still the time to buy because if you haven't bought in and you want to, it's only going to get more expensive."
Prizio expresses a similar opinion about Brady cards.
"He's a first ballot Hall of Famer and to put your money into his cards is a sure thing, I think – especially in a high-grade PSA holder," he said.
Please feel free to contact Kevin Glew at [email protected] if you have any additional information or comments. Joe Prizio and Kevin Jacobson provided scans to the author for this article. Please note that the Population Report figures quoted and Set Registry rankings reported are those as of December 2011.
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