Building the Mount Rushmore of Football Cards
As many of you know, vintage football cards can often be more challenging than many of their baseball card counterparts since they were usually distributed in far fewer numbers. Similar to the baseball card world, however, there are several iconic football cards that have captivated collectors for generations.
These are the types of cards that go beyond the accomplishments of the players whose images grace them. It also goes beyond the technical attributes of the card such as scarcity or value. These are the types of cards where the image itself possesses a symbolic presence, a value that exceeds the sum of its parts because of what that image means to the hobby.
Here is my attempt at sculpting the prestigious side of the mountain and the reasons behind each selection.
1935 National Chicle #34 Bronko Nagurski - Pound for pound, this classic card is considered the most valuable of all football cards. Possessing one of the great names in sports history, Nagurski was a force of nature on the field. As Steve Owen, formerly of the New York Giants, pointed out, "The only way to stop Nagurski is to shoot him before he leaves the dressing room." Much like Babe Ruth in baseball, Nagurski had an almost supernatural reputation. He seemed more like the comic book character Juggernaut from the X-Men series than a man. This difficult card from the high-number series is the key to the historically important National Chicle football set.
1957 Topps #138 Johnny Unitas - The name, the unmistakable crewcut and that potent arm helped ensure that this legendary card would have a spot on the mountain. At the time of his retirement, Unitas held virtually every major quarterback passing record in the books. Before all the prolific, modern-era passers made their mark in the game, Unitas paved the way during an era that was not nearly as friendly to players at the position. This card was made booming with color and eye appeal, not to mention one heck of a smile.
1958 Topps #62 Jim Brown - There are many football historians that feel Brown may have been the greatest player ever to suit up based on his sheer dominance. Brown was an athlete so far ahead of his time that he left many defensive players trying to bring him down in the dust. Brown could run by you, around you or over you. He had an outstanding blend of speed, agility and power. The card's image is so fitting. You can sense the fury in his running game as the card captures Brown doing what he did best. The card, which is deceptively tough in higher grades, has a spot reserved on the mountain. It's the rookie card of, arguably, the best player in football history.
1965 Topps #122 Joe Namath - This card is the equivalent to the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle in regards to the power of the image alone. From a historical perspective, Namath may not be in the conversation when discussing the greatest quarterbacks in football history, but his impact on the game was immeasurable. "Broadway Joe" was one of those athletes that transcended sports. Like the aforementioned Mantle card, the Namath rookie has a striking image... it's an image that communicates so much more than what's on the surface. If I had to pick one card to represent all of football card collecting, the Namath rookie gets the nod every time.
Never get cheated,
Which of the following cards do you think should take the
last spot on the Mount Rushmore of Football Cards?
1) 1957 Topps #138 Johnny Unitas
2) 1933 Goudey Sport Kings #6 Jim Thorpe
3) 1955 Topps All-American #68 The Four Horsemen
4) 1981 Topps #216 Joe Montana
Vote at www.PSAcard.com/takingmyhacks
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