The history of the game is full of memorable signal callers, but only a select few stand out as legendary. And the rookie issues of these transcendent quarterbacks are among the most coveted cards in the hobby.
Yes, names like Marino, Elway and Unitas grace the list, but what about other cornerstone cards of storied quarterbacks?
Let's take a look at the rookie cards of 11 legendary signal callers — cards that no serious football card collector would assemble a set without.
Though not incredibly rare in PSA Gem Mint 10 — 97 have reached the grade as of this writing — the card's value has gone up considerably with each Super Bowl ring Brady earns. He's making a serious case for the “Best Ever” conversation, and the skyrocketing value of his rookie card only reflects that sentiment.
It's debatable, but many hobbyists agree that this card is Peyton Manning's best card overall, and a must-own for anyone compiling a Manning collection. Corner and edge wear make his rookie card a tough grade.
The only recognized rookie card of one of the most prolific passers in the NFL, this 1984 issue shares qualities of Elway's card from the same set: condition obstacles make Gem Mint 10 a tough find, and it is heavily counterfeited.
The only recognized rookie card of comeback specialist John Elway is an extremely coveted card – so much so that it's among the most heavily counterfeited in the hobby. This card is subject to print defects, making PSA Gem Mint 10 status tough to attain.
Though not blessed with extraordinary arm strength or quickness, Joe Montana was by no means an ordinary player, and his only recognized rookie card is no ordinary Hall of Fame acquisition. Though relatively easy to acquire in high-grade, poor centering and print defects make PSA Gem Mint 10 hard to find.
Roger Staubach's only recognized rookie card isn't incredibly difficult to acquire in high grade, but PSA Gem Mint 10 is another story: Only 2 have reached the grade thus far. This card represents the key card to the 1972 Topps set.
The only recognized rookie card of four-time Super Bowl Champ Terry Bradshaw can be a tricky find in high grade. The red borders around the front of the card make it susceptible to chipping and edge wear.
One of the true classics of the hobby, Broadway Joe's only recognized rookie card is subject to general wear from handling abuse. Narrow borders also create centering issues. Some examples feature a distinct print mark on his left hand, known as the “Butterfly” variation, which doesn't seem to affect its value.
A legendary QB with a legendary flattop, this card sits among the most iconic football issues in the hobby. Much like other cards of the 1957 Topps release, high-grade examples are tough to find.
One of three keys to the 1957 Topps set, the only recognized rookie of Bart Starr is tough to secure in high grade. Issues like poor centering, print defects and sub par eye appeal make high-grade examples of this card a tough find.
This is a key rookie card in a very tough set, though it is subject to very poor centering and print defects on the bright-colored background. Inconsistent printing also led to a wide range of eye appeal.
As we mentioned, the game's history is full of incredible quarterbacks, their names adorning the ranks of the Hall of Fame. So what quarterback rookie cards would you include?