For collectors of football cards, the 1950s represent something similar to a golden era. It was the first decade where the card companies began producing a premium product that has held its value over time.
For many investors, they enjoy the classic design of cards from this time period that have a more simple and elegant look than many of the offerings of today.
In addition, some of the most legendary players to ever play the game have their rookie cards in these sets. These rookie cards of the NFL’s early legends are always valuable because of the demand for the player. Also, because the cards are so old it can sometimes be difficult to find them in good condition. This only adds to the prices and value of the cards.
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While there are many different card companies making NFL cards in the football trading card space today, in the 1950s the options were limited to Bowman and Topps. Both of those companies made a good product that was sought-after by collectors and eventually Topps bought out Bowman. Thus, the last year of Bowman Football was 1955 before Topps took over and discontinued the line, though they eventually resurrected it in the late 1980s.
Top 13 Most Valuable 1950s Football Cards
There were many different football cards produced in the 1950s and it can be difficult to know which ones are investment options. We’ve limited it down to thirteen options.
13. 1958 Topps George Blanda #128
George Blanda was one of the NFL’s early stars and he played an astounding 26 seasons in the league. To this day you can still find his name across the record books as he was a prolific passer and kicker.
His legendary status is one of the most attractive things about this card as Blanda is recognized widely as one of the first true legends of the league. In addition, the card has a classic 1950s design that features a large portrait photo of Blanda surrounded by a yellow border.
Blanda also played for some of the most historic franchises in the league during his long career, another benefit that works towards building demand for his cards. On this one, he is pictured with the Chicago Bears but he also spent time with the Oakland Raiders among other teams.
12. 1953 Bowman Doak Walker #6
In the 1950s, football was largely a game of running and Doak Walker was one of the best running backs around. He dominated at both the college and professional level, spending his entire NFL career with the Detroit Lions. Despite playing only six seasons in the NFL, Walker had an outsized impact and would eventually make the Hall of Fame as well as have his jersey number retired.
Walker still has a large legacy across football as the award handed out to the best collegiate running back every year is named after him. This card shows a great photo of Walker as a young man with a graphic of a football overlaid that displays his name and team.
The color of Walker’s blue Lions jersey has a nice contrast with the orange background. The card has a pastel color scheme that makes for an attractive design, something that doesn’t hurt the value at all.
11. 1952 Bowman Large John Hancock RC #36
While John Hancock may not have the same level of fame or recognition as most of the other players on this list, this card is still one of the most valuable 1950s football cards. It has an image of Hancock in his Baylor University jersey. After his playing career at Baylor, John Hancock never went on to experience the same level of NFL success as many of his peers listed below.
Instead, this card is valuable because it’s from the famous 1952 Bowman Large Football set. These cards were new for that year and the printing process was riddled with errors, leaving few cards in good quality today. For this reason, these cards often hold their value very well and are worth a look at from any serious investor.
10. 1950 Bowman Joe Perry RC #35
Joe Perry was one of the best fullbacks in the early NFL, nicknamed “The Jet” for his blazing speed. The combination of his brand as an all-time great and the branding of the 1950 Bowman football set makes this card very desirable. Perry played for sixteen seasons and was the NFL’s all-time leading rusher for a small period in the late 1950s / early 1960s, eventually passed by the great Jim Brown.
The 1950 Bowman football set is another that is well-known among serious collectors. It marked the start of a new era of NFL football and it featured many cards that are considered rookies for some great players, including this Joe Perry. The cards are tough to find in good condition as just two of the cards in the set have multiple PSA-10s.
9. 1951 Bowman Tom Landry RC #20
While Tom Landry was a good defensive back, he was an excellent coach and would have a long career coaching some of the best teams in NFL history after his playing days. He has two Super Bowl rings and holds the Dallas Cowboys franchise record for most wins in a career.
The fact that Landry is so closely associated with the Cowboys is a good thing for investors. The Cowboys have a massive brand that means that their legends receive an extra level of attention that smaller-market teams do not get.
This is Landry’s official rookie card and while there are others that may be rarer, the fact that this is his recognized rookie makes it a good investment option. Rookie cards are always going to be sought-after as long as cards are relevant so it’s a safe play.
8. 1952 Bowman Small Frank Gifford RC #16
Frank Gifford is another legend from the early days of the NFL. He excelled on both sides of the ball and accomplished many things in both the collegiate and professional ranks, including an NFL Championship in 1956. Gifford played many positions, as most players did during this era, and was selected as an All-Pro at three different positions over the course of his career.
This card comes from the same 1952 Bowman set as the John Hancock card mentioned above, but this one is a small card while the Hancock is large. It shows Gifford running with the ball tucked under his shoulder. The card has a sky-blue background and a white border, making it visually appealing.
7. 1950 Bowman Lou Groza RC #6
Lou Groza was an excellent kicker in the early days of the NFL and this card has a great image that collectors love. It shows Groza with this foot up in the air after following through with his kicking motion, a forest in the background behind him. It’s one of the best designs of any card on this list and harkens back to a day when football cards were much simpler.
The 1950 Bowman set marked the start of the battle between Topps and Bowman for football card supremacy. While Bowman had experience making baseball cards, this was their first football set that used color. Because of that, owning one of these cards is owning a piece of football card history, and this Groza is as good an option as any due to his successful career and spectacular photo.
6. 1955 Topps All-American Don Hutson RC #97
Don Hutson is widely regarded as one of the best receivers of all time and his statistical achievements for the era he played in are remarkable. He won three NFL championships as a member of the Green Bay Packers and is recognized as being an innovator at the receiver position as he was the first to do plenty of things that are seen in the modern game.
This card is the only one that features Hutson from this era and is difficult to find, as with many of the cards on this list. Not only has the wear and tear of almost seventy years damaged many of the cards, but it also had a short print run and the printing process was far from perfect.
All things considered, you can’t go wrong with the only recognized card from his era for a legend like Hutson.
5. 1950 Bowman Y.A. Tittle RC #5
Another card from the famous 1950 Bowman football set mentioned above, this one features Y.A. Tittle who was one of the game’s first great quarterbacks during a time where running was the main method of moving the ball. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971 as a recognition of his vast achievements.
The sky background on this card is of a sunset, making it one of the objectively nicer-looking cards of this set. It also features a great image of Tittle about to throw a pass, the perspective placed from beneath him. As with many of the cards from this set, it’s a great find when in good condition but many of the copies are in rough shape.
4. 1957 Topps Paul Hornung RC #151
One of the more unique cards on this list, this Paul Hornung card features two different side-by-side images of the legendary player who fulfilled many different roles on the field, scoring touchdowns with his legs, arm, and hands. It’s the only recognized rookie card of the former number one overall selection who played for the Green Bay Packers.
This is the one and only recognized rookie card for Hornung, making it extremely valuable. To add to that, the card comes from a set that is significant for the history of the football card industry. 1957 was the first year that Topps went to the modern size of cards. It was also the first year that they switched their images on the card, resulting in interesting designs like the one seen here with Hornung.
3. 1950 Bowman Otto Graham RC #45
Starting off the top three football cards from the 1950s is this Otto Graham card. It’s once again from the 1950 Bowman set as are a few other cards that were mentioned above. He won three NFL championships as the quarterback for the Cleveland Browns and he was known as a player that performs his best when it matters most.
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As the rookie card of an NFL legend, this card will always have a high level of demand that keeps the price up. As one might guess from the discussion of the other cards from this set, this card also suffers from many of the same issues related to the condition. Another problem that hasn’t been mentioned that is common with these cards is staining from the ink ruining the grade.
2. 1957 Topps Johnny Unitas RC #138
The second card in the top four from the 1957 Topps football set, this Johnny Unitas is the official rookie card for the legendary quarterback. Unitas played 18 seasons in the NFL and won three MVP awards over that lengthy career, retiring as one of the consensus best players to ever touch a football.
In a similar story to many of the cards on this list, this one features the rookie card of an all-time great, someone who will never be forgotten no matter how long the NFL continues for. Unitas may have the biggest brand of everyone on this list (save the person in the first place) and the quality of the 1957 Topps set really adds to the lore of this card.
1. 1958 Topps Jim Brown RC #62
Not only one of the best football players of all time, but Brown is also widely recognized as one of the most dominant athletes of all time.
He played for the Cleveland Browns where he devastated opposing defenses, leading the NFL in rushing yards every year he played except for one. He remains to this day one of the most recognizable names in NFL history and is widely considered to be among the best of the best at the running back position.
This card is his official rookie card and shows Brown running with the ball. This image is encased within an oval that has a black boundary with a thin white border surrounding the entire design. For fans of the game of football, this card represents a piece of the sport that they love. This is a historic collectors’ item that anyone should be excited to own.
1950s Football Cards Buying Advice
Football cards from the 1950s feature some great designs of classic players that will never be forgotten. This era was the birth of the modern NFL as well as modern football cards. This means that owning any cards from this era is similar to owning a piece of football history.
As far as investments, these cards are great choices because of that feeling of owning a piece of history. In addition, these cards are not being printed anymore and as time goes on there are fewer and fewer that are in acceptable condition.
This means that your investment is only going to get rarer over time, a phenomenon that will result in rising prices.
One thing to look out for when investing in cards from this era is counterfeits. People will try to fake these cards in an attempt to make a quick buck. One way you can get around this issue is to invest in cards that have already been graded by a reputable company such as PSA.