Updated: Oct 30
Whether you grew up dreaming of becoming the quarterback for Notre Dame or your whole family wears matching Packers memorabilia every Sunday, football is one of the most popular and beloved sports in the United States—and with good reason! Between the action-packed games, the over-the-top Big Game parties, and fantasy football, there are fans of all ages nationwide. And with those fans come football memorabilia.
But what exactly qualifies as football memorabilia? Which collectibles have high value? Most importantly, how do you start your collection? Read on for the inside scoop on the world of football collectibles – you may be a pro before the next kick-off!
What is Football Memorabilia?
Football memorabilia is an umbrella term for any merchandise or collectible item to commemorate a specific team, player, or game in professional and college leagues. This can include everything from specific Texas A&M football cards to winning touchdown balls and more. If the item commemorates a beloved figure in the sport, someone out there will collect it!
The Rich History of Football Memorabilia
Baseball was the first sport to take advantage of fans wanting to collect sports memorabilia in the 19th century when fans started saving ticket stubs and programs. When the team management saw a business opportunity, other sports started selling souvenirs at the games. Almost immediately, fans were excited to collect these football collectibles, trading with fellow fans and spending money on rare collectibles.
The popularity of football collectibles skyrocketed as America fell in love with the sport in the 1920s with the birth of the NFL. From then on, anything from signed Bears football cards to the playful bobbleheads of favorite players has been a hit. Nowadays, you can find football memorabilia sold at every game! Many vintage items fetch a pretty penny on the market at antique malls like ours in Chicago and worldwide, with die-hard fans willing to spend whatever they can to add it to their collection.
Why Do People Collect Football Collectibles?
Most people are motivated by one of two reasons to collect items from their favorite football team: money and sentimentality. Some collectors hunt down rare and expensive football cards and gear to turn a profit. Others seek out specific items to celebrate their favorite team or feel connected to beloved players from their youth. Whichever reason you follow is completely valid and a personal choice for your football collectibles.
Starting a football collection also allows you to join a community of like-minded lovers of the sport. Whether you're selling vintage sports collectibles or striking a deal for a certain Ohio State collectibles, everyone in that world shares the same passion for the sport as you. Talk with other collectors as you start your journey to be fully incorporated into the football memorabilia world.
Who Collects Football Memorabilia?
Good news! Anyone from ages 5 to 105 (and beyond!) can collect football memorabilia. Make it a family activity and introduce your children to collecting Packers football cards, or build a curated collection of merchandise from your old college team. No matter your age or interest, there's a spot for you in the football collectible community.
Are Football Collectibles Valuable?
From football cards to one-of-a-kind jerseys, the value of football collectibles ranges from under ten dollars to thousands—it's just a matter of what you're looking for. Any football card or other item can be appraised at an auction house or through online sites to give you an accurate understanding of value. But if you're goal is to make money off your collection, it's a great idea to study what football items people are willing to pay big bucks for.
5 Most Expensive Football Collectibles
Football memorabilia can be bought and sold for various prices, but some can go for hundreds of thousands. Keep your eyes peeled when you shop, hold onto items that may have an increase in value over time, and you may strike gold with football collectibles like these:
William Perry's Super Bowl XX Ring: $203,000
Signed Tom Brady Buccaneers Jersey: $320,000
1935 National Chicle Bronko Nagurski Football Card: $350,000
2017 Panini National Treasures Platinum Patrick Mahomes Football Card: $4.3 million
Does an Autograph Raise the Value of Football Collectibles?
Autographs are the most divisive topic amongst collectors. Some believe that a signature ruins the condition and value of a jersey or football card, while others would pay even more to own the item. Generally, a signature raises the value of football collectibles if the player is retiring or signing something rare. Just remember to get anything signed authenticated before buying it!
Professional vs. College Football Collectibles
There are two main categories for football memorabilia, and while you're never restricted to just one, it's important to understand the difference as you start. If you're well-versed in football, you may already know the two main divisions, but if you don't, it's time to learn.
Professional teams are the ones who play in the NFL. College football teams play in different divisions but come from schools nationwide. Merchandise and collecting methods may differ depending on which type you're searching for.
Pro tip: If you visit the local antique mall in the town of the college you're looking for, you have a good chance of scoring vintage football memorabilia donated by the students and alumni in the area!
3 Types of Football Memorabilia to Collect:
Since the merchandise for college and professional teams is designed to be exciting for all ages, there are countless items to collect. From football cards to video games and more, it's important to determine the right collection for you before you start. Stick to one type of football collectible or collect every type for one team or player—the choice is up to you.
1. Collect Classic Football Cards
Football cards are an accessible and fun way to show off your love for the sport or specific team. Early on, the original football cards depicted college players, but as the sport became more popular, the professional leagues began creating card sets for all NFL teams and players. Many people focus on collecting football cards of a niche interest, such as their favorite college team or player.
Start collecting cards by searching all around you, from a discarded box at a thrift store to an online auction site. To determine the value of a collectible football card, it's best to use a professional grading service. Sellers send in their cards through companies like PSA for an accurate monetary value and authentication that it's not a fraudulent card. From there, you can trust that you're paying what the football card is worth and avoiding scams.
Popular Football Card Companies
Keep an eye out for these brands when searching for football cards:
2. Hunt for Collectible Football Jerseys
Whether you're creating a collection of jerseys to wear to games or one that sits in mint condition in your home, football jerseys are among the most popular football collectibles. This item is a great way to show support for your favorite teams, as each is designed with recognizable colors and mascots.
Modern football jerseys can be bought at any game stadium or online retailer, but vintage jerseys are one of the most common thrift store items, perfect for any collector to find. Sport your favorite player's numbers or search for jerseys worn during defining games to create a niche collection of football collectibles.
Like most collectibles, the value of a jersey increases the rarer it is. Retired numbers or autographed jerseys from old players are always more valuable to collectors than something more dime-a-dozen like modern gear. Many people store their collectible jerseys in custom frames to be displayed as wall art.
3. Find Game-Winning Collectible Footballs and Gear
Any item used during the game, such as helmets, pads, or footballs, has a sentimental value to football fans -- who wouldn't love the idea that their idol has touched the gear or won the game with the ball you now own? That's why an entire collector's market for the gear used in professional and college games exists.
There are two types of footballs people collect. NFL creates footballs with limited edition designs celebrating certain games and teams, so you can hand-select what each ball represents in your collection. But it's different if you're searching for a football used in a game. Generally, game footballs still in good condition are kept by the team for practice, but when they are part of a meaningful game or significant wear, they can be donated or auctioned off to fans.
Pro tip: If you come across a football for sale, check the size of it to determine if it's being sold for an accurate price. College footballs can be slightly smaller due to the different game specifications set by the two leagues, so your Florida State football memorabilia may look different than professional balls.
Complete Your Football Collection with Home Décor, Toys, Games, and More
Ultimately, the football memorabilia category has too many styles and items to count. Apart from classic football cards, Patriots collectibles, and more, you can collect any item with football designs that qualify as memorabilia. Certain professional and college players get brand partnerships, leading to unique and high-end memorabilia, such as player-endorsed sneakers. Search for posters, bobbleheads, glassware, wall art, rugs, flags, Funko Pops, and even Little People Collector Sets to show your pride for your favorite team and personalize your collection.
Where to Shop for Football Memorabilia
How to Shop Online for Football Memorabilia
From independent seller's websites to online auctions, you can shop for football cards and more to add to your collection from the comfort of your home. When you shop online, you can narrow your search to the exact type of football memorabilia you're searching for, streamlining the process. Check for appraisals and documentation of authenticity to build a trustworthy connection with a seller before you buy so you know you're adding the real deal to your collection.
How to Find Football Collectibles at Antique Malls
Football cards, home décor, and trinkets are common in antique malls—especially our booths! Antique malls in Indiana and other states are the perfect place to start your search for specific teams, like Indiana Hoosiers football collectibles, with countless options curated by different collectors and sold in one place.
Make a day of it, attend an event, stroll the aisles, and connect with like-minded collectors and employees as you go. Whether you're interested in handmade wall art or searching for vintage trinkets and game merchandise, search our locations and find the missing piece in your collection.
How to Store Your Football Memorabilia Collection
Once you have your collection, knowing how to store to keep its pristine condition and value is crucial. All football collectibles should be stored out of direct sunlight and in a cool, dry place in the house to avoid surface damage. Specificities depend on the type of collection—some people even wear and touch their products; it's up to the collector.
Football cards can be kept in penny sleeves or a protective binder, so you can still see the details but keep them safe. Jerseys and gear tend to be stored in either glass cases or frames on the wall. Different specialty items, like designer sneakers, can be worn but need certain cleaners and brushes to keep them in tip-top shape. Do your research when you choose your niche to ensure that your collection will last for decades.
Interested in Selling Football Collectibles?
Feeling inspired to sell your Michigan State football memorabilia collection? Set up a booth at America's Antique Mall today. Become a vendor by renting your booth, setting your prices, and getting to work! Meet diverse clientele, join the community, and make money off your beloved football collectibles at one of our locations.
From being a die-hard fan of your college alum team to buying every jersey your favorite player has worn, there are endless reasons people collect football memorabilia. Learn about the different types of collectibles available, pick your niche, and start your collection by visiting us at our Algonquin, Highland, or Melbourne locations today!