Top 25 Football Rookie Cards of the 1950s

Top 25 Football Rookie Cards of the 1950s

Sports cards have been around for close to 150 years. That said, the modern hobby where cards were the main selling point and not the premium didn't really take off until around the 1950s when Bowman and Topps squared off against one another. For football cards, it was an era of gorgeous designs. It also saw the hobby debuts of several all-time greats. Jim Brown, Bart Starr, Johnny Unitas, Frank Gifford and Tom Landry are just some of the legendary football rookie cards of the 1950s.

Football cards don't have the same rich history as their baseball counterparts. While they existed before the 1950s, there weren't a ton of football sets. That's what makes the decade so important to gridiron fans. 1950s football cards took the sport into mainstream collecting.

When looking at the top 1950s football rookie cards, one set stands out in particular, 1952 Bowman Large Football. While the cards are beautiful, much of their status comes from the number of short prints. In 1952, Bowman experimented with two sizes for football. 1952 Bowman Large Football was a new size. And with all new things, there's a lot of trial and error.

As a result, many cards are tougher to find than others. The domino effect carries over to card values where players who might not normally be worth a lot are all of a sudden among the most valuable vintage football cards. This rings loudest with the 1952 Bowman Large Jim Lansford.  Although he played in a handful of NFL games, the card is one of the most desirable of all-time. The reason? It's tough to find, particularly in high-grade condition. Positioned on the bottom corner of one of the set's sheets, a lot got damaged as Bowman perfected the new dimensions. As a result, the 1952 Bowman Large Jim Lansford can outsell rookies from legends like Jim Brown and Bart Starr. By comparison, the Lansford in 1952 Bowman Small doesn't cause much of a stir at all.

A common theme among football's top rookie cards of the 1950s is how relatively inexpensive they are compared to 1950s baseball cards. Sure, some can go well into the thousands when professional grading is taken into account. But there's nothing like the prestige of the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle or the rookie cards of Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax or the other top 1950s baseball rookie cards.

Below is a list of the top 25 football rookie cards of the 1950s. While value is one of the primary criteria, it's not the only one. When values are close, the player and overall iconic status of the card was also taken into consideration.

Top 25 Football Rookie Cards of the 1950s

Click on the card name or image to shop for singles on eBay.

25. 1950 Bowman Lou Groza RC #6

1950 Bowman Lou Groza RC

24. 1950 Bowman Joe Perry RC #35

1950 Bowman Joe Perry RC

23. 1952 Bowman Small George Halas RC #48

1952 Bowman Small George Halas RC

22. 1955 Topps All-American Don Hutson RC #97

1955 Topps All-American Don Hutson RC

21. 1950 Bowman Marion Motley RC #43

1950 Bowman Marion Motley RC

20. 1952 Bowman Large Ollie Matson RC #127 SP

1952 Bowman Large Ollie Matson RC

19. 1952 Bowman Large Steve Romanik RC #126 SP

18. 1952 Bowman Large Chuck Bednarik RC #10 SP

17. 1950 Bowman Y.A. Tittle RC #5

1950 Bowman YA Tittle RC

16. 1952 Bowman Large John Hancock RC #36

15. 1952 Bowman Small Frank Gifford RC #16

1952 Bowman Small Frank Gifford RC

14. 1957 Topps Paul Hornung RC #151

1957 Topps Paul Hornung RC

13. 1950 Bowman Otto Graham RC #45

1950 Bowman Otto Graham RC

12. 1951 Bowman Norm Van Brocklin RC #4

1951 Bowman Norm Van Brocklin RC

11. 1952 Bowman Large John Schweder RC #72 SP

10. 1952 Bowman Large  Joe Stydahar RC #99 SP

9. 1951 Bowman Tom Landry RC #20

1951 Bowman Tom Landry RC

8. 1955 Topps All-American Four Horsemen Jim Crowley RC, Elmer Layden RC, Don Miller RC, Harry Stuhlderher RC #68

1955 Topps All-American Four Horsemen

7. 1952 Bowman Large Frank Gifford RC #16

6. 1952 Bowman Large Hubert Johnston RC #108 SP

1952 Bowman Large Hubert Johnston RC

5. 1957 Topps Johnny Unitas RC #138

1957 Topps Johnny Unitas RC

4. 1952 Bowman Large Gene Ronzani RC #135 SP

1952 Bowman Large Gene Ronzani RC

3. 1958 Topps Jim Brown RC #62

1958 Topps Football Jim Brown RC

2. 1957 Topps Bart Starr RC #119

1957 Topps Bart Starr RC

1. 1952 Bowman Large Jim Lansford RC #144 SP

 1952 Bowman Large Jim Lansford RC

Top eBay Listings

1954 Bowman Tom Finnan Rookie #97 NM 13636
$10.00

1950 BOWMAN FOOTBALL Lou Groza ROOKIE CARD #6 Cleveland Browns EX CONDITION
$75.00

1954 Bowman #11 Zeke Bratkowski Chicago Bears RC Rookie Football Card 0b2
$15.25

1954 Bowman #39 Charlie Justice Washington Redskins RC Rookie Football Card 0b2
$15.25

1952 Bowman Large #102 Bob Cross Chicago Bears Rookie Football Card 0b2
$30.25

1954 Bowman #79 Francis Kilroy Philadelphia Eagles RC Rookie Football Card 0b2
$12.25

1952 Bowman Large #121 Fred Williams Chicago Bears Rookie Football Card 0b2
$32.25

1952 Bowman Small #70 Gene Schroeder Chicago Bears Rookie Football Card 0b2
$25.25

1950 Bowman #97 George Connor Chicago Bears RC Rookie Football Card 0b2
$35.25

1950 Bowman #99 Jim Keane Chicago Bears RC Rookie Football Card 0b2
$20.25

1950 Bowman #63 William Wightkin Chicago Bears Bill RC Rookie Football Card 0b2
$20.25

1950 Bowman #98 Fred Morrison Chicago Bears RC Rookie Football Card 0b2
$20.25

1954 Bowman Joe Koch #127 PSA 4 Chicago Bears RC Rookie Football Card
$14.99

1958 Topps CFL Football #72 Danny Nykoluk Rookie Card
$10.00

1958 TOPPS # 90 Sonny JURGENSEN HOF Eagles ROOKIE RC HIGH GRADE NM FREE SHIP !
$48.99

1955 Bowman #52 Pat Summerall Cardinals Rookie PSA 5
$26.25
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Ryan Cracknell

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Ryan is a former member of The Cardboard Connection Writing Staff. His collecting origins began with winter bike rides to the corner store, tossing a couple of quarters onto the counter and peddling home with a couple packs of O-Pee-Chee hockey in his pocket. Today, he continues to build sets, go after inserts with cool technologies, chase Montreal Expos and finish off his John Jaha master collection.

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