Going from an undersized QB with a serious injury to an NFL legend, Drew Brees has certainly rewarded early collectors of his top cards. Of course, the many Drew Brees rookie cards have seen the most interest over the years.
A second-round pick out of Purdue in 2001, it seemed the San Diego Chargers had the blueprint for success in place with Drew Brees alongside their first-round pick that same year, LaDainian Tomlinson. Despite a solid start to his career, free agency combined with budding star Philip Rivers waiting in the wings led to a move in 2006 to New Orleans. The Saints and Brees ended up the winners as the team claimed Super Bowl XLIV and Brees set many league records. This includes the most career passing yards and passing touchdowns in NFL history.
His cardboard legacy is equally extensive. Issued in 2001, there are over 60 Drew Brees rookie cards. Yep, 60+ different rookies. Given the supply, there are options at all price points. However, the focus of the list is to highlight some of the best choices available.
Based on a combination of value, popularity and relevance, the ranked list counts down 15 of the top Drew Brees rookie cards.
Are there any other rookie cards for Brees that hold a special place in your collection? Let us know in the comments.
Top Drew Brees Rookie Cards
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15. 2001 Fleer Showcase Drew Brees RC #122 #/500
The list of the top Drew Brees rookie cards starts with 2001 Fleer Showcase Football. There's a lot going on here. The multi-layered AVANT rookie is a little trippy and dated at the same time, using a large gray frame to draw focus to the manipulated photo of Brees.
Although the base card numbered to 500 hasn't gotten too out of control in terms of pricing, the big draw is the Legacy parallel with only 50 copies. There is also the one-of-one Masterpiece Collection.
14. 2001 Pacific Titanium Drew Brees RC #195 Jersey #/75
Rarity alone earns the 2001 Titanium Football relic card a spot on the Drew Brees rookie card list. It is worth pointing out that the shiny Pacific card mentions the jersey swatch is game-worn. Even with a low print run, the card does not enjoy the price points of the more popular options below. There are also multiple Titanium inserts for Brees that can be acquired for cheap, including different relics.
13. 2001 Fleer E-X Drew Brees RC #95 #/1,000
Another Fleer release featuring a notable Drew Brees rookie card comes via 2001 Fleer E-X Football. Certainly not as ornate as the brand's early years in the 1990s, the 2001 card provides moderate rarity with 1,000 copies. Those looking for a chase can search for the blue Essential Credentials parallel numbered to just 29 copies.
Most appealing, an on-card autograph version enhances the first 125 cards in the main print run with a signature from Brees.
12. 2001 Bowman Chrome Drew Brees RC #144 #/1,999
While not the most celebrated Chrome option for the gunslinger, 2001 Bowman Chrome Football is still a key choice. Helping its cause is the chromium brand power and a small parallel assortment. However, a print run of nearly 2,000 keeps it behind Topps Chrome and Topps Finest.
Popular parallels include X-Fractor cards, which appear less often than the base but are not numbered, and Gold Refractor (#/99) versions. The card number is different but the rare on-card autograph version uses the same image as the base card.
If Bowman Chrome is out of your price range, check out Bowman's Best.
11. 2001 Topps Finest Drew Brees RC #127 #/1,000
Collectors have also shown considerable demand for the 2001 Topps Finest Drew Brees rookie card. The glowing card showcases a gold background that works nicely given Brees' eventual move to the black and gold of the New Orleans Saints.
Perhaps a surprise to some, the base rookie card with 1,000 copies is not joined by any rare Refractor parallels.
10. 2001 SP Authentic Drew Brees RC #101 Jersey Patch #/800
In 2001, the parallel explosion had not yet taken place, but 2001 SP Authentic Football does offer some extra wrinkles. The base Brees Future Watch rookie, numbered to 800, features an event-worn patch from the 2001 NFL Players Rookie Premiere Photo Shoot.
Collectors can find a more traditional option with the Future Watch Gold parallel. While still card #101, this version changes from horizontal to a vertical layout and ditches the relic. With only 100 copies, these are not easy to locate.
On top of that, the famed Sign of the Times autograph insert offers another notable card for Brees. The SOTT is hard-signed and sells for a premium.
9. 2001 Pacific Drew Brees RC #453 Autograph #/1,000
Starting with 2001 Pacific Football, autographed cards occupy the remainder of the Drew Brees rookie card list with one exception. Although the college image is not ideal, the Purdue Boilermakers and New Orleans Saints do share the same colors, which is a nice coincidence. Watch out for fading/faded autographs.
8. 2001 UD Graded Drew Brees RC #47 Autograph #/500
Upper Deck's 2001 UD Graded is another example where there is some variety within the Drew Brees rookie selection. The base set features four different options at card #47. Each Making the Grade card has 500 copies. Base cards include an action image and a portrait image for Brees.
The event-worn rookie jersey relic is the third choice for card #47.
In addition, there is an autographed #47 card. This card is the basis for the top ranking. Admittedly, the trapped signature style is not preferred but the NFL image helps.
7. 2001 Topps Debut Drew Brees RC #101 Autograph #/499
Another Drew Brees rookie autograph with a college photo, 2001 Topps Debut remains popular thanks to an on-card signature and print run under 500.
6. 2001 Pacific Crown Royale Drew Brees RC #150 Autograph #/250
Shown during his Purdue days, 2001 Crown Royale Football is led by the distinct die-cut crown base design for Brees. Greatly boosting the appeal, the base rookie is hard-signed and numbered to 250.
For a cheaper option, the unsigned Jumbo-Sized Rookies card is limited to 499 copies. The image is the same but it is card #5 rather than #150.
5. 2001 Pacific Dynagon Drew Brees RC #102 Autograph #/199
As for the best Drew Brees rookie produced by Pacific, most collectors look to 2001 Dynagon Football. In fact, the shiny rookie card is the rarest base autograph for Brees overall, with just 199 in total.
There is also a standard base card issued at retail that is not signed or numbered.
4. 2001 SPx Drew Brees RC #101 Autograph Jersey #/250 (2 versions)
The Signed Rookie Stars Jersey subset is home to two different Drew Brees rookie autographs. In fact, 2001 SPx Football boasts the only rookie autograph relic for Brees. Issued in silver/blue or red/gold color schemes, both versions are numbered to 250 copies.
As is clear from the images, the trapped autograph means the signature can be partially blocked.
3. 2001 Upper Deck Ovation Drew Brees RC #137 Autograph #/250
Similar to UD Graded, the 2001 Upper Deck Ovation selection for Brees has multiple options all with the same print run. Each World Premiere card is numbered to 250 and all four cards have different images. The lineup consists of a base posed image, an Embossed version, and a black-and-white photo edition. It's very evident from the first two posed images that Brees was preparing for his Glamour Shots photo shoot at the mall.
Of course, the best of the bunch is the on-card autograph, which is also embossed.
2. 2001 Topps Chrome Drew Brees RC #229 #/999
Hands down the most popular rookie for Brees without an added autograph, Topps Chrome has long been a haven for rookie collectors and the 2001 football set is no different. Fans can obtain the base Refactor with a print run of 999, or the elusive Black Refractor that has only 100 copies.
1. 2001 Playoff Contenders Drew Brees RC #124 Autograph (PR=500)
Was there ever any other option for the top spot? The Contenders rookie card behemoth has long dominated the NFL rookie card market. Limited to 500 copies, this Drew Brees autograph from 2001 Contenders Football comes fairly early on in the Contenders Rookie Ticket line, but lacks the on-card autograph that largely defines the brand. That doesn't matter to collectors. The eye-catching foil sticker might as well be made of gold given the high prices achieved by this legendary card.
Additional cards of note from the set include an unsigned Championship Rookie Ticket, and the Round Numbers dual autograph featuring Brees on the front and Cowboys QB bust Quincy Carter on the back.