The brand new batch of Hall of Famers inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this past weekend includes several gentlemen with impressive credentials. The NFL's all-time sack leader (Bruce Smith), it's single-game sack king (Derrick Thomas), a former world's fastest man (Bob Hayes), and arguably the greatest cornerback ever to roam the gridiron (Rod Woodson) were all immortilized in football history Saturday.
Add in dominant guard Randall McDaniel and Buffalo Bills founder Ralph Wilson and you've got one stellar class. And the good news for football collectors is that even with the rising tide of interest that inevitably hits new inductees, grabbing some cards or memorabilia from the newcomers to Canton doesn't necessarily mean breaking the bank.
Part of that is due to the heavy defensive flavor of the Class of '09. It's just the nature of the hobby that offensive players get most of the love from collectors, and even record-setters like Smith and Thomas tend to play second fiddle to quarterbacks and running backs. O-linemen like McDaniel rate even lower.
Except for Hayes, all of the new Hall of Famers also entered the NFL in the second half of the 1980s, when football cards were being printed at record rates. Rookie cards from these years are easy to find, keeping prices down.
Thomas, Woodson and McDaniel all have rookie cards in 1989 football sets, while Smith made his debut in 1986 Topps. As a result, it's possible to get the top RCs for all four players in nice condition for less than $20.
Hayes is a different story, as he began his NFL career in 1965. Bullet Bob's rookie card is his 1966 Philadelphia #58, and it's much tougher to come by - only two were for sale on eBay at the time this article was written. The Beckett high book value for the card is currently $60, and it is not uncommon for sales prices to exceed this value.
When it comes to autographed memorabilia, prices are a little bit higher, suggesting the factors affecting the quintet's cards don't apply as much. Thomas and Hayes are both deceased, so collectors should expect to pay more for their signatures. Depending on the item and its authentication, Thomas autographs can range from several hundred to over a thousand dollars. Hayes autographs tend to be found on photos and cards for prices of around $85 to $250.
Smith and Woodson are both still with us, and both were on hand at the autograph pavilion at The National the weekend before their induction. Fees for Smith were $100 for flats, $110 for mini-helmets and footballs and $120 for helmets and jerseys, while Woodson cost $30 less for each type of item. Those prices aren't cheap, but compared to some Hall of Famers from recent classes like 2004 (with John Elway and Barry Sanders) and 2005 (featuring Dan Marino and Steve Young), they seem pretty reasonable.
Like all HOF classes, the 2009 edition accomplished a lot. Collectors can celebrate those achievements this year without paying through the nose, and that's something that's always welcome.
Here are some great deals on football cards and memorabilia from these newly elected NFL Hall of Famers: