In any vintage set, the cards of players and coaches who have been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame tend to be more popular–and hence more valuable–than the other cards in the set. Other factors come into play, of course: the relative scarcity of the cards, the positions of the players, the players’ teams, and whether a player was a star or a superstar. But if all else is equal, a Hall of Famer’s card will generally sell for more than a non-Hall of Famer’s. Recognizing this, hobby publications and web sites often use the abbreviation HOF to indicate that a player is in the Hall of Fame.
You can find the full list of Hall of Famers, naturally, on the Pro Football Hall of Fame web site. I referred to that site often as I built my own web sites, since most vintage cards were printed before my time, and I didn’t know all of the players who had been inducted. The biographies of the inductees added to my appreciation of the cards, and I recommend browsing through them on the Hall of Fame site.
A popular–and challenging–endeavor is to collect the rookie cards of Hall of Fame players. As I am writing this, 96 collectors have registered their sets in PSA’s Pro Football Hall of Fame Rookie Players set registry. One of the registered sets, JasP24’s NFL Rookie HOFers, includes images for nearly all of the cards in the set, and it is definitely worth a look. If you have the time, there is also a long discussion about the set and potential new inductees on the Collectors Universe Message Board. Each year, the Hall of Fame’s Senior Committee nominates two senior candidates for induction into the Hall, and there is always a lot of speculation as to who the nominees will be. (As I wrote in another post, this year’s nominees are Chris Hanburger and Les Richter.)
Because the rookie cards of Hall of Famers command a high premium, the rookie cards of potential Hall of Famers command a premium, as well. Another set in the PSA Set Registry, the Future HOF Rookie Players – Senior set, holds the rookie cards of the senior players who have the best chance of being elected to the Hall of Fame. Other people have their ideas, too: see my earlier post called More Pro Football Hall of Fame Candidate Web Sites. If you like to speculate, you can invest in the cards of these Hall of Fame hopefuls and wait to see if your players get elected. Don’t rely on the price guides to tell you how much to pay, though: the actual prices paid for high-grade Hall of Fame rookies and potential Hall of Fame rookies are often multiple times what the price guides say.
Not everyone in the Hall of Fame appears on a vintage card, unfortunately. After National Chicle released the first major football card set in 1935, there were no more major issues until Bowman and Leaf released cards in 1948. Many Hall of Fame players, coaches, and owners from the early days of the NFL were thus left out. The 1955 Topps All-American set, which includes players and coaches from years past (see A is for All-American), made up for some of the omissions, and that is one reason for its popularity.
The old-time Hall of Famers who went card-less in their league days finally appeared in some more recent Hall of Fame issues, such as the 1963 Stancraft playing cards and the 1974 and 1975 Immortal Roll sets issued by Fleer. Dave Witmer, author of the 1st and Goal blog, features some of the recent issues in his Hall of Fame Spotlight. The Immortal Roll cards are also easy to find on eBay. (Because these Hall of Fame sets were not major issues, a card from one of the sets is never considered a rookie card, even if it is the person’s first card. See R is for Rookie Cards for further explanation.)
While the Pro Football Hall of Fame is most significant to collectors, some individual teams also have halls of fame, and some collectors base their collections on those. The PSA Set Registry includes a Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame set, for example, and in it are the rookie cards of the members of the Packers team hall of fame. If your favorite football team has a hall or a wall or a ring of fame, you could choose that to be the focus of your collection.
On a closely related topic, H is also for Heisman Trophy Winners. Like cards of Hall of Fame players, cards of Heisman winners command a premium over cards of other players. And, as you might expect, PSA’s set registry includes a set for the rookie cards of Heisman Winners.
Whether you collect Hall of Famers, Heisman winners, rookie cards, members of your favorite team, or some combination, the Advanced Search page of the Vintage Football Card Gallery provides a way to search for them. It doesn’t include quite all of the old sets yet, but hopefully I’ll get there soon.
For details on any of the Hall of Fame rookie cards shown here, just pick the card to go to its gallery page.