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  #1  
Old 07-23-2018, 09:36 PM
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Default Why aren't there more football card collectors?

I get it that baseball has done a better job of emphasizing and glorifying its past and that there's perhaps a little more baseball history than football (though the more I learn, the narrower the gap seems), but why aren't there more football card collectors?

Football of the professional variety has really achieved top dog status in American sports since about the mid-1960s, and college football was huge before that. And, at the end of the day, collectors are collectors. There are a ton of desirable and relatively affordable football cards/sets from just the 1950s and 1960s alone (shhh...don't tell anyone), and I know there are many other issues that predate even those that many of you guys are into.

I have had a foot in collecting both sports so I notice the volume and discussion surrounding the collecting of the two sports. Judging by Net54 and other forums I eavesdrop on, it is baseball first, and it isn't even close. I know that such sites don't represent all collectors, but these trends must mean something.

Football card set building has given me more satisfaction and success in just a couple short years than I have ever had collecting anything else. So, it's not like I am begging for more competition or anything, but the whole thing mystifies me.




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  #2  
Old 07-23-2018, 10:55 PM
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I am probably dead wrong but it's been a theory of mine that because their faces are obscured by helmets, and the play is essentially a series of mass scrums rather than one on one, people just don't connect to individual football players in the same way they connect to a baseball player who you see up front and close on TV or at the park, by himself for up to a couple of minutes at a time at bat, or mostly standing still in the field, or pitching.

I mean look at football cards especially modern ones -- on half of them you can barely make out who it is beneath the helmet.

Also you can't really compare players statistically across positions the way you can baseball and basketball.
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Old 07-24-2018, 08:24 AM
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You raise some good points, Peter. I can't say that you are wrong. The helmet-wearing could be part of the equation. That's funny because I (along with other baseball card collectors) get so turned off by baseball cards of hatless players. However, football cards almost necessitate that they don't wear their helmet when having their picture taken for their card. Of course some did wear their helmets but not that many. But I don't think that impacts vintage football that much because it seems like the helmet wearing is mainly with more modern issues.

I do believe you hit on a key aspect though----that being the relative anonymity of the player of say the 1960s and on back. You referred to the scrums and lack of individuality. With the exception of the really big names like Nagurski, Unitas, Jim Brown, Namath, etc., many of the rest aren't well known. It seems baseball has a middle class of players. For example, in postwar baseball collecting, everyone knows who Mantle was. He was a megastar. Though not megastars, Billy Martin and Phil Rizzuto were reasonably well known, too. Outside of the great Colt and Packer teams who had a lot of recognizable players thanks to their success, many teams had a guy or two per team that you might know, and that's about it.

In thinking carefully about my collecting of football, I think I am drawn more to leagues and teams, with a few individuals sprinkled in. For instance, the colorful, high-flying AFL appeals to me, particularly the Chargers and the other western teams. The casual fan can name you a player or two per team, but that's about it probably.

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Old 07-24-2018, 09:24 AM
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I wonder if the shorter careers of pro football players is also a factor?
3.3 years for NFL
5.6 for MLB
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Old 07-24-2018, 09:52 AM
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Random modern RC.
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Old 07-24-2018, 09:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vintagebaseballcardguy View Post
You raise some good points, Peter. I can't say that you are wrong. The helmet-wearing could be part of the equation. That's funny because I (along with other baseball card collectors) get so turned off by baseball cards of hatless players. However, football cards almost necessitate that they don't wear their helmet when having their picture taken for their card. Of course some did wear their helmets but not that many. But I don't think that impacts vintage football that much because it seems like the helmet wearing is mainly with more modern issues.

I do believe you hit on a key aspect though----that being the relative anonymity of the player of say the 1960s and on back. You referred to the scrums and lack of individuality. With the exception of the really big names like Nagurski, Unitas, Jim Brown, Namath, etc., many of the rest aren't well known. It seems baseball has a middle class of players. For example, in postwar baseball collecting, everyone knows who Mantle was. He was a megastar. Though not megastars, Billy Martin and Phil Rizzuto were reasonably well known, too. Outside of the great Colt and Packer teams who had a lot of recognizable players thanks to their success, many teams had a guy or two per team that you might know, and that's about it.

In thinking carefully about my collecting of football, I think I am drawn more to leagues and teams, with a few individuals sprinkled in. For instance, the colorful, high-flying AFL appeals to me, particularly the Chargers and the other western teams. The casual fan can name you a player or two per team, but that's about it probably.

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It's also hard for most positions to get a sense of how good players were, and compare them, the way you can with all the baseball metrics. What can I look up, for example, that isn't anecdotal/testimonial that's going to give me a sense of Bob Lilly, or Jim Parker, or Jack Lambert?
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Old 07-24-2018, 12:53 PM
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I think whether it's a hockey guy in Vancouver or a baseball guy in Dallas, every collection will have a few football cards in there.
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Old 07-24-2018, 04:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter_Spaeth View Post
It's also hard for most positions to get a sense of how good players were, and compare them, the way you can with all the baseball metrics. What can I look up, for example, that isn't anecdotal/testimonial that's going to give me a sense of Bob Lilly, or Jim Parker, or Jack Lambert?
Related to this is the fact that the NFL only recently (during Reggie White's era in the '90s??) started keeping up with sacks and sack records and such. Without sacks, the defensive lineman and linebackers do become a bit more difficult to distinguish from one another unless a collector is a die hard collector of say the Bears, Cowboys, Packers, Steelers, etc. In baseball all position players eventually come to the plate and are seen. If you play football but not a glamour position, it is hard to get noticed by a collector unless that player just happens to be above average or better on a dynamite team. That being said, I enjoy collecting those sets!

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  #9  
Old 07-24-2018, 04:28 PM
Kurri17 Kurri17 is offline
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Interesting topic and a lot of good points made. My first thoughts on the topic are in regards to connection. In addition to the visibility points made earlier, baseball is played every day and in modern times fans can see their favorite, or any, teams regularly if not every game. While that level of exposure wasn't always the case, baseball fans of old followed their teams on the radio daily, and pored over box scores for stats. Football is obviously played just once a week, per team of course, and plays over a shorter season. This increased level of availability may have something to do with it, along with simple fact that football came into prominence nationally much later than baseball. Personally, I collected both equally as a kid in the '70s, eagerly awaiting the arrival of both sport's packs in my local stores and have a fondness for their place in my childhood that is at the very core of why I still collect.
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Old 07-24-2018, 05:07 PM
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I think there are several factors. First is that football wasn't very popular until the 1970s. With Monday Night Football starting in 1970, you saw the popularity slowly rise through the 70's and 80's until it over took baseball in popularity. When the Miami Dolphins were playing in Super Bowl VII to complete their perfect 17-0 season, you could buy tickets outside the L.A. Coliseum for $5.00. Baseball was the #1 sport for about 100 years, so it has that history.

Next, card collecting was driven by kids. Kids who mostly played Little League. Kids are able to pick up baseball at an earlier age because of the smaller ball, compared to larger balls of football and basketball. I feel that at that younger age kids were driven more to baseball and baseball cards than to other sports.

Finally, baseball is a summer sport. Baseball cards were released in the summer when kids were out of school and had very little to do. Football cards were released in the fall when kids are in school all day for 5 days, have to do homework and chores and often had family activities on weekends. There just was very little time to collect during the school year.

When baseball cards took off as a collectible, it was driven by adults coming back to the hobby that they enjoyed from their youth. It wasn't until about 1989 that there was even any interest in football cards as a collectible and when you are talking about vintage cards, those collecting them would be collecting cards and players from an era when football wasn't popular. I collected the Topps sets from 1956 into the 90s, but I never had a strong connection to them. So, they were eventually sold off.
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