I’m more of a baseball card guy.
This should tell you all you need to know about me taking the time to write this post.
“Broadway” Joe Namath; the rookie of a legend. A no-nonsense pose and expression. Beautifully-designed layout. Colors that jump off the cardboard. Towering “tallboy” dimensions.
Need I say more?
If your card collection could talk, the 1965 Joe Namath RC would be your favorite rookie card’s favorite rookie card.
It’s also a card I won’t own anytime soon. (Which makes it that much more appealing, am I right?)
So for now, since I can’t physically hold one in my hands or one touch it up for placement with the rest of my collection, I’ll blog about it.
And not with any sort of agenda other than to get the “oh dang” off my mind, and bring even more attention to a card each and every one of us should strive to acquire.
Joe Namath Rookie Card Design
I love the look of vintage sets like 1948 Leaf baseball, and 1980-81 Topps basketball, but man, is it tough to really appreciate the athletic prowess of someone when crammed into a card only 2-3/8″ by 2-⅞” like that of Jackie Robinson, or ⅓ of an actual card’s size like that of Larry Bird.
Stretching nearly 5 inches tall, the 1965 Topps set swallows up your typical card size—in a good way; not a 1989 Bowman baseball type of way. Meaning, it’s not a card made to be bigger as a gimmick. It’s a card made to be bigger because somehow, some way Topps knew it was the only way to capture everything Broadway Joe had in store for us.
And they nailed it, making the most of the available space between a popping color pallete and a menacing Namath with paws stretching wide over the pigskin.
And stop, don’t even think it…
No, the rest of the set doesn’t offer the same OMG-ness.
Of course, hindsight is 20/20 but if you wiped the names off these cards and went through every single one, you’re stopping at card #122 every time, and then grabbing a napkin to wipe the drool off your chin.
MAYBE you’d stop for a stoic Fred Biletnikoff or the chiseled jawline of Don Maynard and think, “OK, there could be something here.” But you’d be saying so with not with nearly the amount of confidence as when you shuffle by #12’s darting eyes.
Compared to Other Star Rookie Cards
Perhaps a silly point, but worth thinking about.
Close your eyes and picture the favorite rookie cards in your collection. When you come across them, are you less blown away by how amazing they look and more in the camp of “wow, look how young they are”?
Baby faces, baggy jerseys, practice fields—the rookie card is usually so obviously a rookie card.
Like, is this really going to be one of the greatest players to ever take the field? A staged in-action photo session isn’t ideal in my opinion.
But look at Namath. It could have been his first card or his last. You’d never know based on the confidence just oozing out of it. I mean, you could almost see his favorite fur coat sitting at his feet just off camera, waiting to be picked up and draped over as soon as the shoot is over.
Joe Namath Rookie Card Values
Now, the fun part. If you’ve read this post and are now even more excited about the prospects of actually owning this greatness, here is what you should expect to pay out there on the open market!
Of course, value is determined by a number of factors, most notably your own preferences and whether or not something on the “rough” condition side is enough to cure your pangs. Some of you might choose mid-tier condition, with the question “does it make sense to grade cards” while others will pop for a graded version right out of the gates.
If You Can’t Have the Real Thing…
Oh, so you don’t have an extra $500 just sitting around, waiting to be spent on a football card? Good, me neither.
Knowing that purchasing an original won’t be a real possibility without proper planning and having to unload other parts of a PC, there are a few cool substitutes out there worth your consideration.
Are they the real thing? No.
Are they even vintage? Well, for a couple of these, no.
But, remember…part of what makes this card so cool is the wide-range of features it has working for it—meaning not just a Joe Namath RC, but one that looks good at that.
2001 Topps Archives Auto
If you twisted my arm and asked what could possibly make this card any better, I might blurt out “auto” just to get out of such a compromising situation.
Truth be told, an auto doesn’t usually make a classic vintage card cooler.
But in this case, the 2001 Topps Archives auto is still pretty cool.
This release also shrinks the card size down to “normal” dimensions, but still great looking.
Price: On eBay right now for around $230.
2001 Topps Archives Reserve Refractor
If you wanted modern shine without the auto, and a price you could probably make work right this second, the Archives rookie refractor might be the card for you.
Again, it’s not vintage Namath in physical nature, but it’s vintage Namath in spirit.
Price: Two available on eBay right now for around $10.
OK, I know, not really satisfying your rookie card needs, but a year later with the 1966 entry, Joe and Topps were still making magic. And for you the collector, such magic can be acquired at a fraction of the rookie card cost.
While the photo doesn’t stray far from 1965’s version (other than the haircut and head tilt angle (or HTA for you analytic heads), the iconic TV set design is something we can all appreciate.
Price: A solid mid-grade option can be found for around $75, give or take.
So, what do you think? Have your own and care to share? Any other cards you think deserve such recognition?