As the young NFL season gets started, let’s discuss NFL quarterback card investments. To help you out, we rank the top QB’s in the game and even recommend their best rookie cards.
Quarterback investing used to be about the only way football card collectors invested, but skill players as a whole have seen a rise over the last couple of seasons. So here’s the case for quarterback investing.
Quarterbacks have been the most popular cards to invest in for football collectors since the dawn of treating sports cards like investments. Having a long track record only reinforces that this is a safe bet.
As to why quarterbacks are the most popular investment, the first factor is that they dominate the game more than any other position. So it’s easy to imagine any NFL team being at least competitive with Patrick Mahomes on the team, just like it’s easy to imagine LeBron or Durant making any NBA team a contender. However, football is different since athletes only play on one side of the ball.
The best quarterbacks have the longest careers. Running backs have an ever-shrinking shelf-life, but a top-level quarterback can play for over a decade. Tom Brady’s 87-years-old* and still getting better (*not fact-checked). The longer they’re on the field, the more time they have to drive up their value.
We’ve identified three different types of quarterback investments, and while there’s a bit of overlap, here’s how they break down:
These guys have hung it up. Their jerseys are in the rafters, and they’ll always be heralded as top-notch quarterbacks. They’re not making plays on the field to actively drive up the value of their cards, but time will do that at a consistent (but slow) rate. A graded rookie of a retired legend should see a steady increase.
These players are still playing, but they’ve done enough to establish great careers for themselves even if they hang it up tomorrow. Tom Brady, Big Ben, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Matthew Stafford, and even Matt Ryan have a good case for the HOF. While their career is already a resounding success, they could still boost their card value with big wins.
Stafford probably has the growth potential of this group. The media has treated his new stint with the Rams like he’s escaped a crazy ex and is starting over with somebody better for him.
Finally, these players have careers off to a great start and can continue pinning more accomplishments on their resumes as they mature in their NFL careers. Mahomes has a case to qualify as a “Young Gun” and a “Blue Chip,” so put him wherever you think is best.
Now that we’ve looked at the three different types of quarterback investments, it’s time to combine all three classes for a definitive list of the top 10 quarterbacks for investing purposes.
Compiling this list was no easy task—especially given the different kinds of investments possible—but I approached it by thinking, “If I were to spend $1,000 on quarterbacks today for long-term, who would I buy?” Here are the results:
Drew Brees might be enjoying his first season off the gridiron, but his career will never be forgotten. He’s top-3 in basically every passing stat ever and will be one of the most beloved quarterbacks for decades to come. His cards will get a bump when he’s enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Then they will likely continue to climb. Drew is perhaps the safest investment on this list; save Brady.
Recommended Rookie: 2001 Topps Rookie
I admittedly feel bad about putting a rookie ahead of Drew Brees, but if Lawrence lives up to all the hype, his cards have a lot of climbing to do. He’s the only 2021 rookie that made this list, but many people who know a lot more than I, have him pegged as a potential top-10 all-time QB.
Recommended Rookie: 2021 Prizm Silver rookie, when it releases.
The reigning ROY hopes to have an even better sophomore season and take the Chargers to new heights. Enough winning seasons will help him become one of the most beloved Chargers of all time, and he’s off to a good start. My biggest concern with an investment in Herbert right now is the value. After a great rookie season, his cards might be a bit overpriced. Look for a reasonable price before pouncing.
Recommended Rookie: 2020 Prizm Silver
An argument for Burrow over Herbert starts with Burrows’ incredible Heisman season and ends with the current price of their cards. Burrow could battle injuries for many years to come if the Bengals don’t bolster their line ASAP. However, his legendary arm could take him places. On top of that, a Burrow Optic Holo PSA 10 rookie currently comps for about $500. Meanwhile, a Herbert’s go for about $775, and that alone is a reason for me to declare Burrow a better investment right now.
Recommended Rookie: 2020 Prizm Silver
Back in 2012, nobody would have believed Wilson would be the best quarterback from the talent-heavy draft of Luck, Griffin III, and Tannehill, but here we are. Russ is one of the most efficient and savvy NFL players to take the field every Sunday, and he’s still playing at an elite level a decade into his career. Another Super Bowl could explode his value.
Recommended Rookie: 2012 Prizm
Murray is risky given how many hits he takes. However, he may start to use his feet less and arm more. In the first week of his third season, that became a reality. Not only did Murray throw for 4 touchdowns, but he scrambled for one more while minimizing hits. Nobody doubts his talent, so he’ll help transform the Cardinals into an elite team if he can stay healthy.
Recommended Rookie: 2019 Prizm Silver
John Allen’s a strange case. The jump he made from 2019 to 2020 was arguably the most remarkable single-season improvement of all time. The increase of his completion percentage verifies this. But assuming the progress is sustainable, Allen can be an excellent long-term investment. However, proceed with a bit of caution.
Recommended Rookie: 2018 Prizm
Prescott is the best mix of potential and price points. A PSA 10 Prizm silver rookie sells for less than $900, while a Josh Allen sells for about $8,500. As crazy as it sounds, throwing for 6,000 yards (352 yards/game) in a 17 game season is not out of the question for Dak, and if he ever does this or makes a Super Bowl run, his Prizm prices might fall closer to $10,000 than $1,000.
Recommended Rookie: 2016 Prizm Silver
Mahomes is undoubtedly one of the best to play, even at this early stage of his career. That said, his cards are priced as such. If you don’t have $10,000 to shell out for a PSA 10 Silver Prizm, there are other rookie cards you can acquire. Still, the good options are so expensive that entering into the Mahomes rookie market is an expensive undertaking. Despite the price, there’s still plenty of room to grow. Be sure to read our Mahomes investment guide.
Recommended Rookie: 2018 Prizm
He’s the GOAT for a reason. Tom Brady is the best player ever to play the game, and his card prices match. Admittedly, he doesn’t have the wide selection of rookie cards as some of the modern guys. The limited selection is a product of the card market in 2000 and Tom’s low draft ranking. However, the higher-end Brady rookies crush sports card records with their ever-increasing prices. So if you can afford a Brady rookie, scoop it up without thinking twice. It’s a sure-fire bet.
Recommended Rookie: 2000 Bowman (or Chrome, for the big-ballers).
Finally, here are a few names I want to mention but didn’t find a place for in the Top 10.
The 2021 gang is a talented class beyond Lawrence. However, it’s too early to force any more of them into the Top 10 list. I particularly like Jones and Fields.
It might be recency bias talking thanks to Hurts’ incredible week one performance, but he has a very high ceiling. Before the season started, it wouldn’t have surprised me to see Hurts get benched by week 6 or win MVP. But, his early performances indicate the latter is more likely.
Jackson has a lot to love about his game, and this article shows why he might be undervalued despite being the youngest MVP. Of course, beating Mahomes in week 2 didn’t harm his case either. Still, the top 10 was a crowded place, and he was first-man-out.
Don’t let recency bias get you. Rodgers had a terrible first week of 2021, but he’s still an all-time great. What kept him out of my top 10 is the way his life has turned into a Soap Opera. Collectors, for the most part, are just over it.
NFL quarterback card investments tend to yield the highest returns. However, the buy-in is also higher than skill players. Therefore, tread carefully and avoid QB’s with a very low floor.