Top Topps Cards to Collect
The AFC North isn’t just a football battleground; it’s a mosaic of cities, each enriched with distinct heritages and iconic heroes. Baltimore, known for its historic harbors and tantalizing crab cakes, harbors Ravens fans as fierce as the Edgar Allan Poe tales woven into the city’s fabric. Cleveland, with its rugged charm and rock ‘n roll roots, holds Browns devotees whose passion rivals the burning flames of the Cuyahoga River’s past. Cincinnati, where the Ohio River flows and chili goes skyline-high, roars in stripes for the Bengals. And Pittsburgh, the Steel City where bridges frame the horizon, has Steelers aficionados digging for those rookie cards that encapsulate the unyielding grit of their industrial legacy. As we venture forth, this list aims to spotlight the most sought-after rookie cards from legends of each AFC North squad.
1958 Topps #62 Jim Brown
Brown wasn’t just a trailblazer on the football field; he was an unstoppable force, setting the gold standard for every running back to follow. Not only was he the first player in league history to rush past the 10,000-yard mark, but he did it in a mere nine campaigns and in an era with shorter seasons. Toss in his record of eight 1,000-yard rushing seasons and three MVP titles, and it’s no wonder old-timers (and many new ones) tout him as the greatest running back ever. But touchdowns and rushing yards only paint half the picture. Off the gridiron, Brown was a beacon in Hollywood and a stalwart for the civil rights movement. With Brown, greatness was the only game in town.
1971 Topps #156 Terry Bradshaw
Bradshaw is a Hall of Famer and emblem of football excellence and charisma rolled into one. Commanding the Pittsburgh dynasty to four Super Bowl titles in six years, Bradshaw’s arm and leadership became legendary. But his story didn’t stop post-retirement. Swapping the huddle for the stage, he dazzled in broadcasting and even tried his hand at singing and acting, always letting his larger-than-life personality shine. For card collectors, his 1971 rookie card isn’t just a piece of cardboard; it’s a slice of the 1970s football pantheon, ranking among the era’s most sought-after and valuable treasures.
1996 Bowman’s Best #161 Ray Lewis
Lewis was the easy choice. Not only was he undoubtedly the best defender and leader of his generation, but he captained a Ravens defensive unit that will go down as one of the stingiest in history. Few players combined passion and production like Lewis, a 12-time Pro Bowler, two-time Defensive MVP, and the 2000 Super Bowl MVP. Easy pick.
2011 Topps Five Star #180 A.J. Green /65 Auto Patch
The Bengals are currently enjoying some of their most glorious days, boasting a powerhouse roster. Players like Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase have rookie cards for which collectors would give their right arm. But this list? It’s not about today’s stars. We’re dialing back the clock, even if we only rewind it a tad. Enter the 2011 Topps Five Star #180 A.J. Green /65 Auto Patch. Autographs and patches reign supreme in the world of trading cards. And this here is an auto/patch of arguably the best wideout in Bengals’ history (Sorry, Ocho, let’s agree to debate this later). Among the forest of Green rookie cards, the 2011 Topps Five Star stands tall with a limited print run of just 65. Think of it as snagging a Hail Mary pass from a player who kicked off his career with seven Pro Bowls and raked in 1,000 receiving yards in six of his first seven seasons.
Baddest in the Game: AFC North
2014 Topps Museum Collection Silver Framed Autographs #FA-TP Troy Polamalu /25
Fortunately, the AFC North is loaded with legends who fit the “Baddest in the Game” bill. Unfortunately, we had to choose one. It could’ve been Ed Reed, “Mean” Joe Greene, or the countless defenders who built legacies from laying the wood in one of the league’s most physical divisions. We instead chose Polamalu, a perennial Pro Bowl selection, Super Bowl champion, and ballhawk who easily wins the vote for loveliest locks on the list. I get chills every time I go through Polamulu’s highlights. He was everywhere.
NFC North Legends RCs
Check out Rookie Cards from NFC North Legends