Soccer is the world’s most popular sport so it’s no surprise that soccer trading cards have their own intriguing history. This history is not to be confused with US football cards since ‘soccer’ is called football in most countries other than the US. These valuable collectibles have been part of the sport for over a hundred years but, unlike most other sports cards, they did not originate in the US.
In the late 1800s, the first soccer cards were produced by English tobacco brand Field Favorites, followed closely by another tobacco company, Marcus & Company. Like most sports cards of that era, early soccer trading cards featured illustrations of players on the front of a tobacco ad. Soon, other tobacco companies created their own sets and, before long, their soccer cards were more like modern trading cards with information about the players appearing on the back of the pictures, still appearing alongside tobacco ads. These early cards now command significant value, especially if they are in the best condition.
As with other trading cards, soccer cards eventually moved into gum packaging and attracted the attention of sports cards printers. While a host of printers produced soccer cards in the first half of the 1900s, Panini began printing soccer cards in 1961 with a narrow focus on FIFA, World Cup and countries like Spain and Italy. Panini quickly became the leading soccer cards manufacturer, but Upper Deck has been producing cards for the US market since the mid-1990s. Now, Panini and Topps are the primary manufacturers of soccer trading cards that collectors value so highly.
With the enduring international popularity of soccer, leagues like FIFA and UEFA have had contracts with different publishers around the world, making for a wide range of different cards for collectors to enjoy and value differently. Panini, Topps, and Futera are now the publishers of soccer cards for the major soccer leagues around the world. Like other sports trading cards, limited edition sets, autographed cards, and cards with game elements can add value for collectors.
A few famous soccer cards with high value include: - In May 2021, a PSA 8.5 copy of legendary player Pele’s rookie card from the 1958 Alifabolaget line #635 sold for $372,000. After Pele’s passing at the end of 2022, his cards are likely to increase in value. - In June 2021, a PSA 10 Gem Mint 2004 Panini Sports Mega Cracks Lionel Messi Rookie Card #71 sold for $336,000. The 2022 World Cup champ can expect to see his cards rise in value now that he finally scored a win in soccer’s biggest event. - In June 202, a PSA 10 Gem Mint copy of the 2002-03 Panini Futebol Portugal Mega Craques Cristiano Ronaldo Rookie Card #137 sold for $230,400.
A soccer card’s value depends on a number of factors. The rarity of the card, the condition of the card, as well as the player featured on the card are all important considerations. Vintage cards from the earliest era of soccer are often the most valuable but players like Pele, Messi, and Ronaldo can end up with more valuable cards than even hundred-year-old collectibles. It’s always best to validate the value of sports cards through a third-party professional grading company.
Soccer is enjoyed by almost half the people on the planet, so there is no shortage of fans to enjoy the soccer trading cards. Soccer forums and websites online offer plenty of opportunity to connect with other collectors and showcase high-value collections. Like much of the sporting card industry, soccer cards have been getting more popular and more valuable as the hobby grows.