Are You An AFL Collector?

I have been a collector since the age of five.  I guess it is in my blood, a part of my DNA.  My father is an antiques dealer, and as a result I must have gone to ten thousand garage sales, swap meets, antiques shops and estate sales as a kid.  I typically looked for baseball cards while my dad looked for…  well, everything else.

I began collecting AFL memorabilia in 1997, when I started researching Sid Gillman for my master’s thesis.  It all started innocently-enough.  Just a handful of football cards to get signed by the former Chargers that I was interviewing as part of my project.  Alas, my genetic make-up being what it is, “a handful of football cards” kind of bothered me in it’s overall incompleteness, and so it became all of the Chargers cards from the 1960s  Then all of the Topps Chargers cards from 1970-current to add on to my 1960s run.  Throw in some game programs, a few vintage photos, a team football or two, and it was all over for me.  I was an AFL collector.

autographed 1965 topps joe namath

#122 – Joe Namath

Today I lump my collections into a handful of main themes.  First and foremost, are my signed AFL card sets, which can be found HERE.  Of the 1,278 cards possible in my version of this collection (complete sets for 1960-63 Fleer and 1964-67 Topps, AFL series only for 1961 Fleer, 1961, 68-69 Topps and AFL rookies only for 1970 Topps) I currently have 1,238 cards signed.

Another popular theme in my collections is vintage AFL photos.  I have a large collection of these.  Most represent my beloved Chargers, but I have been adding prints and wire photos of other AFL teams and league office personnel.  I like to find photos representing popular or important events in AFL history.  The majority of these images can be found somewhere on this site.

AFL All-Time Team AwardThe last major theme to my collections is comprised of various AFL “items.”  I don’t have much along the lines of game used material, just a lone Chargers sideline jacket once issued to and worn by Ron Mix.  But I have been fortunate to acquire a lot of different, unique items that mostly pertain to the early Chargers.  One of Sid Gillman’s pipes and bow ties, Paul Lowe’s AFL All-Time Team plaque, and a replica of Lance Alworth’s hall of fame bust are all included in my collection.

Of course I have other things that do not fall into any of these themes – a large batch of game programs, AFL publications, regional card sets, and the like.

What I am often wondering is how many other AFL collectors are out there?  I know there must be some, as I rarely win eBay auctions with just an opening bid.  But are there other AFL-collecting fans out there like me?  If so, please speak up and let us know what you like to collect and why.  How long have you collected?  What are your favorite pieces?  I would enjoy hearing from anyone out there.

Are you an AFL collector?

Todd Tobias (790 Posts)

Todd Tobias's interest in the American Football League began in 1998, when he wrote my master's thesis about Sid Gillman. He created this site to educate and entertain football fans with the stories of the American Football League, 1960-1969. You can follow Todd and get more AFL history on Twitter @TalesfromtheAFL.

11 Responses to Are You An AFL Collector?

  1. Tim T says:

    Thanks for sharing, I was lucky enough to meet Robert Smith, Bills Photographer since 1960. He now sells prints on ebay. Mr Smith has photographs from every Bills game, the “hit heard round the world” was his work. So I began colecting action photos of the 63-66 Bills. That led me to learning about Saimes, Sestak, Gilchrist, Stratton..what a crew. So I then began hunting for old AFL jerseys. Now those are hard to find. Craiglist, EBAY the occassional colectors show and before you know it I have a 1965 Bills helmet, a Rutkowski road, Sestak home jersey and yes a Stratton 1964 home…love those long or 3/4 sleeves on those things. So yes it has become a collecting hard to find those gems. Not gameworn, but in many cases exact replicas. I also found someone willing to part with a 1963 home Kemp jersey with the red and white shoulder inserts…nice nice nice


  3. Joseph Budd says:

    Sounds like you had the same problem I did, however I specialized in the Oakland Raiders…I’ve come across some nice items too, via dealers on Ebay or auction sales locally. Three of my favorite pieces include a 1960 Decal from Fleer from the Raiders, a 1961 Topps Sticker, and an autographed 1966 Topps Ben Davidson. At the present, I have about 300 certified autographs, about 800 Jersey cards and close to 30,000 cards, including every Topps card (base sets) made. Right now it’s a case of finding something I don’t have, because there’s been times I’ve bought 20,000 cards, only to find maybe 30 cards I could use…and that’s just the cards. No, I don’t suffer from a condition…I enjoy it.

  4. 1967 says:

    I too collected since forever, as in since the 1960’s, 24/7/365 (I didn’t even rest on those 7th days, unlike that other guy : )

    Not long ago, I decided to downsize; despite all my ‘stuff’ & how much I enjoyed said, it had grown into far too high a veritable pile (‘you can’t take it with you’, as the old adage affirms.) So I sold off probably 90% of everything, and that ran the gamut every conceivable type of memorabilia: AFL as well NFL, MLB, etc.

    It was at once both sad & liberating, and also served to solve my former thought dilemma ‘what happens when I pass on & my daughter (who was not even born in the 1960s) is the only one left to deal with all this !@#&? – one man’s ‘treasure’ being another’s garbage.)

    The upshot is: I derived much pleasure from it all over the years & now someone else hopefully is doing so (unless they’re crass mercenarie$ of a sort, which some folks are more so than having for for the more pure motive of memories.)

    As a youngster, didn’t have as much ‘stuff’ as I came to possess later as an adult, so could actually ‘enjoy’ via ‘seeing’ it all at once before me, whereas in the end I’d accumulated so much that it had to be stored in drawers, cabinets, a garage and a warehouse. That’s no way to enjoy something you love, hiding it away in dark places.

    I kept just those few items that meant the very most to me, and the memories linger still in my head & heart. Long live the AFL!

    • Tom says:

      Liz Taylor may have said it best when she said “It’s not the having it’s the getting that’s best.” It’s all about the hunt and the find, like 67 realized You can’t take it with you and as a fellow collector says the reason I collect is to preserve the past as today passed me by long ago.

      • 1967 says:

        ‘Star Trek’s Mr. Spock also chimed in as such, although in his case referring to the 7-year itch of a sort ‘Vulcan in heat’ ritual.

        Turning to a fellow Vulcan suitor who’d won the female hand in question, old pointy ears opined: “You may find that ‘having’ is not as much as ‘wanting’.”

        So true.

  5. Andrew Jones says:

    I am a collector of Vintage NFL/AFL game used items from the 60’s and 70’s, and some 80’s. I am a die hard , long time Vikings fan , but I have this special love affair with the AFL!! Most of my game used items are Helmets and Jerseys, but I have many game balls, team signed balls, and some equipment like cleats etc. My most cherished item is a game used helmet worn from the 1961 Dallas Texans all the way through the 67′ Chiefs. Including Super Bowl ONE. It was also worn by Buck Buchanon and last by Ernie Ladd. Another item I know Todd would really like is my 1970 Walt Sweeney game used helmet. I know it is right at the merger, but I still see it as a late AFL item. And a Super Bowl III JETS game used helmet round out my AFL collection. It would be great if we could all share photo’s of our treasures with each other. The AFL was something special and I am glad we have a forum like this to discuss reminisce..

  6. Business tycoon William Feathersmith said in “Of Late I Think of Cliffordville” (The Twilight Zone, Season 4, 1963): “The thrill was in getting it, not having it.” Hopefully, of course, most collectors are kinder than Mr. Feathersmith was. 🙂

  7. And I don’t use that quote to diminish collecting at all. I think it’s great that there are people who love the art of collecting, and it’s super cool to be able to see these collections and read about them.

    • Tom says:

      The idea didn’t stop Liz from wanting stuff and I doubt anything you or anyone else could write or say could alter the way of the hunter and gatherer, it’s part of the human genome. Frank Zappa said “Communism doesn’t work because people like to own stuff.”
      My own AFL collection is very bleak, some football football cards, player endorsed Richie Lucas, Billy Cannon, Jacky Lee, Babe Parrilli and Cotton Davidson footballs and a few original AFL Pennants is about it. Although I do have somethings no other AFL collector has, I have original 1960 photos of Of LA Chargers public address announcer John Ramsey at practice at Chapman College with Jack Kemp and Sid Gilman. I also have a 1956 AAU SPAA track and field program with Lee Grosscup, that year Lee competed for Santa Monica City College in the pole vault. I don’t know if Lee ever cleared 12′, the program wasn’t scored. I also have photos of Charlie McNeil when he played at Compton College with his twin Ennis.

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