Despite the popularity of the men who played in the AFL, there have not been an abundance of commemorative AFL trading card sets produced in recent years. Topps put out a small (and wholly uninspired) AFL subset in 2009, and Upper Deck has featured some AFL players on occasion, but in comparison to the numerous retrospective baseball sets produced each season, the AFL gets the short shrift.
Among the few throwback sets that are available is a neat and very inexpensive nine-card set recognizing the early Denver Broncos Ring of Fame members. This set, called the 1987 Orange Crush Broncos, was sponsored by Orange Crush and KOA Radio. According to the annual Beckett football Card Guide, 1.35 million of the cards were distributed over a three-week period at participating 7-11 and Albertson’s stores in Denver and the surrounding areas.
The set contains cards of eight players, and former owner, Gerald Phipps. Of the eight players featured, only one, quarterback Charley Johnson, did not spend any time in the AFL. Other players include Paul Smith, Floyd Little, Frank Tripucka, Billy Thompson, Rich Jackson, Lionel Taylor and Goose Gonsoulin.
The Orange Crush Broncos set makes a nice project for TTM autograph collectors as well. The cards are abundant and inexpensive. Sets can currently be purchased on eBay starting at $1.99 plus shipping. All members of the set were still living when the cards were released. Gerald Phipps was the first to pass away, in 1993, and Paul Smith died in 2000. The remaining seven athletes are still living, and relatively available to collectors.