Sports card collecting has, for decades, been a popular and sometimes expensive hobby. Particularly in the U.S., where cards regularly fetch eye-watering sums of money.
In July 2021, a one-of-a-kind autographed Patrick Mahomes card sold at a private auction for $4.3 million. Beating a record for most expensive NFL card that had been set just a month earlier.
In June 2021, a signed Tom Brady Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket card sold at a Lelands Auction for over $3.1 million.
Many have attributed this explosion in value to the pandemic. Which has only increased interest in the hobby, with dust being blown off collections worldwide and hidden gems being unearthed.
Of course, increased interest means increased demand, which has seen prices ticking up across the board.
This upwards trend in value applies just as much to Australia as it does to the U.S. Where AFL cards are prized, and the right card can be worth sizable amounts of money. Even if the fees are nowhere near as large as across the Pacific in the U.S.
So, what is AFL? What are AFL cards, and just how valuable are they?
Most importantly, what is the most expensive card out there to date? Keep on reading to find out.
What Is AFL?
Founded in 1897, the Australian Football League, or AFL, quickly became one of the most popular sports leagues in Australia.
It is the pre-eminent and only fully professional division for Australian Rules Football. A game inspired by earlier English public school football games.
Officially codified in May 1859, Australian Rules is the oldest of the world’s major football codes. Known for its physicality and athleticism. Points are scored by kicking the oval ball between two central posts (6 points). Or a central post and an outer post (1 point).
An important distinction between AFL and some other football codes such as NFL and Rugby Union is a complete prohibition on throwing the ball. Instead the ball is moved primarily by kicking or ‘handballing’. A technique where a player holds the ball with one hand and punches it out with the other.
What Are AFL Cards?
AFL cards, like sports cards in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere, are collectible sports cards. They feature a portrait of a particular player along with their name and sometimes additional information.
Given the uniqueness of the AFL to Australia, AFL cards are found almost exclusively within the country.
The very first recognizable Australian Rules Football cards were produced in the late 1880s. With some famous players from Victoria and South Australia featuring in a set of Australian celebrities. These were produced by cigarette brand Goodwin and Co’s Old Judge Cigarettes.
In the following decades AFL cards were primarily produced by tobacco companies, both from Australia and from abroad. Before confectionary companies like Hoadley’s and Clarke-Ellis began producing their own AFL cards in the 1930s. From then on, AFL cards were increasingly produced by confectionery companies.
For most Australians of a certain age, ‘footy cards’ were synonymous with buying a pack of gum. But nowadays, most cards are made by specialist companies devoted to creating and selling official AFL cards.
One such company is Select Australia, which is the largest and longest continuously operating producer of AFL cards.
How Valuable Are AFL Cards?
Prices for AFL cards are comparatively high compared to cards of other sports in Australia. Even if markedly less than cards in the U.S. Generally, you’re talking tens or hundreds of Australian dollars at most, but some cards can fetch a lot more.
The hottest property on the AFL trading cards scene is generally considered to be the 1963 Scanlens set. Making cards from that set amongst the most valuable out there on the market.
The most sought after (and therefore valuable) card from the set is that of Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer. Mainly due to a rarity brought about by a printing defect. This caused many of that particular card to be discarded at production.
One such Scanlens 1963 Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer card has been reported as selling for over AU $7000 on eBay.
Outside this card, it is not uncommon for single cards from the 1963 Scanlens set to sell for over $1000. With entire sets costing anywhere in the region of AU $10,000-20,000.
Both much older vintage cards and more modern cards are also amongst some of the most valuable AFL cards.
In terms of vintage cards
, an 1894 American Tobacco Company card of Essendon player Will Crebbin sold for over AU $10,000 back in 2018.
Also in 2018, a more modern card, a 2004 Select AFL Conquest Triple Brownlow Medalist signature card featuring Nathan Buckley, Adam Goodes and Mark Ricciuto, was valued at AU $3000.
The 1986 rookie card of Gary Ablett, one of the most successful goal kickers of all time, is also one of the most sought after.
What Is The Most Expensive AFL Card?
The most expensive known AFL card to date is the first in a limited run of 25 “1000+ Goalkicker Quad Signature Cards”, each signed by Tony Lockett, Jason Dunstall, Doug Wade and Gary Ablett – the only players alive today who at that point had kicked more than 1000 VFL/AFL goals.
The 25 cards were randomly distributed amongst 4,800 boxes as part of the wider AFL Supremacy cards release, making them extremely rare and collectable.
The card in question made history in January 2022 by becoming comfortably the most expensive AFL card of all time, with AFL fan Kelly Taylor selling the card, number 1 of 25, for a whopping AU $50,000.
The card was sold back to Select Australia, the producers, with the intention of auctioning the card off for charity, so it is highly likely that this record will soon be broken.
However, since the sale of the card another player, Lance Franklin, has joined the 1000 goals club.
This makes it probable that another run of cards- with his signature added- will be released and that another card will soon claim the title of most expensive AFL card of all time.
In Australia, AFL is one of the most popular sports. So it should come as no surprise that collecting AFL cards is a hobby with more than its fair share of enthusiasts.
Cards featuring players from the late 19th century to the present day are highly sought after and accordingly can attract high prices, although these prices pale in comparison to the prices of US sports cards.
The most expensive AFL card of all time was card No.1 out of 25 “1000+ Goalkicker Quad Signature Cards”, featuring the signatures of all four living players who had achieved that accolade.
The card sold for AU $50,000 in January 2022, but with another player since joining the list, the card may soon be surpassed.
Thank you for reading!