One of the primary concerns among collectors of any area is ensuring they are spending their money wisely. The figure of $500.00 is not an excessive amount to spend on a game used football jersey or helmet, provided you are getting the real deal. Far too often collectors decide to educate themselves by only purchasing product or using other examples of items sold to establish the basis for “right looks like.”

Recently I undertook a project of seeing just what sort of reference library could be assembled for the cost of an item in the range I just mentioned, $500.00. I had to do something along these lines anyway as I was working on the Super Bowl article.

The first and best purchase where the NFL Films Super Bowl DVD collections. These boxed sets are broken down into ten game sections. I would suspect that Super Bowl’s XXXI-XXXX (31 through 40) will come out this year and I hope they do. The reason is not simply because of the great Super Bowl game footage, but each DVD includes NFL film highlights from that season. This is critical to doing quality research in that often print images or even other films are not year specific. The other thing that is wonderful about these is that much of the footage is shot in slow motion. What you end up getting are multiple shots from various angles that you can freeze frame and study. These three boxed sets account for almost 34 hours of footage that can be attributed to a season or specific game.

Along these same lines, NFL Films also produces a number of Team History or Highlight DVDs. Teams currently available include:

The Cowboys
The Steelers
The Bears
The Raiders
The Packers
The Eagles
The Giants
From the Vaults: 1960-1970

The second area I wanted to focus on was hardback football books. The thing that I especially like about this category of reference material is the often exceptional image quality. The other thing about these that I prefer to film is ease in finding and recording images for future reference. They are also easy to scan and archive if you are building a team or player profile. The drawback to print media, especially those that encompass a broad time frame, is that is often difficult to attribute a photograph to a specific date. There are exceptions of course as many of these titles focus a particular event. The good thing about these publications is very obvious; the image had to have been taken before the publication of the book. Much the same can be said for the soft cover counter parts, the advantage often being availability and price.

The third area that I looked to was in the form of football periodicals. While the image quality in many cases is not as clear or colorful as the film or book images, they really can’t be surpassed for shear volume at times. This type of reference also has the same advantage of the book in that the image must pre-date publication. I make this point about books and magazines as on-line reference such as Corbis and Getty may at times contain pictures that could be mislabeled.

I think it is safe to say that there is no “one best” type of reference any more than there is any “one best” form of intelligence discipline in my line of work. We use the various disciplines to cue us to look at all aspects of a situation to build a complete picture:

SIGINT: Signals Intelligence (What are we hearing?)
HUMINT: Human Intelligence (What is being reported?)
IMINT: Imagery Intelligence (What are we seeing?)
MASINT: Measurement and Signature Intelligence (What do certain physical properties tell us?)

The other thing to consider besides building a library and collecting data is knowing how to use it. These go hand in hand and work to support each other in letting you refine what it is you know or think you know. Take for example the issue and importance of a facemask. These are facts about a face mask:

1. It comes in various styles and colors and they have changed over time.
2. Players often change a style of facemask over the period of their career.

If you can identify when these changes occurred, you can then look at an undated photo of player and establish a range of when it was taken. This means that the uniform in that picture falls within the same range.

Now consider a jersey. These are facts about jerseys:

1. They are made of various fabrics and those have changed over times for various teams.
2. Number styling, material composition, application and location/placement have changed over time for various teams.
3. Team designs and ornamentation have changed over time for various teams.

I use these two examples to highlight that much like the references that should be used in concert, so must the data points you are looking at. If you know that sleeve band pattern changed in certain year, this can help you confirm dates for helmets or other issues you are trying to address. You will want to ensure your sample is broad enough to enable you to spot variations that exist for teams in a given year or even the same game with respect to jersey styles and helmet features. I plan to address many of these aspects of evaluation in my next football article.

Getting back to the topic at hand, that being the references, this is what I was able to pick up for the price of a jersey or helmet:

Super Bowl I-X. NFL Films and Warner Brother Home Video. 2003.
602 minutes/color.

Super Bowl XI-XX. NFL Films and Warner Brother Home Video. 2004.
617 minutes/color.

Super Bowl XXI-XXX. NFL Films and Warner Brother Home Video. 2004.
784 minutes/color.

Steelers: The Complete History. NFL Films. 2005

Hardback Books:

75 Seasons: The Complete Story of the National Football League. Time Publishing. 1994

ABC Sports College Football All-Time All-American Team. ABC Sports. 2000

Braves on the Warpath: The Fifty Greatest Games in the History of the Washington Redskins. Alan Beall. Kinloch Books. 1988

Football America: Celebrating Our National Passion. Turner Publishing. 1996.

Football: A History of the Professional Game. Peter King. Sports Illustrated and Time Inc, 1997.

Great Defensive Players of the NFL. Dave Anderson. Random House. 1967

Great Linebackers of the NFL. Richard Kaplin. Random House. 1970

Great Quarterbacks of the NFL. Dave Anderson. Random House 1965.

Heroes of the NFL. Jack Hand. Random House. 1965

More Than a Game. John Weibusch. Prentice Hall. 1974

NFL Football: The Official Fan’s Guide. Ron Smith. Collins Publishers. 1995.

Pro Football’s Greatest Teams. Michael Kinsely. Sporting News Selects. 2002

Star Pass Receivers of the NFL. John Devaney. Random House. 1972

Super Bowl: Exciting Accounts of Pro Football’s Championship Games. Tom Devaney Random House Books, 1971.

Tarkenton. Jim Klobuchar and Fran Tarkenton. Harper Row. 1976.

The First 50 Years: The Story of the National Football League (1972 Edition). Ridge Press/Benjamin Company Book.

The Running Backs. Murray Olderman. Prentice Hall. 1969

The Super Bowl: Celebrating a Quarter-Century of America’s Greatest Game. Forward by Pete Rozelle. Simon and Schuster. 1990

The Super Bowl: Sport’s Greatest Championship by Austin Murphy. Sports Illustrated. Time, Inc. Home Entertainment. 1988

Soft Cover Books

100 Years of Football by Jerry Brondfield. Scholastic Books. 1969. Although it is done with cartoon like illustrations, it does provide some interesting reading content.

Better Scramble Than Lose by Fran Tarkenton as told to Jack Olsen. Scholastic Books. 1969.

Championship: The NFL Title Games Plus Super Bowl by Jerry Izenberg. Scholastic Books. 1970.

First Official Illustrated Digest. NFL Publications. 1967

Football Stars of 1968 by Berry Stainback. Pyramid Books. 1968

Football Stars of 1969 by Larry Bortstein. Pyramid Books. 1969

Football Stars of 1970 by Larry Bortstein. Pyramid Books. 1970

Football Stars of 1974 by Hal Bock and Ben Olan. Pyramid Books. 1974


– 1950 – Stanley Woodward’s – Who’s Who is Sports
– 1951 – Stanley Woodward’s – Who’s Who in Sports
– 1952 – Football Stars
– 1953 – Stanley Woodward’s – Who’s Who in Sports
– 1956- Sports Illustrated – Special Football Issue
– 1957 – Pro Football
– 1957 – Professional Football Yearbook
– 1957 – Pro Football All-Stars
– 1957 – Pro Football Stars
– 1961 – Sports All Stars Pro football
– 1961 – Pro Sports
– 1961 – Dell Sports Featuring Pro Football
– 1961 – Frank Gifford’s All-Pro Football
– 1961 – Pro Football 6th annual edition
– 1961 – Who’s Who in Pro Football
– 1961-62 – Complete Sports Pro-Football Illustrated
– 1962 – Football Roundup
– 1962 – Pro-Football Illustrated
– 1962 – Pro Football Stars
– 1962 – Sports All Stars Pro Football
– 1962 – Pro Football
– 1962 – Petersen’s Pro Football
– 1963 – Pro Football Stars
– 1963 – Dell Pro Football
– 1963 – Petersen’s Pro Football
– 1964 – Pro football Almanac
– 1964 – Touchdown
– 1964 – Pros Football
– 1964 – Petersen’s Pro Football
– 1965 – Pro Football Illustrated
– 1964 – Street and Smith’s Football Yearbook
– 1965 – Pro Football Illustrated
– 1968 – Pro Football Illustrated
– 1968 – Pros Football
– 1969 – Pro Football Illustrated
– 1969 – Quarterback
– 1970 – Pro Football
– 1971 – Football Yearbook Kickoff – High School and College
– 1973 – Pro Football

My focus on the older print media was intentional for two reasons. First, these will only become more difficult and costly to obtain later on. Secondly, they complement the number of images and footage available on line on in the DVDs. Also, in purchasing them as I did, it supports the concept of using a dated publication to establish a range or date of change.

Recently I picked up a very nice run of NFL Record Manuals for this football reference library as well. While I am primarily looking for references that are “photo heavy” in content, these are a very nice complementary resource.

The older version from the late 1950s through the 1960s contain team sections that indicate who where the rookies for the season as well as rosters for veteran players and how many games they actually played in during the previous season as well as their roster numbers. These also provide insights on things why a roster player may not have appeared in any games that season such as “player on active military duty, expected to return in 1969.”

The 1970s and what I have from the 1980s, do not feature the above information, but are still very worthwhile in their own respects as they feature:

Draft listings/team selections by round.

Team schedules: This is helpful in trying to date non-dated photos by confirming if teams played the previous year and who where the home and visiting teams.

Individual statistics: While not as helpful as having the number of games played, for running backs, it does indicate the number of carries. Yes I know you could have had a player play in all the games, yet his role was that of a blocking back, but helpful non-the less.

Official Team colors: I found it interesting that these colors are listed in the 1973 Guide:

49er Scarlet
Cardinal Red
Old Gold (for the Saints)
Honolulu Blue (for the Lions)
Columbia Blue (for the Oilers)
Academy Blue (for the Broncos)

The years I have on hand at this time are:
1959, 1960, 1963, 1965-1969, 1970-1979, 1980-1983.

The final thing I would like to address is how you should look to buy these if looking to maximize your buying power. As with the references themselves, there is no “one best way”, but I think it worth offering what I learned in this process.

Film: While most of these are available at outlets such as Borders Books or Best Buy. The “best” buys appear to be on line. Any number of these can be found on E-Bay.

Hardback Books: Two affordable options exist. E-Bay and used bookstores. You may find the books cheaper on E-Bay, but then again, you are not able to preview the book for image content and quality/quantity of images. Used book stores offer the “preview option” and are almost the same price as E-Bay books when you factor in postage. E-Bay does seem to offer access to greater numbers, but then that holds true for most things. There always is the option of trying to pick them at a local card/memorabilia show. The problem here is that many titles will cost more simply based on the player that appears on the cover since these at times make for great collectables and complimentary display items.

Periodicals: Two options that are available include both E-Bay and the local card/memorabilia show route. Same issues apply in that you can’t preview via E-Bay and the cost associated with player covers. When working the card show venue, find dealers who deal in these items and ask them if they product with damaged covers that they did not bring with them. This is a real possibility as they often make bulk buys and do not bring items with missing or damaged covers. While the covers are nice, the value of these references comes in the number of images contained on the inside.

As a subscriber to MEARS On Line, you obviously have decided to spend some time and money in trying to learn more about the items in your collection and how to go about adding to it. My intent with this piece has been to assist you with this and demonstrate that we both have this in common.