There was a time when rookie football cards were an afterthought for most collectors — heck, even during the hobby boom of the 1980s, you could pick up Walter Payton rookie cards all day long for just a few bucks a pop.

Those days are long gone, though, for better or worse.

Sweetness himself was responsible for a large part of that gridiron awakening, as his run past Jim Brown as the all-time leading rusher in 1984 really captured the hobby’s imagination. And then, when Payton’s Chicago Bears dominated the NFL in 1985 on their way to a Super Bowl Shuffle, the temperature of football cards started to heat up.

Through the 1990s and into the very early 2000s, football cards — along with basketball cards — made steady inroads into the collector market.

And then, when when Tom Brady burst onto the scene and led the New England Patriots to a Super Bowl victory after the 2001 season, he joined Indianapolis Colts superstar Peyton Manning in a sort of hobby tit-for-tat that was football’s version of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.

The decades since have only solidified Brady’s place in the game, and the status of football cards (rookie cards in particular) as high-scoring, hobby-pleasing collectibles that can stand cleat-to-cleat with any other sport in the land … even if it remains a bit seasonal compared to baseball (especially vintage baseball).

And, if you ever need proof of that gridiron fire, just check out the list below of the 25 most-watched rookie football cards on eBay RIGHT NOW. Check back often, too, as this list is continually updated.

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2020 Optic Jordan Love Rookie Auto On Card /99

Watchers: 126  
# of Bids: 42
Current Bid: $597
Auction Ends: 27-May-2024 21:05
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BARRY SANDERS 1989 SCORE #257 RC ROOKIE CARD DETROIT LIONS PSA 10 GEM MINT

Watchers: 89  
# of Bids: 45
Current Bid: $960
Auction Ends: 29-May-2024 02:05
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2022 National Treasures Gold Brock Purdy RPA RC Rookie Patch ON CARD AUTO 8/10

Watchers: 73  
# of Bids: 21
Current Bid: $826
Auction Ends: 30-May-2024 03:05
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2020 Upper Deck Joe Burrow VIP RC Rookie Card Auto SSP #15/15 PSA 9 Bengals 1/1

Watchers: 63  
# of Bids: 41
Current Bid: $405
Auction Ends: 30-May-2024 02:05
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JIMMY JIM BROWN PSA 5 1958 TOPPS FOOTBALL #62 ROOKIE CARD RC BROWNS HOF

Watchers: 62  
# of Bids: 21
Current Bid: $512
Auction Ends: 04-Jun-2024 01:06
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2000 Score Rookie Preview Tom Brady RC Signed BGS 8.5 w/ 10 On Card AUTO

Watchers: 61  
# of Bids: 18
Current Bid: $3100.66
Auction Ends: 29-May-2024 03:05
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2000 Bowman Chrome #236 Tom Brady RC Rookie Card PSA 6 EXMT New England Patriots

Watchers: 59  
# of Bids: 23
Current Bid: $260
Auction Ends: 31-May-2024 03:05
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2022 Donruss Downtown #D11 Jahmyr Gibbs RC Rookie Card Lions SSP Case Hit πŸ”₯

Watchers: 57  
# of Bids: 11
Current Bid: $360
Auction Ends: 29-May-2024 02:05
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1981 Topps Football #216 Joe Montana 49ers Rookie Card Graded PSA 9 MINT

Watchers: 56  
# of Bids: 26
Current Bid: $1180.81
Auction Ends: 30-May-2024 01:05
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TOM BRADY PSA 9 2000 BOWMAN CHROME FOOTBALL #236 ROOKIE CARD RC PATRIOTS MINT

Watchers: 53  
# of Bids: 53
Current Bid: $1925
Auction Ends: 28-May-2024 02:05
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2023 TOPPS CHROME PLATINUM GABRIEL MORENO AUTO SUPER FRACTOR ROOKIE CARD 1/1

Watchers: 53  
# of Bids: 18
Current Bid: $305
Auction Ends: 28-May-2024 01:05
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2023 Prizm CJ Stroud #339 Rookie Card πŸ’ŽSILVERπŸ’Ž Texans

Watchers: 52  
# of Bids: 25
Current Bid: $86
Auction Ends: 28-May-2024 01:05
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2023 Panini Donruss Optic DOWNTOWN Jahmyr Gibbs RC Rookie Card no. D-11

Watchers: 51  
# of Bids: 9
Current Bid: $301
Auction Ends: 02-Jun-2024 17:06
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2023 Panini Prizm #339 CJ Stroud Silver Prizm Rookie Card Gem Mint PSA 10 RC

Watchers: 50  
# of Bids: 19
Current Bid: $880
Auction Ends: 27-May-2024 19:05
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2023 Immaculate Tank Dell Rookie Eye Black Patch On Card Auto /99

Watchers: 46  
# of Bids: 12
Current Bid: $27
Auction Ends: 27-May-2024 17:05
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BRETT FAVRE SGC 8 1991 WILD CARD DRAFT PICKS #119 1000 STRIPE ROOKIE RC HOF RARE

Watchers: 45  
# of Bids: 48
Current Bid: $566
Auction Ends: 28-May-2024 01:05
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2014 PANINI BOOK ROOKIE PATCH AUTOGRAPHED CARD MIKE EVANS BUCCANEERS 75/99

Watchers: 45  
# of Bids: 16
Current Bid: $87
Auction Ends: 29-May-2024 02:05
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2017 PANINI PRIZM PATRICK MAHOMES II SILVER PRIZM RC ROOKIE CARD #269 NM-MT

Watchers: 45  
# of Bids: 22
Current Bid: $760
Auction Ends: 29-May-2024 03:05
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2020 Prizm Justin Herbert Disco Prizm Rookie Card RC #325 PSA Authentic Auto 10

Watchers: 44  
# of Bids: 21
Current Bid: $182.5
Auction Ends: 29-May-2024 02:05
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700 Card VINTAGE Football Early 70s 1969-1973 Lot Set HOF Stars Rookies Invest

Watchers: 44  
# of Bids: 17
Current Bid: $345
Auction Ends: 29-May-2024 02:05
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2011 Topps Chrome Cam Newton Gold Refractor RC Rookie Card #39/50 Panthers

Watchers: 44  
# of Bids: 13
Current Bid: $227.5
Auction Ends: 28-May-2024 02:05
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1976 Topps Walter Payton Rookie Card RC #148 Chicago Bears

Watchers: 41  
# of Bids: 35
Current Bid: $208.5
Auction Ends: 27-May-2024 23:05
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1957 Topps John Johnny Unitas Rookie Card RC #138 SGC 6 Baltimore Colts EX-NM

Watchers: 40  
# of Bids: 12
Current Bid: $634
Auction Ends: 30-May-2024 02:05
See full listing on eBay (affiliate link)