When the 1965 NFL season concluded, Cleveland Browns All-Pro running back Jim Brown was coming off one of his greatest campaigns ever. Not only did the bruising, 30-year-old pile driver lock down his eighth NFL rushing title (1,577 yards in a 14-game season) but was named the league’s MVP for the third time. What’s more, the Browns, the reigning NFL champs, posted a league-best 11-3 record and battled their way back to the title game. This time, however, they dropped a 23-12 decision to Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers on Jan. 2, 1966. This was the last season before the advent of the Super Bowl.
Still relatively young, the handsome fullback was now entertaining thoughts and plans for his life beyond football. Toward that end, six months later he was in London filming scenes as an American soldier for the movie “The Dirty Dozen” when he was suddenly forced to make a life-altering decision. While he certainly loved football, he knew his life’s work was destined to grow beyond the gridiron. And a second career in Hollywood would provide him with the platform he needed to do activism work on behalf of the African-American community.
It was the middle of July and Browns training camp was about to begin at Hiram College in Ohio. If Brown wanted to continue with his NFL career, he needed to report to Browns training camp in a few days. If not, he would start racking up fines of $100 per day until he was back in pads. He received a letter from Browns owner Art Modell to that effect. A few days later, on July 14, 1966, Brown conducted a press conference wearing military fatigues while sitting in a director’s chair placed in front of a tank on the movie set in London. He suddenly announced his retirement from football.
“My original intent was to try to participate in the 1966 National Football League season,” Brown said, reading from a piece of paper. “But due to circumstances, this is impossible.”
Brown never looked back. He went on to make 44 movies in Tinsel Town with 17 starring roles. He made his mark in pro football and then cultivated a successful career in movies. Now let’s take a closer look at Brown’s legendary football career through four key cards found in his 10-card Basic Set checklist.
This is Brown’s coveted Topps rookie card (#62) and shows the hard-charging fullback/running back doing what he did best. The prized RC in the ‘58 Topps Football release, it’s a must-have along with other top cards including veterans like Johnny Unitas (#22), Bart Starr (#66), Frank Gifford (#73) and Y.A. Tittle (#86). The photo of Brown was taken in training camp at Hiram College by a photographer named Henry M. Barr. The card front’s easy design shows Brown via a circular, colorized photo outlined in black with a white border. Not easy to find with perfect centering, the sought-after card has a PSA Population report of 3,192 of which not a single submission has ever earned the elite PSA Gem Mint 10 ranking. Five others have been deemed PSA Mint 9 (APR price: $336,000), while 196 more have been labeled as PSA Near Mint-Mint 8.
In attempting to piece together Brown’s 10-card Basic Set checklist on the PSA Set Registry, this is the most heavily weighted card (10.00) of them all. This is the one that brings the most trading card value to the set. Weights are determined by the card’s secondary market value using a scale from 1.00 to 10.00 with 10.00 being the most expensive. Using three different PSA grades for the card, here are its current industry average auction prices:
PSA Good 2: $204.67
PSA Excellent 5: $740.96
PSA Near Mint-Mint 8: $7,011.35
This is one of Brown’s most important cards, and it resides in one of the most condition-sensitive sets in the hobby. Its black borders are notoriously difficult to maintain and are largely the reason why no submission has ever earned a grade of PSA Gem Mint 10. The ‘62 Topps Football set consists of 176 cards, each one measuring 3-1/2” wide by 2-1/2″ tall. The horizontally designed card of Brown features a helmetless player portrait pic of him on the card front’s right side with a smaller in-action shot of him to the left, as well as his name, team name and position. It’s also his second most heavily weighted card (9.00) in his basic set checklist. Using three different PSA grades, here are its current industry average auction prices:
PSA Good 2: $20.00
PSA Excellent 5: $109.31
PSA Near Mint-Mint 8: $2,375
The 1963 Topps Football set consists of 170 cards, each one measuring 2-1/2″ wide by 3-1/2″ tall. The cards feature a vivid color likeness of the featured player within a color border; the bottom color border contains the player’s name, team and position. Brown’s card (#14) shows a striking portrait of him helmetless set within a two-tone green border.
The card boasts a PSA Population Report of 664 of which only six submissions have obtained a ranking as high as PSA Mint 9 (no PSA Gem Mint 10 exists). Its color borders once again pose a threat as they are always susceptible to chipping. This is Brown’s third most heavily weighted (5.00) card in his Basic Set checklist. Using three different PSA grades, here are its current industry average auction prices:
PSA Very Good 3: $39.50
PSA Excellent 5: $99.50
PSA Near Mint-Mint 8: $640.75
The 1959 Topps Football set consists of 176 cards, each card measuring 2-1/2″ wide by 3-1/2″ tall. The card fronts utilized a posed color portrait of the featured player in front of a solid color background, with his name (in alternating red and blue letters), position and team name all positioned along the bottom border. Brown’s card (#10) presents an imposing figure staring off into the distance, ready to take control of the game on the team’s next possession.
The card has a PSA Population Report of 1,692 of which three submissions have been deemed to be in PSA Gem Mint 10 condition (APR average price: $22,800). There are 50 more that have been graded PSA Mint 9, while another 279 have earned PSA Near Mint-Mint 8 ranking. This card boasts a PSA weight of 3.00, tied for fourth on Brown’s Basic Set checklist. Using three different PSA grades, here are its current industry average auction prices:
PSA Good 2: $74.50
PSA Excellent 5: $86.56
PSA Near Mint-Mint 8: $446.08
Jim Brown Cards Required to Complete the Set
(with PSA Weights)
- 1958 Topps #62 Jim Brown (10.00)
- 1959 Topps #10 Jim Brown (3.00)
- 1960 Topps #23 Jim Brown (2.50)
- 1961 Fleer #11 Jim Brown (3.00)
- 1961 Topps #71 Jim Brown (3.00)
- 1962 Topps #28 Jim Brown (9.00)
- 1963 Topps #14 Jim Brown (5.00)
- 1964 Philadelphia #30 Jim Brown (2.00)
- 1965 Philadelphia #31 Jim Brown (2.00)
- 1966 Philadelphia #41 Jim Brown (2.00)
Browse through each card of Jim Brown’s Basic Set on the photo gallery section of the PSA Set Registry.
For his entire pro career, Brown carried the ball 2,359 times for 12,312 rushing yards and scored 106 touchdowns, which were all records when he retired. He averaged 104.3 rushing yards per game and remains the only player in NFL history to average more than 100 rushing yards per game for his whole career. His 5.2 yards per rush still ranks second-best among running backs. To no one’s surprise, Brown was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971.
At just 10 cards deep, Brown’s Basic Set is doable for any determined card collector. Try your hand at compiling this collection that represents one of the finest ball carriers to ever lace up a pair of cleats in the NFL.
Start Your Set Today