Jim Brown's Astounding Legacy Revisited in Ten Terrific CSG-certified Football Cards
Posted on 6/8/2023
On May 18, 2023, the sporting world lost one of its greatest and most revered football players of all time when Jim Brown passed away at 87 years old. The NFL running back turned actor and civil rights activist has a legacy that reached far beyond the gridiron. His impact across American society lives on, as it has for decades, but it all started at an early age far before he turned pro or was starring in movies.
Brown was born in Georgia, where he spent the first eight years of his life before his family moved to Long Island, New York. While attending Manhasset High School, he excelled as an all-around athlete, starring on Manhasset's football, basketball, baseball, lacrosse and track teams. He was already a local sports icon, but he made a name for himself as one of the best athletes in the country during his collegiate years at Syracuse University.
In 1953, Brown was the only Black player on Syracuse's football team during his freshman season. He faced racist abuse during his college years and the coaching staff attempted to change his position several times. However, Brown was simply too good to ignore his talents as a running back. In minimal playing time, he became the team's second-leading rusher his sophomore season. As a junior, he produced over five yards per carry. Finally, his senior season, Brown became a consensus first-team All-American, rushing for 986 yards, 14 touchdowns and earning 6.2 yards per carry in only eight games played.
While in college, he also became one of the greatest lacrosse players to ever play the sport. In fact, the sport changed the rules about how the stick can be carried because he was so dominant. He became a first-team All-American in lacrosse, and also starred on the Syracuse basketball and track teams.
By 1957, NFL scouts had taken notice. The Cleveland Browns selected the running back with the sixth overall pick, and Brown would start and finish his nine-season NFL career in Ohio. His accolades are too many to list, since by the time Brown retired, he held basically every statistical NFL record for running backs. He earned a Pro Bowl selection all nine seasons in the league, won the NFL MVP award three times, led the league in rushing eight out of his nine seasons and won the NFL Championship in 1964. In 2002, The Sporting News named Brown the greatest pro football player ever.
Yet, Brown's legacy reaches beyond just sports. He starred in numerous movies and TV shows from the 1960s on, including his famous role in the 1967 classic World War II film The Dirty Dozen. Moreover, throughout his NFL career and post-retirement, Brown became a civil rights activist, often speaking out about racial issues. He advocated for other athletes to join the cause and use their voices as prominent athletes to fight for the rights of Black Americans across the nation. He took part in protests and helped underprivileged communities throughout his life. Brown will be remembered for his sporting feats, his contributions in Hollywood and his vital work fighting for change and more economic opportunities for his community.
Ten Terrific Jim Brown Cards
1958 Topps #62 Jim Brown
As one of the most sought-after football cards in the entire hobby, the 1958 Topps #62 is Jim Brown's official rookie card. As with any Hall of Famer, his rookie card is the centerpiece for any Brown football card collection. The nature background gives the card a unique look, but the heavy black oval border makes the rookie card immediately recognizable to collectors.
1959 Topps #10 Jim Brown
This is the second Topps card of Brown's NFL career. Instead of an action shot of the running back, this one features Brown posing for the camera with a stoic look. The bright blue background, colorful lettering and vintage Cleveland Browns mascot at the top left make this one of the most attractive Brown cards on the market.
1960 Topps #23 Jim Brown
Topps dominated the market when it came to early football cards. This 1960 Topps #23 comes from a set that featured a muted design, instead choosing to focus on a close-up portrait of Brown. The Hall of Famer is seen wearing Cleveland's brown jersey with no helmet on. With only a thin white border and blue football-shaped text box, this is one of the more understated but classic Jim Brown cards on the list.
1961 Fleer #11 Jim Brown
This card comes from Fleer's first-ever football card set that was released in 1961. Jim Brown's card was included in the first series of the set, which featured NFL players in #1-132. AFL players were included in the second series in #133-220. Brown's card has a heavy white border and is also the first card where he's seen wearing Cleveland's white jersey.
1961 Topps #77 '60 Football Highlights Jim Brown
This Topps Highlights card is one of the most popular of Jim Brown's to collect. Featuring an in-game action shot of Brown running the ball, its border is made to look like a TV set. The card was part of a highlights subset in the 1961 Topps series, with the card celebrating his 1,257 rushing yards from the previous 1960 season.
1964 Philadelphia #30 Jim Brown
This is another first for Jim Brown football cards. In 1964, the Philadelphia Gum Company released their first series, which featured the famous running back posing in uniform and holding a Browns helmet, with a Cadillac in the background. To this day, there seems to be some confusion about the Cadillac background because the same car is featured in the background of all Cleveland players in the set.
2000 Upper Deck Legends Autographs #JB Jim Brown
|2000 Upper Deck Legends Autographs #JB Jim Brown graded CSG 8.5, with the autograph graded CSG 10
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Jumping ahead a few decades, one of the biggest benefits to more modern cards is that collectors can own a piece of history through signatures and game-used relics. Jim Brown's first autographed card came out in 1992, but this 2000 Upper Deck Legends Autographs #JB is still one of his earliest and best-looking signature cards. It features an action shot of Brown running the football and a large hand-signed autograph in blue ink at the bottom.
2005 Topps Heritage Flashback Relics #F-JB Jim Brown
While many memorabilia cards contain pieces of a game-worn jersey, the 2005 Topps Heritage Flashback Relics #F-JB is a bit different. It features a relic from Cleveland Municipal Stadium, where Jim Brown played for the Browns during his nine seasons in the NFL. This unique relic card is another piece of history from Brown's legendary career.
2009 Playoff National Treasures Champions Signature Quads #3 Jim Brown/Gary Collins/Leroy Kelly/Paul Warfield - #'d/10
|2009 Playoff National Treasures Champions Signature Quads #3 Jim Brown/Gary Collins/Leroy Kelly/Paul Warfield - #'d/10 graded CSG 9.5, with the autograph graded CSG 9
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Panini's National Treasures set is a high-end series that features relics and signatures from the sports world's current and former iconic players. This 2009 Champions Signature Quads #3 card includes not only Jim Brown's signature but three of his Cleveland teammates' autographs as well. Brown, along with receiver Gary Collins, running back Leroy Kelly and receiver Paul Warfield, were part of the team that won the 1964 NFL Championship, and this card commemorates that historic win.
2018 Panini Flawless Signatures #FS-JB Jim Brown - Gold #'d/10
|2018 Panini Flawless Signatures #FS-JB Jim Brown - Gold #'d/10 graded CSG Gem Mint 10, with the autograph graded CSG 9
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Another high-end set from Panini, the Flawless series always contains some of the most sought-after cards that are released each year. In 2018, the Flawless set included an amazing Gold parallel Jim Brown card that was limited to only 10 copies. The card features intricate gold borders, with an image of Brown running the football and the Hall of Famer's signature in blue ink at the bottom of the card.
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