The 1935 R331 National Chicle set isn’t the first pre-war football card issue. However, it is by far the most desirable among collectors. It is not only the most popular football pre-war card set, but possibly the most popular football set spanning all eras.
National Chicle was a major gum card competitor to the Goudey in the 1930s. While Goudey had more noteworthy sets, National Chicle’s idea to create a professional football set was brilliant. The set’s biggest claim to fame was that it was ahead of its time. Mainstream professional football cards wouldn’t come about until the late 1940s and early 1950s, but this one was ahead of them all.
This is the first full set dedicated to professional football players and, by default, includes rookie cards of every player.
The cards have a similar look to National Chicle’s 1934-36 Diamond Stars baseball cards at the time. Those art deco-style cards have color pictures of players with virtually the same front/back layout as these cards. While this is a set featuring professional football stars, at least several of them are pictured in collegiate uniforms.
Bronko and Knute
While most of the players featured in this set have been long forgotten, the release boasts a pair of gems in the legendary Bronko Nagurski and Knute Rockne. Unsurprisingly, their cards are the two most valuable ones in the set.
Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne was the lone collegiate figure and is essentially the only card not considered a rookie since he appeared in the mixed card set, the 1933 Goudey Sport Kings release, two years earlier.
Nagurski’s card is even more iconic. It is not only seen as the most important card in the set, it is viewed as one of the most important football cards of all time. And with a PSA 9 selling for $350,000, it is one of the most expensive, too. Nagurski’s card depicts him as a member of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, his college team.
National Chicle Premiums
In addition to the cards, National Chicle also offered special premium photos to collectors. These premiums, known as part of the R311 National Chicle set, were given away to collectors in exchange for 20 wrappers.
In addition to the football premiums, National Chicle also ran a similar promotion with the 1934-36 Diamond Stars baseball set. Both the baseball and football issues are cataloged as R311.
The football set includes a total of 17 photographs. Both collegiate and professional players and teams were included. Highlights include a premium of the legendary Red Grange, as well as team photographs for the Chicago Bears and New York Giants.