Do you remember those tiny football helmets in the gumball machines that were frequently seen when walking out of Publix or any other supermarket when you were a child? Of course you do, because whether or not you collected the helmets, you always convinced your mom to hand over her change in an attempt to pull your favorite team out of the machine. Granted, I always ended up getting more duplicates of the Jets helmets in an attempt to secure some Dolphins memorabilia, but I had to try anyway.
While I was able to procure the entire set on my own by countless turns of the quarter machine, it was no small task. I can remember riding my bike to Publix and sitting in front of the gumball machine with rolls of quarters in my pocket that I had collected or "borrowed" from my dad's stash of change. After months of work, and just after my 10th Green Bay Packers helmet, I finally completed the set with the last helmet that I needed, the Seattle Seahawks. Oh how glorious it looked when it hit the bottom of the machine. All the patrons in the store had no idea that they were part of a monumental occasion.
Well, the gumball helmet industry has not only grown since the days that I was an ankle-biter but it dates back to much earlier than that. And while I was collecting helmets from an early age, I didn't realize this until I was in college. Today, you can easily go online and order a complete set of the current NFL teams, which are constructed much more soundly, along with a display case for about $60. However, the real fun comes with the thrill of searching for rare helmets that date back to the early 1960's. And while I'm sure the collectors were pulling these helmets out of the machines for less than a quarter, some of these helmets are selling individually for anywhere from $40 to $300.
While this may seem like a silly thing to collect, this is the perfect hobby for fans that love old-school football memorabilia but don't want to spend a lot of money. And while the older helmets are a little beat-up and less crisp as the newer ones, it's really cool to see the development of the league and the way logos have changed over the years. Let's take a look at what you can expect from the throwback helmets.
The blue Broncos helmet with the famous D that John Elway made memorable is not that rare but still a nice piece to have while the other three here are a little harder to find. I always liked that white Buffalo Bills helmet as the red logo reminds me of the bison from the "Oregon Trail" and the white Eagles helmet is pretty much the oppostie of what they are currently wearing. Other than the blue broncos helmet, these pieces would probably sell for around $5-10.
One of my favorites is the blue Oilers helmet which has many different variations depending on the number of stripes across the top. You can also find original Oilers helmets in silver and white as well. Interestingly, the current Jets helmet is their throwback helmet as this one is actually from the 60's as you can tell by the dirt on the helmet. The old Giants and Chargers helmets are also nice pieces as most of the helmets here would also sell for about $5-10 dollars with the Oilers helmet maybe getting about $20 or $30.
And if paying over $5 dollars let alone $300 for a gumball helmet sounds a bit ridiculous, you can always get the replica throwback helmets made for you at about $3 a piece which is what you are looking at here. The black Saints helmet on the far left of the top shelf is the rarest helmet and the one that costs $300. The fourth helmet on the top shelf is probably my second favorite and is an orange Broncos helmet with the white bucking bronco and sells for about $150. I don't believe any of the chargers gumball helmets were orignially made with the number, and they are strictly replicas although they do look pretty cool. Some other interesting helmets include the yellow Steelers helmet along with the yellow and Florida State-looking Redskins helmet. These sell for around $20-$40. You can also see how many different Oilers helmets were made as they are all visible on the third row from the top and also happen to be my favorite. Like I said before, most of them go for around $30 but the blue one with the three red stripes is much rarer and goes for around $200. Whether you are the type of collector that must have the originally made helmets or just likes to display the different styles of helmets from each decade, you can't debate how intriguing of a collection this would be for any sports fan. After all, your house will probably be the only one that includes a detailed history of football helmets for your guests from just a collection of tiny pieces of plastic. Also, for your viewing pleasure, he is a closer view of some of the throwback helmets along with a picture of what the newest NFL gumball helmets look like below.
So if you used to collect these artifacts twenty or thirty years ago, i would suggest cleaning out your closet.