Pelé joined the New York Cosmos in 1975, he not only put soccer on the
map in North America, he also put soccer collecting on the map in this
Although he played in North America for only three seasons, there is
a large array of Pelé memorabilia available.
Since his retirement nearly 25 years ago, the great star's popularity has
not waned, a fact which has only increased the popularity of Pelé
collectibles, and led to the continued production of a number of items
since that time.
One of the most highly-sought Pelé items is a uniform jersey. Since
Pelé made a habit of presenting his shirt as a personal memento to
opposing players, as well as writers, dignitaries and fans, there are
many in circulation, but they remain highly prized possessions and are
rarely seen in the marketplace.
Of course there are several types of Pelé jerseys, as well as a
myriad of styles. Among the most rare are any from his Santos or Brazil
days. During his Cosmos years, the team changed uniform styles several
In Pelé’s first season, the Cosmos wore a cotton T-shirt type
jersey. The 1976 and 1977 jerseys were similar in design to the 1975
type, but the material changed several times, from a nylon mesh in 1996
to a polyester long sleeve used at various times in 1977. The team also
dropped the word New York from their logo in 1997, coinciding with their
move to Giants Stadium.
Pelé began generating memorabilia from the first day he donned a
Cosmos uniform. Although the team did not issue a special ticket for
Pelé’s first game -- an exhibition against the Dallas Tornado – the
club did print special VIP and media passes for the occasion.
Pelé made his first
appearance on the cover of a North American Soccer League program only a
few days later, when the Cosmos played the Toronto Metros. The cover
featured a shot of Pelé in a Santos uniform and was the national cover
of Kick Magazine -- the only one Pelé appeared on during the
1975 season. The national cover of Kick also featured Pelé twice
in 1976 and three times in 1977. Most clubs used the Pelé covers to
coincide with the Cosmos appearance in their city. In some instances,
teams printed special Kick covers to coincide with Pelé’s
Perhaps the most sought after Pelé-related program is the
commemorative issue from his Farewell Game on October 1, 1977. Fewer
than 20,000 were printed, and they sold out almost immediately at the
game. On occasion one of these colorful books does appear for auction.
While with the Cosmos, Pelé appeared in one club yearbook, the 1977
edition, which was the team’s first. He also appeared in two team
media guides, 1976 and 1977, and on the cover of the 1976 and 1977 NASL
Opposing teams often got in on the act of producing Pelé-related
memorabilia. The Hartford Bicentennials, for instance, used the same
photo of Pelé on both their 1976 schedule and media guide.
The Las Vegas Quicksilvers, seizing on a historic situation, minted a
special commemorative button featuring Pelé and Eusebio in what was to
be their last matchup against one another, April 9, 1977 at Las Vegas
Trading cards are
among the most popular collectibles. Pelé never appeared on a card
during his playing days, but was featured on a pair of team-issued
postcards. The first, issued in 1975, features an action shot of Pelé
dribbling against two Dallas defenders. The same photo also appeared on
a presentation folder the team used during the 1976 season. The other
card features a posed shot of Pelé taken on a field in Brazil. It was
distributed during the 1977 season. Both postcards were printed with and
without a facsimile autograph and have blank backs.
Pelé appeared on an American-issued soccer card more than a dozen
years after his retirement, when Soccer Shots issued a special Pelé
promotional card in conjunction with their 1991 Major Indoor Soccer
League set. Pelé also appeared, along with San Diego Sockers players
Michael Collins, Victor Nogueira and Waad Hirmez, on a special edition
commemorative sheet distributed at the National Sports Collectors
Convention. The Soccer Shots card has been listed in price guides for as
high as $100.
More recently, Kenner issued a Pelé card packaged with a Starting
Since Pelé was such a highly marketable personality, Warner
Communications, the Cosmos parent company, produced many Pelé related
items through their Licensing Corporation of America subsidiary.
Merchandise included lunch boxes, soccer balls, posters, video games and
Among the more rare and difficult to find North American Pelé items
are those from prior to his Cosmos playing days.
With both Santos and the Brazilian national team, Pelé appeared in
numerous exhibition games in North America—sometimes against foreign
opponents such as Napoli or Bologna of Italy, and other times against
NASL clubs, such as the Washington Whips and Baltimore Bays. Programs
from these games, though quite rare, do show up from time to time.
In addition to the program, Pelé’s farewell made for an
interesting array of collectibles. A poster, which was produced --
ostensibly to sell tickets to the game – wasn’t delivered by the
printer until after all the tickets had been sold. It is a rare item,
and quite interesting. Special tickets for the farewell game also were
issued. The ticket, printed in full color, featured five different
photos of Pelé, the Cosmos and Santos logos and a facsimile autograph.
Two different color backgrounds were used, red and light blue, each
representing a seating area at Giants Stadium and price level of the
ticket. The same design was used on media and VIP passes for the game,
although they were printed in black on various color card stock.
Clearly Pelé remains a favorite of soccer collectors. His popularity
is unsurpassed on a global basis among soccer players and only on a
region by region basis by current stars such as Michael Owen, Mia Hamm