There were once again 396 cards to collect, but the 1987 Topps football set was hard-pressed to match the 1986 version in terms of key rookie cards. The 1986 set had a bumper crop of future Hall of Famers as rookies, including Jerry Rice, Reggie White, Steve Young, Bruce Smith and Andre Reed.
However, the 1987 set was sort of a return to tradition in that it was much less condition-sensitive than the green “football field” border of ’86 and also the nightmare of the ’85 black border set.
1987 Topps Football Basics
There were 36 packs to a 1987 Topps football wax box, with each pack containing 15 base cards and a 1000 Yard Club insert. The bottom of the wax pack boxes had four box bottom cards that could be cut out.
Topps also offered 25-card rack packs and 29-card cello packs (for 69 cents).
The 1987 set also marked the first year that Topps offered a factory football set.
What is striking about the design of 1987 Topps football cards are the two flags that span the top of the card front. The team name is on the left-hand flag, while the player’s name is on the right-hand flag, with the player’s position situated above the banner. The flags’ prominence are emphasized by the white border around a color photograph of the player.
The card backs are colored in red stock, with a shield that serves as a place for statistics. The players’ vital statistics take up the left side of the card.
It’s not blessed with a bumper rookie crop, but there are some memorable players making their debut. While it is true that Jim Kelly and Doug Flutie had rookie cards in Topps’ USFL card sets (Kelly in 1984, Flutie in 1985), these are here first Topps NFL cards.
Some of the other memorable rookie cards include Randall Cunningham, Jim Everett, Herschel Walker, Bill Brooks, Keith Byars, John Offerdahl, Ernest Givins and Charles Haley.
Second-year cards of Rice and Young are also key cards in the set. This set also marks the final regular-issue card of Walter Payton.
Inside the 1987 Topps Football Set
Card No. 1 is a recap of Super Bowl XXI, and cards 2 through 8 are devoted to NFL Record Breaker cards. The other subset is called League Leaders (cards 227-232).
Cards were numbered in the order of the team’s finish during the 1986 season. Therefore, the Super Bowl champion New York Giants begin with card No. 9 and end with No. 29. The Denver Broncos, who lost the game to the Giants, are listed next, and the pattern continues to the team with the worst record — the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — beginning with card No. 383.
There are at least three uncorrected errors in the set. The reverse on Ross Browner’s card (No. 195) refers to the Bengals’ victory in Super Bowl XVI, which, they in fact lost to the San Francisco 49ers. The card also lists the date of Super Bowl XVI as Jan. 10, 1982, when it was actually held on Jan. 24 of that year.
Card No. 274, of Rueben Mayes, the statistical heading reads “Comp” instead of “Yards.” Mayes was a running back, so “Yards” would have been the appropriate heading.
Card No. 288, of John Stallworth, is missing statistics for the Steelers wide receiver from 1982 to 1986.
The “Other Stuff”
The insert in each pack of 1987 Topps football was a 1000 Yard Club card. There were 24 in the set, and the cards were printed on heavy white stock. Each card features a player that either rushed for 1,000 yards or more or had 1,000 or more yards in receptions.
The box bottom cards were a 16-card subset that are different from the base set because the borders around the photograph on the card fronts are yellow.
Prices and Grading
Raw complete sets in nm/mt condition are easy to locate and generally cost under $40. Factory sets usually run just a little more.
More than 23,000 cards have been submitted to PSA and there are nearly 7,000 gem mint cards. With more than 9,400 cards grading at PSA 9 and additional 5,000 coming in at PSA 8, you won’t have trouble landing nice cards at small prices even if you opt to try to collect a full-graded set.
There are 1,289 cards that have been submitted to SCG for grading, and 106 have come back graded at 98. An additional 378 cards graded out at 96.
You can see 1987 Topps football singles, sets, team sets, boxes, packs and more on eBay by clicking here.