Back in 1983 or ’84, few could have imagined Jerry Rice football cards would be among the most popular in NFL history. Ardent fans may have known his name but there wasn’t exactly a large roster of past pro greats from Mississippi Valley State.
Rice, who grabbed three touchdown passes from Steve Young in Super Bowl XXIX on January 29, 1995, is still recognized as one of those small school dream come true stories. His career gives hope to every small school collegiate player that with hard work the NFL dream is possible.
It turned out that the story of a small kid from Starkville, Mississippi translated quite well into pro football greatness.
“I think growing up in a small town, I was hungry, ” Rice said recently at a hometown hero celebration.
Hungry he was. For 20 seasons, Rice tormented defenses. He scored 197 career touchdowns and amassed 22,895 yards during his time with San Francisco, Oakland and Seattle. He still stands atop the NFL career leaderboard in receptions (1,549), receiving touchdowns and receiving yardage. He still holds over 100 NFL records and he’s widely considered to be the greatest receiver to ever play in the NFL.
Yes, he had incredible arms in Joe Montana and Steve Young tossing accurate passes his way but Rice as a maniacal off the field worker who refused to let any nagging injury stand in his way. His game day performances always did the talking.
The 1988 Super Bowl M.V.P. wasn’t just a guy with good hands or speed. Jerry Rice was simply intimidating to defenses and many altered their schemes just to cover him. His intense work ethic is part of his legend.
While some players may see interest in their cards wane a bit as better players come along, that isn’t likely going to be the case with Rice, whose 1986 Topps rookie card is one of the most popular of all-time. His records won’t be broken any time soon. Even quality receivers like Julio Jones (Atlanta) and Antonio Brown (Pittsburgh) have miles to go before catching him. If you started collecting his football cards as soon as they arrived in 1986, you picked the best. Rice continues to be a big seller. In a recent three-month period, over $188,000 worth of Rice-related trading cards were sold on eBay with the average sale just over $33.
Mint, graded examples of Topps’ 1986 Jerry Rice rookie card are selling for $600 and up as of this writing and have grown significantly in value in recent years. BGS 9.5 examples usually sell for approximately $2,000 with the rare PSA 10 graded Rice cards now stretching into five figures. The average price for all Rice rookie cards sits at around $100. He also had a 1986 card in the McDonald’s 49ers set, distributed only within a few hundred miles of the Bay Area.
Rice’s earliest cards were issued at a time when Topps had an exclusive or there were just a few different products issued in a year. You can still own a basic Rice collection from his playing days for a relatively modest sum. Rice’s second year Topps card from 1987 remains very affordable, even in high-grade. For those who want to chase more recent issues, Rice has been a popular subject including high-end products that carry his autograph and a piece of game-worn memorabilia.
Below is a continually updated look at the current most watched Jerry Rice football cards being offered via eBay auctions.