Multi-sport athletes are common in high school, less common in college, and extremely rare in the pros.
Players like Deion Sanders, Brian Jordan, Dave DeBusschere and Gene Conley excelled in two sports, but there was one player who was hands down the most dominant. It’s why Bo Jackson cards are among the most popular in the hobby, more than 20 years after he played his last game.
In this his prime, Jackson was thought of like Hercules, a demigod. A first overall pick in the 1986 NFL draft, Jackson made his major league debut that same year making him among the most popular athletes at the time.
After a successful multi-sport career at Auburn which also included track and field where Jackson was a sprinter, his first sports card came out. In this case, it was from his Minor League Baseball career. The card was issued in a Memphis Chicks team set and is number 28 in the set. This card came in two varieties, gold and silver. He also has a couple of other minor league cards but it wouldn’t be long before his first cards from the major trading card manufacturers arrived.
Jackson debuted in the Donruss Rookies boxed set, Topps Traded (also the Tiffany variant), Sportflics rookies, and Donruss Highlights in 1986. All of these cards count as his rookie cards. His card in Donruss Rookies seems to be the most popular (card #38) and can be had for $2-$3 in near mint, ungraded condition. A PSA 10 can usually be found for $20-35. The 1986 Topps Traded is the easiest to find. PSA 10s are easily found for $40-75 with the much more limited Tiffany versions selling in a PSA 9 grade on eBay for $100-150.
Although he had plenty of baseball cards released in 1987, it was not until 1988 when Jackson was featured on a football card. Jackson is in the Los Angeles Raiders police set but his Topps rookie, #327 in the regular set, is the one most collectors chase. An ungraded near mint example is just a couple of dollars but high-end graded copies will cost more.
One of Jackson’s most popular cards is the 1987 Classic Game card which shows him in an Auburn football jersey, swinging a baseball bat. A PSA 9 runs $30-50 but 10s often trade in the $500-600 range.
Over the course of his brief but successful careers, Jackson was a hot commodity in the card world.
Luckily for collectors, Jackson’s professional careers came at a time when sports cards were obscenely overly produced in a timeframe known as the “junk wax era” and his time in the spotlight was cut short by a hip injury so most of his cards can be had for under $1—sometimes as little as a quarter.
His cards were worth more back in his playing days than they are now, even without inflation. Those rookie cards of his that go for $3 now went for $10 or even $20 back in his playing days. Not only did fans think he was going to be a Hall of Famer in both sports, but the realization that so many were made would come later.
Keep in mind, Jackson had hit 109 career big league home runs and stolen 81 bases by the end of the 1990 MLB season and was just 27 years old at the time. By the end of the 1990 NFL season, Jackson was 28 yards old and had rushed for 2782 yards in his NFL career, nearly 700 per year of his four-year career.
If it were not for the hip injury Jackson suffered in the third quarter of the last regular season game of the 1990 Raiders season, things would be much different in the world. His football career would not have abruptly ended, his baseball career would have been more successful and the Raiders might have had a long run as a contender.
Done with football, the bad hip affected Jackson for the rest of his baseball career. Limiting him to just 23 games in 1990 and forcing him to miss the entire 1991 season. He still bounced back and recovered well smacking 29 home runs in his final 160 big league games in 1993 and 1994, only to retire during the 1994 MLB player’s strike.
Even though he was one of the best players in both sports in his prime, that time frame was short meaning that collectors back in the late 80’s and early 90’s lost out on their cardboard investments. Today, Jackson’s cards from both football and baseball remain popular with collector who remember when he was in his prime, they just are not as valuable as they once were.
Fortunately for Bo fans, he’s signed quite a few different cards for Topps, Upper Deck and Panini over the last couple of years including some very nice products. Prices vary depending on the number of each card produced and signed but a nice Jackson autographed card from recent issues can easily be found for under $250. Dual autographs with fellow icons like Sanders or Ken Griffey Jr., will be more.
Which Bo Jackson cards are collectors watching on eBay right now? Check out our live list below.