Emmitt Smith Rookie Cards: Values and Collectibility

Posted on 11/2/2022

Find out about the market value of Emmitt Smith rookie cards. And if you’re a collector, learn how grading can help authenticate your sports card collection.

For millions of football fans, Emmitt Smith is one of the NFL's most legendary figures. He's widely acknowledged as one of the greatest running backs in the league's history, alongside Walter Payton, Jim Brown and Barry Sanders. As the longtime running back of the Dallas Cowboys, Smith had an iconic 15-year NFL career. With all of his success on the football field, does that translate to the value of his rookie cards? First, let's revisit Emmitt Smith's astounding career.

Emmitt Smith: NFL Records King

From the moment he joined the Cowboys as a first-round draft pick in 1990, Emmitt Smith set himself on a path of history-making records. During his break-out first season, Smith was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, rushing for 937 yards culminating in 11 touchdowns. And while he just missed gaining 1,000 yards that year, he made up for it with a record-holding run of 1,000 rushing yards for 11 straight seasons.

Emmitt Smith would go on to earn a longstanding record as the NFL’s all-time rushing leader (18,355 yards). He also holds the record for career rushing touchdowns (164), the record for most rushing attempts (4,409) and many more. As a three-time Super Bowl-champion (1992, 1993, and 1995), he also led the league in rushing each of his title-winning seasons. In addition, Smith broke postseason records for rushing touchdowns (19), 100-yard rushing games (7) and consecutive games (9) with rushing touchdowns.

In 226 games over 15 seasons, Smith achieved a career stat of 21,564 yards (counting receiving yards and fumble return yards). Only three other players in NFL history — Jerry Rice, Walter Payton and Brian Mitchell — have broken the 21,000-yard barrier.

Smith was named to the NFL's All-Decade Team of the 1990s, and in 1999 he made The Sporting News’ list of 100 Greatest Football Players. Other honors include MVP of Super Bowl XXVIII, and eight invitations to the Pro Bowl. Ultimately, Smith reached football’s highest pinnacle, with inductions into the 2006 College Football Hall of Fame and 2010 Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Post-retirement, Emmitt Smith has been able to leverage his likable personality as a popular TV broadcaster and celebrity guest, appearing regularly on NFL broadcasts and entertainment shows. As yet another achievement in a storied career, Smith won Season 3 of the hit TV show “Dancing With the Stars.”

Investment Potential for Emmit Smith Rookie Cards

Emmitt Smith began his career in 1990, at a time when a lot of sports cards were being overproduced in vast quantities. Therefore, it's easy to find many of Smith's rookie cards at relatively low prices, especially if you are not particularly concerned about grade and condition.

Higher graded cards, however, are reaching hefty prices. Likewise, exceptionally desirable cards, such as the Pro Set Rookie, Panini Score Supplemental Rookie and Fleer Update, are selling for several thousands of dollars if they're in Gem Mint condition.

Price-tracking services such as SportsCardsProPriceGuide.Cards and Sports Card Investor indicate that prices for Emmitt Smith rookie cards can range for under $10 to around $5,000. Ultimately, these prices are driven by collector demand, card rarity and condition.

As one of the NFL’s greatest late 20th-century players, Smith’s cards should continue to garner keen interest from football fans, as well as collectors who focus on Dallas Cowboys cards and memorabilia.

Most Popular Emmitt Smith Rookie Cards

To get an accurate idea of any card’s value, it’s necessary to track it over a period of weeks and months. Here’s a look at how the most popular Emmitt Smith rookie cards have been trending on some of the most popular tracking sites.

1990 Pro Set Emmitt Smith #685 ($5,000)

Printed in large numbers, this Pro Set rookie card celebrates Smith as an NFL first-round draft pick, and features an action shot of Smith running the ball in a game against the Washington Redskins.

Despite its large issue numbers, this card remains popular with fans and is an indispensable part of any Emmitt Smith rookie card collection. SportsCardsPro shows Ungraded examples going for as little as $2.83, with the price rising to around $18.50 for Grade 9. Near Mint examples trend at $93, while a Gem Mint trends at around $200. However, according to the sales tracking at PriceGuide.Cards, a Gem Mint example may run you as much as $5,000.

1990 Score Supplemental Emmitt Smith #101T ($3,199)

Considered by many to be Emmitt Smith’s most popular rookie card, this classic Score rookie card features an in-game action shot of Smith trying to break through the defense in a game against the New York Giants. The card's vibrant colors are enhanced with purple striping along the edges. Condition-wise, this particular card features dark borders, which makes it more vulnerable to scuffs and other visual flaws.

Due to its popularity, this card has a proven track record on the market and continues to be a fan favorite. On SportsCardsPro, Ungraded examples trend at around $54, with Grade 7 examples selling for $36, Grade 8 for $51 and Grade 9 for $122. Near Mint tracks for around $503, while Gem Mint prices top at $1,325. However, Sports Card Investor is tracking Gem Mint examples at a top price of $3,199.

1990 Fleer Update Emmitt Smith #U-40 ($2,125)

Attractively printed on the high-quality card stock that Fleer is famous for, this card shows an action shot of Smith running during gameplay. The background features team colors of blue and silver, with a Cowboys helmet in the lower right corner.

According to SportsCardsPro, Ungraded and lower-grade examples can be found for less than $20, with prices rising substantially to around $75 at the Near-Mint level. For Gem Mint cards, it looks to be a case of "whatever the market will bear" on any given day, as trending top prices are around $110 to $2,125.

1990 Topps Traded Emmitt Smith #27T ($1,500)

This fan-favorite card features a youthful Emmitt Smith taking a knee, with his hand resting on his helmet. The colors are bright and vivid, and there’s an image of a football in the lower left corner, with the Topps logo below.

At SportsCardsPro, examples at Grade 8 and below are trending for around $20 and under, while Gem Mint cards are tracked around $195. Sports Card Investor is showing the same trends for lower-grade cards, but a high price of $1,500.

1990 Action Packed Rookie Update Emmitt Smith #34 ($1,500)

This card is fun to collect because it features an in-game shot of Emmitt Smith running the ball while covering it in both arms. The card has a gold border with red striping and features the distinctive Action Packed embossing.

According to SportsCardsPro, Ungraded and lower-grade examples can sell for under $10. Near-Mint Grade 9.5 cards are selling for $174, while Gem Mint cards are trending for around $762. On PriceGuide.Cards, top prices are trending around $1,500.

Emmitt Smith Pre-Rookie Cards

1988 Florida Gators Burger King Emmitt Smith #2 ($772)

For three years (1987-1989), Emmitt Smith had a stand-out career with the University of Florida Gators, where he broke Florida’s all-time single-game rushing record (which had been held for 57 years). In 1988, during Smith’s sophomore year, Burger King released a 16-card set, made by McDage productions, that featured Emmitt Smith and other top players on the Gators roster.

The card features a mid-game shot of Smith as a Gator running the ball. The colors are especially vivid, thanks to the team’s distinctive orange jerseys.

The back of the card cites Smith's achivement at being named the UPI and Sporting News Freshman Player of the Year. In addition, there’s a “Tip From the Gators” section that encourages kids to say no to drugs and alcohol. Because of its public service message, this card is also popular as a law enforcement/safety collectible. 

Pro tip: Collectors are reporting conterfeit copies. Fortunately, fakes are easy to spot because the Burger King logo is missing.

According to SportsCardsPro, Ungraded examples sell for around $35, with Grade 8 cards selling for around $160, Grade 9 for $304 and Gem Mint topping out at $770.

1990 Action Packed All-Madden Emmitt Smith #9 ($495)

As part of the popular All-Madden card series, this card packs a powerful punch, with an image of Smith doing what he did best, running the football.

SportsCardsPro shows this card trending at $28 for Grade 8, $51 for Grade 9, $92 for Grade 9.5 and $495 for Gem Mint.

Where Can I Purchase Emmitt Smith Rookie Cards?

You can find Emmitt Smith rookie cards on a variety of online auction sites, including:

In addition, a quick Google search will help you find listings for the many sports card shows held across the country each year. You can find information about shows coming to your area by searching through collecting sites, community forums and social media sports pages.

How Are Emmett Smith Rookie Cards Graded?

Sports cards are evaluated and graded according to a numeric grading system, with 10 being perfect, or “Gem Mint.” Here’s how the system works:

Perfect 10: The highest possible grade, reserved for cards that score a Gem Mint grading across all four criteria: corners, edges, surface, and centering. These cards are flawless even under 10x magnification.

Gem Mint: Perfect card, with original gloss, no fading, sharp corners, and no stains or damage. 

Grade 9.5: Almost perfect, with perhaps one minor flaw

Grades 9 and below: These cards have some condition flaws, with Grade 9 representing excellent condition with the fewest flaws. The lower the grade, the greater the flaws, and the lower the monetary value.

Raw or Ungraded: Raw cards are brand new to the market and may have been just removed from their original boxes or packages. Ungraded cards have never been through the grading system, and may or may not be new to the market.

As you can see from the trends listed above, grading can have a significant impact on a card’s monetary value. 

This diversity is due to the three universal factors that drive the market: demand, rarity and condition. In particular, demand and rarity are closely intertwined. Even if a card is extremely rare, if there’s no demand for it, its price may be low on the secondary market. If sports fans want a specific card, they’ll be willing to pay for it, and that’s where condition comes into play.

Some collectors will only buy Gem Mint cards, while others are more than willing to overlook a few flaws, especially if the price is right. Condition is one of the reasons why you’ll see prices fluctuate so greatly. And it’s also one reason why so many collectors choose to get their cards professionally graded.

Should I Get My Cards Graded?

Grading can help enhance a card’s value by giving it authentication, along with certified recognition of the card's quality. Every graded card gets its own certification number and is entered into the grading company’s international database. This helps to establish the authenticity and quality of the card.

Whether you plan to sell your cards, keep them in the family or donate them to an organization, you may find that grading will enhance the marketability, value and authenticity of your cards. With professional grading, you’ll have a collection that you can be proud to own, and proud to pass on to future generations.

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