Joe Montana Rookie Card Market Guide
Posted on 1/18/2023
Joe Montana is an NFL icon and one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game. Montana earned the nicknames "Joe Cool" for his calm demeanor under pressure and "Comeback Kid" for his uncanny ability to lead late-game comebacks that resulted in 41 come-from-behind victories during his career. Yet, Montana built his reputation and legacy on more than personal accolades. He's well-known for his leadership, perseverance and exceptional work ethic on and off the field as well. But how does Montana's astounding NFL career translate to his rookie card values and their investment potential?
Joe Montana's NFL Career
Joe Montana was selected in the third round of the1979 NFL Draft and spent his entire pro career with the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs. He didn't see much playing time during his rookie season, but he was named the starter in 1982. From 1982 to 1990, Montana was selected for the Pro Bowl in seven consecutive seasons. He was also named the NFL's Most Valuable Player three times, the most by any player at the time.
Throughout his NFL career, Montana made the postseason an astonishing 11 times and threw over 300 passing yards in 39 different games. In 2000, Joe Montana solidified his name in history when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Here are some other accolades that Montana accumulated over his illustrious career:
- 4x Super Bowl Champion
- 4x Super Bowl MVP
- 2x NFL MVP
- 3x All-NFL Team
- 5x All-NFC Team
- 8x Pro Bowler
At the end of Montana's career, the QB retired with over 40,000 passing yards and was fourth all-time in passing yardage. His impact on the game of football is undeniable, and Montana's rookie cards are extremely valuable to collectors. In this article, we will explore Joe Montana's best rookie cards, as well as provide some tips on how to start collecting them.
Top Joe Montana Rookie Cards
Technically, there is only one true Montana rookie card, which is the 1981 Topps #216 Joe Montana. Why does such a legendary player only have one rookie card? There are a few reasons. The first being that football trading cards were less popular in the early 1980s. The second is because Montana was not the starting quarterback for the 49ers in his first year. His rookie season was in 1979, when he only threw 26 passes. Therefore, his rookie card was released during his third season of play, which is why Montana's rookie card has a 1981 release. However, since there's only one rookie card, we're adding a few more collectors and investors might want to check out as well for their collections.
1981 Topps #216 Joe Montana ($64,580)
The 1981 Topps #216 is arguably the most valuable football card of the 1980s, and it is also among the most valuable non-error, non-autographed football cards ever produced. This card pictures Montana throwing a football while wearing the 49ers' white jersey with red stripes on the sleeves. The back of the card features stats from Montana's first two seasons in San Francsico with a short bio about his collegiate football career at Notre Dame.
The highest recorded price for Montana's rookie card is a staggering $64,580 in Gem Mint 10 condition, according to SportsCardsPro, with two sold each year. However, if the condition drops down to even 9.5, the price falls to around $7,000.
Further, collectors can find the 1981 Topps #216 graded 9 for $1,605, graded 8 for $333, graded 7 for $176 and Ungraded versions for less than $100.
1986 Topps #156 Joe Montana ($3,699)
While landing a perfectly graded Montana rookie card is far out of reach for most collectors, other notable Montana cards are much more affordable and still hold considerable value. While the rest of these aren't rookie cards, they're still vital additions to any Joe Montana card collection.
The 1986 Topps #156 is actually one of the most popular football cards of the '80s. While the 1986 Topps set is typically known for another rookie card in Montana's longtime 49ers teammate Jerry Rice, the Montana card from the series is still an excellent option for collectors. This card pictures Montana with his chinstrap undone and is possibly in-between plays. Regardless, this great Montana card can sell for upwards of $3,699 for a perfectly graded copy.
Yet, lower grades can be purchased for much less. SportsCardsPro reports that versions graded 9 sell for $201, graded 8 for $23 and grade 7 for $12. Ungraded versions can be bought for less than $5.
1985 Topps #157 Joe Montana ($1,639)
The 1985 Topps #157 Joe Montana has a unique horizontal design with Montana's name in bold font, taking up a fair portion of the card. Montana is in his red 49ers uniform in the throwing position. This card is still one of the more expensive Montana cards, and a perfectly graded copy can sell for around $1,639.
However, the value significantly drops even for a grade of 9.5, where sales have been made for around $150. This makes this card a great addition to any collection without spending too much money. Additionally, grade 9 goes for $133, grade 8 for $22, grade 7 for $12 and Ungraded copies versions sell for less than $4.
1984 Topps #358 Joe Montana ($1,092)
The 1984 Topps set featured two other Hall of Fame quarterbacks who had rookie cards in this series: Dan Morino and John Elway. However, the Joe Montana card from the set is valuable as well and would be a great addition to any Montana collection.
The 1984 Montana card has diagonal lines in the frame, creating a unique look. The back of the card has a brief description of Montana's career to date and maintains a clean look that is expected from Topps.
High-graded copies can sell for around $1,092, but the price for anything under a grade of 10 is drastically less. You can get your hands on a 9.5 grade for less than $80 and a grade of 9 for around $40. Cards graded 8 sell for $18, graded 7 for $17 and Ungraded versions for less than $5.
2020 Panini Prizm #290 Joe Montana - Gold Prizm ($370)
Although Joe Montana has been retired since 1994, trading card companies still occasionally make new cards that celebrate the quarterback's iconic NFL career. That's the case with the 2020 Panini Prizm #290 Joe Montana in the premium Gold Prizm Parallel of the card. There are several parallels in different colors and designs of the 2020 Prizm #290 card, but this Gold Prizm stands out from the bunch as it matches the red and gold of the San Francisco 49ers.
The 2020 Prizm collection featured NFL legends on various parallels. While the feature cards from this collection include rookie cards of Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow and Justin Jefferson, they also integrated a legend collection that is in high demand.
With the booming popularity in the trading card market, the 2020 release has been in high demand. Ungraded Montana cards from this set have been selling for around $370. While this series is still fairly new, there haven't been many perfectly graded Montana sales from the series. However, since an ungraded copy sells for over $300, you can expect a perfect grade 10 card to sell for a lot more.
Where To Buy Joe Montana Rookie Cards
If you are new to the world of trading cards, the best place to start your search for a Joe Montana rookie card is likely to be online. Dozens of reputable online retailers sell all kinds of trading cards, including Montana rookies.
One of the most popular places to buy sports cards online is eBay. Not only do they have a large selection of cards, but they also have a buyer protection program that gives you peace of mind when making your purchase. Other popular platforms include online auctions, sports card retailers and even classified ads. Here’s a list of some of the most popular online auction sites for sports cards and memorabilia:
- SCP Auctions
- Memory Lane
- Pristine Auction
- Robert Edward Auctions
- Heritage Auctions
One thing to always keep in mind is the quality, the grade and the seller's reliability. With a card as valuable as a Joe Montana rookie, you want to make sure your purchase is authentic and that its condition is accurately reported.
The grade of a card is based on multiple factors. Those factors include the corners, edges, surface and centering. The higher the grade, the more valuable the card is. A perfect 10 is considered Gem Mint condition and is the highest possible grade a card can receive. These cards can be nearly impossible to find and usually come straight from packs. If you do find one though, they're the top cards on the market for any version of any card.
Investing in Joe Montana Rookie Cards and Ensuring Their Value Through Grading
Joe Montana is a legendary quarterback with a career many players dream of having. When looking at Montana's stats, it is easy to see why he is considered one of the best quarterbacks of all-time. This makes his rookie card situation that much more fascinating. Since he is a legend in the sport and has only one genuine rookie card, investing in his cards is a wise decision.
Not only is Montana's rookie card valuable, but it has also been increasing in value over the years, and this is due to the high demand and low supply of the card. If you are looking for an investment that will continue to go up in value, then investing in a Joe Montana rookie card or some of his other notable cards during his career could be a great option.
Further, grading your Joe Montana collection can add value to your cards. With grading, your cards will have an established rating that will always be recognized by future generations of collectors, appraisers and industry professionals. Professional bodies like Certified Sports Guaranty (CSG) carry out grading and provide a certificate of authentication for each submitted card. Sellers should always have cards graded, and buyers should always check for proof of the condition before purchasing.
*Any mention of "investment potential" is for entertainment only and should not be construed as investment advice. The Certified Collectibles Group does not provide investment advice and is not liable for any buy, sell or trade decisions made by any parties.
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