15 Most Valuable 1989 Score Football Cards

Most Valuable 1989 Score Football Cards


With a checklist that boasts an eye-popping 11 Hall of Fame rookie cards, the 1989 Score football card set continues to be one of the most desirable of its era.

There is just so much to like about this set...

The design and color scheme of the cards is unique and instantly recognizable.

The fact that they weren't as heavily produced as others of that period gives them a less "junky" feel than other sets of the infamous "junk era."

And along with the excellent rookie card class, there are plenty of big-name superstars like Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Lawrence Taylor and others to add even more enjoyment.

Considering all that, you might be surprised at some of the prices these cards can fetch in top condition.

And in this guide, we'll look at the 15 most valuable in the set.

Let's jump right in!

Ross Uitts

Ross Uitts - Owner

Love sports cards?

Get my weekly newsletter with the latest hobby updates delivered straight to your inbox!

Let's be clear: most of the cards from these sets do not have any value these days.

Like the 1989 Pro Set and Topps sets, large print runs saturated the market with these cards, driving down their values.

So, for the cards on this list to be worth much, they'll have to be graded by PSA to be in perfect, gem mint condition.

That means the card needs to be flawless.

Now that we got that out of the way, let's take a look at the list:

1989 Score #257 Barry Sanders Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $1,400

Imagine the luxury of having Thurman Thomas as your starting running back and Barry Sanders as your backup.

For the 1986 and 1987 NCAA seasons, the Oklahoma State Cowboys found themselves with precisely that kind of fortune.

But, after being limited to a backup role during his freshman and sophomore seasons, it was Barry Sanders' time to shine as the lead back during his junior year.

And shine, he did.

In one of the most prolific individual seasons in NCAA history, Sanders rushed the ball 344 times for 2,628 yards, averaging an eye-popping 7.6 yards per carry and 238.9 yards per game.

Barry Sanders had announced to the world just how much of a monster he was on the ground.

And the Detroit Lions happily snatched him with the third pick of the 1989 NFL Draft, resulting in an immediate boost to their running game.

In one of the best rookie seasons for any running back in NFL history, Sanders rushed for 1,470 yards and fourteen touchdowns while catching 24 passes for 282 receiving yards.

Sanders was an easy choice for the 1989 Offensive Rookie of the Year Award, First-Team All-Pro honors and a Pro Bowl selection.

Among the multiple Barry Sanders rookie cards, this is his most desirable of all of them.

1989 Score #257 Barry Sanders Rookie Card

1989 Score #246 Deion Sanders Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $725

When the New York Yankees drafted him in the 30th round of the 1988 MLB Draft and the Atlanta Falcons took him as the fifth overall pick in the 1989 NFL Draft, Deion Sanders began his attempt at two-sport stardom.

His time with the Yankees was short, but Sanders did find success on the baseball field, primarily during his time with the Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds.

As for his NFL career, to say he also found success on the football field is an understatement.

During the first game of his career, Sanders fumbled and recovered his first punt return but immediately made up for the mistake by returning the next one for a touchdown.

From then on, Sanders would earn a reputation for highlight reel plays as both a returner and shutdown corner.

And many would say he was the greatest cornerback of all time.

During his fourteen-year career, Sanders earned eight Pro Bowl selections, six First-Team All-Pro honors, 1994 Defensive Player of the Year honors, and two Super Bowl rings.

To summarize his career in simple terms, Deion Sanders was the last guy you wanted to see across the line if you were an opposing wide receiver.

1989 Score #246 Deion Sanders Rookie Card

1989 Score #270 Troy Aikman Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $650

The Dallas Cowboys organization and its fans headed into the 1989 season full of hope and optimism.

After the team finished with a disappointing 3-13 record in 1988, first-year owner Jerry Jones fired legendary head coach Tom Landry, who had been in that role since 1960.

Looking to turn the page and shake things up, Jones instead gave the reigns to the University of Miami's head coach, Jimmy Johnson, who was fresh off a 1988 Orange Bowl victory.

But a change in ownership and head coach weren't the only significant adjustments.

The team also looked to the first overall pick of the 1989 NFL Draft, Troy Aikman, to take over as their new starting quarterback.

Unfortunately, things went badly for Aikman rather quickly as he'd throw two picks and no touchdowns in his 28-0 debut loss to the New Orleans Saints in Week 1.

He would go on to start the season 0-4 before missing Weeks 5-9 with a broken finger, only to come back in Week 11 and finish the season 0-11 with 9 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.

It was one of the roughest rookie seasons of any star quarterback in NFL history.

Yet, plenty of brighter days were on the horizon for Aikman and the Cowboys, as he would ultimately help bring three Super Bowl championships to Dallas.

1989 Score #270 Troy Aikman Rookie Card

1989 Score #18 Michael Irvin Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $350

When Jimmy Johnson took over as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys in 1989, he was pleased to be reunited with Michael Irvin, whom he had coached from 1985 to 1987.

The Cowboys had selected Irvin with the eleventh pick of the 1988 NFL Draft, and though his rookie 1988 campaign wasn't bad, he still had plenty more upside.

And the Dallas front office hoped that Johnson would be the guy to help accelerate Irvin's potential.

Despite a dud in Week 4 at home against the New York Giants, where he had zero catches, Irvin was on pace for over 1,000 yards receiving through the first five games of the season.

Though the team had plenty of struggles, things were looking up for Irvin individually.

And then, disaster struck during a Week 6 home game against the San Francisco 49ers when Irvin tore the ACL in his right knee.

Irvin embarked on a rehab journey for almost a year, leaving many questioning his future with the Cowboys as rumors swirled about a potential trade to the Los Angeles Raiders.

Luckily for Cowboys fans, Irvin stayed in Dallas, though he didn't return to the field until the fourth game of the 1990 season.

1989 Score #18 Michael Irvin Rookie Card

1989 Score #258 Derrick Thomas Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $225

When they drafted Thomas out of Alabama with the fourth pick of the 1989 NFL Draft, Kansas City knew they were getting a unique talent, but few could've predicted how far his career would take him.

Thomas possessed a combination of speed and power rarely seen in the NFL, assets he utilized to rack up ten sacks en route to capturing the 1989 Defensive Rookie of the Year Award.

And for the rest of his eleven-year career, Thomas built a resume that would solidify as one of the top linebackers in NFL history.

A nine-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, Thomas's 126.5 sacks remain a Kansas City Chiefs record and put him 17th on the NFL all-time leaderboard and third amongst linebackers.

During his sophomore campaign in 1990, Thomas lit up the stat lines with six forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and an eye-popping twenty sacks.

Seven of those sacks occurred during one game against the Seattle Seahawks at home on November 11, 1990, when Thomas got to quarterback Dave Krieg seven times.

Krieg probably still has nightmares of Thomas chasing him around that day.

Thomas's seven sacks remain the NFL single-game record and only time will tell if anyone will be able to surpass such an incredible feat.

1989 Score #258 Derrick Thomas Rookie Card

1989 Score #211 Thurman Thomas Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $175

Seven other running backs were selected ahead of Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas in the 1988 NFL Draft.

And though five of them would eventually become Pro Bowlers, none would end up in Canton alongside Thomas.

During his collegiate career at Oklahoma State, Thomas was absolutely prolific and would finish his senior season in 1987 as the school's all-time leading rusher with 4,595 yards on 897 carries.

Everyone expected him to make a smooth transition to the NFL but he fell to the second round of the 1988 NFL Draft due to a knee injury that left many teams too nervous to take him.

Yet, the Buffalo Bills were delighted to see his name still on the board when they took him in the second round with the 40th overall pick, their first of the draft.

And, right out of the gate, Thomas did not let them down during his 1988 NFL rookie campaign, as he rushed for 881 yards and two touchdowns while reeling in 18 passes for 208 receiving yards.

There would be no sophomore slump for Thomas in 1989.

In fact, he quickly developed a reputation as a dual threat on the ground and through the air, leading the league in yards from scrimmage (1,913) for the first of four straight seasons.

1989 Score #211 Thurman Thomas Rookie Card

1989 Score #2 Bo Jackson

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $125

During the late 1980s, the sports world witnessed one of the greatest athletes in history dominate the NFL and MLB as a two-sport superstar.

After making the 1989 MLB All-Star Game as a member of the Kansas City Royals, Bo Jackson's superstardom was at its peak as he entered the 1989 NFL campaign looking to keep rolling.

In eleven games, Jackson rushed 173 times for 950 yards and four touchdowns, carving up opposing defenses at 5.5 yards per carry.

Jackson took one of those carries for 92 yards, making it the second of three times he would lead the NFL in that category during his four-year stretch with the Raiders.

As great as Jackson's individual performance was, the Raiders were mediocre at 8-8, missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season.

Statistically, the 1989 season was arguably Jackson's best in the NFL, but he would have to wait until the following year to be named a Pro Bowler.

Unfortunately, the 1990 season was also the last year that Jackson would appear in the NFL as he would suffer a career-ending hip injury in a playoff game against the Bengals that season.

1989 Score #2 Bo Jackson Football Card

1989 Score #86 Tim Brown Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $125

Tim Brown became the first of three wide receivers in NCAA history to win the Heisman Trophy when he caught 39 passes for 846 yards and three touchdowns for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in 1987.

After an achievement like that, there was no question that Brown would easily have interest from many NFL teams.

And since they already had a rushing attack led by Marcus Allen and Bo Jackson, it was no one's surprise when the Los Angeles Raiders took Brown sixth overall in the 1988 NFL Draft to boost their aerial attack.

The future Hall of Famer wasted no time making an immediate impact as both a big-play wideout and one of the NFL's best punt and kick returners during his 1988 rookie campaign.

At season's end, Brown earned a fourth-place finish in the Offensive Rookie of the Year vote and his first of nine Pro Bowl selections.

Raiders fans were anxious whether Brown would face a sophomore slump after such a fantastic rookie season.

Unfortunately, the outcome of Brown's 1989 season was much worse.

Brown ripped the MCL in his left knee and injured his left PCL during a nasty collision while returning a kick in the third quarter of a Week 1 home victory against the San Diego Chargers.

Thankfully, Brown fully recovered and had one of the most successful receiving careers in NFL history.

1989 Score #86 Tim Brown Rookie Card

1989 Score #221 Jerry Rice

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $100

Down 13-16 against the Cincinnati Bengals in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XXIII, John Taylor hauled in the game-winning touchdown to give the 49ers a 20-16 come-from-behind win.

But it was Jerry Rice who would become just the third wide receiver in history to win Super Bowl MVP.

By then, Rice was looking like a surefire future Hall of Famer.

And his performance in 1989 only added to his incredible Cooperstown resume.

In 16 starts, Rice reeled in 82 catches to pace the NFL in receiving yards (1,483) and touchdowns (17).

His electrifying performance was enough to garner nearly 12% of the NFL AP Offensive Player of the Year vote but his teammate under center, Joe Montana, ultimately won the award and an MVP to boot.

Still, a fourth-straight Pro Bowl selection and first-team All-Pro selection were pretty good consolation prizes.

In the playoffs, Rice picked up right where he left off the year before, catching 12 passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns in the team's first two postseason wins.

But he again saved his best for last, catching seven passes for 148 yards and a Super Bowl record three touchdowns to help the 49ers blow away the Denver Broncos 55-10 in Super Bowl XXXIV.

1989 Score #221 Jerry Rice Football Card

1989 Score #1 Joe Montana

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $85

A 70% completion percentage for a full season is quite common in today's NFL.

However, through the late 1980s, only two quarterbacks had surpassed the 70% mark since 1933: Sammy Baugh in 1945 and Ken Anderson in 1982.

Then, in 1989, Joe Montana, the superstar quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, added his name to that exclusive list.

Known as "Joe Cool," Montana led the 49ers to a remarkable 14-2 record while completing 70.2% of his passes for 3,521 yards and 26 touchdowns.

Montana also topped the league in passing yards per attempt (9.1) and passing yards per game (270.8) while setting a then-league record with a 112.4 passer rating.

Montana's exceptional performance earned him his sixth Pro Bowl selection, second First-Team All-Pro nomination, and the NFL's Most Valuable Player award.

And fortunately for 49ers fans, his brilliance continued into the playoffs.

Montana completed a remarkable 78.3% of his passes for 800 yards and threw eleven touchdowns without a single interception, leading the 49ers to a Super Bowl title.

His performance secured him an unprecedented third Super Bowl MVP award and solidified his place as one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.

1989 Score #1 Joe Montana Football Card

1989 Score #72 Cris Carter Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $85

Things were up and down for Cris Carter during his first three NFL seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.

After coming off the bench in nine games during his rookie 1987 season, Carter worked his way into a starting role for Philly in 1988, hauling in an impressive 80 catches for 761 yards and six touchdowns.

Yet, despite emerging as the Eagles' top red-zone target in 1989 with 11 receiving touchdowns and helping leave them to a Wild Card playoff birth, Carter's stay in Philadelphia would soon end.

During a disappointing 21-7 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Wild Card Game, Carter caught just two passes on the day for 16 yards.

And around this time of his career, Carter was also getting mixed up with drug and alcohol abuse.

His off-the-field habits and sluggish performance on the field left his relationship with head coach Buddy Ryan at a breaking point.

As a result, the Eagles decided to cut Carter during the 1990 preseason.

Fortunately for Carter, the Minnesota Vikings took a chance and claimed him off waivers.

And fortunately for Vikings fans, Carter used this second chance to become one of the top receivers of his era, ripping off eight-straight Pro Bowl selections from 1993 to 2000.

1989 Score #72 Cris Carter Rookie Card

1989 Score #78 Rod Woodson Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $85

After the Pittsburgh Steelers finished 5-11 in 1988, defensive coordinator Tony Dungy resigned, and the front office fired four assistants.

Faced with overhauling the NFL's worst scoring defense, new coordinator Ron Rust didn't touch the starting cornerback duo of Dwayne Woodruff and Rod Woodson.

In Woodson's case, he proceeded to have a breakout season, putting his name on the map as one of the top corners in the league.

Woodson was an animal in the Pittsburgh secondary, registering 80 combined tackles and three interceptions in 15 games while also forcing four fumbles and recovering four.

But his impact was greater than just defense.

As a returner, Woodson returned 29 punts for 207 yards and 36 kickoffs for 982 yards, including an 84-yard scamper for a touchdown in a 20-17 win over the San Diego Chargers.

After defeating the Houston Oilers 26-23 in Woodson's first-ever playoff game, Pittsburgh dropped a heartbreaking 24-23 loss to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Divisional Round.

Still, the future for Woodson was bright, and the future Hall of Famer earned his first of seven Pro Bowl selections and five first-team All-Pro nominations.

1989 Score #78 Rod Woodson Rookie Card

1989 Score #279 Montana & Rice Great Combos

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $85

Card numbers 277 - 284 in the 1990 Score football card set paid tribute to some of the best "Great Combos" of the day, with none other than Joe Montana and Jerry Rice being the most desirable of the subset.

Given what Montana and Rice achieved together, they were clearly the top quarterback and wide receiver duo of their era, and arguably of any era for that matter.

The two thrived in the 49ers West Coast offense, giving nightmares to defensive coordinators throughout the NFL as they drew up plans to attempt to slow them down.

On the card's reverse side, an excellent write-up documenting Montana and Rice's incredible achievements throughout the 1988 NFL Playoffs highlights just how unstoppable they were that season.

Ultimately, the season ended with another Super Bowl victory for the 49ers, during which Montana threw for a then-record 357 yards while Rice earned Super Bowl MVP honors with 215 yards and a score.

1989 Score #279 Joe Montana and Jerry Rice Great Combos Football Card

1989 Score #263 Steve Atwater Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $75

The 1988 Denver Broncos were mediocre at 8-8, finishing in second place in the AFC West behind the Seattle Seahawks.

And a big part of their problem was their sub-par performance on defense, specifically against the run, as they finished second-to-last with 158.6 rushing yards allowed per game.

Looking to shore up the run, the Broncos selected Steve Atwater with the 20th pick of the 1989 NFL Draft and new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips immediately put him to work.

And the future Hall of Fame free safety answered the call splendidly.

With Atwater now patrolling the line of scrimmage, the team jumped to number six against the run in 1989, allowing 98.8 rushing yards per game.

Atwater led the team in tackles as a rookie with 129 and logged three interceptions but fell short in the vote for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors to Kansas City's Derrick Thomas.

After an eleven-year career in the NFL and eight trips to the Pro Bowl, Steve Atwater left little doubt that he was one of the best safeties of all time.

1989 Score #263 Steve Atwater Rookie Card

1989 Score #13 Dan Marino

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $40

Dan Marino possessed incredible arm strength, impeccable accuracy and a quick release that allowed him to shred opposing defenses from 1983 to 1999 for the Miami Dolphins.

And he was ahead of his time during an era that didn't favor the passing game as loosely as it does today.

In fact, Marino's single-season records for passing touchdowns (48) and yards (5,084) during his legendary 1984 season would stand for 20+ years.

Peyton Manning threw for 49 touchdowns in 2004 and Drew Brees threw for 5,476 yards in 2011.

As great as Marino was, however, he never did get that elusive Super Bowl ring he so cherished.

And the 1989 season certainly wasn't the closest he came as the Dolphins finished third in the AFC East at 8-8.

Marino was on the run all season long, leading the NFL for the seventh-straight year in sack percentage (1.8%).

In 16 starts during the 1989 season, Marino completed 58.4% of his passes for 3,997 yards, 24 touchdowns, and a league-worst 22 interceptions.

After making the Pro Bowl in each of his first five seasons, Marino was left off the AFC roster for the second year in a row.

1989 Score #13 Dan Marino Football Card

1989 Score Football Cards In Review

While the design of this set may seem simple on the surface, it certainly left a memorable mark on the hobby with it's multi-color showcase.

But the number one thing this set has going for it is easily the incredible Hall of Fame rookie card class.

The Barry Sanders, Troy Aikman and Deion Sanders will likely never be unseated as the top three most desirable, but any one of the other eight rookies will remain highly sought after for years to come.

Within the 330-card checklist there are also plenty of big-name stars and Hall of Famers of the day.

Unopened Box of 1989 Score Football Cards

Within the set were also several different subsets, including:

  • 1989 Rookies (#245 - 272)
  • Great Combos (#277 - 2)84
  • All-Pros (#285 - 309)
  • Speedburners (#310 - 317)
  • Predators (#318 - 325)
  • Record Breakers (#326 - 330)

Overall, there is so much to like about this set that it's hard to find much of anything negative to say about it.

For that reason, it's held up incredibly well over the years and remains one of the most beloved of its era.

Ross Uitts

Ross is the founder of Old Sports Cards and has been collecting sports cards for over 30 years. He also loves to write about the hobby and has written for Beckett, Topps, SABR and of course, this website. Need help buying or selling cards or have a general question about the hobby? Contact him at [email protected]

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 0 comments