20 Most Valuable 1989 Topps Football Cards

Unopened Box of 1989 Topps Football Cards

The hobby was on fire when 1989 Topps football cards first debuted on store shelves across the nation.

And the NFL continued to grow in popularity at an accelerating rate…

Stars like Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Dan Marino, and John Elway were doing things on the field that captivated fans’ attention as few players had done before.

With a growing base of football fans and collectors on the rise, Topps flooded the market with its 1989 Topps and Topps Traded sets.

And while many of their values have suffered as a consequence, some of them can fetch price tags these days that may surprise you.

And in this guide, we’ll take a look at the 20 most valuable across both sets.

Let’s jump right in!

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Ross Uitts

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

Like the 1989 Fleer, Pro Set and Score 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 Topps Traded #83T Barry Sanders Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $250

Barry Sanders wasted no time getting his Hall of Fame career in gear when he broke out during his rookie year with 1,470 rushing yards and fourteen touchdowns to earn the 1989 Offensive Rookie of the Year Award, First-Team All-Pro honors, and a Pro Bowl selection.

With his compact and elusive running style on full display, Sanders quickly earned a reputation as one of the most dominant running backs in the league.

Unfortunately, the world never got a chance to see if Sanders could've gone on to be the NFL's all-time leading rusher as he cut his career short in 1998.

In just ten seasons, Sanders amassed an eye-popping 15,269 rushing yards, led the league in rushing four times, made the Pro Bowl each year, earned six First-Team All-Pro honors, and was twice named the NFL Offensive Player of the Year.

Having the chance to watch Sanders week in and week out was such a joy because you never knew when he would pull off one of his highlight-reel runs.

His rookie card didn't appear in the 1989 Topps base set, so collectors instead had to rip through packs of 1989 Topps Traded for a shot at it.

1989 Topps Traded #83T Barry Sanders Rookie Card

1989 Topps #7 Jerry Rice

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $150

Rice capped off his 1988 campaign by becoming just the third wide receiver to win Super Bowl MVP.

As arguably the best wideout to ever lace up a pair of cleats, it’s no surprise that Rice wasn’t content to rest on his laurels.

The lynchpin of the league’s second-best passing offense, Rice was unstoppable in 1989.

In 16 starts, he caught 82 balls for an NFL-best 1,483 yards and a league-best 17 receiving touchdowns.

With his fourth-straight Pro Bowl selection and first-team All-Pro nomination sealed, the superstar wide receiver got ready for January football.

In the team’s first two postseason wins, the Mississippi Valley State product had 12 receptions for 169 yards and two scores.

While those are admittedly great numbers, Rice once again saved his best for last.

In the team’s blowout Super Bowl XXIV triumph over Denver, he caught seven passes for 148 yards and a Super Bowl-record three receiving scores.

Just five years into his career, the 27-year-old receiver’s Hall-of-Fame candidacy was already a slam dunk.

1989 Topps #7 Jerry Rice Football Card

1989 Topps #269 Bo Jackson

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $150

1989 was the height of Bo Jackson's two-sport stardom.

The "Bo Knows" Nike ad campaign kicked off, furthering his crossover appeal.

And after hitting 32 home runs with Major League Baseball's Kansas City Royals in the spring and summer, Jackson had significant momentum heading into the NFL season.

Bo parlayed that momentum into the best season of his abbreviated four-year stint with the Los Angeles Raiders.

While Los Angeles missed the playoffs with an 8-8 record, Jackson was the catalyst for the league's ninth-ranked rushing attack.

In eleven games, Jackson rushed 173 times for 950 yards and four touchdowns.

At 5.5 yards per carry, Bo carved up opposing defenses for big chunks of yardage over and over again.

While Jackson didn't make the Pro Bowl, he did earn Second-Team All-Pro honors in the AFC.

Unfortunately, Jackson would suffer a career-ending hip injury in a playoff game against the Bengals in just over a year.

Considering what Bo was able to do at his peak, it's a crying shame.

1989 Topps #269 Bo Jackson Football Card

1989 Topps Traded #30T Deion Sanders Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $150

Bo Jackson wasn't the only superstar multi-sport athlete to showcase his skills on both the baseball and football field.

After selecting Sanders in the 30th round of the 1988 MLB Draft, the New York Yankees finally gave him a shot when he made his debut in the Majors on May 31, 1989.

And a month earlier, the Atlanta Falcons took Sanders with the fifth overall pick in the 1989 NFL Draft, setting the stage for his Hall of Fame career on the gridiron.

Aside from starting ten games at corner for the Falcons in 1989 while logging 39 tackles and six interceptions, Sanders also returned punts and kickoffs, making the image on this card quite fitting.

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 there, it was off to the races for Sanders as he'd go on to earn eight Pro Bowl selections, six First-Team All-Pro honors, and win two Super Bowl rings in fourteen NFL seasons.

His 1994 season was especially memorable as he picked off six passes, returning three of them for touchdowns on his way to earning the Defensive Player of the Year Award.

1989 Topps Traded #30T Deion Sanders Rookie Card

1989 Topps #323 Rod Woodson Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $125

The Steelers finished a disappointing 5-11 in 1988, resulting in four assistants being fired and defensive coordinator Tony Dungy resigning.

New coordinator Rod Rust worked hard to reconfigure Pittsburgh's defense but didn't mess with the Woodruff/Woodson pairing at cornerback.

That decision paid off as Woodson registered 80 combined tackles, three interceptions, four forced fumbles, and four recovered fumbles in 15 games played (14 starts).

The Steelers defense improved from abysmal to mediocre, finishing 15th in points against during the team's 9-7 run to a wild card berth.

Woodson's work in the team's secondary was fantastic, and his efforts as a returner weren't bad either as he returned four kickoffs for 74 yards in a rousing 26-23 win over the Houston Oilers in his first-ever playoff game.

Pittsburgh bowed out the following week with a heartbreaking 24-23 loss to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Divisional Round.

Rough ending aside, Woodson's third year was a massive success, and he picked up his first of seven Pro Bowl selections and first of five first-team All-Pro nominations.

1989 Topps #323 Rod Woodson Rookie Card

1989 Topps Traded #70T Troy Aikman Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $125

The Dallas Cowboys had high hopes for Troy Aikman when they drafted the UCLA product with the number one overall pick of the 1989 NFL Draft.

Apparently, not everyone was so sure about Aikman, though, as new head coach Jimmy Johnson drafted Steve Walsh out of the University of Miami a few months later during the supplemental draft.

Aikman ended up winning the starting job, but his rookie season was rough, to say the least, and after losing the first four games of the season, Walsh took over under center.

Walsh ended up starting Weeks 5 - 9, but the Cowboys didn't fare much better under his leadership as they went 1-4 over that period.

In Week 10, Aikman took over again and finished out the year with losses every week, bringing his record during his rookie campaign to 0-11.

The Cowboys were terrible in 1989, but after drafting Emmitt Smith the following season and tightening up their defense thereafter, Jimmy Johnson turned them around into a dominant force in the early 1990s.

With Aikman securely in place as their starting quarterback, Dallas would win the Super Bowl in 1992, 1993, and 1995.

To go along with his three championship rings, Aikman would make the Pro Bowl six times before retiring as a Cowboys legend at the age of 34 after just twelve seasons in the NFL.

1989 Topps Traded #70T Troy Aikman Rookie Card

1989 Topps #12 Joe Montana

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $100

In today's NFL, a 70% completion percentage for an entire season is pretty common, but this wasn't the case during the late 1980s.

Only two players, Sammy Baugh (1945) and Ken Anderson (1982), had crossed the 70% plateau leading into the 1989 season.

But, San Francisco 49ers superstar Joe Montana soon added his name to the list as he led the 49ers to an NFL-best 14-2 record, completing 70.2% of his passing attempts.

In 16 games (13 starts), Montana threw for 3,521 yards with 26 touchdowns against just eight interceptions.

His 112.4 passer rating was the best in league history to that point.

After the season, he earned his sixth Pro Bowl selection, second First-Team All-Pro nomination, and was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player.

The future Hall of Famer was electric during the regular season, but, amazingly enough, he was even better in the playoffs.

During the 49ers' romp to a Super Bowl title, Montana completed an eye-popping 78.3% of his passes for 800 yards with eleven touchdowns and zero interceptions in the team's three blowout wins.

After becoming the first player to win three Super Bowl MVP awards, Montana's place as one of the greatest quarterbacks in league history was unassailable.

1989 Topps #12 Joe Montana Football Card

1989 Topps #45 Thurman Thomas Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $100

After falling to the second round of the 1988 NFL Draft because of a knee injury, Buffalo Bills running back Thurman Thomas quieted the naysayers by gaining 1,089 yards from scrimmage during his rookie year.

And his breakthrough 1989 campaign made them look downright silly.

The Oklahoma State product was the centerpiece of the NFL's third-best rushing attack, amassing 1,244 yards and six touchdowns on 298 carries.

But, he wasn't just a ground threat, as he caught 60 passes for 669 yards and six scores.

Thomas's 1,913 yards from scrimmage paced the NFL for the first of four consecutive seasons and earned him his first Pro Bowl selection in the process.

Buffalo finished 9-7 in 1989, winning the AFC East by a game but fell to the Cleveland Browns 34-30 in the AFC Divisional Round.

The Bills fell short, but Thomas was just getting started and would lead Buffalo to the playoffs multiple times in the future.

1989 Topps #45 Thurman Thomas Rookie Card

1989 Topps #383 Michael Irvin Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $100

In their first year under the ownership of Jerry Jones in 1989, the Dallas Cowboys were historically bad as they became just the second NFL team to finish 1-15 in a 16-game season (1980 Houston Oilers).

There was plenty of room for optimism beforehand when the Cowboys' front office paired second-year wide receiver Michael Irvin with his college coach at the University of Miami, Jimmy Johnson.

Despite Dallas losing its first five games by a combined 92 points, things looked promising for Irvin, who was on pace for over 1,000 yards receiving.

Things came to a screeching halt during a Week 6 home tilt with the San Francisco 49ers, though, when he tore the ACL in his right knee, ending his season abruptly.

During his recovery, Irvin was the subject of trade rumors that potentially paired him with fellow Hall-of-Fame wideout Tim Brown in a Los Angeles Raiders uniform.

As the legend goes, Raiders owner Al Davis essentially talked Jerry Jones out of it.

Instead, Dallas pulled the trigger on the famed Herschel Walker deal, a lopsided trade that built the foundation for the Cowboys' upcoming dynasty.

1989 Topps #383 Michael Irvin Rookie Card

1989 Topps #121 Cris Carter Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $80

Though he eventually became a Hall-of-Fame wide receiver, Cris Carter's career-opening stint with the Philadelphia Eagles ended on a sour note.

On the plus side, Carter emerged in his third year as Philadelphia's top red-zone target.

A fourth-round pick in the 1987 supplemental draft, Carter provided fantastic value for Philly's minimal investment, especially during the 1989 NFL season.

In 16 games (15 starts), Carter caught 45 passes for 605 yards and a team-best eleven receiving touchdowns.

The Eagles went 11-5, snagging a wild card.

Things ended quickly, though, with a deflating 21-7 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Wild Card Game as Carter caught just two passes on the day for 16 yards.

By the season's end, Carter's relationship with head coach Buddy Ryan was at a breaking point, and the team cut Carter rather unexpectedly the following preseason.

In later years, Carter admitted that his falling out with Ryan was due to his drug and alcohol abuse.

Now a Minnesota Vikings legend, Carter praises his former coach to this day for helping him get clean and make the most of himself.

1989 Topps #121 Cris Carter Rookie Card

1989 Topps #241 John Elway

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $75

It's hard to fathom nowadays, but there was a time when John Elway couldn't win the big one.

After back-to-back Super Bowl losses with Elway under center, the Denver Broncos sputtered to an 8-8 record in 1988.

They got their regular-season mojo back in 1989, though.

In 15 games (15 starts), Elway completed 53.6% of his passes for 3,051 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions.

While Elway's numbers weren't sterling, he won, leading Denver to an 11-5 record and an AFC West title.

Yet, the team's postseason demons still needed exorcising.

In wins over the Pittsburgh Steelers (24-23) and Cleveland Browns (37-21), Elway completed 57.1% of his throws for 624 yards, four touchdowns, and just one pick.

And just like that, it fell apart.

Elway was awful in Super Bowl XXIV, completing just 10 of 26 passes for 108 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions though he did rush for the team's only touchdown.

To Elway's credit, he shouldered the blame for the 55-10 drubbing.

And when asked if he wanted to go back to the Super Bowl after three losses, he didn't hesitate, saying he'd go back every year, even if he lost every time.

1989 Topps #241 John Elway Football Card

1989 Topps #265 Tim Brown Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $75

The Los Angeles Raiders selected Notre Dame product, Tim Brown, with the sixth pick of the 1988 NFL Draft.

In his rookie campaign, Brown announced himself as a big-play wideout and one of the league's best punt and kick returners.

He even earned his first Pro Bowl selection.

Things looked way up entering the 1989 regular season but quickly turned dark in Week 1 at home against the San Diego Chargers.

In the third quarter, San Diego's Ken Woodward leveled Brown during a kick return, ripping the MCL in his left knee clear off the bone.

He also injured his left PCL.

Brown was gutted but tried to be realistic.

"I think the first night was the most difficult night for me," he said a year later. "After that, I said, 'Hey, I've got my degree from Notre Dame, and I know I can work."

There were worries about whether Brown could come back with the same explosiveness and game-breaking ability.

Nine Pro Bowls and a Hall-of-Fame career later, the answer is clear.

1989 Topps #265 Tim Brown Rookie Card

1989 Topps #293 Dan Marino

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $75

What stopped Miami Dolphins Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino from winning a Super Bowl?

One of the most talented quarterbacks to ever play the game, Marino had unreal arm strength and the accuracy with which he delivered deep bombs was otherworldly.

So, why couldn't he get over the hump? Well, it's a tricky question...

At least at the beginning of his career, inconsistent offensive line play and all-or-nothing mistakes were the culprits.

In 1989, Marino was sacked on an NFL-worst 1.8% of his dropbacks.

That wasn't an outlier, though, since it was the seventh-straight year Marino led the league in that painful category.

Now, he wasn't the most mobile quarterback as he was credited with just 14 rushes in 1989 for a whopping -7 yards, but the offensive lines in front of him often did him little favors.

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

Miami finished 8-8 and out of the playoffs for the fourth-straight year.

1989 Topps #293 Dan Marino Football Card

1989 Topps Traded #52T Steve Atwater Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $75

Over eleven seasons in the NFL, ten with the Denver Broncos and one with the New York Giants, Steve Atwater developed a reputation as one of the hardest-hitting safeties in the league.

Opposing receivers and running backs absolutely dreaded seeing the eight-time Pro Bowler anywhere near them as Atwater was capable of dishing out a bone-crushing tackle at any moment.

Eventually, Atwater would play an integral role in leading the Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowl titles in 1997 and 1998.

But it all started during his rookie year in 1989 when Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips often used Atwater near the line of scrimmage to shut down the run, something the Broncos struggled with the year before.

The smothering tactic worked as Denver developed into one of the toughest defenses against the run, while Atwater led the team in tackles as a rookie with 129.

Despite his incredible play, Atwater finished second in voting for Defensive Rookie of the Year to the Kansas City Chiefs' Derrick Thomas, who is next on our list.

1989 Topps Traded #52T Steve Atwater Football Card

1989 Topps Traded #90T Derrick Thomas Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $75

When the Kansas City Chiefs took Derrick Thomas with the fourth pick of the 1989 NFL Draft out of Alabama, they knew they were getting a unique defensive talent.

Over eleven seasons with the Chiefs, Thomas developed into a nine-time Pro Bowler and two-time First-Team All-Pro on his way to becoming the team's all-time leader in sacks with 126.5.

And, during his rookie campaign in 1989, Thomas earned NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year for his 75 tackles, ten sacks, three forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery.

Thomas's speed and power as a linebacker and defensive end were nearly unparalleled by any other player in NFL history, and he soon became a nightmare for opposing offensive coordinators to plan for on a weekly basis.

The Seattle Seahawks endured a particularly nightmarish Sunday afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium on November 11, 1990, when Thomas went berzerk, sacking quarterback Dave Krieg seven times.

Somehow, Seattle managed to eke out a 17-16 victory on the road, but Thomas's seven sacks remain the NFL single-game record to this day.

1989 Topps Traded #90T Derrick Thomas Rookie Card

1989 Topps #166 Lawrence Taylor

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $60

Regarded by most as the most outstanding defensive player of all time, Lawrence Taylor drove opposing offenses nuts for thirteen years from 1981 to 1993.

Taylor remains the only player in NFL history to win the AP Defensive Player of the Year Award in his rookie season and one of two defensive players (Alan Page) to win MVP honors for his incredible work during the 1986 season.

During the 1989 season, Taylor was up to his same old dominant play as he finished the year with 15 sacks while picking up his eighth-straight Pro Bowl selection and seventh First-Team All-Pro nomination.

Simply put, Lawrence Taylor was one of the most dominant players on either side of the ball that the game has ever seen.

He was the kind of player that would force an entire opposing offense to adjust their entire game plan.

1989 Topps #166 Lawrence Taylor Football Card

1989 Topps Traded #24T Steve Young

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $50

With Joe Montana injured heading into Week 9 of the 1988 season, Young got the start against the Minnesota Vikings, and a bit of the action from that game is shown on his 1989 Topps Traded card.

Young stepped up and played brilliantly that day, throwing for 232 yards and one touchdown while rushing for 72 yards and a touchdown to lead the 49ers to a 24-21 victory.

He continued to showcase his promising skillset during the 1989 season when he threw for 1,001 yards and eight touchdown passes to go along with 126 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns.

But Montana continued his grip on the starting job most of the season and eventually led the team to a Super Bowl victory while capturing the regular-season MVP award.

However, Young would have his time to shine during the 1990s when injuries to Joe Montana and his eventual trade to Kansas City left Young in the spotlight under center as the team's new leader.

During the 1990s, Young would pick up seven Pro Bowl selections, three First-Team All-Pro honors, and a championship ring when he led the team to a blowout against the Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX.

1989 Topps Traded #24T Steve Young Football Card

1989 Topps #44 Bruce Smith

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $45

For nineteen seasons in the NFL, Bruce Smith dominated opposing offensive linemen on his way to becoming the league's all-time sack leader with an eye-popping 200 to his name.

A two-time All-American out of Virginia Tech, Smith made his debut as a pro when the Buffalo Bills drafted him with the number one pick of the 1985 NFL Draft.

And for the next 15 seasons with Buffalo, Smith was the anchor for many incredibly tough Bills defenses and at one point helped lead the team to four-straight Super Bowl appearances from 1990 to 1993.

During the 1989 season, Smith started all sixteen games and piled up 88 tackles with 13 sacks to help the Bills capture the AFC East.

Unfortunately, a 34-30 loss on the road to the Cleveland Browns in the AFC Divisional Round ended their playoff hopes much sooner than anticipated.

Over his storied career, Smith was an eleven-time Pro Bowler, eight-time First-Team All-Pro, and two-time NFL Defensive Player of the year (1990,1996).

1989 Topps #44 Bruce Smith Football Card

1989 Topps #108 Reggie White

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $45

After leading the NFL in sacks in 1987 (21) and 1988 (18), White didn't get his hands on the opposing quarterback as often in 1989 with "just" eleven sacks.

But that didn't mean he wasn't busy at left defensive end for the Eagles as White logged an eye-popping 123 tackles, the second-highest total of his legendary career.

For the fourth year in a row on the 1989 season, Reggie White earned both Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro honors as he continued to dominate opposing teams in the trenches.

During his fifteen NFL seasons, White made the Pro Bowl thirteen times, was twice named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year (1987 and 1998), and grabbed one Super Bowl ring with the Packers in 1996, which he so much deserved.

Like Bruce Smith, Reggie White was simply one of the greatest defensive linemen to ever step on the field and is second on the all-time sack list behind him with 198.

1989 Topps #108 Reggie White Football Card

1989 Topps #393 Warren Moon

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $45

Most will remember Warren Moon for airing it out in the NFL from 1984 to 2000, but his professional career started in the CFL way back in 1978.

That means Moon played professionally in four different decades.

Talk about longevity...

In six seasons with the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL, Moon helped the team win five Grey Cups, which eventually led the Houston Oilers to sign him ahead of the 1984 NFL season.

During his first year in the league, Moon set a then-franchise-record for passing yards (3,338) while tossing twelve touchdowns against fourteen interceptions.

Moon would eventually step up his game drastically, earning nine Pro Bowl selections with three different teams, the Houston Oilers (6), Minnesota Vikings (2), and Seattle Seahawks (1), before retiring after the 2000 season.

On the 1989 season, Moon established a then-career-high for passing yards (3,631) and touchdown passes (23) before skyrocketing to lead the league in passing the next two years with 4,689 passing yards in 1990 and 4,690 in 1991.

Moon remains the only player inducted in both the CFL and NFL Halls of Fame.

1989 Topps #393 Warren Moon Football Card

1989 Topps Football Cards In Review

Between the 1989 Topps and Topps Traded sets, there are a ton of great rookie cards and Hall of Famers to collect.

The set design is a bit basic, and the cards typically lack much action and excitement, but there is no questioning how much star power sits within these sets.

For years, the 1989 Topps and Topps Traded sets flew under the radar because of how diluted the market was from overprinting.

But that's started to change recently.

With demand for high-grade rookies and stars of the era picking up with the increased nostalgia from collectors of that era, these cards continue to climb in value.

In summary, there is much to love about these cards, and they should continue to increase in popularity for years to come.

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]

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