15 Most Valuable 1990 Fleer Football Cards

Most Valuable 1990 Fleer Football Cards

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When collectors first got their hands on 1990 Fleer football cards, they were met with something they hadn't seen in years from the company...

cards with individual players on them.

Fleer produced some sets in the early 60s that featured individual players, but most of the sets they released in the 70s and 80s were "Team Action" sets that were basically in-game action shots of entire teams.

So, hobbyists grew excited when they saw something different from Fleer as this set breathed new life into the football card community.

This set arrived during the hobby boom of that time and featured some of the era's biggest names.

And, in this guide, we'll take a look at the 15 most valuable in the checklist.

Let's jump right in!

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

Like the 1990 Pro Set, Score 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:

1990 Fleer Update #U40 Emmitt Smith Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $150

As the game's all-time leading rusher with a jaw-dropping 18,355 yards, Emmitt Smith needs no introduction.

Most remember Smith for his thirteen seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, who drafted him with the seventeenth pick (what a steal) in the 1990 NFL Draft after an impressive three years with the Florida Gators.

During his rookie campaign, Smith immediately got to work, carrying the ball 241 times for 937 yards and 11 touchdowns on his way to earning Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.

It was the last time that Smith would rush for less than 1,000 yards until his final year with the team in 2002, when he barely missed the mark with 975 rushing yards.

After finishing out his career with the Arizona Cardinals for two seasons, Smith retired and left a legacy as one of the greatest running backs in NFL history.

With three Super Bowl rings, a regular-season MVP, a Super Bowl MVP, eight Pro Bowls, four First-Team All-Pro selections, the most rushing yards (18,355) and the most rushing touchdowns (164), it's hard to argue with anyone who says he was the greatest.

Smith's rookie card was technically part of the 1990 Fleer Update set, but I decided to include it on this list anyway along with the rookie cards of Junior Seau and Cortez Kennedy.

1990 Fleer Update #U40 Emmitt Smith Rookie Card

1990 Fleer Update #U102 Junior Seau Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $60

When the San Diego Chargers drafted Junior Seau at number five overall in the 1990 NFL Draft, they knew they were getting a top-notch defensive stud at the linebacker position.

What they may not have anticipated was that Seau would leave a legacy as one of the most beloved athletes in the history of San Diego sports.

For thirteen years, Seau led the Chargers defense on his way to twelve Pro Bowls and six First-Team All-Pro selections for his incredible play.

The Chargers traded Seau to the Miami Dolphins in 2003, where he played for three years before finishing the last four years of his career with the New England Patriots.

After twenty years in the NFL, Seau played with a unique passion and struck fear into opposing offenses, leaving a legacy as one of the greatest linebackers in NFL history when all was said and done.

1990 Fleer Update #U102 Junior Seau Rookie Card

1990 Fleer #397 Super Bowl MVPs

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $55

In Super Bowl XXIII, the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 20-16 at Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami, Florida.

Given the stats that Jerry Rice put up during that game, though, it's surprising the score was that close.

As the game slowly crawled back and forth, Rice quietly dominated the Bengals' defense to the tune of 11 catches for 215 yards and a touchdown.

Many will remember Dwight Clark's game-winning touchdown at the back of the end zone with seconds left on the clock, but Rice deservedly took home MVP honors for his performance throughout the game.

The following year in Super Bowl XXIV, Joe Montana torched the Denver Broncos with 297 passing yards and five touchdowns in a 55-10 blowout.

Montana took home the Super Bowl MVP for his efforts, a nice prize to go along with the MVP Award that he won for his incredible regular season production as well.

This card commemorated both Super Bowl MVPs and two of the greatest offensive threats and teammates the game has ever seen.

1990 Fleer #397 Montana and Rice Super Bowl MVPs Football Card

1990 Fleer #10 Joe Montana

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $50

Joe Montana and the 49ers rolled into the 1990 NFL season looking to become the first team in history to win three Super Bowls in a row.

All season long, the 49ers steamrolled through the competition on their way to a league-best 14-2 record.

And Montana slinging the football was a big reason for the offense's success as the running game sputtered.

As a testament to how busy he was, Montana set career highs in passing attempts (520) and passing yards (3,944) but threw the most interceptions of his career with sixteen.

For that body of work, Montana earned his second MVP Award.

Unfortunately, the 49ers' hopes of a three-peat came crashing down during the NFC Championship when the Giants forced Montana out of the game and a Roger Craig fumble set up a winning field goal for New York.

There are two variations of this card: one that contains Montana's correct stats on the reverse and one that shows his yards and touchdown totals reversed.

Montana was an incredible quarterback, but there was no way he had thrown 31,054 touchdowns on 216 total yards at that point in his career.

1990 Fleer #10 Joe Montana Football Card

Correct Stats

1990 Fleer #10 Joe Montana Football Card Reverse Side With Correct Statistics

Incorrect Stats

1990 Fleer #10 Joe Montana Football Card Reverse Side With Errors

1990 Fleer #13 Jerry Rice

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $50

With a running game that wasn't as effective as in previous years, the San Francisco 49ers relied more on their superior passing game during the 1990 season.

And, not surprisingly, Jerry Rice was a significant component of their aerial attack.

In fact, Rice became the first player in NFL history to lead the league in receptions (100), receiving yards (1,502), and receiving touchdowns (13) as defenses couldn't stop him.

The Atlanta Falcons, in particular, had a tough time handling Rice as he caught a career-high five touchdown passes against them during a Week 6 match-up at home that San Francisco won 45-35.

However, one team did seem to have an answer for Rice, and unfortunately, he faced them at the worst time possible.

During the NFC Championship Game, the New York Giants held Rice to five catches for 54 yards after completely shutting him down during Week 12, when he caught just one ball for thirteen yards.

The Giants handling Rice the way they did was a huge reason they squeaked out a 15-13 victory over San Francisco during the NFC Championship.

1990 Fleer #13 Jerry Rice Football Card

1990 Fleer #256 Bo Jackson

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $50

Though his 1989 campaign was arguably the best of his career, the 1990 season saw Bo Jackson selected to the only Pro Bowl of his career.

In ten games, Jackson ran the ball 125 times while averaging an impressive 5.6 yards per carry on his way to scoring a career-high five rushing touchdowns.

Jackson's popularity at the time was off the charts as he was known around the globe as a two-sport phenom starring for both the Kansas City Royals and the Los Angeles Raiders.

Unfortunately for Jackson and his fans, the 1990 season would be his last on the gridiron as a devastating hip injury during a playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals ended his football career.

Jackson would slowly recover and work his way back into baseball, playing a few more seasons for the Chicago White Sox and California Angles before retiring after the 1994 MLB season.

1990 Fleer #256 Bo Jackson Football Card

1990 Fleer #284 Barry Sanders

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $50

After bursting onto the scene in 1989, Barry Sanders captured the 1989 Offensive Rookie of the Year Award and established himself as one of the biggest offensive threats in the league.

And he showed no signs of a slowdown during the following season in 1990, nor did he show any signs of a sophomore slump.

The only thing that slumped were Sanders' rushing attempts as his 255 carries were the fewest of his career outside of his injury-shortened 1993 season.

Despite the dip in carries, Sanders still torched opposing defenses on his way to a league-leading 1,304 rushing yards, making it the first of four times in his career that he would top all rushers in the NFL.

And he was influential in the passing game, too, as his 480 receiving yards were easily a personal best while his three receiving touchdowns tied a career-high.

Following the 1990 season, Sanders would dominate for eight more seasons before retiring as a ten-time Pro Bowler and six-time All-Pro after the 1998 season.

For many, Sanders' career ended too soon but not before many saw enough to consider him the best running back in NFL history.

1990 Fleer #284 Barry Sanders Football Card

1990 Fleer #21 John Elway

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $45

Throughout the 1980s, John Elway helped the Denver Broncos evolve into one of the most powerful franchises in the NFL after becoming their starting quarterback in 1983.

Elway led the Broncos to six winning seasons and three AFC Championships under center from 1983 to 1989 but couldn't quite get over the Super Bowl hump during that time.

Then, in 1990, the wheels fell off and the Broncos finished with a disappointing 5-11 record.

Elway still played well, throwing for 3,526 yards and 15 touchdowns, but the Broncos just couldn't seem to get things together all season long.

It was a minor blip on the Broncos' radar, and by 1991 they were a 12-4 team, and by the end of the decade, Elway led them to back-to-back Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998.

Elway called it quits after getting his second ring and left a legacy as one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history.

1990 Fleer #21 John Elway Football Card

1990 Fleer #244 Dan Marino

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $45

Though Elway finally got his two championship rings, Dan Marino had the unfortunate luck of going down in history as arguably the greatest player ever that never won a Super Bowl.

Marino and the Dolphins' offense tore up the league year after year but the team just never found enough balance to put everything together to secure a championship during his career.

The 1990 season was a bit of a down year for Marino as he threw for an average of 222.7 yards per game, the lowest per-game average since his debut in 1983.

He was still as efficient as ever, throwing 21 touchdowns against 11 interceptions with a 57.6% completion rate.

Miami finished with a 12-4 record, good enough for second place behind the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East and a Wild Card birth in the playoffs.

After squeaking out a 17-16 victory at home against the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card, the Dolphins lost a tough one on the road in the Divisional game against their division rivals, the Buffalo Bills.

1990 Fleer #244 Dan Marino Football Card

1990 Fleer #382 Deion Sanders

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $45

Deion Sanders would eventually win Super Bowl rings with the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers, but his early years with the Atlanta Falcons were a great window into how great he would become.

Despite not earning a Pro Bowl selection, Deion Sanders had one of the busiest and most effective all-around seasons of his pro football career during the 1990 season.

On defense, Sanders turned in the second-most tackles (50) of his career while recovering two fumbles and snagging three interceptions, two of which were pick-sixes.

On special teams, Sanders returned 29 punts for 250 yards and one touchdown while he returned 39 kick-offs for 851 yards.

If anything, his 1990 season showed the world how multi-talented he was as there seemed like there was nothing he couldn't do on the football field.

And, keep in mind, he was also playing Major League Baseball for the New York Yankees as late as July that year, too, showing that Bo Jackson wasn't the only one who could play both sports at the highest level.

1990 Fleer #382 Deion Sanders Football Card

1990 Fleer #384 Troy Aikman

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $45

Aikman's rookie debut in 1989 was rough, to say the least, as he went 0-11 as a starter and threw 9 touchdown passes against 18 interceptions.

To add some much needed firepower to the offense, the Dallas Cowboys selected running back Emmitt Smith out of the University of Florida in the 1990 NFL Draft.

Things improved overall for the Cowboys during the 1990 season as they finished at 7-8, narrowly missing out on a Wild Card spot in the playoffs, but Aikman continued to struggle under center.

Sporting a 66.6% rating, he threw 18 interceptions for the second year in a row and only upped his touchdown passes to 11 versus 9 in the previous year.

By 1991, though, Aikman would be a Pro Bowler as he and Michael Irvin opened up the passing game while Emmitt Smith became a force to be reckoned with in the running game.

In twelve seasons with the Cowboys, Aikman would eventually collect three Super Bowl rings on his way to Canton.

1990 Fleer #384 Troy Aikman Football Card

1990 Fleer Update #U85 Cortez Kennedy Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $30

With his induction into the Hall of Fame in 2012, the five-time All-Pro Cortez Kennedy solidified his legacy as one of the greatest defensive tackles in NFL history.

It all started when the Seattle Seahawks drafted the All-American out of the University of Miami with the third pick of the 1990 NFL Draft.

Despite missing training camp and the entire preseason due to unresolved contract negotiations, Cortez signed with the team just a couple of days before the regular season opener. 

Kennedy immediately got to work and gave the Seahawks some much-needed help on the defensive line as he recorded 48 combined tackles, one sack and a fumble recovery over sixteen games.

The following season, Kennedy earned his first of eight career selections to the Pro Bowl and remained one of the top defensive tackles in the league throughout the 1990s.

1990 Fleer Update #U85 Cortez Kennedy Rookie Card

1990 Fleer #77 Lawrence Taylor

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $25

Lawrence Taylor and the New York Giants capped off a thrilling 1990 season with a 20-19 win over the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV after Scott Norwood missed a field goal that would've won it for Buffalo.

Leading up to the season, however, things weren't looking too promising for the Giants as Taylor missed training camp and the preseason as he continued to hold out in demand of a higher salary.

Luckily for the Giants, they were able to sign him to a three-year $5 million deal just a few days before their Week 1 game at home versus the Philadelphia Eagles.

Taylor showed no signs of rust and came out firing on all cylinders, tally three of his 10.5 sacks that year during that game alone.

On the year, Taylor would earn his tenth-straight and final trip to the Pro Bowl but it was his second Super Bowl ring that mattered most.

1990 Fleer #77 Lawrence Taylor Football Card

1990 Fleer #17 Steve Young

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $25

After a couple of seasons as the starting quarterback for the USFL's Los Angeles Express, Steve Young bought out the rest of his contract so he could play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Young joined a Buccaneers franchise that, at the time, seemingly didn't know how to anything but lose before he arrived.

Unfortunately, things didn't get much better for Tampa while Young was in town as they'd finish with a terrible 3-16 record with him as their starting quarterback in 1985 and 1986.

Tampa had seen enough to remain unconvinced that Young would be able to lead a turnaround so they traded him to the 49ers after drafting the super talented Vinny Testaverde out of the University of Miami in the 1987 NFL Draft.

From 1987 to 1990, Young served as Joe Montana's back-up but his time as the starter would come in 1991 after Montana went down to injury.

Throughout the rest of the 1990s, Young was one of the top quarterbacks in the league as he'd collect two MVPs, a Super Bowl ring, and seven trips to the Pro Bowl.

1990 Fleer #17 Steve Young Football Card

1990 Fleer #82 Randall Cunningham

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $25

Randall Cunningham was electric on offense and could attack via both the air and the ground, making him a nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators.

In 1990, he nearly became the first quarterback in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season when he tallied 942 rushing yards on 118 carries.

Over his sixteen years in the NFL, Cunningham was a four-time Pro Bowler, one-time All-Pro, and three-time Bert Bell Award winner.

To this day, anytime I hear Randall Cunningham's name, I get flashbacks of running the quarterback sweep with him on Tecmo Super Bowl for the original Nintendo.

That play was unstoppable.

1990 Fleer #82 Randall Cunningham Football Card

1990 Fleer Football Cards In Review

While the set was as mass-produced as any during that era, it still holds a special place in this hobby as Fleer's first set in years that featured individual players.

And, as you can see, there is no shortage of Hall of Famers and stars of the era to be found within the 400-card checklist.

Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Barry Sanders, Dan Marino and many more were a sight for sore football card collector eyes when these packs first hit store shelves.

And, although they had to wait until the 1990 Fleer Update release to grab it, the Emmitt Smith rookie card has grown to become the key card to own between the two sets.

Sadly, many of the cards in this set don't hold much value anymore and those that do need to be graded in top condition by any of the third-party grading companies.

Values aside, though, this set will always have a special place in the hobby and the nostalgic value alone is enough to keep it relevant.

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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