15 Most Valuable 1991 Bowman Football Cards

Most Valuable 1991 Bowman Football Cards


With a checklist that lacks any iconic rookie cards and a design that underwhelms, the 1991 Bowman football card set is often overlooked in this hobby.

Many collectors might not even remember it exists...

Even back in 1991, the Bowman brand wasn't very strong in the football card world.

How could it be?

Bowman hadn't produced a football card set since 1955.

Yet, like many other brands looking to capitalize on a booming card market in 1991, Bowman tossed its name into the football market.

Aesthetically, the card design is simple and borders on bland, like other Bowman products of that era.

Still, there are plenty of big-name stars and nice action shots to keep the nostalgic factor of these cards at a respectable level.

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

Let's jump right in!

Ross Uitts

Ross Uitts - Owner

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

Like the 1991 Pro Set, Fleer, Score, Topps and Upper Deck 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:

1991 Bowman #479 Joe Montana

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $75

For San Francisco 49ers fans, the 1991 season began as unfortunately as the 1990 season had ended.

After injuries forced star quarterback Joe Montana out of the 1990 NFC Championship Game, a game the 49ers ultimately lost to the New York Giants, he then injured his throwing elbow in the 1991 preseason.

However, this time Montana wasn't forced out of just one game, he required surgery that forced him to miss the entire 1991 NFL campaign.

In his absence, backups Steve Bono and Steve led San Francisco to a 10-6 record but narrowly missed the playoffs due to a head-to-head tiebreaker with the division-rival Atlanta Falcons.

Steve Young took over the starting job for the 1992 season and proceeded to create a full-on quarterback controversy.

After leading the team to a 14-2 record while also winning NFL MVP and AP Offensive Player of the Year honors, Young had put 49ers leadership at a crossroads.

With Montana healthy again, would they bring him back as the starter in 1993 or stick with Young?

Ultimately, the 49ers traded Montana to the Kansas City Chiefs, where he finished his career after two seasons in 1993 and 1994.

1991 Bowman #479 Joe Montana Football Card

1991 Bowman #153 Barry Sanders

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $60

Detroit fans couldn't have asked their prolific running back, Barry Sanders, to be any better for the 12-4 NFC Central champion Lions during the 1991 NFL season.

As always, Sanders was a nightmare for opposing defenses to contain both on the ground and through the air.

His 1,548 rushing yards were a personal best at the time and only fifteen yards less than Emmitt Smith's NFL-best 1,563 rushing yards.

Yet his sixteen rushing touchdowns were four more than Smith's twelve and would remain a career-high for the rest of his Hall of Fame career.

Sanders remained a headache in the passing game, hauling in 41 passes for 307 yards and a score.

After the season, Sanders was an easy choice for his third-straight Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro honors.

Yet despite all those individual accolades, Sanders and Lions fans were much more thrilled to see the team going to the playoffs for the first time since 1983.

Detroit didn't mess around at home in the Silverdome during the NFC Divisional Round, blowing out the Dallas Cowboys 38-6 to advance to the NFC Championship against Washington.

However, the Lions soon found themselves on the other end of a blowout, losing 41-10 to Washington.

1991 Bowman #153 Barry Sanders Football Card

1991 Bowman #470 Jerry Rice

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $60

Many San Francisco 49ers fans were somewhat happily surprised when the team finished the 1991 season at 10-6 and out of the playoffs.

Sure, nobody wanted to see their streak of eight-consecutive trips to the postseason come to an end.

But many had expected much worse.

When the football world learned that Joe Montana needed season-ending surgery on his throwing elbow, 49er fans expected the season to be rough.

Luckily for them, though, the team had a couple of good quarterbacks ready to step in under center.

And they still had Jerry Rice, the greatest receiver of all time.

Even though he had to adjust to both Steve Young and Steve Bono at quarterback for ten and six games, respectively, Rice continued to dominate.

After leading the NFL in receiving yards in 1989 and 1990, Rice fell to third on the list behind Michael Irvin and Gary Clark by notching 1,206 yards through the air.

But he was still a scoring machine.

For the third year in a row, Rice led all receivers in scoring with 14 touchdown grabs.

No 49ers fan wanted to see Montana's career end as it did.

But there was at least some comfort in knowing there would be plenty of bright days ahead with Young and Rice forming another incredible passing duo.

1991 Bowman #470 Jerry Rice Football Card

1991 Bowman #3 Emmitt Smith

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $45

While he made his rookie card debut with Topps in their 1990 Topps Traded set, the company honored Emmitt Smith by including him in their "Superstar Rookie" subset.

The subset spanned across cards #1 - 11, highlighting eleven players who had standout rookie seasons the year before.

Others in the subset were Jeff George, Richmond Webb, Keith Sims and Mark Carrier, to name a few, but Smith outshined the rest of them over time.

The reverse of the card made a note of his first game, where he carried the ball twice for two yards in Week 1 against the Chargers before finishing with the fifth-highest rushing total (937) in the NFC that year.

It also mentions how he looked to follow in Herschel Walker's and Tony Dorsett's footsteps as Dallas's lead back for a "long time."

And did he ever.

Smith would spend 13 years in Dallas, helping the Cowboys win three Super Bowls while racking up all kinds of personal accolades.

1991 Bowman #3 Star Rookie Emmitt Smith Football Card

1991 Bowman #117 Emmitt Smith

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $45

After winning two Super Bowls in the 1970s, the Dallas Cowboys wrapped up the 1980s as one of the worst teams in the NFL, finishing with an awful 1-15 record in 1989.

So, they looked to Emmitt Smith, an elusive runner out of the University of Florida, to help right the ship by taking him with the 17th pick of the 1990 NFL Draft.

They may not have realized it then, but by drafting Michael Irvin in 1988, Troy Aikman in 1989, and Emmitt Smith in 1990, they had laid the foundation for one of the winningest dynasties in NFL history.

And Smith made sure to do his part on the ground.

After winning 1990 Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, Smith emerged as the leading rusher in the league in 1991, finishing with an NFL-best 365 carries and 1,563 rushing yards.

With an 11-5 record, the Cowboys made the playoffs for the first time since 1985 with a Wild Card berth.

Unfortunately, the Detroit Lions would blow them out 38-6 in the NFC Divisional Round.

Yet, the wheels were in motion for Dallas.

By the next season, Smith and crew would bring the first of three Super Bowl trophies in the 1990s back to Dallas.

1991 Bowman #117 Emmitt Smith Football Card

1991 Bowman #127 John Elway

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $45

Heading into the 1991 NFL season, Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway looked to turn his reputation as a playoff bust on its end.

Though he'd eventually win back-to-back Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998, Elway and the Broncos lost three Super Bowls in 1986, 1987 and 1989.

He and the Broncos were also coming off a horrific 1990 season that saw them fall from Super Bowl runners-up to worst in the AFC West at 5-11.

You've got to wonder how Elway managed to stay driven after so much heartbreak.

Yet, Elway and crew regrouped, finishing the 1991 season on top of the AFC West once again with a 12-4 record.

For the fourth time in his career, Elway would be named a Pro Bowler after completing 53.7% of his passes for 3,253 yards, 13 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

Elway had the Broncos' offense back on track, and with the league's third-best defense coming along for the ride, Denver readied themselves for a potentially deep playoff run.

Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be.

After grinding out a 26-24 win at Mile High Stadium against the Houston Oilers in the AFC Divisional Round, Elway and crew stumbled in Buffalo, losing 10-7 in the AFC Championship Game.

1991 Bowman #127 John Elway Football Card

1991 Bowman #243 Bo Jackson

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $45

If you were a collector or sports fan during the late 1980s and early 1990s, you know how incredibly popular Bo Jackson was.

Whether appearing as an impossible-to-stop character on Nintendo's Tecmo Super Bowl, in television ads, or dominating national sports headlines, Bo Jackson was a superstar.

And for a good reason.

He's still the only person ever to play in both an MLB All-Star Game (1989) and an NFL Pro Bowl (1990), solidifying his legacy as a two-sport phenom.

Yet it all came to a crashing halt during an AFC divisional playoff game on January 13, 1991.

Fans at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum didn't know it then, but that would be the last time Bo Jackson ever played football again.

As expected, Jackson gave the Cincinnati Bengals headaches with his speed and power that day, carrying the ball six times for 77 yards.

But one of those plays, a remarkable 34-yard run that resulted in an unremarkable tackle, changed Jackson's life forever.

The tackle itself wasn't so brutal.

But the angle at which Jackson hit the ground dislocated his left hip.

Jackson was instantly in pain and had to leave the game.

Afterward, doctors diagnosed Jackson with avascular necrosis in his left hip joint, forcing him to retire from the NFL for good.

1991 Bowman #243 Bo Jackson Football Card

1991 Bowman #274 Jerry Rice

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $45

The "League Leaders" subset, cards #273 - 283 in the checklist, highlighted ten players who led the NFL in 1990 in different offensive and defensive categories.

With 100 receptions, well ahead of Andre Rison (82) and Keith Byars (81), Jerry Rice earned the right to be in the group as the NFL's receiving leader.

The card features a horizontal layout and shows Tampa Bay cornerback Wayne Haddix bringing down Rice after hauling in a pass from Joe Montana.

While the 49ers blew out the Buccanneers 31-7 that day, it wasn't one of Rice's best performances that season, as he only caught four balls for 46 yards.

And Haddix was a big reason for the low stat line.

Many fans and collectors may not even remember who Haddix was, as he only spent four years in the NFL.

But during the 1991 season, Haddix played out of his mind.

In the only full season of his career, Haddix intercepted seven passes, returning three for touchdowns.

And one of those occurred during this game against the 49ers when he took a Joe Montana pass for 65 yards to the house for the Bucs' only score that day.

1991 Bowman #274 League Leaders Jerry Rice Football Card

1991 Bowman #285 Dan Marino

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $45

After giving up the fourth-fewest points during the 1990 NFL season, the Miami Dolphins defense forgot to show up in 1991.

All season long, opposing offenses gashed the Dolphins' front seven on the ground.

When the dust had settled on the season, Miami finished second-to-last in total rushing defense and 24th in the league in points allowed.

Legendary quarterback Dan Marino had always been brilliant on offense, but in 1991, he had to work that much harder to make up for Miami's porous defense.

Marino completed 57.9% of his 549 passes for 3,970 yards, 25 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

His 25 touchdown passes ranked fourth in the league, speaking to how hard he worked to help put points on the board.

Overall, the Dolphins' offense finished third in the NFL in passing, sixth in points scored, and seventh in total offense.

However, at 8-8, the Dolphins finished third in the AFC East, missing out on the postseason for the fourth time in five years.

On the bright side, Marino earned his sixth trip to the Pro Bowl after missing out on the honor the previous three seasons.

1991 Bowman #285 Dan Marino Football Card

1991 Bowman #158 Herman Moore Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $40

With Barry Sanders holding down their running game, the Detroit Lions looked to the University of Virginia's Herman Moore with their first pick of the 1991 NFL Draft to boost their passing attack.

However, the move didn't pay immediate dividends as Moore started in just one of the 13 games he played in 1991, finishing 11 receptions for 135 yards.

Allegedly, poor eyesight was the culprit for Moore's lack of success.

In college, Moore had worn contacts to help correct his vision.

But for some reason, he didn't wear them during his rookie regular season.

Fortunately, the Lions had his eyes checked and vision corrected before the playoffs.

In the Divisional Round, Moore hauled in 6 passes for 87 yards and a touchdown.

And though Detroit fell to the Washington Redskins in the NFC Championship, Moore again played admirably, catching four passes for 69 yards.

His ten catches in two playoff games nearly matched his 11 catches throughout the entire regular season.

Catching a football is hard when you can't see it clearly.

Moore would spend eleven of his twelve NFL seasons in Detroit, with his best days being from 1994 to 1997, when he earned four trips to the Pro Bowl and three First-Team All-Pro nominations.

1991 Bowman #158 Herman Moore Rookie Card

1991 Bowman #15 Deion Sanders

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $35

Atlanta sports fans were ecstatic when Deion Sanders signed with the Atlanta Braves ahead of the 1991 MLB season.

He'd already wowed them plenty of times on the football field since his rookie season for the Falcons in 1989.

Now they wanted to see what he could bring to an already-stacked Braves roster.

Though his .191/.270/.345 might not have shown it, Sanders was crucial to the Braves' success that season.

In one pivotal moment on his last game of the season on July 31 against the Pirates, Sanders belted a three-run homer to help Atlanta get the win.

But that was it for Deion Sanders and baseball in 1991.

The Braves would eventually advance to the World Series, but Sanders was contractually required to report for the Atlanta Falcons on August 1.

From there, Sanders emerged as one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL, picking off six passes (returning one for a touchdown) and posting 49 combined tackles, a sack, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery.

And he was just as dynamic on special teams, returning 21 punts for 170 yards and 26 kickoffs for 576 yards, one of which he took 100 yards to the house against the division-rival 49ers.

1991 Bowman #15 Deion Sanders Football Card

1991 Bowman #113 Troy Aikman

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $35

In his third season in the NFL, future Hall of Famer quarterback Troy Aikman started 12 games for the Dallas Cowboys, going 7-5 with 2,754 passing yards and 11 touchdowns.

His 229.5 yards per game also turned out to be a career high.

And despite throwing 10 interceptions, Aikman earned his first of six career trips to the Pro Bowl for his efforts.

Aikman certainly didn't light up the stat boxes in 1991 as some quarterbacks do today, but he certainly demonstrated his leadership and field vision in a big way.

Unfortunately, an injury in Week 12 on the road against the Washington Redkins cut his season short.

Fortunately for the Cowboys, Steve Buerlein filled in admirably for Aikman, leading them to win out the rest of the season to finish second in the NFC East.

And at 11-5, the Cowboys earned a Wild Card berth in the playoffs.

While many expected the Chicago Bears to take care of the Dallas Cowboys at home at Soldier Field, Dallas upset them 17-13.

In the Divisional Round against the Detroit Lions, Buerlein and crew struggled in the first half, working themselves into a 17-6 hole by halftime.

Aikman would be back under center in the second half, but it didn't matter as Detroit routed Dallas 38-6.

1991 Bowman #113 Troy Aikman Football Card

1991 Bowman #371 Lawrence Taylor

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $35

Lawrence Taylor headed into his eleventh season in the NFL in 1991 looking to keep his reputation as one of the most feared defenders in the league intact.

During the first ten seasons of his career, Taylor was an All-Pro and Pro Bowler every season while racking up three Defensive Player of the Year awards and an MVP.

In short, he was the last guy opposing offenses wanted to see across the line for a decade.

Things changed in 1991, however.

Head coach Bill Parcells retired before the season and the team had to adjust to new head coach Ray Handley.

And at 32 years old, Taylor wasn't as explosive as in years past.

Sure, he still had the menacing presence as in years past, but he didn't put up the same kind of monster statistics as before.

Taylor did record two fumbles, but recorded only 7 sacks, marking the first time he failed to post double-digit sacks.

After winning the Super Bowl the year before, the New York Giants slipped to 8-8 and missed the playoffs.

And for the first time in his career, Taylor didn't make the Pro Bowl.

1991 Bowman #371 Lawrence Taylor Football Card

1991 Bowman #273 Barry Sanders

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $30

During his incredible rookie season in 1989, Barry Sanders racked up 1,470 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on his way to an easy nod for 1999 Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.

And, had it not been for Christian Okoye's 1,480 rushing yards for the Kansas City Chiefs, Sanders would've become the first rookie to lead the NFL in rushing since Eric Dickerson in 1983.

But Sanders would get his due the very next season.

Yet, it was by an even slimmer margin than when Okoye outdueled him by just ten yards in 1989.

On 255 carries in 1990, Sanders zigged and zagged his way to 1,304 rushing yards to pace the NFL.

But Buffalo's Thurman Thomas wasn't far behind, gaining 1,297 yards on the ground, which, combined with his 532 receiving yards, allowed him to lead the NFL in yards from scrimmage (1,829) for the second year in a row.

Both players were incredible running backs and two of the best players to ever play in the NFL.

But this card is all about the 1990 NFL rushing title, which went to Sanders.

It would be the first of four times in his Hall of Fame career to lead the league in rushing.

1991 Bowman #273 League Leaders Barry Sanders Football Card

1991 Bowman #554 Bo Jackson

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $30

This card can bring forward a lot of mixed feelings for many collectors.

On the one hand, any Bo Jackson card will instantly spark a wave of nostalgia for an era that witnessed one of the greatest athletes ever to walk the planet.

But, on the other hand, this card highlights the very game that brought Jackson's two-sport stardom to a crashing halt.

So, in a way, it's kind of eerie.

When the Los Angeles Raiders faced off against the Cincinnati Bengals on January 13, 1991, in the AFC Divisional Round, nobody could've predicted that it would be Jackson's last appearance in the NFL.

But an unremarkable tackle from Cincinnati's Kevin Walker ended it all.

On the day, Jackson ran the ball six times for 77 yards in a clear showing of rushing dominance.

And the imagery on this card gives you a sense of how explosive he was.

With Los Angeles right guard Max Montoya sealing off Cincinnati linebacker Leon White, Jackson had room to rumble downfield as he did so many times throughout his career.

1991 Bowman #554 Playoffs Bo Jackson Football Card
1991 Bowman #554 Playoffs Bo Jackson Football Card Reverse Side

1991 Bowman Football Cards In Review

The 1991 Bowman football card set isn't going to blow you away in terms of aesthetics or hobby icons.

However, there are plenty of big-name stars and Hall of Famers in the 561-card checklist to keep the nostalgic factor respectable.

You can't go wrong with any set that features guys like Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Bo Jackson, Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, and other huge names of the era.

Unopened Box of 1991 Bowman Football Cards

Aesthetically, the design of the 1991 Bowman set is instantly recognizable and boasts that familiar, straightforward Bowman look and feel.

There were also a few subsets, including:

  • League Leaders (#273 - 283)
  • Road to Super Bowl XXV (#547 - 557)
  • Checklists (#558 - 561)

Overall, the 1991 Bowman football set is fairly simple and delivers pretty much what you'd expect from a Bowman set produced during the "junk" era: simplicity and nostalgia.

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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