15 Most Valuable 1991 Pro Set Football Cards
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At a time when hobby demand was booming and competition was steep, 1991 Pro Set football cards aimed to win collectors over with fantastic photography and a borderless design.
And they certainly delivered...
Loaded with action-packed imagery, the checklist captures so many angles and perspectives that make you feel as if you're almost witnessing the moments in real-time.
With multiple rookie cards and a bundle of stars and Hall of Famers of the day, this set contains so many great cards to collect.
And in this article, we'll take a look at the fifteen most valuable.
Let's jump right in!
I do want to be 100% clear that most of the cards in this set sadly have no value these days.
And to have any value at all, the cards on this list will need to be graded in PSA 10 gem mint condition...meaning they're nearly flawless.
Now that we've got that out of the way, let's take a look at the list:
1991 Pro Set #126 Bill Belichick Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 10 Value: $750
This may be the only set in the entire hobby in which you'll see a coach as the most valuable card at the top of the list.
But, Bill Belichick isn't your typical coach.
After designing a game plan as defensive coordinator for the New York Giants that helped upset the Buffalo Bills' high-powered offense 20-19 in Super Bowl XXV, Belichick landed his first head coaching job with the Cleveland Browns in 1991.
However, during his five years at the helm in Cleveland, he had a winning record only once when the team went 11-5.
It wasn't until 2000 when Belichick accepted the head coaching position with the New England Patriots that he would begin carving out his reputation as perhaps the greatest head coach in NFL history.
With seventeen AFC East titles, nine AFC Championships, six Super Bowl rings, and 280 victories, Belichick has a resume that many NFL head coaches could only dream of building.
1991 Pro Set #762 Brett Favre Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 10 Value: $135
Drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the second round of the 1991 NFL Draft, Brett Favre spent one season with the team as their backup before being traded to the Green Bay Packers.
Early in the 1992 regular season, Favre found himself as the Packers' starter after Don Majkowski suffered an ankle injury that would force him to miss multiple games.
Favre answered the call, and after a bit of a rough start, he soon hit his stride and helped lead the team to a 9-7 record while making his first of eleven career Pro Bowls.
By the end of his sixteenth and final season with the Packers in 2007, Favre found himself the career leader in passing attempts, completions, yards and touchdowns.
Those records may have since fallen, but one record that Favre holds that will likely never be touched is his record of 299 consecutive games, a testament to his grit and toughness.
1991 Pro Set Santa Claus
Estimated PSA 10 Value: $100
One thing that Pro Set collectors could always look forward to was their infamous Santa Claus cards that featured a Christmas-themed tribute to each set.
On the 1991 issue, Santa Claus is seen ready to drop off a stack of Pro Set cards to a brick home while Rudolph stands by the sleigh waiting to head to the next house.
Meanwhile, Pro Set founder Ludwell Denny, dressed as an elf, makes a cameo as he and two children look out the front window.
In recent years, these cards have taken off in price in high grade.
1991 Pro Set #835 John Randle Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 10 Value: $75
At 6'1" and 244 pounds, Hall of Famer John Randle was originally thought to be too small for the NFL and therefore went undrafted.
Fortunately, the Vikings took a chance on Randle and picked him up anyway, paving the way for an eleven-year stint with the team from 1990 to 2000.
While in Minnesota, Randle found himself regularly smashing through the line and pursuing arch-rival Green Bay's Brett Favre, the quarterback he sacked most often in his career at 12.5 times.
He'd play the final three seasons of his career in Seattle from 2001 to 2003, making one Pro Bowl appearance in the process.
During Randle's fourteen years in the NFL, he would be named a First-Team All-Pro six times, a Pro Bowler seven times, and would lead the NFL in sacks with 15.5 during the 1997 season.
Not bad for someone who was originally thought to be too small to even suit up at the NFL level.
1991 Pro Set #335 Bo and Barry Show
Estimated With No Logo PSA 10 Value: $60
Estimated With Logo PSA 10 Value: $40
During Week 14 of the 1990 NFL season, the Los Angeles Raiders and Detroit Lions clashed in a Monday Night Football showdown that featured two of the greatest backs of the era: Bo Jackson and Barry Sanders.
While the Raiders would ultimately come out on top 38-31, both Jackson and Sanders had phenomenal individual performances that left fans at the Silverdome in awe.
Sanders and the Lions struck first as the Hall of Fame running back roasted the Raiders defense for a 35-yard touchdown run, his first of two scores on the night.
Jackson wouldn't answer Sanders until the second quarter, but he made up for the delay by turning in a monster 55-yard score of his own.
On the night, the two combined for 305 rushing yards as Sanders racked up 176 and Jackson ripped off 129 in one of the best rushing showdowns of the year.
Pro Set paid tribute to that memorable matchup with this "Bo and Barry Show" card that can be found with or without the NFLPA logo on the reverse side, with the variation without the logo being a bit more rare and valuable.
Reverse With NFLPA Logo
Reverse Without NFLPA Logo
1991 Pro Set #1 Emmitt Smith
Estimated PSA 10 Value: $50
In his rookie campaign, Smith finished fifth in the NFC and eighth in the NFL in rushing with 937 yards while scoring eleven touchdowns in the process.
It was an impressive start to a Hall of Fame career that would see him rack up another 17,418 to finish as the game's all-time leading rusher with 18,355 yards.
During Week 9 of the 1990 season, the Cowboys faced the New York Jets at Giants Stadium and struggled all day long, ultimately losing 24-9.
Smith rushed for 55 yards that day with his longest rush going for 22 yards.
I'd like to think that play is captured in this photo as he blows by Marvin Washington (97) and Joe Kelly (58).
1991 Pro Set #36 Rocket Ismail Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 10 Value: $50
Raghib "Rocket" Ismail rose to national prominence during his college days at the University of Notre Dame, where he was known for his blazing speed as a wide receiver and kick returner.
Expected to be drafted number one overall in the 1991 NFL Draft, Ismail instead shocked the football world when he signed a record four year, $18.2 million contract to play with the Toronto Argonauts in the CFL.
The Los Angeles Raiders decided to use the 100th pick on him anyway to claim the rights to him should he ever decide to play in the NFL.
And, after two years in Toronto, that's exactly what he decided to do and Ismail soon found himself lacing up for the Raiders in 1993 when he caught 26 passes for 353 yards and one touchdown.
Ismail never really reached superstar status in the NFL but he did enjoy two 1,000+ yard receiving seasons in 1998 and 1999 with the Panthers and Cowboys.
1991 Pro Set #485 Emmitt Smith
Estimated PSA 10 Value: $45
You can almost feel the tension on Emmitt Smith's base card as the youngster is featured looking a bit desperate to find some room to run against the division rival New York Giants and their daunting defense.
The Cowboys lost twice to the Giants during the 1990 season as they fell 7-28 at home in Week 2 and then 17-31 two weeks later in Week 4 at Giants Stadium.
Smith was hardly a factor in the first game as he rushed only six times for eleven yards, and while he only rushed for 28 yards the second game, he did manage to find the end zone for a score.
The Giants were 4-0 at that point and would eventually go on to win the Super Bowl that season.
However, the Cowboys would get revenge on the Giants over the rest of the decade as they'd win the NFC East six times and the Super Bowl three times during the 1990s.
1991 Pro Set #502 Barry Sanders
Estimated PSA 10 Value: $45
Some would argue that Barry Sanders was the greatest running back in NFL history as he possessed an uncanny ability to make defenders miss with his incredible foot speed and vision.
During the 1991 season, Sanders was up to his usual brilliance as he used a career-high 22.8 carries per game to finish the year with 1,548 rushing yards and a personal best sixteen rushing touchdowns.
Sanders made the Pro Bowl in each of his ten seasons in the NFL and never rushed for fewer than 1,115 yards.
And that "down year" was in 1993 when he played in only eleven games.
Over his career, Sanders rushed for an eye-popping 99.8 yards per game, which put him second in that category behind the legendary Jim Brown and his 104.3 yards per game average.
Had Sanders not become disgruntled with Detroit's inability to put a championship-caliber team together alongside him forcing him to retire prematurely, he would have wowed fans for years to come.
1991 Pro Set #653 Joe Montana
Estimated PSA 10 Value: $40
Like many kids back in the late 80s and early 90s, I used to love watching Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and the rest of the 49ers run the West Coast offense to perfection as they shred opposing defenses.
And I still remember being stunned to see them fall to the New York Giants in the 1990 NFC Championship.
After all, they were heavily favored to win the Super Bowl for the third year in a row to become the first NFL team to three-peat.
But then Leonard Marshall sacked Montana as he was rolling out, forcing him to leave the game with an injury.
And, later, a Roger Craig fumble set up a game-winning field goal for the Giants as they slipped by the 49ers 15-13.
It was almost as shocking as seeing Buster Douglas floor Mike Tyson nearly a year before.
Sadly, Montana never really saw significant action with the 49ers ever again as he missed the entire 1991 regular season and most of the 1992 regular season due to an elbow injury.
With Steve Young taking over in San Francisco, the 49ers then traded Montana to Kansas City in 1993 where he would play two years before retiring.
1991 Pro Set #654 Jerry Rice
Estimated PSA 10 Value: $40
The 1991 season was all about change for Jerry Rice, but it proved to everyone just how versatile the legendary receiver was.
After Montana went down with an injury in the 1991 pre-season, Rice had to adjust to the left-handed throwing style of Steve Young.
Then, a little over halfway through the season, Rice had to adjust again as Young went down because of a knee injury and was replaced for several games by Steve Bono.
And, during the fifteenth game of the season, Rice adjusted once more as Bono fell to injury and a fully-recovered Young once again found himself under center.
Despite the hiccups along the way, Rice still managed to put up 1,206 receiving yards while leading the league with fourteen receiving touchdowns.
But, even though they finished with a 10-6 record, the 49ers missed the playoffs for the first time in Rice's career.
1991 Pro Set #774 Ricky Watters Rookie Card
Estimated PSA 10 Value: $40
It's fair to say that the injury bug wasn't too kind to the 49ers in 1991 as their second pick of the 1991 NFL Draft, Ricky Watters, also had to miss the entire season due to injury.
After the 49ers drifted into the bottom of the half in the league in rushing in 1990 and Roger Craig signed to play for the Raiders in 1991, Ricky Watters was to be the guy who would get them back on track in the running game.
Even better, like Craig, Watters had a fantastic pass-catching ability out of the backfield that positioned him as a similar dual-threat in a dynamic offense.
But, San Francisco would have to wait until the 1992 regular season to see just what they had in their new back.
Watters wasted no time showing them as he broke out for 1,013 rushing yards and 404 receiving yards in his rookie campaign, earning Pro Bowl honors and becoming their first 1,000+ yard rusher since Craig in 1989.
Though he would only play three years in San Francisco before signing with the Eagles in 1995, Watters helped the team to a dominant 49-26 Super Bowl XXIX victory over the Chargers with his three rushing touchdowns on the night.
1991 Pro Set #42 Bo Jackson
Estimated PSA 10 Value: $35
By the beginning of the 1991 regular season, Bo Jackson's professional football career was sadly over.
During a playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals in January 1991, Jackson dislocated his hip after a hard tackle.
Unfortunately, his NFL career came to an end on that play and his MLB career was never quite the same.
Pro Set paid tribute to Jackson winning the 1985 Heisman Trophy during his senior year at Auburn after racking up 1,786 rushing yards and scoring 17 touchdowns.
The legend surrounding Bo Jackson remains strong to this day as kids who grew up idolizing him are now adult collectors full of nostalgia in search of his cards.
1991 Pro Set #210 Dan Marino
Estimated PSA 10 Value: $30
Dan Marino completely redefined the quarterback position when he burst onto the scene in the early 80s and began piling up statistics like no one before him.
His 1984 campaign was especially memorable as he set six single-season records, including most passing touchdowns (48) and most passing yards (5,084).
Dan Fouts had set the previous record for most yards in 1981 with 4,802, and Y.A. Tittle's 36 touchdown passes in 1963 were the most up until that point.
But Marino obliterated both marks.
No one had ever seen anything like it.
He would continue to light up the league for years to come, and for the 1991 season, Marino threw for 3,970 yards and 25 touchdowns and was named a Pro Bowler for the sixth time in his career.
You can almost feel the tension building on this card as Gerald Nichols and Dennis Byrd of the arch-rival New York Jets, a team Marino went 17-13 against in his career, try and chase him down.
1991 Pro Set #602 Lawrence Taylor
Estimated PSA 10 Value: $30
While it may not be the most expensive card in the set, it's hard to argue any of them have better eye appeal than this Lawrence Taylor card.
This appears to be one of LT's 1.5 sacks in the making during a 20-0 rout of the Detroit Lions during Week 11 at Giants Stadium.
Can you imagine being Detroit quarterback Bob Gagliano and seeing this scene unfolding out of the corner of your eye as you were about to be annihilated by the greatest linebacker in NFL history?
To make matters worse, they were completely shut out that game.
That must've been the longest day in Gagliano's career.
1991 Pro Set Football Cards In Review
Since the first Pro Set football card set debuted in 1989, the company was known for cards with fantastic imagery, and the 1991 Pro Set football set was no exception.
While the Belichick and Favre rookies headline the set, there is still plenty to love inside the massive 850-card checklist.
Many of the game's greats of the era like Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Dan Marino, Lawrence Taylor, and more gave collectors plenty of star power to collect.
Around the time this set was released, the hobby was booming overall, and Pro Set was as busy as any company in those days as they printed massive amounts of cards to meet anticipated demand.
And to this day, they're not hard to find as there are still plenty of unopened boxes on the market.
In summary, the visual appeal of this set cannot be denied, and although many don't hold much value these days, there are still some that can fetch a decent price tag in high grade.