15 Most Valuable 1992 Upper Deck Football Cards

Most Valuable 1992 Upper Deck Football Cards


Take one look at the 1992 Upper Deck football card set's aesthetics, and one thing will immediately jump out at you:

they kept their foot on the gas when it came to higher-quality photography and design...

After all, that was the company's leading differentiator in a heated and highly competitive market.

With big names like Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith headlining the checklist, collectors had no shortage of star power at their fingertips.

Unfortunately, over time we'd learn that none of the rookies in this set ever panned out as huge superstars, which is a bit of a downer.

However, there are still many great cards to be found in the set checklist.

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

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 1992 Fleer, 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:

1992 Upper Deck #155 Barry Sanders

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $40

The Detroit Lions' dream 1991 season snapped back into harsh reality in 1992.

A dark stretch of seven consecutive losing seasons ended with a high-octane bang in 1991, as the 12-4 Lions took home their first NFC Central title since 1983.

The corner seemed turned. Everything was looking up.

Then, the offseason happened.

Twelve different players held out in training camp, looking to turn on-field success into pay bumps.

Once the band (mostly) got back together, a rash of injuries popped up to stop any potential momentum from starting.

Detroit crashed hard in 1992, finishing in a three-way last-place tie at 5-11.

And it's a pity, considering the waste of another outstanding Barry Sanders performance.

For Sanders, even the roughest of years was a Pro Bowl spectacular.

The second-team All-Pro rushed 312 times for 1,352 yards and nine touchdowns, all behind a makeshift, injury-prone offensive line.

His 4.3 yards-per-carry stand as a career-low, yet it's an impressive total considering how little help Sanders had.

No other Detroit running back had more than nine carries, and the team's passing game was league-average on its best day.

Sanders' heroics saved Detroit from complete and utter disaster, but perhaps just barely.

1992 Upper Deck #155 Barry Sanders Football Card

1992 Upper Deck #560 Joe Montana

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $40

Joe Montana was the face of the San Francisco 49ers for twelve glorious years.

All it took, though, was one season-ending injury to make things incredibly awkward.

Sidelined in mid-August of 1991 with a torn right elbow tendon, the immortal Niners quarterback underwent a grueling, stop-and-start rehab process for the better part of 16 months.

In Montana's absence, Steve Young took the ball with no intentions of returning it.

The former #1 supplemental draft pick became the first quarterback of the modern ranking era to post efficiency ratings of 100 or better in two consecutive seasons.

There was no way the 49ers could displace their MVP QB in mid-stride, even for a legend of Montana's stature.

And so, it all got weird.

Held out for weeks and unwilling to remain in SF as Young's backup, Montana was in the unenviable position of lame duck in the Niners' final regular season game.

In his first action in two seasons, Montana finished 15 of 21 for 126 yards in a 24-6 drubbing of the Detroit Lions.

The 49ers had already clinched a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the postseason.

So, it all set up as a low-stakes way to say goodbye to a franchise immortal.

Months after the Niners' NFC title game loss to Dallas, the previously unthinkable happened.

San Francisco dealt Montana to Kansas City, and an era of excellence ended as abruptly as it started.

1992 Upper Deck #560 Joe Montana Football Card

1992 Upper Deck #616 Jerry Rice

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $40

Jerry Rice remained the GOAT year in and year out, no matter who was under center in San Francisco.

For example, Rice didn't miss a beat after Joe Montana went down in 1991.

Whether it was Steve Bono or eventual franchise QB Steve Young under center, Rice kept producing at an all-time rate while making everyone around him look like a million bucks.

In 1992, Rice was the jet fuel that propelled Steve Young to his first of two MVP awards.

The first-team All-Pro receiver and seven-time Pro Bowler snagged 84 passes for 1,201 yards and ten touchdowns, marking his fourth straight year with double-digit TD receptions.

His 14.3 yards per reception set a new career low, yet that reflects his greatness more than anything else.

Rice was both a deep threat and an elite possession receiver.

Whatever San Francisco needed in a particular game situation, he went above and beyond.

He even rushed the ball nine times for 58 yards and a TD, proving a diverse threat for the league's top-scoring offense.

Over two postseason contests, Rice caught 14 of 20 targets for 211 yards and a score.

In the team's crushing 30-20 NFC Championship Game loss, the 30-year-old wideout tallied eight receptions for 123 yards and a TD in a valiant final effort. 

1992 Upper Deck #616 Jerry Rice Football Card

1992 Upper Deck #200 John Elway

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $30

John Elway's value to the Denver Broncos franchise was never more apparent than in 1992.

But it didn't necessarily mean that '92 was a good year for Elway.

He posted the worst touchdown-to-interception ratio of his Hall-of-Fame career, tossing just ten TDs against seventeen picks.

His 5.4% interception rate was nearly double that of his eventual career mark.

With Elway, however, numbers never told the whole story.

Struggles aside, the 32-year-old QB pushed the 7-3 Broncos into prime playoff position after a Sunday night win over the Giants in Week 11.

Somehow, some way, he was going to will Denver into the playoffs.

But a bruised throwing shoulder nixed all that immediately.

Elway suffered the injury in the win over New York and was forced out of action for four weeks.

The Broncos lost all four of those games.

When Elway came back in Week 16, it was too late.

Despite an 8-4 record as a starter, three fourth-quarter comebacks, and three game-winning drives, Elway and the Broncos sat out of the postseason for the second time in three years.

1992 Upper Deck #200 John Elway Football Card

1992 Upper Deck #254 Emmitt Smith

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $30

At the outset of the 1992 campaign, Dallas Cowboys star running back Emmitt Smith dreamed big.

He spoke openly about his hopes of a 2,000-yard rushing season, pointing to the team's top-tier offensive line and arsenal of skill position weapons as reasons why it could happen.

While it didn't go that way, it didn't much matter.

Even with a midseason streak of three games with less than 100 rushing yards factored in, Smith bowled his way to a second consecutive NFL rushing title, 23 yards clear of surprising runner-up Barry Foster.

Along with his NFL-best 1,713 rushing yards, Smith topped all of football in rushing TDs (18), rushing yards per game (107.1), touches (432), and combined rushing and receiving touchdowns (19).

The first-team All-Pro and third-place NFL MVP finisher set the tone for the NFL's second-best scoring offense and opened the door for the rest of the Cowboys offense to shine.

That was the case throughout the regular season, and it remained Dallas' recipe for success in January.

The 23-year-old halfback strapped the Boys to his back in the playoffs, averaging 112 rushing yards with three touchdowns in the team's dominant run to a Super Bowl XXVII title.

In the Big Game against Buffalo, Smith turned in a workmanlike performance with 135 yards from scrimmage and a rushing TD.

Dallas crushed the Bills 52-17, capturing the first of three Super Bowl championships in four years.

1992 Upper Deck #254 Emmitt Smith Football Card

1992 Upper Deck #484 Brett Favre

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $30

Before the 1992 regular season, the Packers dealt a first-round pick to Atlanta for Brett Favre, a big-armed Southern Miss product who had run afoul of Falcons management in short order.

It was a gamble.

Yet, head coach Mike Holmgren believed Favre had the game and the grit to be his franchise QB.

The initial plan was to sit the former second-round pick behind Don Majkowski for a year, allowing the kid to learn from the sidelines.

However, Majkowski's ankle problems pushed that timeline forward, and Favre took over the starting job for good in Week 3.

Saddled behind a porous offensive line, Favre's rookie year was a highlight reel of crushing hits.

He kept popping back up, though, using a carbon copy of the Niners' high-wire offense to his advantage.

"I use a lot of three-step drops," Favre said. "I'm not the most accurate passer, but I'm usually close enough. They limit the offense to things I do well. It helps a lot that they've told me I'm number one."

With Majkowski in the rearview, Favre dropped his anchor with a late-season, six-game winning streak.

Resurgent Green Bay had a chance to secure a Wild Card berth but fell short with a Week 17 loss at Minnesota.

1992 Upper Deck #484 Brett Favre Football Card

1992 Upper Deck #597 Troy Aikman

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $30

With Emmitt Smith at his side, Troy Aikman didn't have to set the world alight in 1992.

He just had to direct the offense and let his all-world running back do his thing.

But the Dallas Cowboys signal caller wasn't content with playing second fiddle.

Instead, he put together a brilliant 1992 campaign arguably better than his top-five MVP finish a year later.

The 26-year-old QB led the Cowboys to a 13-3 record, completing 63.8% of his passes for 3,445 yards, 23 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

His 4.9% touchdown percentage is the top mark of his Hall-of-Fame career by over a whole percentage point.

Aikman was more than just a complementary game manager.

He was a tenacious, big-armed passer with the best pure-throwing mechanics in the league.

When the Cowboys offense needed him to make the big play, Aikman obliged and went the extra mile.

Aikman's partnership with Smith would eventually go down as one of the most successful and fruitful QB/RB tandem attacks in NFL history.

And it all got started in 1992 when the duo ripped through the playoff field for their first Lombardi Trophy.

Three years removed from an embarrassing 1-15 debut, Aikman took his place among the NFL greats, completing 22 of 30 passes for 273 yards and four scores to secure the Super Bowl XXVII MVP award.

1992 Upper Deck #597 Troy Aikman Football Card

1992 Upper Deck #598 Dan Marino

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $30

Facing an ever-collapsing pocket, Dan Marino went down swinging in 1992.

The Miami Dolphins quarterback was sacked a career-high 28 times, absorbing bone-crushing hits with regularity.

In Week 4, Marino endured a slight concussion with retrograde amnesia after a high/low hit in Seattle.

Yet, somehow, Marino came back in after a play and tossed the game-winning TD with just over two minutes left.

"It was after the excitement of throwing the touchdown pass that I started to get a little worse, a little anxious," Marino said. "I just felt weird. The doctor said to go into the locker room, but after five or 10 minutes I started remembering a lot of things."

That was just one of Marino's NFL-best six fourth-quarter comebacks.

He also topped the league in game-winning drives (6), completions (330), attempts (514), and passing yards (4,116).

Miami had very little running game to speak of, so it was up to the 31-year-old Pro Bowler to make ends meet as he led the Fins to an 11-5 record and an AFC East title.

The good times kept rolling for one more week.

Marino threw three TDs in a 31-0 Divisional Round laugher over San Diego, setting a confident Dolphins squad up for an AFC Championship Game date with the Buffalo Bills.

It all collapsed from there, as Marino threw two picks and ate four sacks in a 29-10 home loss.

1992 Upper Deck #598 Dan Marino Football Card

1992 Upper Deck #599 Lawrence Taylor

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $30

Before the 1991 NFL season, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Lawrence Taylor was indestructible.

The three-time Defensive Player of the Year and 1986 NFL MVP played through a laundry list of severe injuries for over a decade.

These included a beat-up hamstring in 1987, a torn shoulder muscle in 1988, and a shattered ankle bone in 1989.

The New York Giants superstar compartmentalized the pain to stake his claim as the best outside linebacker in NFL history and a seemingly unstoppable force.

The narrative started to shift, though, during the 1991 campaign.

Taylor missed two games and looked a few steps slow, failing to make the Pro Bowl for the first time in his illustrious career.

Fans and media members wondered aloud if the end was near.

In 1992, Taylor continued to struggle.

Things were about to come to a head, but not in the way anyone expected.

During a Week 10 home victory against Green Bay, Taylor crumpled to the ground after deflecting a pass, his right heel racked with intense pain.

Always the one to get up and dust himself off, LT couldn't do so this time.

A severed Achilles tendon had finally put him down for the count.

The question now was, "What's next?" After two substandard years, retirement seemed likely.

Not one to go out on anyone else's terms, LT chose rehab and returned for one final hurrah in 1993.

1992 Upper Deck #599 Lawrence Taylor Football Card

1992 Upper Deck #145 Thurman Thomas

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $25

Thurman Thomas finished fifth in the 1992 NFL's Offensive Player of the Year race, racking up 2,113 yards from scrimmage (1,487 rushing, 626 receiving), nine rushing touchdowns, and three receiving TDs.

His 4.8 yards per carry tie for second best in his Hall-of-Fame career.

The Bills failed to secure their fifth straight AFC East title, yet still comfortably slotted into the January field as an 11-5 Wild Card.

Everything looked to go to hell in the Wild Card Game against Houston.

The Oilers laid a 35-3 whupping on the Bills through two-plus quarters, all but ending their season on the spot.

Thomas was bottled up all game, carrying just 11 times for 26 yards.

And then, "The Comeback."

Buffalo scored 35 unanswered points in dizzying fashion to take a 38-35 lead and eventually won the game with a Steve Christie boot in overtime.

The Bills rode the momentum through the AFC field, with Thomas amassing 245 all-purpose yards and a score in wins over Pittsburgh and Miami.

What came next was a funeral for Buffalo's Super Bowl hopes.

One year after gaining just 13 yards on ten carries in a Super Bowl loss to Washington, Thomas put up just 19 yards on eleven rushes in a gutting 52-17 defeat.

1992 Upper Deck #145 Thurman Thomas Football Card

1992 Upper Deck #185 Reggie White

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $25

For seven years before the 1992 NFL season, Reggie White earned his keep as the best defensive player in Philadelphia Eagles history.

His eighth and final year with the team was no different.

On the cusp of a free-agency frenzy, White was the lynchpin for the sixth-best scoring defense in the NFL.

The most disruptive pass rusher of the era registered double-digit sacks for the eighth consecutive season (14.0) with 81 combined tackles, three forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery for a 37-yard score.

But, for the first time since his rookie season, White wasn't named to the All-Pro first team.

He still garnered second-team honors with a total output and impact comparable to his 1987 Defensive Player of the Year campaign.

Balanced between a potent rushing attack and opportunistic defense, the Eagles finished 11-5 on the year to nab a Wild Card spot.

White tallied two sacks in two playoff games, with his last snap as an Eagle coming in a disheartening 34-10 Divisional Round loss to Dallas.

1992 Upper Deck #185 Reggie White Football Card

1992 Upper Deck #345 Michael Irvin

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $25

Michael Irvin played chicken with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones all offseason long after the 1991 season.

Jones blinked, and both parties reaped the rewards.

The talented and controversial wideout signed a three-year deal just days before the Cowboys' 1992 season opener against Washington, tossing away training camp for a sizeable payday.

"I think my smile says it all," Irvin said of the deal. "I'm definitely happy to be here. Happy to contribute any such way Coach Johnson wants."

Even with limited practice and a body not quite in game shape, Irvin snagged five balls for 89 yards in a convincing 23-10 win over the Cowboys' NFC East rivals.

He didn't look back from there.

The 26-year-old amassed 1,396 yards on 78 catches, second only to Green Bay's Sterling Sharpe for the NFL receiving title.

Irvin was the consummate game-breaker for the Cowboys' explosive passing attack, averaging 17.9 yards per reception and hauling in seven touchdowns.

It was in the playoffs, however, when Irvin earned his bag.

The 6-foot-2 wideout caught 75% of his targets in the postseason (18 out of 24) for the highest playoff clip of his career.

288 yards and two touchdowns later, the Cowboys were Super Bowl champs.

1992 Upper Deck #345 Michael Irvin Football Card

1992 Upper Deck #567 Deion Sanders

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $25

1992 was the year that Deion Sanders hit his two-sport peak.

"Prime Time" played a career-high 97 games for the Atlanta Braves in 1992, setting career bests in batting average (.304), OPS (.841), home runs (8), and triples (an MLB-best 14), among other categories.

When Sanders switched back over to the gridiron, he was even better.

The 25-year-old Atlanta Falcons star was the top shutdown cornerback in all of football, forcing opposing offensive coordinators to devise game plans that avoided him specifically.

The First-Team All-Pro ended the year with a career-best 66 tackles.

He also tallied three interceptions, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries.

When Sanders locked in on a team's #1 receiver, it was often lights out.

Yet, that was only half the story.

Sanders wasn't just a game-changing corner.

He was also the most dangerous kick returner in the NFL.

The Florida native led all returners in yards (1,067) and touchdowns (2), providing a continuous spark during a depressing 6-10 season.

1992 Upper Deck #567 Deion Sanders Football Card

1992 Upper Deck #586 Bruce Smith

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $25

The 1992 Buffalo Bills’ defense was a league-average unit in terms of points allowed per game.

Without Bruce Smith, Buffalo’s D may have gone from passable to disastrous.

A hulking right defensive end who doubled both as an all-world pass rusher and gifted run defender, Smith put an injury-plagued 1991 behind him with a 1992 banger.

After playing just five games the year before due to recurring knee issues, Smith played 15 of Buffalo’s 16 regular season games, racking up 89 combined tackles, 14.0 sacks, and three forced fumbles.

He looked light on his feet and heavy on his hits, terrorizing opposing quarterbacks and running backs from whistle to whistle.

When the Bills needed a stop, it was usually Smith who answered the bell.

So, perhaps it’s no surprise that the five-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro finished fifth in the NFL Defensive Player of the Year balloting.

Smith’s impact extended well into January.

The future Hall of Famer registered at least one sack in Buffalo’s final three playoff games.

It all ended with a whimper in Super Bowl XXVII, but not for a lack of effort on the Hall of Famer’s part.

1992 Upper Deck #586 Bruce Smith Football Card

1992 Upper Deck #299 Steve Young

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $20

It's easy to understand why Steve Young was so stressed out in 1992.

Several reports referenced Young's wavering psyche under center and in the locker room.

His confidence level dipped and rose weekly, largely thanks to Joe Montana's looming shadow.

It was a calculated move on the part of San Francisco management.

By the end of the year, Young was the unquestioned best quarterback in football, and Montana was expendable.

If Montana had been activated a month and a half earlier, who knows how things would have turned out down the stretch?

As it was, Young blew the doors off the NFL en route to an NFC West title.

Young led all passers in a vast majority of statistical categories, including completion percentage (66.7%), touchdowns (25), quarterback rating (107.0), and touchdown percentage (6.2).

He also threw just seven picks on the year and registered a league-best 1.7% INT percentage.

The accolades came pouring in from there.

Young was named NFL MVP with a dominant 70% vote share, the first of two MVPs in three years.

He also earned NFL Offensive Player of the Year honors, a First-Team All-Pro designation, and his first Pro Bowl nod.

1992 Upper Deck #299 Steve Young Football Card

1992 Upper Deck Football Cards In Review

As you can see, this set has plenty of star power and Hall of Famers scattered throughout the 660-card checklist to keep things interesting enough.

However, the glaring lack of significant rookie cards has led to this set being cast aside by most collectors in the hobby.

Sure, the design is great and the print quality was superior to what collectors were used to at that point.

But collectors love rookie cards and, without a strong rookie class this set will remain largely overlooked.

Unopened Box of 1992 Upper Deck Football Cards

As far as subsets are concerned, there were several, including:

  • Star Rookies (#2 - 29)
  • Arch Rivals (#31 - 53)
  • Season Leaders (#301 - 311)
  • Team MVP's (#350 - 378)

Upper Deck did a fantastic job with the design, subsets and inserts in this set.

And even though their values may not jump off the page, any collector who grew up in that era will surely get a boost of nostalgia by scanning through this set.

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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