12 Most Valuable 1996 Upper Deck Football Cards

Written By Ross Uitts

Last Updated: March 25, 2024
The Most Valuable 1996 Upper Deck Football Cards


When you sift through the 1996 Upper Deck football card set, you'll soon realize a couple of things about its rookie card class.

On the one hand, big names like Marvin Harrison, Jonathan Ogden, Eddie George, Keyshawn Johnson and Mike Alstott all made their cardboard debuts in this set.

On the other hand, there are several huge names missing...

At only 300 cards, the checklist had significantly less space to work with than Upper Deck's 700-card set debut in 1991.

As a result, future Hall of Fame rookies Ray Lewis, Terrell Owens, Brian Dawkins and Zach Thomas are nowhere to be found in this set.

However, despite those glaring omissions, many great cards remain to be found inside.

And in this guide, we'll take a look at the 12 most valuable in the set.

Let's jump right in!

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

Like the 1996 Fleer, 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:

1996 Upper Deck #18 Marvin Harrison Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $35

After turning heads as a three-year starter at Syracuse University, Marvin Harrison packed his bags for Indianapolis when the Colts drafted him with the 19th pick of the 1996 NFL Draft.

In Week 1 at home against the Arizona Cardinals, Harrison gave Colts fans a nice preview of what they could expect throughout his career.

Using his exceptional speed and route-running ability, Harrison caught six of quarterback Jim Harbaugh's eight passes for 85 yards and a touchdown in the 20-13 victory.

His production dwindled over the next several weeks, but a solid finish to the season, including a 103-yard and 3-touchdown performance in Week 15, boosted his rookie resume.

In sixteen games (15 starts), Harrison caught 64 passes for 836 yards and 8 touchdowns, helping the 9-7 Colts to a Wild Card berth.

Though the Colts lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in a 14-42 blowout, there would be plenty of years of playoff success ahead for the budding superstar.

By the time he retired in 2008, Harrison left Indy with a Super Bowl ring and eight Pro Bowl nominations, leaving a legacy as one of the greatest receivers in NFL history.

1996 Upper Deck #18 Marvin Harrison Rookie Card

1996 Upper Deck #60 Jerry Rice

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $35

Following a devastating loss to the Green Bay Packers in the 1995 Divisional Round, legendary receiver Jerry Rice and the San Francisco 49ers looked to right the ship in his 12th season with the franchise.

The 34-year-old Hall of Famer wasted no time getting right back to business.

With Steve Young continuing to look his way early and often, Rice hauled in an NFL-best 108 receptions on 153 targets.

It was the second time he'd led the league in receptions and the second-highest single-season total of his career.

However, many of those passes weren't the big downfield bursts fans had grown accustomed to over the years.

With rookie wide receiver Terrell Owens stretching the field more often than not, Rice's yards-per-catch fell to 11.6, the lowest mark of his career at that point.

Still, Rice's 1,204 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns were good enough for an eleventh-straight trip to the Pro Bowl and tenth First-Team All-Pro selection.

As a unit, the 49ers finished with a 12-4 record and 2nd in the NFC West behind the surprisingly successful Carolina Panthers.

However, after shutting out the Philadelphia Eagles 14-0 in the Wild Card game, the Green Bay Packers ended the 49ers' season for the second year in a row in a 35-14 Divisional Round blowout.

1996 Upper Deck #60 Jerry Rice Football Card

1996 Upper Deck #130 Barry Sanders

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $35

In his eighth year with the Detroit Lions, running back Barry Sanders continued to do what he did best: run all over opposing defenses.

Utilizing his low center of gravity and incredible elusiveness, Sanders proved a nightmare week in and week out.

When the dust settled after the season, Sanders had once again led the NFL in rushing for the third time with 1,553 yards total and 97.1 yards per game.

Despite his success and a promising 4-1 start to the season, the Lions fell apart, losing nine of their final ten games to finish with a tragic 5-11 record.

The front of this card celebrates Sanders tying Eric Dickerson's record with seven straight 1,000-yard seasons to start a career when he rushed for 120 yards against Chicago on November 19, 1995.

Upper Deck could have continued printing cards with Sanders extending his own "1,000-yard seasons to start a career" over and over until he retired after the 1998 season.

From start to finish, Sanders broke the 1,000 rushing yard mark in every season he played.

Had he not abruptly retired, there's no telling how many yards he would've continued to pile on.

1996 Upper Deck #130 Barry Sanders Football Card

1996 Upper Deck #76 Dan Marino

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $30

After a 9-7 season and a Wild Card loss the year before, star quarterback Dan Marino returned to the Miami Dolphins still looking for a championship ring.

New names and faces added plenty of excitement to the mix in South Florida.

Joe Robbie Stadium was renamed as Pro Player Stadium.

Jimmy Johnson left the Dallas Cowboys and replaced legendary head coach Don Shula, who had opted to retire after the 1995 season.

Unfortunately, Johnson's winning ways in Dallas didn't immediately carry over to Miami.

It didn't help that Marino wasn't his typical self in 1996.

Statistically, his numbers were down across the board.

Much of that had to do with not suiting up for three games, but when he did play, his 215 passing yards per game were still the lowest of his career outside his 1983 rookie season.

In Week 11 against the Indianapolis Colts, Marino did reach a milestone no other player had ever achieved when he hit O.J. McDuffie on a 37-yard pass to cross the 50,000 career passing yards mark.

However, the Colts would have the last laugh, beating out the 8-8 Dolphins by one game for a Wild Card spot.

1996 Upper Deck #76 Dan Marino Football Card

1996 Upper Deck #131 Brett Favre

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $30

Because Upper Deck included certain highlights on cards in this set, it adds some interesting context to several of them.

Take Favre's card, for example.

The card highlights his three-touchdown game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 13 of the 1995 season and notes that his performance "put him in select company."

At the time, Favre became just the fifth player in NFL history to throw for 30 or more touchdowns in a season.

Today, you'll regularly see five or more guys do that every season.

It's funny how much the game has changed.

But, back then, Favre was in rare company, relying on his gunslinging ways to put up huge amounts of passing touchdowns each season.

And in 1996, the defending MVP turned in another fantastic season, surpassing his previous season's personal best (38) with an NFL-leading 39 passing touchdowns.

He was an easy choice for his second-straight MVP.

The Packers finished first in the NFC Central with a 13-3 record and easily dismantled the San Francisco 49ers 35-14 in the Divisional Round.

They again sailed to victory in the NFC Championship against the upstart Carolina Panthers with a 30-13 win.

And in Super Bowl XXXI, Favre threw for 246 yards and 2 TDs to help Green Bay to a 35-21 victory over the New England Patriots.

1996 Upper Deck #131 Brett Favre Football Card

1996 Upper Deck #158 Emmitt Smith

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $30

With Jimmy Johnson taking over as head coach of the Miami Dolphins in 1996, the Cowboys looked to keep their dynasty rolling under Barry Switzer.

Switzer and crew did just fine, finishing at 10-6 and in first place in the NFC East.

And as you'd expect, Emmitt Smith was right in the middle of it all, zigging and zagging downfield to lead Dallas's potent rushing attack.

However, Smith did see a drop statistically despite being inactive for the final game of the season.

Smith's 80.3 yards rushing average per game was the lowest since his rookie campaign in 1990.

Still, he was able to pile up 1,204 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground with 249 receiving yards and three touchdowns through the air.

The Hall of Fame back was still elite.

He just didn't put up some of the gaudy numbers he had in years prior.

In the process, Smith saw his streak of six-straight Pro Bowls to start his career snapped.

Unfortunately for Cowboys fans, the team's streak of four-straight trips to the NFC Championship ended, too, when the Carolina Panthers dropped them 26-17 in the Divisional Round.

1996 Upper Deck #158 Emmitt Smith Football Card

1996 Upper Deck #4 Jonathan Ogden Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $25

The Baltimore Ravens could have done worse with their first draft pick in franchise history.

A lot worse.

With the 4th pick of the 1996 NFL Draft, the Ravens selected offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden after he turned in a standout career for the UCLA Bruins.

Not only did Ogden turn out to be one of the best picks of the draft, he finished his career with Baltimore as one of the best offensive tackles in NFL history.

Over twelve seasons, Ogden earned First-Team All-Pro honors four times, eleven straight trips to the Pro Bowl from 1997-2007, and a Super Bowl ring.

Ogden started all sixteen games during his rookie 1996 season and finished fifth in the Offensive Rookie of the Year race.

At 6'9", Ogden was a massive force for opposing defensive lines to try and manage.

And few had very much success against him.

Outside of Ray Lewis and Matt Stover, Ogden was one of the last original Baltimore Ravens before he retired ahead of the 2008 season.

Five years later, Ogden would be a no-brainer selection for induction into the NFL Hall of Fame.

1996 Upper Deck #4 Jonathan Ogden Rookie Card

1996 Upper Deck #99 John Elway

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $25

After years of mediocrity, the Denver Broncos and their former MVP, John Elway, returned with a vengeance for the 1996 NFL season.

And they made good, going 13-3 to finish first in the AFC West for the first time since 1991.

Elway returned to Pro Bowl form, throwing for 3,328 yards and 26 touchdowns against 14 interceptions in 15 games.

Though their offense finished the 1995 campaign as the ninth-best in the league, they improved to fourth-best in 1996.

They significantly tightened things up on defense, too, which helped things in the win department tremendously.

Elway's second-place finish in the MVP race against Green Bay's Brett Favre was his highest finish since winning the award in 1987.

But would Elway and crew finally be able to turn regular season success into a Super Bowl run?

Things certainly looked that way.

However, despite earning a first-round bye, the Broncos shockingly struggled in their Divisional Round matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Despite being massive favorites, the Broncos fell to the Jaguars in a 30-27 loss.

It was an early end for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.

Fortunately for Elway and the Broncos, those aspirations would soon be fulfilled.


1996 Upper Deck #99 John Elway Football Card

1996 Upper Deck #1 Keyshawn Johnson Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $20

After a tumultuous experience at West Los Angeles College, wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson joined the USC Trojans in 1994, and his fortunes immediately improved.

In two seasons at USC, Johnson twice earned All-American honors.

He also earned MVP honors for his performance in the 1995 Cotton Bowl Classic and Player of the Game status for the 1996 Rose Bowl.

Entering the 1996 NFL Draft, Johnson was the hottest ticket in town.

Not since the New England Patriots selected Irving Fryar with the first pick in the 1984 NFL Draft had a team selected a wide receiver first overall.

But the New York Jets didn't hesitate to do so in the 1996 NFL Draft.

After finishing the 1995 season at 3-13 with the worst offense in the league, the Jets looked to Johnson as the spark they needed to move forward.

Unfortunately, they went backward in 1996, finishing 1-15.

Johnson played in 14 games with 11 starts and averaged 60.3 receiving yards per game for 844 yards and 8 touchdowns.

Johnson certainly did his part.

But the Jets were still several pieces away from playing good football.

Fortunately for Jets fans, they started winning again in 1997, and by 1998, Johnson had made his first of three trips to the Pro Bowl.

1996 Upper Deck #1 Keyshawn Johnson Rookie Card

1996 Upper Deck #14 Eddie George Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $20

Looking back at Eddie George's career at Ohio State University, you're probably left wondering what might have been.

Sure, he won the 1996 Heisman Trophy and currently ranks fourth on the Buckeyes' all-time rushing list.

But his first two seasons could have been way more productive had he not suffered from a bad case of butterfingers in a game against Illinois his freshman year.

After that game, George barely ran the ball the rest of the year.

And in his sophomore campaign, he found himself third on the depth chart.

Fortunately, he capitalized on enough opportunities to turn things around and ended with one of the most storied careers in school history.

Still, not every team believed he would dominate as much in the NFL.

In the 1996 NFL Draft, the St. Louis Rams and Carolina Panthers both took running backs with their picks before the Houston Oilers took George with the 14th pick.

The Oilers couldn't have been more pleased that he slipped to them.

In his rookie 1996 season, George ran for 1,368 yards and eight touchdowns to win Offensive Rookie of the Year.

During his eight seasons with the franchise, George ran for 1,000+ yards seven times and earned four Pro Bowl selections.

1996 Upper Deck #14 Eddie George Rookie Card

1996 Upper Deck #23 Mike Alstott Rookie Card

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $20

As a kid, I remember going to many Purdue football games with my grandparents to watch Mike Alstott plow through anyone unfortunate enough to be in his way.

Alstott racked up several memorable moments at Ross-Ade Stadium and set multiple school records as a Boilermaker.

But after four years in West Lafayette and finishing eleventh in the Heisman Trophy race during his senior year, it was time to see how he'd fare in the NFL.

After taking a pair of defensive ends with their first two picks of the 1996 NFL Draft, the Tampa Bay Buccanneers used the 35th pick on Alstott, making him the first fullback taken off the board.

Alstott started all 16 games for Tampa, rushing for 377 yards and three touchdowns while adding 557 yards and three scores through the air.

His efforts earned him a respectable third-place finish in the Offensive Rookie of the Year vote.

And he remained a dual threat out of the backfield throughout his 11-year career but would never again see quite as much usage as a receiver.

Before retiring after the 2006 season, Alstott would leave Tampa with three First-Team All-Pro selections, six trips to the Pro Bowl and a Super Bowl ring.

1996 Upper Deck #23 Mike Alstott Rookie Card

1996 Upper Deck #276 Troy Aikman

Estimated PSA 10 Value: $20

Led by superstar quarterback Troy Aikman, the defending champion Dallas Cowboys began a whirlwind season that proved to be the end of years of Cowboys' dominance.

With three Super Bowl rings on his resume in his first seven years in the NFL, Aikman had little to prove heading into the 1996 season.

Still, he had no intentions of letting his foot off the gas.

Aikman had plenty of opportunities to throw, attempting 465 passes on the year, the second-highest amount since he threw 473 passes in 1992.

Unfortunately, his accuracy slipped a bit, culminating in a season where he threw more interceptions (13) than touchdowns (12) for the first time since 1990.

Aikman might not have seemed like a Pro Bowler.

But, sure enough, he found himself in the sixth-straight Pro Bowl of his Hall of Fame career.

As with previous years, the Cowboys began the playoffs with a victory by quickly dispatching the Minnesota Vikings 40-15 in the Wild Card.

If you'd asked anyone then, no one would've believed you if you said that would be Aikman's final playoff victory of his career.

However, his two late turnovers contributed to the Cowboys' collapse against the Carolina Panthers in the next round, marking the beginning of years of struggle in Dallas. 

1996 Upper Deck #276 Troy Aikman Football Card

1996 Upper Deck Football Cards In Review

Fortunately, there were a lot of good rookie cards in this set.

Hall of Famers Marvin Harrison and Jonathan Ogden led a solid rookie card class that also included Eddie George, Keyshawn Johnson and Mike Alstott.

And the bits of trivia and factoids along the card fronts and reverse sides helped increase collector engagement beyond just the usual sharp-looking photography.

But, with only 300 cards in their checklist, Upper Deck unfortunately missed out on including rookie cards of Hall of Famers Ray Lewis, Brian Dawkins, Zach Thomas and Terrell Owens.

Unopened Box of 1996 Upper Deck Football Cards

Other information about this set includes:

Checklist: 300 cards 

Distribution: One Series


  • Star Rookies (#1 - 31)

Insert Sets

  • Game Face
  • Game Jersey
  • Hot Properties
  • Hot Properties Gold
  • Meet The Stars Instant Winner
  • Meet The Stars Trivia Challenge
  • Predictors: Hobby
  • Predictors: Retail
  • Pro Bowl
  • Proview
  • Proview Gold
  • Proview Silver
  • Put Your Game Face On
  • Star Rookies Box Toppers
  • Team Trio

As you can see, there wasn't much room for subsets in the 300-card checklist but there were certainly a lot of inserts to make up for it.

Overall, this set is pretty straightforward, delivering plenty of star power and an excellent design.

But, with collector interest in the hobby dwindling around that time, relatively fewer collectors look back on this set with the same nostalgia they have for others of the 1990s.