Jerry Rice Rookie Cards: The Ultimate Collector’s Guide

 1986 Topps #161 Jerry Rice Rookie CardOwning a Jerry Rice rookie card has always been a goal of mine for one simple reason:

he was the greatest wide receiver of all-time. Maybe even the greatest overall player of all-time.

Rice was one of my childhood idols.

I loved watching him play. He was electric and clearly dominant at his position.

He still holds the NFL record for most receiving yards, most receiving touchdowns, and most receptions. Among many other records…

His performances skyrocketed his popularity and so his rookie card remains one of the most popular football cards in the hobby.

Rice’s rookie is not only one of the most valuable football cards but it is one of the keys to the 1986 Topps set.

That said, here is a comprehensive guide that covers the key things you should know before you buy.

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Jerry Rice Rookie Card Value

The first thing most collectors ask is: how much is a Jerry Rice rookie card worth?

You might be surprised.

Most know that sports cards from the 1980’s aren’t worth as much as older vintage cards.

Heavy distribution meant that many were printed and their values plummeted as a result.

But Rice’s rookie card is an exception…

Even though it’s relatively easy to find, some can still go for top dollar if they’re in mint or pristine condition.

Professional grading is the easiest way to help judge a card’s value and Professional Sports Authenticators (PSA) are usually thought to be the benchmark in that industry.

According to the PSA SMR current market values are:

PSA 10 GEM MINT: $13,500

PSA 9 MINT: $525

PSA 8 NM-MT: $50

Key Facts

Distinction: This is his only recognized mainstream rookie card. There are also a 1986 McDonald’s card (shown below) but his regular 1986 Topps issue is the Jerry Rice rookie card most everyone wants. Along with the rookie card of longtime fellow 49ers teammate, Steve Young, his is a key to this set packed full of great rookie cards. Other great rookie cards in this set include those of Reggie White, Bruce Smith, Boomer Esiason, Andre Reed and William “Refrigerator” Perry.

 1986 McDonald's Jerry Rice Rookie Card

Number: This is card #161 out of 396 total cards in the set.

Design: Topps went with a vertical layout in 1986 but gave the cards a unique creative touch with borders that look like a football field. Those green borders with white stripes are instantly recognizable throughout the hobby. Some like those borders but some definitely do not. Personally, I really like the design and think it makes Rice’s rookie card even more special. An inner yellow border houses an image of Rice lining up at wideout ready to run a route. His name, position, and 49ers team name are all shown along the bottom border. It’s truly a great-looking card.

Reverse Side: The reverse side of the card is printed with a horizontal layout and features Rice’s personal information and receiving stats from the 1985 season. Topps also mentions briefly some of his accolades from his rookie campaign with the 49ers and from his time in college at Mississippi Valley State, as well. One of the more odd things about this card, in my opinion, are the cartoon characters of people in winter clothing surrounding the main section of the back. At first, I thought they were just meant to be images of football fans dressed in heavy clothing ready to watch a football game on a cold day. But, then, I noticed the image of a guy skiing in the upper right. So…I’m not sure what Topps was going for here.

1986 Topps #161 Jerry Rice Rookie Card reverse side with stats and bio 1986 Topps #161 Jerry Rice Rookie Card reverse side with stats and bio

Condition Issues: Chipping and wear showing along the green borders are some of the main issues with this card. Centering can also be an obstacle for collectors looking for a copy in high grade.

Jerry Rice’s Legacy

Jerry Rice was the greatest wide receiver to ever play the game.

Even though Rice played in an era that was not as pass-heavy or as friendly to wide receivers as today, he was still capable of producing incredible numbers that even today’s wide receivers would love to have.

In total he spent 20 seasons in the league and caught 1,549 passes, put up 22,895 receiving yards, and caught 197 touchdown passes…all NFL records to this day.

He also won three Super Bowls and earned 13 Pro Bowl trips and 12 All-Pro team selections.

He was most famous for his ability to run routes perfectly and read defenders (as well as pick them apart with his uncanny ability to run after the catch).

He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2010.

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