Set Registry Starter Kit: Barry Sanders4 min read

In this series, we focus on sets from across sports and non-sports that are easy to build and won’t necessarily break the bank to acquire. Set Registry Starter Kit features sets that can appeal to seasoned hobbyists looking to expand their collections or novice collectors getting their feet wet. 

When it comes to sheer domination in the sport from the late eighties onward until his early, unexpected retirement, what shifty, nearly-impossible-to-bring-down halfback comes to mind? It rhymes with “Terry Flanders.”

Wow, you’re good! That’s right, Barry Sanders wrote the book on how to evade would-be tacklers, and oftentimes made poor defenders look silly in their empty-handed attempts.

Fortunately for collectors out there, Sanders cards, unlike the shifty back in the open field, are easy to get your hands on. Take a look at Sanders’ easily approachable three-card rookie set.

1989 Pro Set #494 Barry Sanders

1989 Pro Set #494 Barry Sanders

  • PSA Population: 8,428
  • Average Cost for PSA Gem Mint 10: $28

See summary prices by grade.

As the lone action shot in the set, this card stands apart for obvious reasons: it shows the tremendous athleticism of the running back as he’s nimbly weaving between tackles and, presumably, evading them.

It’s the action-packed nature of the card, combined with Sanders in his college digs, that appeals to many collectors. Still, not even Sanders can always juke the centering issues and corner wear inherent in these cards.

1989 Topps Traded #83T Barry Sanders

1989 Topps Traded #83T Barry Sanders

  • PSA Population: 18,706
  • Average Cost for PSA Gem Mint 10: $27

See summary prices by grade.

Now, a transcendent player like Sanders probably spent little time on the bench. He probably didn’t even know such things existed on the sidelines. But, like a Sasquatch in the wild, Topps managed to capture a rare shot of Sanders taking five for their 1989 Topps Traded offering.

Collectors seem to either love or hate the Topps Traded Sanders rookie.



A more polarizing offering of the rookie set, collectors either love the clean layout of the card or lament the lackluster photo of a sedentary Sanders.

Love it or hate it, that hasn’t deterred many collectors from adding this card to their collection, as evidenced by the staggering 18,548 examples within the PSA Population. And for around $30 for a PSA 10 example of a football legend, why not?

1989 Score #257 Barry Sanders

1989 Score #257 Barry Sanders

  • PSA Population:18,862
  • Average Cost for PSA Gem Mint 10: $197
  • Average Cost for PSA Mint 9: $35

See summary prices by grade.

PSA Population numbers for Sanders’ 1989 Score card.

Of the three cards in the set, when you think of Barry Sanders rookie cards, which one do you immediately conjure images of? Odds are it’s this one. The Score offering, though released in droves, hasn’t detracted from its popularity. With its green, eye-popping borders and depiction of a mildly amused Sanders – looking as if he’s pondering all the countless defenders he’s about to embarrass – this, it seems, is the Sanders card to own.

Some collectors tout the iconic nature of the card.

Some feel very strongly about Score’s supremacy over the other cards – like, very strongly.

Though the green borders are notoriously apt to chipping, PSA 10s aren’t necessarily hard to come by; there are currently 1,535 in the PSA Population. That’s good news for the prospective Sanders collector.

So here you have three easily attainable, affordable Barry Sanders cards to complete the set, and not just any set, a set featuring one of the most exciting running backs to ever cut and slash his way across the gridiron and into the Hall of Fame. Sanders emphatically placed himself among the greatest of the game, and for just about $252 in PSA 10 you can add this set to your collection. As far as starter sets go, you might want to give this one a try on the PSA Set Registry.

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Posted by Ryan Gaeta

Ryan is a sports fan and Non-Sports aficionado, who is still tormented by the fact he owned the entire 1st Edition run of Pokémon cards but traded them away or ruined them at one point or another.

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