In this new, ongoing series, we explore various sets on the PSA Set Registry, featuring the trading cards of iconic athletes. Select cards will be highlighted and the requirements of each set will be included.
His nickname was “Joe Cool” and he earned it by leading the San Francisco 49ers to countless fourth-quarter victories during the 1980s and ‘90s. In 14 seasons playing in the City by the Bay, Joe Montana led his team to 10 postseason appearances, eight division championships and four Super Bowl titles. In fact, Montana was undefeated in the Super Bowl and walked away with MVP honors three different times. He was clutch, daring and resourceful when it counted most.
Though he ended his playing career wearing No. 19 for the Kansas City Chiefs, most football fans will remember Joe Cool sporting No. 16 in San Fran. Drafted in 1979 out of Notre Dame with the 82nd overall pick by the Niners, Montana turned the franchise around in just two years. The team went from 2-14 the year he arrived to 13-3 in 1981. Clicking with his receiving corps, which included John Taylor and Dwight Clark, Montana marched the 49ers to the franchise’s first Super Bowl berth after defeating the Dallas Cowboys, 28-27, in the ’81 NFC title game. A famous, high touchdown pass to Clark in the right side of the end zone with just seconds left – now known simply as “The Catch” – catapulted the 49ers to the come-from-behind victory. A week later they defeated the Cincinnati Bengals, 26-21, in Super Bowl XVI.
He didn’t have the most powerful arm in the league, but always one of the most accurate. When it came time to hang up his cleats following the 1994 season, Montana’s stats spelled an upcoming induction into Canton: 40,551 passing yards, 273 touchdowns and a completion percentage of 63.2. He would never pursue a post-football career in the broadcast booth, but that did nothing to diminish his gridiron legacy. Despite the recent heroics of Tom Brady, when the discussion of greatest quarterback ever comes up, Joe Montana is always part of the conversation.
Let’s recognize Montana’s unforgettable feats on the gridiron by looking at four key cards (in weighted order) from his 16-card Basic Topps Set checklist:
This is the only recognized rookie card of Joe Cool. The key card in the 1981 Topps Football release, it is considered a jewel in any football card aficionado’s collection. The set consists of 528 cards with each one measuring 2-1/2″ wide by 3-1/2” tall. Uniquely designed, they all feature a pennant-like design at the bottom border that features the athlete’s name and team name, with his position posted outside the banner. Montana’s RC finds him (what else?) throwing a pass.
Not too difficult to find in high-grade, the card does suffer from condition obstacles including poor centering and print defects. The card has a rather robust PSA Population Report of 16,342, of which 107 have earned top billing as PSA Gem Mint 10 examples (APR average: $9,642.33). When it comes to trading card value, this is the Montana to own. Another 1,869 have been labelled as PSA Mint 9 versions (APR average: $528.10).
In trying to piece together Montana’s 16-card Basic Topps Set checklist on the PSA Set Registry, this is the most heavily weighted card (10.00) of the bunch. Weights are determined by the card’s secondary market value using a scale from 1.00 to 10.00 with 10.00 being the most expensive. Using three different PSA grades for the card, here are its current industry average auction prices:
PSA Good 2: $39.99
PSA Excellent 5: $47.98
PSA Near Mint-Mint 8: $145.29
The 1985 Topps Football set consists of 396 cards, each one measuring 2-1/2″ high by 3-1/2” wide. The card fronts feature a color likeness of the player with his name and team affiliation situated along the right side. Montana’s card (#157) is considered one of the set’s anchors, along with Walter Payton (#33), John Elway (#238), Dan Marino (#314) and the rookie cards of Warren Moon (#251) and Richard Dent (#238). Joe had two SB titles under his belt by the time this set released and his hobby presence only continued its upward trajectory.
Montana’s card has a PSA Population Report of 1,980 with 56 examples having earned PSA Gem Mint 10 billing and another 558 being deemed PSA Mint 9. It’s the second most heavily weighted (4.00) card in Montana’s Basic Topps Set checklist and due to its black borders, is highly susceptible to chipping. Using three different PSA grades for the card, here are its current industry average auction prices:
PSA Excellent Mint 6: $4.75
PSA Near Mint-Mint 8: $6.57
PSA Gem Mint 10: $411.54
The 1982 Topps Football set consists of 528 cards, each one measuring 2-1/2″ wide by 3-1/2” high. For the first time ever, the NFL permitted Topps to reproduce official team logos on the cards, eliminating the long-standing need to remove team identities from photos. As a result, each card features a team helmet at the lower left corner with the player’s name and position identified within a color banner at the lower right corner. Montana’s second ever Topps card (#488) is once again one of the set’s anchors along with Payton (#302) and the rookie issues of future HOFers Anthony Munoz (#44), Lawrence Taylor (#434) and Ronnie Lott (#486).
Montana’s card has a PSA Population Report of 1,079, of which only 34 have earned PSA Gem Mint status. Another 400 examples of the cards have been deemed PSA Mint 9, while 453 more have been labeled Near Mint – Mint 8. It’s the third most heavily weighted (3.50) card in Montana’s Basic Topps Set checklist and can be found in high-grade condition. Using three different PSA grades for the card, here are its current industry average auction prices:
PSA Very Good-Excellent 4: $4.00
PSA Near Mint 7: $9.05
PSA Gem Mint 10: $175.31
The 1983 Topps Football set is comprised of 396 cards, each one measuring 2-1/2″ wide by 3-1/2” high. This was the smallest Topps set produced in 10 years. The card fronts each identify the featured player’s name and position in a rectangular box with coloring in accordance with his team, while the team name can be found at the top of the card in block letters outlined in white.
Montana’s card (#169) has a PSA Population Report of 2,334, of which just 58 have earned PSA Gem Mint standing. Another 768 examples of the card have been graded PSA Mint 9, while 1,143 more have been graded Near Mint – Mint 8. This card is tied for the third most heavily weighted (3.50) in Montana’s Basic Topps Set checklist. Using three different PSA grades for the card, here are its current industry average auction prices:
PSA Excellent 5: $1.29
PSA Near Mint 7: $7.20
PSA Mint 9: $15.54
Joe Montana Cards Required to Complete the Topps Basic Set
(with PSA Weights)
- 1981 Topps Joe Montana #216 (10.00)
- 1982 Topps Joe Montana #169 (3.50)
- 1983 Topps Joe Montana #488 (3.50)
- 1984 Topps Joe Montana #358 (3.00)
- 1985 Topps Joe Montana #157 (4.00)
- 1986 Topps Joe Montana #156 (3.50)
- 1987 Topps Joe Montana #112 (2.00)
- 1988 Topps Joe Montana #38 (2.00)
- 1989 Topps Joe Montana #12 (1.00)
- 1990 Topps Joe Montana #13 (1.00)
- 1991 Topps Joe Montana #73 (1.00)
- 1992 Topps Joe Montana #719 (1.00)
- 1993 Topps Joe Montana #200 (1.00)
- 1993 Topps Joe Montana #340 (1.00)
- 1994 Topps Joe Montana #520 (1.00)
- 1995 Topps Joe Montana #420 (1.00)
Following a few injuries and eventually losing the reins of the team to underling Steve Young, Montana was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs in 1993. Some called it blasphemous, others simply could not get their arms around seeing the four-time Super Bowl champ wearing another team’s uniform. Without missing a beat, Joe Cool stepped in and led the Chiefs to a 11-5 regular-season record, the ’93 AFC West Division title, and the AFC Championship Game. Though they dropped a 30-13 decision to the Buffalo Bills, back-to-back playoff wins against the Steelers (27-24) and Oilers (28-20) brought the Chiefs to within one win of the Super Bowl.
The following season he led K.C. to a 9-7 record after throwing for 3,283 passing yards and 16 touchdowns. The Chiefs’ season ended when they dropped a first-round, Wild-Card matchup to the Miami Dolphins, 27-17. And on that note, Montana bowed out of football. The eight-time Pro Bowler finished his career with a passer rating of 92.3. That same year (1994) he was named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. Not too shabby for the skinny kid out of Notre Dame.
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