Taking A Look At The 1981 Topps Joe Montana Rookie Card & It’s Worth

If you were lucky enough to grow up as a collector back in the 80s, then you will know just how much value the old 1981 Topps Joe Montana Rookie Card had.

Taking A Look At The 1981 Topps Joe Montana Rookie Card & It’s Worth

If you were lucky enough to have one of these, it would likely have been one of your most prized possessions! 

As football fans, we loved Montana, but who didn’t? He was an incredibly skilled player. And, the connection he had to Jerry Rice was simply awesome. 

Back in the 80s, Montana’s rookie card was really hot, but, in those times there was little knowledge about production runs, and most people did not have any ideas about updated pricing. 

However, in modern-day we have a lot more information available to us, so, armed with this information, and the vastness of the internet, let’s take a look at the Montana Topps rookie card from 1981, one of the most valuable football cards out there! 

Joe Montana: The Legend Himself

Let’s start by looking at the legend himself, Joe Montana. He played 15 seasons in the NFL, 13 of which were asin the San Francisco 49ers, while his final 2 years before retirement were with the Kansas City Chiefs. 

To this day, Montana is still often regarded as being one of the best quarterbacks to ever play in the game, even with Brady’s reign, Montana still has very high regard. 

Montana led the 49ers to 4 Super Bowl Championship titles with the helping hand of head coach Bill Walsh. During this time he also won 2 MVP awards, and made up 273 touchdowns and an impressive 40,000 passing yards! 

Much like many of the best players we see in the NFL, Montana was not actually a top-tier prospect when he came out of Notre Dame, even though he had gathered some pretty awesome last-minute heroics. 

But, what these last-minute heroics did earn him was the moniker of ‘The Comeback Kid’, but, still, no one seemed that starstruck by him straight away.

Back when the 1979 draft approached and the whole Cotton Bowl glow was gone, the scouts for the NFL would gather and put down numbers for Montana. One scout graded him 6 ½ with 1 being the bottom and 9 being top. 

Jack Thompson from Washington State got the highest quarterback grade at 8.

Meanwhile, Montana’s arm was 6, the report stated that he was able to ‘thread the needle’, but usually he turned to his primary receiver and forced the ball to him, even when he was in crowds. 

He was also reported as a gambling, gutty, somewhat cocky type, who does not have good tools but may eventually start. 

With this all being said, the 49ers really did take a chance when they took Montana on in the 3rd round of the draft, and chose him as the 82nd overall pick. 

As you might expect, as a rookie Montana did not get a great deal of playing time, however, halfway through his second year, he became the starting quarterback with San Francisco.

After this, it did not take him a great deal of time to become impactful. His first season as a starter, in 1981, he led them to the Super Bowl, where they claimed a victory over the Bengals. 

However, it was not the Super Bowl that defined him, and made the scouts realize they may have been wrong, instead it was a playoff game several weeks before the Super Bowl that did this. 

In a playoff game against the Cowboys, Montana defined himself. 

You may remember this, many do, it was labeled as ‘the CATCH’, when Montana led his team to a seemingly impossible win, driving down the field, from their own 10-yard line, before winning a pass, in the last second, to Dwight Clark – wide receiver. 

Amazingly, back then, a young man was watching the game, watching his hero make his mark, as Tom Brady watched Montana defeat the odds in one of his many comeback victories for the ages.

From this, Montana went on to have one of the most famous, and revered careers in the National Football League. He won 3 more Super Bowl titles, and cemented his legacy in football in the records for history. 

A new era of quarterbacks followed in his footsteps, such as Payton Manning, Eli Manning, Drew Brees, Brett Favre, and Tom Brady, and they have made their own legacies and mark upon the game, all of these legacies were made possible thanks to Montana.

Montana Paved the way for those that followed him.

How Much Is The Joe Montana Rookie Card Worth?

The official rookie card of Joe Montana is the 1981 Topps #216 card. This card, is in perfect, gem-mint copy condition, be it PSA or SGC 10, is typically worth between $40,000 and $50,000, on average. 

A lower graded copy can be found for a bit cheaper. A near-mint SPA or SGC 7 copy card of the rookie card will usually fall between $200 and $300, on average. 

However, keep an eye on the market, because the price can fluctuate, as gem-mint cards have been worth a lot more recently. Take a look at the average prices, and some of the recent prices found for different grades.

GradesAverage PriceRecent Price
PR 1$51$51
FR 1.5$53$53
Good 2$61$61
Good+ 2.5$35$35
VG 3$84$84
VG+ 3.5$39$39
VG – EX 4$84$84
VG + 4.5$73$73
EX 5$150$150
EX + 5.5$79$79
EX – MT 6$242$242
NM + 6.5$94$94
NM 7$332$332
NM+ 7.5$170$170
NM – MT 8$775$775
NM- MT+ 8.5$500$500
MINT 9$4791$4791
GEM-MT 10$46703$87330

Now, you may be curious as to why a copy of Joe Montana’s rookie card would only sell for $300 near-mint. 

The reason is rarity/scarcity. The 1981 Topps set was actually made in fairly large quantities. It was hardly the era of junk, but Topps was pushing out a decent amount of cards, enough to have an impact (see also “1988 Topps Baseball Cards & 1988 Topps Cards Checklist“). 

Pricing has a great deal to do with population. PSA produced a chart to show pricing vs population for each grade, and it helps to put in perspective why pricing can seem a bit sporadic. 

GradeRecent $$Average $$SMR $$PopulationsPOP higher
PR 1$39.99$39.99N/A1616,553
FR 1.5N/AN/AN/A716,546
GOOD 2$39.99$39.99N/A4016,506
VG 3$56.00$36.24N/A13116,374
VG – EX 4$42.00$41.75N/A34916,015
EX 5$52.99$44.40N/A85415,149
EX – MT 6$57.25$62.42N/A1,83713,282
NM 7$71.01$83.11N/A4,1289,095
NM – MT 8$126.50$127.86$140.006,9032,087
MINT 9$565.85$525.21$575.001,846105
GEM MT 10$8,610.00$9,809.00$9,750.00105N/A

Overall, PSA has graded around 19,000 copies of the Montana rookie card, including qualifiers.

So, if we then include stats from the Beckett population, at around 9,000, and the SGC population at around 1,900 (or there about), the total number of graded copies grows closer to 30,000. 

Of course, these numbers do not even include the raw population, of which many can be found on eBay. 

This is a very high amount of cards in the population, which is one of the reasons that Montana’s rookie card, even when it is in near Mint condition, is actually not that pricey!

How Much Is A Joe Montana Rookie Card Worth If Autographed?

How Much Is A Joe Montana Rookie Card Worth If Autographed?

Okay, so we know about the vague price of the Joe Montana Rookie card now, per grade. However, what about Autographed Joe Montana rookie cards? 

Like us, you may have come across eBay sales for autographed Joe Montana Rookies cards, which typically average at about $1,000, which would have us guess that the card is in good or better condition (see also “Best Camera For Sports Card Pictures On Ebay“). 

Of course, you should also remember that there is a Montana reprint rookie card which is the most common one to be autographed and graded. These versions will often sell for a great deal less, often closer to the marker of $500. 

For Montana, since he is still alive and well, it is actually quite easy to find these cards for sale, and of course, it is always possible that more could enter the autographed card population if he sold more.

This is why it is so hard to know how many exist. 

Collector opinions will always differ on whether rookies cards should carry more value, or less value if they have been autographed.

Some see the autograph as ruining a good and historic card, but some see it as an enhancement in value. 

To us, since there are so many of the 1981 Topps Montana, unless you can get yourself a rare Gem-Mint copy of the card, it is probably better to get a graded, autographed copy, if you are looking for investment.

Let’s take a look at a few of these graded, autographed copies. 

Buy it hereGEM MT 10Used$1,688.00
Buy it hereAUTO 10Used$1,450.00
Buy it hereNEAR MINT 7$1,699.99
Buy it hereGEM MT 10$900.00
Buy it hereAUTO $750.00
Buy it hereAUTO GRADE 10$600.00

What Is The Potential Of Investment With A Joe Montana Rookie Card?

The Joe Montana rookie card is actually a fairly easy find, since there are over 30,000 graded copies that are circulating, it is not easy to find one. 

Of course, Montana was also one of the best quarterbacks to play in the NFL as well, so his rookie card is bound to be popular without any doubt. 

Therefore, from the standpoint of a collector, the Montana rookie card is a must-have for any football fan.

However, then there is the issue of population again.

Since there is such a large population of these cards, it can be very difficult to envision that the value of the Joe Montana rookie card is going to increase in value in the future, at least not by a massive amount. 

Although the card is legendary and vastly popular, it is not quite as high in demand as cards like the 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan card, and of course, the Jordan rookie card has been graded a whopping 33,000 times over. 

Maybe if you are a collector, and you are not that bothered about the potential investment around the card, and you just enjoy the hobby of collecting awesome football cards, then the Montana rookie card in near mint condition is an awesome card to have, and it can come at a very affordable price. 

If you are worried about the large excess supply, then consider looking for a Joe Montana authentic rookie card which is graded by PSA/DNA (the PSA autograph authentication service).

These can be found for around $1,000 if you find a good deal. 

In terms of investments, these are probably the better long term investment option for most collectors.

To Conclude

The Joe Montana Rookie card can cost anywhere from $100 to $100,000, reasonably. As such a great footballer, he is very well loved, and is very talented, which means that many fans want his rookie card. 

There were at least 30,000 graded cards, and with some autographed, all cards are worth different prices.

However, if you are looking for a long term investment, then we recommend getting a near mint autographed card. If you can get Gem-Mint and signed, this is rare, but could be an awesome investment. 

Joe Montana is one of the best quarterbacks who ever lived, any football fan who has a copy of his rookie card is lucky for sure!

Frequently Asked Questions

How Can You Tell If A Joe Montana Rookie Card Is A Reprint?

It is actually quite easy to spot a reprint of a Joe Montana Rookie card. The first clue will be if the card has not been graded, then it is more likely to be fake.

However, if the card has been graded then it is nearly impossible for it to be fake. 

Do not forget to also consider the card stock as well! 

How Much Is Joe Montana’s Topps Rookie Card Worth?

On average a Joe Montana Rookie card is worth around $107.50. However, it depends on the grading and population, some can be worth a great deal more! 

What Is The Most Valuable Joe Montana?

There are a total of at least 8,166 cards of Joe Montana, including 2 rookie cards and 6,559 variations cards.

However, the most valuable of all is the 1981 Topps #216 Joe Montana PSA 10 by Topps. This card’s worth varies, but it is approximately worth around $54,000.00.

Why Are Rookie Cards So Expensive?

Rookie cards are usually worth more than other cards of the same player are, generally this is because they are historically much more scarce and difficult to come by in mint condition than the cards which were issued later on in the career of the player.

Michael Stewart
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